It is easy to fall into pride by thinking that we can conquer temptations without prayer, fasting, and patience. This is because our fallen human nature deceives us into thinking that we can battle evil by own our power. But we must humble ourselves and remember that salvation cannot be achieved by our own strength, but only by God’s. (Matthew 19:26).
To the self righteous, you may glorify yourselves and cheer “I have conquered this temptation” deceiving yourself into thinking that you are now holy; giving you the inclination to judge the sins of your brother. However, such actions shall condemn you.
St. Caesarius of Arles teaches: “The worst kind of sin is not to acknowledge that you are sinful.” (Commentary on John 1:8).
Silouan the Athonite: “Understand two thoughts, and fear them. One says, “You are a saint,” the other, “You won’t be saved.” Both of these thoughts are from the enemy, and there is no truth in them. But think this way: I am a great sinner, but the Lord is merciful. He loves people very much, and He will forgive my sins.” (Writings, XVII.1)
St. Mark the Ascetic: “Guard your mind from self-praise and flee a high opinion of yourself, so that God does not allow you to fall into the opposite [passion to the virtue for which you boast], for man does not accomplish virtue alone, but with the help of God who sees all.” (Homilies, 85)
I remember my first confession. I was a convert to the Catholic Church. Having been baptized prior to my conversion, and due to odd circumstances which prevented my confirmation/chrismation from occurring for a few years, I was granted a rare privilege of going to confession before my reception into the Catholic Church. Most pre-baptized converts will confess right before their reception, so the administration of the Mystery of Repentance/Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation to someone not officially a Catholic is not unheard of, provided that they are, indeed, becoming Catholic.
Anyways, I think the hardest part of my confession was waiting in line for it. I remember staring at this examination of conscience pamphlet produced by the Fathers of Mercy, looking at all of the sins. As I read each one, I grew more nervous and fearful. But the hardest part was the wait! Sitting in line waiting to tell the priest my sins. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I finally get to walk into the confessional.
It wasn’t a proper confessional, so to speak, but rather a room that they were using to hear confessions. Regardless, I speak to the priest and inform him that this is my first confession and that I would like to become Catholic. I had never seen a man so excited in my life. I pulled out the pamphlet and asked him if it was alright if I used it to help me. So I go through each one and as I tell him each sin, he gives a bit of advice. But I eventually finish my confession, 15 minutes later. However, what I remembered the most was the feeling of having this heavy weight lifted from my shoulders and how clean my heart felt afterward. I walked out of that confessional feeling like a new man. Because I was.
CONFESSION IS A SECOND BAPTISM
Baptism is the sacrament where we are brought into the Church by the literal and spiritual washing away of our sins. But as sinners, we stain our souls with our misdeeds and sometimes we even commit sins that cut us off from the grace of God completely! In this way, we excommunicate ourselves (literally: cut ourselves off from communion) and the only way to be brought back into communion is to be forgiven of the sins that separated us, to begin with. To do that, we need to first be truly sorry for our sins, resolve to sin no more, and resolve to repair whatever damage we have caused by our sins. It is then and only then we can be forgiven. Because anything less than that isn’t true repentance.
But when we sincerely repent, and we go to confession, we are forgiven of our sins, and those sins are wiped off of our souls, and it is just like we had been baptized all over again.
SO, HOW IS CONFESSION MADE POSSIBLE?
By, Jesus’s death on the cross of course! And it is also through His resurrection. When Christ died for our sins, He died for all who sincerely repent of their sins so that they may live in the newness of life. It is only because Christ paid the price for our sins, that is, death, we can live. Without the cross, the tomb, and the resurrection, there would be no forgiveness of sins. All sins that were forgiven by God in the past, in the present, and in the future, were made possible by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We are only saved by His grace, not by any work that we do.
Yet, even with sincere repentance, we are still unworthy of forgiveness. It is only through the supreme mercy of God that He pardons our transgressions, our offenses against Him, numerous as they are. After all, if someone offended us the same amount that we offend God, we would find it hard to forgive someone. People have been executed for much less, after all. However, my point isn’t to show how unworthy we are, but rather show how great God’s mercy and goodness is since He forgives us for all of our transgressions when we truly repent.
