Category Archives: Theology

The Domestic Church

350. Why is the Christian family called a domestic church? (CCC 1655-58, 1666)

The Christian family is called the domestic church because the family manifests and lives out the communal and familial nature of the Church as the family of God. Each family member, in accord with their own role, exercises the baptismal priesthood and contributes toward making the family a community of grace and of prayer, a school of human and Christian virtue and the place where the faith is first proclaimed to children.

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

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One of my favorite days

Collect for Reformation Sunday (31 October), derived from the United Methodist Church Book of Worship (1965 Edition)

O gracious Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Church catholic, that thou wouldst be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.


So it’s one of my favorite feast days of the liturgical year: All Saints’ Day. And on a day like today, I can remember the whole body of the faithful departed who now are in the closer presence of our eternal God. And I will be especially remembering the souls of my grandfather, Bishop Emeritus C.N. Fang and my baby brother, Quentin.

Rest eternal grant unto them O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon them.

Others may call this feast day something that is non-biblical. But I find this particular feast day to be one that is profoundly biblical.

The entirety of Holy Scripture talks about the lives of imperfect human beings whom God calls into fellowship with. Some respond to this call (like the heroes in the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures and the faithful in the New Testament/Greek Scriptures like St’s. Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, etc, etc). Others reject it. It’s the former of these two groups that are the ones who I hope and pray to be a part of when I am long gone from this earth.

The ones who St. John the Evangelist, when in exile on Patmos, described in his Revelation of the Apocalypse. The ones who surround the faithful and cheer them on from heaven as described by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (traditionally ascribed to St. Paul) in the twelfth chapter.

As Christians living on this earth, our sainthood while we are here is an imperfect one. We bear an imprint, as Martin Luther so described, as being simul justus et peccator (both justified and sinful). By the merits and death of Christ alone is our sanctity derived. Both imperfectly here on earth and perfectly in heaven.

As a creedal Christian (among other descriptions such as Scripture-shaped, Jesus-shaped, Evangelical Anglo-Catholic and lay Benedictine that I use to describe myself as a Christian), I affirm that “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Catholick Church, the Communion of Saints…” (emphasis mine) each time I pray the words in the Symbolum Apostolorum (the Apostles’ Creed). Celebrating All Saints’ Day is a way in which I affirm my faith and I remember that death is not the end of life, but simply the beginning.

Next Sunday at Evensong, it will be special. Apart from being the first All Saints’ Day (given it is translated from 1 November to the first Sunday in November) that I will celebrate with the community at St. John’s (given that EMP doesn’t follow the traditional Methodist calendar), I hope to hear the names of my grandfather and baby brother read out in amongst the many names of those who are dear in memory to those in the St. John’s community. And that the sounds of Faure’s Requiem will assist us all in remembering the dead and looking forward to life eternal spent with them in the presence of God: Father, Son & Holy Ghost.


Background to All Saints’ Day, taken from Exciting Holiness: Collects & Readings for the Festivals & Lesser Festivals of the Churches of England, Ireland and Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church

From its earliest days, the Church has recognized as its foundation stones those heroes of the faith whose lives have excited others to holiness and has assumed a communion between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven.

Celebrating the feast of All Saints began in the fourth century. At first, it was observed on the Sunday after the feast of Pentecost; this was to link the disciples who received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the foundation of the Church, with those who were martyrs, giving their lives as witnesses to the faith. In the eight century, a pope dedicated a chapel to All Saints in St. Peter’s at Rome on 1 November. Within a century, this day was observed in Britain and Ireland as All Saints’ Day.


