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Reflections on Catholic Faith - January 2010

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January 25, 2010

Convalidation -- the Blessing of a Marriage in the Church

We are here in the beauty of the Catholic Church.... we are here in the most beautiful of the liturgies of the Catholic faith -- the Mass... we are here to beautifully solemnize and sacramentalize the marriage of Jim and Candy. A few minutes from now, the marriage of Jim and Candy will become a full sacrament - and sacraments are all about love. So it is fitting that the holy event they have waited for takes place today.

As my wife and I returned to our town yesterday, we expressed gratitude  as we headed up towards this 5,000 foot elevation and the beauty here in the surrounding mountains. However, an Irish priest (Fr. Tommy Layne) says, ‘There is more growth in the valleys than on the mountain-tops.’ I believe there’s a lesson for us in these words. We can be filled with the beauty of the mountains... we can be filled with happiness and a feeling of a mountain high on this day of the convalidation of your marriage... but the growth you two will experience is found in the valleys... the day in, day out living out of your vows... As with any garden or flower bed -- you’ll have to tend your marriage... you’ll have to cultivate to encourage growth in yourself and in your partner... you’ll have to watch out for the weeds of long-term dissatisfaction, jealousy, comparative thinking about some other person not in your marriage...

It is said that marriage is a return to school. We know how to get married... over half in our society doesn’t have a clue of how to stay married.
We need to go to the school of marriage and learn what it takes to stay one in our union with Christ. You know -- there is that reading of St. Paul- the one that talks about wives being submissive? A lot of clergy have trouble reading or homilizing about that -- or the priest wants the deacon to read it and preach on it that day... that reading goes on to say, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her” (Eph 5:25)

How did Christ love the Church? The text gives the answer, he handed himself over for her. He loved the Church so much that he gave his life for her, to the very last drop of his blood on Calvary. So husbands are to love their wives by sacrificing themselves for their wives to the very end just as Christ gave his life for the Church. Jim -- your charge today -- your assignment for life is to be prepared to submit yourself to your wife each day. And Candy -- you are to be of the same mind. As we did our pre-Cana work -- I talked about God’s plan for marriage. One man, one woman, totally given to each other, faithfully for life. If you go back in Scripture to the Old Testament -- God’s relationship with his chosen  people is often and best described as a marriage.... it was called Covenant. I will be your God and you will be my people. And today -- you solemnize and sacramentalize your marriage by entering a marriage covenant. I will be your partner and you will be my spouse.... forever. Jim and Candy -- we’ve worked together. Now you are given the charter to live this sacrament in good times and in bad, in happiness and sorrow, in love and in like... till both of you are joined forever, with Christ who is and ought to be the third party in your marriage. May God bless you on this day and in this sacrament. Amen.

January 11, 2010

A 2,000 Year Old View of Baptism The Sacrament of Baptism in the Didache

Some years ago, as deacon in a small Colorado mountain parish, I used to teach RCIA -- the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. In case you don’t know the meaning -- RCIA is the normative path for adults to explore and then possibly enter the Catholic Church. I say ‘possibly’ enter the Church because some times people may decide that they don’t feel called to enter. But RCIA would have been the proper way to ‘look at’ the faith and come to a decision about entry or not. Another point about RCIA, even cradle Catholics and others come to these classes to help bolster or fill-in-the-blanks about areas lacking in their knowledge of the faith. Some wonderful faith and people experiences have come about by my five or so years of leading RCIA.
We just celebrated the feast of the Baptism of Christ -- and as I was looking around my computer files on the topic of baptism, I found a 2,000 year old statement of many of the practices of the earliest Christians. This comes -- surprisingly not from the Bible -- because the Bible wasn’t ‘defined’ and made into the document we know today until about the year 390 AD. The early practices of the Church were contained in a document called the Didache which roughly translates into ‘teachings of the twelve.‘

I prepared a handout for our RCIA attendees about the proper form of baptism -- the Trinitarian formula along with some background on the Didache. I found this and thought to share it with you.
I hope you will find this educational and substantive for documenting the practice of the Catholic Church for this first sacrament of initiation.  Here’s the handout:

As Found in a History of the Church’s Practices
Jesus commands a Trinitarian baptismal formula

Jesus commands the Disciples to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Scholars used to say that this verse was a late interpolation into Matthew, because they could scarcely conceive of a full-fledged Trinitarian theology in Jesus’ mouth. However, there is no textual evidence that Matthew 28:19 is an interpolation—in other words, there are no ancient manuscripts that omit this verse.

In 1873, an eastern rite Archbishop named Bryennios rummaged around in the library of a monastery in Constantinople and discovered a large manuscript that included a little document called the Didache, or “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles.” He released his findings over time, publishing the Didache in 1883. It turns out to be an authentic document of the ancient church. Even ultra-liberal scholars, like John Dominic Crossan, date the Didache to the second half of the first century, within the time when people who knew Jesus personally were still alive and in the church.

What is notable about the Didache for us is that it gives instructions for baptisms and in Didache 7:1 prescribes the same wording as Matthew 28:19.
From this we know that the first-century church baptized, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Whether the Didache quotes Matthew or Matthew quotes the Didache is beside the point, the fact remains that this Trinitarian formula is genuine.

Matthew begins Jesus’ ministry in chapter 3 with His baptism by John and ends it in chapter 28 with the Great Commission. In Matthew 3:16-17, the Spirit of God alights on Jesus just as His Father’s voice proclaims that He is well pleased; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all simultaneously active. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commands a Trinitarian baptism.

Matthew’s account of Jesus’ ministry begins and ends with the Trinity!

Finally -- it may be of interest to you to know that the Catholic Church honors the baptism of other Protestant Churches as long as they use water and the Trinitarian form of baptism. Compare this to most other denominations which, if they use baptism as an entrance practice will not accept Catholic Baptism to enter their churches. Strange isn’t it?

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