CONFESSION ENABLES OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE
I was living in mortal sin for a little while in my life. How can one be spiritual with God while in a state of sin? You can’t. Our spiritual life is based on us trying to grow closer to God through prayer and repentance. If we are doing things that we know separate us from God, we are doing the exact opposite. Even worse, if we do those things, and are knowingly in a state of mortal sin, yet still go to communion, it is even worse!
The receiving the Eucharist both physically and spiritually unites ourselves to Christ. Yet, if we eat and drink the Eucharist in a state of sin, rather than eating and drinking salvation, we are eating and drinking judgment and damnation upon ourselves. In fact, St. Paul writes this:
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.
28Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
30That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
1 Corinthians 11:26-30 (ESV) – For more commentary on 1 Corinthians 11, click here
Yes, the sacrilege of receiving unworthily can even induce physical ailments and even death!
Why is it a sacrilege? Every sacrament comes from the sacrifice of the Cross. Baptism and Confession are the most obvious, but every sacrament is tied to the cross and is made possible only because of the cross. The Eucharist is more than bread and wine transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist is actually the entire service of thanksgiving, i.e. the Divine Liturgy is rightly and properly the Eucharist. And in this Eucharist, we are brought back to the death of Christ on the Cross for our sins. By receiving unworthily, we are making a mockery of His death. We are, in essence, saying that Christ died in vain since I can be united to Him without being forgiven of the sins I have committed/am committing. I am now taking my salvation for granted and even worse, not discerning the body and blood (i.e. the sacrifice, not just the real presence). This is why receiving unworthily is considered such a mockery. It is one thing to have committed venial sins, as those do not take us out of communion with God. It is another thing to physically unite ourselves to God when we are spiritually out of communion. That is why receiving worthily is actually a big deal.
And this is why confession is so important. When we commit a mortal sin, all we have to do is sincerely repent, confess our sins, and receive absolution. This prevents us from eating and drinking unworthily.
CONFESSION IS NOT A CRUTCH
When I was a Protestant, I had the mindset that since I was already “saved,” I could commit sins without any consequences. When I became Catholic, I learned that we had a bad rap for doing the exact same thing. The only difference was that we confess our sins to a priest for forgiveness rather than just assume forgiveness. If we go to confession insincerely, I assure you that we are not only not forgiven for what we have confessed, but we also commit a great sin of sacrilege. At this point, we are no longer seeking God’s mercy, but rather going through a ritual that lets us go to communion. There is also another sin, called presuming on God’s mercy, in which we say something along the lines of “I can eat this meat today,” or “I can watch this porn,” or even “I can hit that person,” because “I can just go to confession later and be forgiven of it.” Essentially, you are committing a sin with the intention of making an insincere confession. When you repent of that sin, on top of the other sin you committed, then you can have a sincere confession.
God has given us this wonderful sacrament of mercy and peace, but it is up to us to not abuse it.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I GO?
The most famous answer is “as often as you need to.” However, I will say that there are two camps of people. Those who go to confession way too much (rare, but still exist) and those who do not go enough (the vast majority of people). The people who go too much are the ones with tendencies to scrupulosity, who go to confession every 3 days or so. Really, what is recommended to most people is that if you are not committing mortal sins, you should go to confession at least on a monthly basis. Some people recommend going weekly. It is truly something you should work out with your spiritual father. Going weekly will benefit some people without a doubt, but there are others who, by going weekly, turn it into a ritual that actually causes them to sin more. As crazy as that sounds, going too much could lead someone into a presumption of God’s mercy.
Here is a scenario. Confessions are held before liturgy each Sunday. You have a sin you commit on a frequent basis. You go to confession, are absolved, and then go to communion. You get home from church and go on to sin for the remainder of the week because you know that you will be able to confess your sins and approach communion. In fact, some people only use the confessional because mortal sins cut us off from communion. Not surprisingly, if people in mortal sins were allowed to go to communion, the lines for confession would be much smaller. It is our human nature: we do not like admitting that we are wrong.
However, the mindset of going to confession just to be able to receive communion is a dangerous one. The reality is that when we are in mortal sin, we are liable to the fires of hell. Again, I reiterate, if we are not forgiven of our mortal sin, we will go to hell. While wishing to receive Jesus is not wrong, don’t go to confession for just that purpose, but out of heartfelt sorrow for offending God.
But, at the end of the day, it is better to avoid sin than to ask forgiveness. How do we do this? By prayer and fasting of course!