Collect for the Vigil of All Saints’ Day (31 October),
taken from Exciting Holiness: Collects & Readings
for the Festivals & Lesser Festivals of
the Churches of England, Ireland and Wales
and the Scottish Episcopal Church

Almighty God, in your mercy we prepare to celebrate the solemn feast of all your saints: grant that their example may increase our devotion and lead us in the way of salvation;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Prayer for All Saints’ Day (1 November), taken from the United Methodist Church Book of Worship (1965 edition)

O Lord our God, we praise thy holy name for the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of martyrs, and for all who have served thee faithfully in thy holy Church throughout the world. We bless thee for all who by their speech, their writings, and their lives have enabled us to see more of the light of the knowledge of thy glory in the face of Jesus Christ; and for all who have helped and comforted, strengthened and encouraged us our way. For all whom thou hast called to be saints, and through whom thou dost manifest the riches of thy grace, we praise thee, O God; and we beseech thee that with them, and with all the host of thy redeemed, we may perfectly praise thee in thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect for All Saints’ Day (1 November), taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and the United Methodist Church Book of Worship (1965 edition)

O almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


A sermon of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honours when their heavenly Father honours them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honour from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.

Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors and the choir of virgins. In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints. But our dispositions change. The Church of all the first followers of Christ awaits us, but we do nothing about it. The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent. The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them.

Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.

When we commemorate the saints we are inflamed with another yearning: that Christ our life may also appear to us as he appeared to them and that we may one day share in his glory. Until then we see him, not as he is, but as he became for our sake. He is our head, crowned, not with glory, but with the thorns of our sins. As members of that head, crowned with thorns, we should be ashamed to live in luxury; his purple robes are a mockery rather than an honour. When Christ comes again, his death shall no longer be proclaimed, and we shall know that we also have died, and that our life is hidden with him. The glorious head of the Church will appear and his glorified members will shine in splendour with him, when he forms this lowly body anew into such glory as belongs to himself, its head.

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New blogs to read

I’ve been following a couple of blogs lately, more closely than usual.

Surprisingly (or not surprisingly if you know the journey of Christian faith that I’ve been on over the last few years), they happen to be written from an Eastern Orthodox view.

Fr. Ernesto Obregon’s blog (who also happens to be one of the “Liturgical Gangstas” at iMonk), OrthoCuban is one of those blogs that has been on the BlogRoll to the right for a while now. But lately, I’ve paid more attention than before.

The other blog is OrthoCath who posts up some very interesting and informative articles from a layman’s perspective on Eastern Christianity.

Up until a few years ago, I hadn’t really paid much attention to the Eastern lunch of the Church. When one focuses on the legalistic and juridicial approach towards salvation and justification that’s present in the Western Church (i.e. Protestantism and Roman Catholicism), seeing the Eastern approach towards these two intrinsically linked issues is like bathing in a cool stream after having one’s soul tortured in fire. I have blogs like OrthoCath and OrthoCuban to thank for showing me a different side of the Christian faith that not many in the Western Church (with the exception maybe of some informed Roman Catholics and Protestants) know about. I need both lungs.


Strains of western Catholicism and Protestantism have fundamentally defined death as legal punishment, an expression of God’s wrath. Death is entrenched within a judicial context; it is a sentence for sin. God is angry, according to the western view, and Christ’s merit applied to us satisfies his anger, so He dies as a sacrifice to appease the Father.

The Greek fathers and the eastern churches historically do not share the western legal emphasis, nor the consequent view of atonement. The fathers of the church teach that humanity is the author of death, not God. St. Basil in the fourth century writes, “God did not create death, but we brought it upon ourselves.” Death is the result of sin; it is the final product that we, apart from God, create for ourselves through the power of the human will, that also ensnares and condemns us.

Hell, then, is not primarily a place where God sends people in his wrath, or where God displays anger, but rather, it is the love of God, experienced by one who is not in communion with him. The figurative, spiritual fire of God’s love is transcendent joy to the person purified and transfigured by it through communion in the body of Christ, but bottomless despair and suffering to the person who rejects it, and chooses to remain in communion with death.

Source: Eric Simpson’s “Hell and God’s Love: An Alternative, Orthodox View”


On sin, grace, salvation and reparation, from Fr. Ernesto’s blog:

In the Western churches, both Catholic and Protestant, sin, grace, and salvation are seen primarily in legal terms. God gave humans freedom, they misused it and broke God’s commandments, and now deserve punishment. God’s grace results in forgiveness of the transgression and freedom from bondage and punishment.