In the words of my priest: “If you deny the use of icons, you deny the Incarnation of Christ.” How is this so? Because Jesus Christ, in the flesh, is the perfect Icon of the Father.
John 12:45 – “He who sees Me sees Him who sent Me”
John 14:6-10 – “‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?’”
Hebrews 1:3 – “the brightness of His glory and the express image [eikon] of His person, upholding all things by the word of His power”
Collisions 1:15 – “He is the image [eikon] of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”
The holy father St. John of Damascus teaches the following: “If the Word of God truly took flesh, He could be depicted in images … In the old days, the incorporeal and infinite God was never depicted. Now, however, when God has been seen clothed in flesh and talking with mortals, I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter; I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake, and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. I will not cease from honoring that matter which works my salvation.”
The following Anathemas are taken from an 1111 edition of the Synodikon by a monk of the Monastery of Oleni in Moroea. “On every innovation and action contrary to the tradition of the Church, and the teaching and pattern of the holy and celebrated Fathers, or anything that shall be done after this: Anathema!… On those who accept with their reason the incarnate economy of God the Word, but will not allow that this can be beheld through images, and therefore affect to receive our salvation in words, but deny it in reality: Anathema!
Those who apply the sayings of the divine Scripture that are directed against idols to the august icons of Christ our God and his saints: Anathema!
Those who share the opinion of those who mock and dishonor the august icons: Anathema!
Those who say that Christians treat the icons like gods: Anathema!
Those who dare to say that the Catholic Church has accepted idols, thus over-throwing the whole mystery and mocking the faith of Christians: Anathema!”
Thus, one cannot be a Christian and reject iconography, otherwise, one would have to reject the Incarnation in which is a heretical conclusion.
To understand why the Catholic Church is in the crises that it is in as a result of poor catechesis, bad clergy, modernized liturgies etc; we must first take into consideration that the Catholic Church has an archenemy: the Freemasons.
The Freemasons are a secret society in which has plotted against the Catholic Church since it came into existence in the 14th – 15th century. The Freemasons promote heresies such as the denial of revealed dogma, naturalism, liberation theology, rationalism, universalism etc. Pope Pius XII taught: “..the roots of modern apostasy lay in scientific atheism, dialectical materialism, rationalism, illuminism, laicism, and Freemasonry; which is the mother of them all…” (May 23, 1958 A.D.)
Countless times throughout history, the Freemasons have tried to destroy the church from outside by persecuting it with force; examples being the French Revolution and the Cristero War. (Note: The newly Masonic government of Mexico was funded by the USA to destroy the Church in the country in order to establish a secular state). Since these persecutions did not work in regards to destroying the church (with the Cristero war coming later), Pope Leo XIII received a letter titled the “Alta Vendita” by the highest ranking Masonic lodge of Italy, warning that they would attack the Church from within by bribing clerics to spread error. (Even hiring their own members to become clerics to continue spreading heresy from inside the church).
The document also mentions how they even have a plot to abuse the Papal office by pushing for a Pope that will do what they desire; spread error from the top! “That which we ought to demand, that which we should seek and expect, as the Jews expected the Messiah, is a Pope according to our wants.” (section XIX, 1st half of the 19th century — emphasis added). You can imagine the fear that was installed into poor Pope Leo XIII, which explains why he warned against freemasonry more than any other Pope: Custodi di Quella Fede & Humanum Genus being only a couple examples.
Hence, the Catholic Church has anathematized the society, and declared that Catholics in which join the society are de facto excommunicated. Canon 1917, 2335: “Those who join a Masonic sect or other societies of the same sort, which plot against the Church or against legitimate civil authority, incur ipso facto an excommunication simply reserved to the Holy See”. In the 17th century, before Freemasonry was even publicly known to the world since its first lodges were established in the 18th century in London; Our Lady of Good Success in Ecuador warned that the Freemasons would attack the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church. She is called the “Queen of Prophets” for a reason!
“As for the Sacrament of Matrimony, which symbolises the union of Christ with His Church, it will be attacked and deeply profaned. Freemasonry, which will then be in power, will enact iniquitous laws with the aim of doing away with this Sacrament, making it easy for everyone to live in sin and encouraging the procreation of illegitimate children born without the blessing of the Church.” (June 21st, 1610). Even though this is the unfortunate reality of what is going on in the Church, and in the world, we should not be afraid and loose hope. Instead, we should simply pray for the sanctification of our own souls, pray for our clerics, stay in the state of grace, stay close to the sacraments, learn our faith, and preserve Catholic orthodoxy. Remember; God is in charge. God bless.