The Eastern churches see the matter in a different way. For Orthodox theologians, humans were created in the image of God and made to participate fully in the divine life. The full communion with God that Adam and Eve enjoyed meant complete freedom and true humanity, for humans are most human when they are completely united with God.

The result of sin, then, was a blurring of the image of God and a barrier between God and man. The situation in which mankind has been ever since is an unnatural, less human state, which ends in the most unnatural aspect: death. Salvation, then, is a process not of justification or legal pardon, but of reestablishing man’s communion with God. This process of repairing the unity of human and divine is sometimes called “deification.” This term does not mean that humans become gods but that humans join fully with God’s divine life.


I’m quite enjoying using Safari 5.0.2 with some extensions installed. Like the one that makes every webpage appear in Helvetica. And prevents Flash items from loading automatically.

Firefox seems slow and clunky now. The same even with Google Chrome. But I haven’t used those for a while.

Also having to get used to this new keyboard layout as well. Should come in handy for my Swedish language learning program that I’ve got installed. Now time maybe for some sleep. It’s been a long day.


Coincidence maybe?

[ now playing? ] Emilíana Torrini – Me & Armini | Sally Seltmann – Heart Still Pounding

Some days I head to Mass at lunchtime entirely unplanned. That is, I think that I’m going to be busy through that time period when Mass is on and then my schedule at work clears up. So I end up being able to go to Mass after all.

And I don’t know how many times it is now that this happens, but when a short homily is preached, more often than not, it is on something that is directly pertinent to what is going on in my life at that time.

So when Rev. Hynd (or Mother Pam if one wants to get narky) preached today on the lectionary’s Gospel text, it was as if the Lord was speaking directly to me. Deo gratias. This has happened too often over the last 3 years for it to be mere coincidence. Honestly. And just to clarify: No, I do not plan my lunchtime mass attendance by looking at what lectionary readings are assigned for that day.


On a weird note, I’m cracking out my books on exorcism again. I remember seeing one particular book called The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio in Kinokuniya Ngee Ann City earlier this year. It was something like SGD$35 for a hardback or SGD$24 for the paperback. I had luggage weight issues at the time: my stockup on shirts from Uniqlo and taking back some of my grandfather’s earthly possessions from Malaysia left me with little room for much else. So I was pleasantly surprised to find it on a book remainder table for A$7.95 here in Brisbane not that long ago.

Then again, why shouldn’t I be really surprised? It’s a freaking book on exorcism and the training a Catholic priest undergoes once he has been appointed by his bishop as an official exorcist of his diocese. Not exactly something that most people would consider light reading, nor even something that is could conceivably be the basis of a non-fiction book.

Not quite as full on accounts as Fr. Malachi Martin’s Hostage To The Devil, but this one is more pastoral and memoir-like. Much easier to read. Though still not as good (if you can call such a book on this topic that) as Fr. Gabriele Amorth’s books (An Exorcist Tells his Story and An Exorcist: More Stories) and a book by David M. Kiely and Christina McKenna called The Dark Sacrament that I read a couple of years ago after I picked it up from Dymocks (and now a paperback copy is available as a book remainder for A$7.95 at the BookStars clearance centre at Macarthur Central).

But to continue on with the weird theme, the last few weeks have seen me be on “strange evil around me alert” more often than usual (y’all don’t laugh now, y’hear). All I’ll ask of you dear readers is: pray for me.

+ Vade retro satana / + Numquam suade mihi vana
+ Sunt mala quae libas / + Ipse venena bibas

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The search for church

Lent 2 – Wednesday

[ now playing? ] Phoenix – “If I Ever Feel Better (Todd Edwards’ Dub Better Mix)” | Regina Spektor – Far | (500 Days of) Summer OST

Click on the link and read the post first.

This has been me for the last couple of years in some respects.