How can we say that we truly have the love of God within our hearts if we hate our neighbor? (See 1 John 4:20). Your neighbor extends to not only those in your community, nation, church, race, religion etc; but to all humanity. This is why Jesus gives a parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. Do take note that Jews and Samaritan’s had been enemies for hundreds of years (1 King’s 15:6, John 4:9) yet the Samaritan had mercy on the Jew that was beaten, robbed, and poor. Christ, being the Prince of Peace, used this parable to give us an example of how we are to live as Christians. This is because by our actions, we preach the Gospel. (James 1:22, James 3:13, Matt 5:16).
Therefore, we must struggle to do what is right, even if it hurts. Christ commands us to love our enemies and to not curse them. (Matt 5:43, Luke 6:27-28). Doing so is to live up to the virtue of humility. To conclude, let us reflect on the words of St. Peter, Chief of the Apostles: “Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “He that would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do right; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (He’s quoting Psalms 34:12-16). Now, who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right? But even if you do suffer righteousness sake, you will be blessed.” (1 Peter 3:9-14).
A new gospel is being taught in this capitalist and materialist society we live in: “The rich are not obliged to help the poor.” As Catholics, we cannot hold such views since these contradict the Church’s teaching on the Corporal Works of Mercy. (Matt 25:34-45).
1 John 3:17 – “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
Proverbs 14:31 – “He that oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker: but he that honors him has mercy on the poor.”
Proverbs 28:27 – “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.”
Proverbs 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
(Note: To refuse helping the poor willingly can lead to damnation: See – Luke 16:22-24, Matt 25:41-46).
St. Ambrose: “You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.”
St. John Chrysostom – “The rich are in possession of the goods of the poor, even if they have acquired them honestly or inherited them legally.”
The Didache – “Share everything with your brother. Do not say, “It is private property.” If you share what is everlasting, you should be that much more willing to share things which do not last.”
Pope Pius X – “I was born poor, I lived in poverty, I wish to die poor.”
Technically speaking, we are “sui iuris (self-governing) Churches using the Byzantine Rite.” There are quite a few different churches using the Byzantine rite, and they can be grouped into categories of church, i.e. slavic, Greek, Russian, Antiochian, etc. The ones that most people are familiar with are churches in the slavic category (Ruthenian – which goes under the name of Byzantine Catholic Church in America, and Ukranian) as well as the Melkites. There are plenty of other Eastern Catholic sui iuris Churches that utilize different rites, i.e. Maronites, Chaldean, Syro-Malabar, etc. but for this article, I will be focusing primarily on churches using the Byzantine Rite, as this is where I have most of my experiential knowledge.
First Things First: Traditionally We Sing Everything
I know what some of you may be thinking: “at our church, we recite some liturgies.” Technically speaking, we aren’t supposed to be doing that. It continues for a few reasons:
Back in the era of forced latinizations, many parishes adopted Romanesque practices such as kneeling during Sunday and Paschal liturgies (in violation of the 2nd Nicean Council) which have stuck because the people who grew up with the latinizations thing this is what a Byzantine Catholic church should look like and don’t want to change it.
The parish is in a tourist area and wants to appeal to Roman Catholic visitors on vacation. Yes, this actually happens. You can tell it is a tourist church when the priest or some parishioner has to announce before liturgy that it is an Eastern Catholic Church but “we are still under the Pope, but we do things a little differently.” So, in this case, they are sacrificing their identity for tourist dollars.
People and Priests are too lazy to change. Remember that this is a list of potential reasons, and I am not writing about anyone’s church specifically (i.e. I’m not calling anyone lazy or saying anyone is lazy. I’m saying that there are people who *might* be lazy. One is calumny or gossip, the other is just throwing out potential ideas. Know the difference). Let’s be honest, singing a liturgy takes effort. And it makes the liturgy take a lot longer. A recited liturgy will be over in 25 to 30 minutes, whereas a sung liturgy will take a minimum of an hour. For time reasons alone, some people prefer recited liturgies.
With this out of the way, we should understand why we sing and why it is bad when the liturgy is just recited. St. Augustine says “he who sings prays twice.” In the Metropolitan Cantor Institute (Byzantine Catholic Metropolia of Pittsburgh), it states that singing indicates “oneness of heart.” Our singing changes liturgy from being a ritual to being a truly communal worship, a joyful, yet a reverent celebration of the resurrection. When we reduce it to a recited liturgy, the goal shifts from prayer and worship to simply receiving a sacrament. That issue will be covered in a later (and likely shorter) article.
THE MUSIC IS DIFFERENT IN DIFFERENT JURISDICTIONS
That’s right. Just because you walk into a church using the Byzantine Rite does not mean they use the same music. They have the 8 tones and they have the same responses, but they are written to different music. This is because when churches began to develop in certain areas, popular melodies were adapted to fit the words of the liturgical words. Thus, Ruthenian tone 1 will be different than Ukranian tone 1, which will be different from Melkite tone 1, etc.
They are different sui iuris churches. Again, it is important to emphasize that there is no one single Byzantine Catholic Church.
CANTORS OR CHOIRS?
Some churches use a cantor or two to lead the congregation in singing. Some churches use a choir to sing the responses and the people will sing along. In my church, as the cantor, my priest tells me to let the people sing. That means I start the music, and then I let the people sing it (i.e. I shut up and listen) and if they start going off track, I jump in to correct them. Yes, it takes practice to learn how to do this while still providing for a reverent liturgy, but it is possible. My priest likes it because it forces the people to sing rather than rely on me to do it for them. Some cantors are told to sing at a regular volume so that the people have a base melody to sing along to. In this case, a lot of the people will listen rather than sing. Other churches have choirs who are told to sing in plainchant (i.e. non-harmonized melody). Lastly, there are choirs who harmonize melodies and sound truly beautiful. My priest doesn’t like the idea of that because he thinks that with a harmonized choir, the people will not sing along.
So what is the right way? Obviously, I have my opinions and my priest has his opinion, but it really depends on the tradition of your church. One thing I learned in the Roman Catholic Church is that you do not need to be singing or saying anything to be actively participating in the mass (internal participation). This is the case in our church when parishes choose to use the language of their ethnicity rather than in the vernacular (in our case, English). Some prefer to use Church Slavonic, and despite what some may think, that is not a latinization. Many Orthodox churches will choose to sing more ancient languages rather than the vernacular. (Ironically it was Saint Cyril and Methodius who translated the original liturgy into Slavonic – the vernacular of the Slavic people, who they ministered and brought the gospel to.) Singing in Slavonic or in Ukrainian, while it may be nice for immigrants isn’t so great for potential converts or visitors. An example would be a Melkite Catholic who moves and only has a UGCC nearby, which sings solely in Ukranian.
In these cases, if the person doesn’t know the language, they cannot sing along, but they can certainly pray in the reverent atmosphere of the church, thus actively participating without saying a word. Of course, unlike a Latin Mass, this shouldn’t be the primary means of worship, but rather a way of worshipping when one cannot sing along. And yes, it is possible to sing along without actually praying along, but again – a different topic for a different day.
Overall, music is deeply ingrained in the liturgical life of Byzantine Catholics and is more than just background music or ambiance. It is truly the outpouring of one’s heart in the worship of God. The music may differ between jurisdictions, but the fact is that they all have their own music, thus a testimony to the great importance that it has in the liturgical life of the Church.
We are about 11 days away from the conclusion of the Apostles Fast. Of course, unlike any other fasting season on the Calendar, 11 days doesn’t really have meaning since this is the one fast that does not have a set number of days. This year, the Apostles Fast began toward the end of May, so 11 days means that we are over halfway done and there isn’t much left to it. Of course, in some years, this fast only lasts 2 days, and others have been longer than Lent.
It concludes on the Feast of Peter and Paul on June 29th. But outside of that, it is really a mystery. Unlike Nativity, Dormition, or Lent, this fasting season doesn’t exactly end on a day of any particular significance. In fact, it is not even one of the 12 solemn feasts. It is a day of Obligation for those in the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Church of Pittsburg, and it may be in other Greek Catholic sui iuris churches as well, but if you look at the Eastern Orthodox, the fast just ends on that feast day.