To a degree, Michael S is right. When one is theologically minded and suffers from bouts of depression, finding a church home is something that is of paramount importance.

As for the “search for the one true Church” as he puts it, what do we value more? Do we solely look at the visible church (or rather the multiple visible churches) around us? Or instead focus on the invisible church that would ostensibly include some heretics and schismatics in it if one uses a very loose definition of what Christian means?

Michael’s section #5 is worth quoting from:

5. Is depression related to theology? A better question is this: Are persons with tendencies toward depression likely to get involved in theology? Oh yeah. Oh yeah. They get involved in church looking for love, acceptance, God, truth, community, help. All the big holes we all carry around. They bring their intellect into the arena of Bible teaching or preaching. They bring their heart into the church as community and experience. They take seriously what preachers and teachers say is serious and important. When someone says “the Bible teaches this,” or “the Church has always believed that…” they take it in. When depression comes- for whatever reasons- theology is going into the experience. GOD is a big word to someone who really believes that God matters in everything and that GOD is working through the church.

The experiences of others in the comments field resonate with me deeply as I identify with each of them (bar one or two who seem to be rather snooty about things and are the sorts of people I avoid like the plague).

But can one reasonably stay in their current congregation if on a doctrinal level they disagree to a great degree to the doctrinal standards of their current denomination? Some would say yes, some would say no. I’m kinda torn between the two. I know that if I didn’t have a teaching role in some capacity (unofficial or otherwise) and if I didn’t care so damn much about exegesis and theology, then I’d probably be quite happy to stay where I am. But I do care about these things and that’s what causes the internal discord. Because when one is asked to teach or lead studies, one ends up having to do a generic teaching guide up which one (to a degree) is convinced is lacking certain other things that the church catholic has taught and thus one has to basically self-censor themselves so they do not go outside the bounds of the doctrinal standards.

Maybe for people like me, our intellect is both a blessing and a curse from the Good Lord above. Lord, have mercy.

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Lectures for Lent 2010

2nd Sunday in Lent

Almost a few more days to go and Lent 2010 reaches its halfway point for me and the other Christians who observe this season of the Church Year. Then it is the home stretch to Palm Sunday and then Holy Week 2010 before the Easter Triduum (Good Friday to Easter Sunday).

Tomorrow night will be a little bit of an indulgence as I head out to see Phoenix at the Brisbane Convention Centre. Should be a good night out even though it’s only me and Lynn who are heading out (Simey, you piked on going to see Phoenix!!! =P)

But for Lent this year, I’m listening to what a set of Holy Week talks that Archbishop Rowan Williams gave in 2009 at the place where his cathedra is, the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ at Canterbury (otherwise more commonly known as Canterbury Cathedral).

Abp. Rowan based his first talk on Prayer and how three of the early church fathers dealt with the Lord’s Prayer and their commentaries on it (Origen, St. Gregory of Nyssa and John Cassian). The second talk sees him head towards the 16th and 17th centuries to concentrate on what Luther, Calvin, a couple of writers and bishops from the English Reformation and finished off with St. Teresa of Jesus (otherwise known as Teresa of Avila), St. John of the Cross and a bit on St. Therese of Lisieux and their views on prayer.

I’m looking forward to listening through to the final talk in the 3-part series on the quest for God in this modern world we live in. If you want something a bit more solid to chew on mentally (and that’s not saying that milk isn’t good, but you need more than that for growth in the spiritual life) in preparation for Holy Week and Easter 2010, Abp. Rowan’s reflections are a good start on this most vital of Christian duties and tasks. As the old hymn goes:

“Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
unuttered or expressed,
the motion of a hidden fire,
that trembles in the breast.”

Despite the many criticisms he gets on his handling of (current) affairs within the Anglican Communion, when he gets to preaching and exposition, his erudition and intellect combined with pastoral warmth and almost perfect diction really shine through. If only the Church had more preachers like him. If only…

Click on this link and then scroll down to 6-8 April 2009 and you will find links to his three talks/lectures there.

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