It is a mysterious fast, because unlike Nativity or Lent, this fast doesn’t come from pious preparation for a major feast. Yet, early Christian texts show that this was indeed one of the original fasts celebrated. And the reason? “After feasting from Pascha to Pentecost, it is only proper that we fast while our bodies are refreshed.”
Yet, upon further research, I found that the Apostles fast used to not end on June 29, but actually on August 15. Yes, the Apostles Fast and the Dormition Fast were originally 1 long fast. For whatever reason, it was decided to cut July out and just have it as a regular season.
SOOO, WHAT ARE YOU SAYING, CANTOR?
I know that previous section seems to provide information without really providing anything else, but one thing to take away from this is that the Early Christians thought it was important enough to have a post-pentecostal fast, and that the Church Fathers for over 1500 years decided that it was worth keeping on the Calendar. Yet, for some reason, this seems to be one of the most unpopular fasts. By unpopular, I am not saying that people don’t like it. Rather, people don’t even care enough about it to even do it.
No one really knows why they are fasting during this time period, as it is not in penance or in preparation. It is essentially a fast for the sake of fasting. But despite what some may be thinking, that actually is NOT a pointless endeavor. In fact, we fast every Friday from meat as a minimum. Why? The western mentality is that they are fasting because that is the day Christ died on the Cross, and they are crucifying themselves with Christ. I assure you that despite what you may think, that is not the reason. The cross is actually not something to take sorrow over but is actually our victory over sin and death.
Rather we fast on Wednesday and Friday because the Pharisees fasted on Monday and Thursday, and the Christians while not wanting to fast with the Jews, wanted to continue the practice. Wednesday was chosen because it was the day Judas betrayed Jesus, and Friday was chosen because it was the day of the Crucifixion.
“But I thought you said we didn’t fast because of the crucifixion.”
We do fast in penitence as well as better equipping our bodies to resist sin. We, however, do not fast as a way of beating ourselves up for being the ones responsible for making Jesus die on the cross.
Likewise, the apostles fast should be for us a means of turning away from sin, not because we are preparing for a feast, but because we have feasted and are thus better equipped to fast for the sake of our souls.
Abortion is condemned by the Catholic Church as an intrinsic evil. Unfortunately, many heterodox sects have given permission to perform the act. Examples include: United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, the United Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church of USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Lutheran Women’s Caucus, and many more.
The LDS teaches: “The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when: Pregnancy results from rape or incest, A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth … Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.
According to the Mormon website MormonDNA “The LDS Church has no official statement on when life begins, although obviously it is sometime between conception (including the moment of) and birth.”
The former Southern Baptist Convention President W.A. Criswell himself stated: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”
When examining these statements, it is clear that they are heretical and gravely erroneous. Let’s consider the first point:
1. When does life begin?
The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at the moment of conception. ‘‘Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception…. Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable’’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2270-2271).
Therefore, there are no in betweens as the Mormons slightly suggest. Life also does not start at the moment of birth, which is an erroneous statement of W.A. Criswell. If this is the logic we are going to go by, then both camps must explain why St. John the Baptist leaped in the womb of Elizabeth in the presence of Mary and baby Jesus.
“And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost”. (Luke 1:41). Surely, this wasn’t a dead clump of cells moving. This was a living being, and one of the greatest saints of all time.
They must also explain the following verses: Job 10:8, Psalms 22:9-10, Psalms 139:13-15, Isaiah 44:2.
Notice how both camps emphasize feelings in order to determine what is morally acceptable and what isn’t. This is dangerous since our feels are not always correct. “The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable, who can know it?” – Jeremias 17:9
The Church Fathers on Abortion:
St. Basil the Great wrote in his First Canonical Letter, Canon 2: “The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. With us there is no nice enquiry as to its being formed or unformed. In this case it is not only the being about to be born who is vindicated, but the woman in her attack upon herself; because in most cases women who make such attempts die. The destruction of the embryo is an additional crime, a second murder, at all events, if we regard it as done with intent” (374).
St. Jerome, Letter 22 to Eustochium (396), said: “Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when (as often happens) they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world, laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ, but also of suicide and child murder. Yet it is these who say: ‘Unto the pure all things are pure; my conscience is sufficient guide for me.’ A pure heart is what God looks for” (13).
The Council of Elvira in Spain (305) decreed two canons forbidding the sacraments to women who committed abortion: “If a woman becomes pregnant by committing adultery, while her husband is absent, and after the act she destroys (the child), it is proper to keep her from Communion until death, because she has doubled her crime” (63). Canon 68 reads: “If a catechumen should conceive by an adulterer, and should procure the death of the child, she can be baptized only at the end of her life.”
Council of Ancyra (314): “Concerning women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them [from Communion] until the hour of death” (29)
Another early text is the Epistle of Barnabas: “You shall not slay the child by procuring abortion, nor shall you destroy it after it is born” (19). This also shows that the earliest Christians forbade abortion.
In the second century, St. Clement of Alexandria wrote in the Paedagogus (2.10.96): “Women who resort to some sort of deadly abortion drug kill not only the embryo, but along with it, all human kindness.” This passage supports our translation of the Didache by mentioning the use of drugs to induce abortion.
In 177, Athenagoras of Athens wrote in the Supplication for the Christians: “And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder?”
There is a common myth that has spread throughout the Latin Church, and unfortunately in Latinized Eastern Catholic Churches, that claims that the reason why the priest used to pray “facing away from the people” was so that the congregation would not feel worthy to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice. Therefore, Vatican 2 came to change that in order to fulfill its request to have “active participation.”
While we will not cover the details of what “active participation” truly meant in its proper context, we will give details in regards to why the Church originally prays facing Eastward.
It is Biblical: All throughout scripture, it is suggested that we pray towards the East. Examples from the Old Testament include Ezekiel 43:4 in where he saw the glory of God coming from the East:
“And the glory of the Lord came into the house, by the way of the gate looking eastward:”
In ancient Jewish worship of the New Testament, it was commanded that the ancient liturgy which prefigured the eternal Divine Liturgy of the New Testament face East:
“And if the prince should prepare as a thanksgiving a whole-burnt-peace-offering to the Lord, and should open for himself the gate looking eastward, and offer his whole-burnt-offering, and his peace-offerings, as he does on the sabbath-day; then shall he go out, and shall shut the doors after he has gone out.” (Eze 46:12).
Therefore, the Church is continuing in the practices of it’s Jewish heritage. Not only that, it is also facing East to face Christ Himself.
“For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27)
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” (Mat 2:1-2)
“…Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) Note: Christ Ascended on the Mount of Olives, and when He returns, He will be on a cloud coming from the East. (Luke 21:27).
You may be asking: “But didn’t Jesus face the apostles during the Last Supper, the very first Divine Liturgy?” In response, the ancient Jewish tables all had dinner on the same exact side to provide access for the servers, therefore Jesus sat on the same side as the Apostles.
St. John Damascus further explains in Book IV, Chapter 12 why we pray towards the East:
“It is not without reason or by chance that we worship towards the East. But seeing that we are composed of a visible and an invisible nature, that is to say, of a nature partly of spirit and partly of sense, we render also a twofold worship to the Creator; just as we sing both with our spirit and our bodily lips, and are baptized with both water and Spirit, and are united with the Lord in a twofold manner, being sharers in the Mysteries and in the grace of the Spirit.
Since, therefore, God is spiritual light, and Christ is called in the Scriptures Sun of Righteousness and Dayspring, the East is the direction that must be assigned to His worship. For everything good must be assigned to Him from Whom every good thing arises. Indeed the divine David also says, Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth: O sing praises unto the Lord: to Him that rideth upon the Heavens of heavens towards the East. Moreover the Scripture also says, And God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed: and when he had transgressed His command He expelled him and made him to dwell over against the delights of Paradise, which clearly is the West.
So, then, we worship God seeking and striving after our old fatherland.
Moreover the tent of Moses had its veil and mercy seat towards the East.
Also the tribe of Judah as the most precious pitched their camp on the East.
Also in the celebrated temple of Solomon, the Gate of the Lord was placed eastward.
Moreover Christ, when He hung on the Cross, had His face turned towards the West, and so we worship, striving after Him.
And when He was received again into Heaven He was borne towards the East, and thus His apostles worship Him, and thus He will come again in the way in which they beheld Him going towards Heaven; as the Lord Himself said, As the lightning cometh out of the East and shineth even unto the West, so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be.
So, then, in expectation of His coming we worship towards the East. But this tradition of the apostles is unwritten. For much that has been handed down to us by tradition is unwritten.”