Sacrifice in a Post-Calvinist World

This is the final part of a four part series on Sacrifice. See previous posts for parts 1,2, & 3.

History is curiously cyclical. Approximately 1,500 years after Moses instituted the Jewish ritual sacrifice, it was ruthlessly cut off by the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Approximately 1,500 years after Christ instituted his Eucharistic Covenant, a group of Christian would-be reformers ‘discovered’ that cultic sacrifice was no longer something useful. In fact, many went so far as to brand it idolatrous. In doing so they disconnected the Mass from its ancient Jewish ancestry of Temple sacrifice ─ and 15 centuries of unbroken Christian Tradition. Sacrifice, the very heart of religion, was thereby dismissed as either mistaken or irrelevant. Continue reading

Advertisements

The Elements of Sacrifice

This is the third in a four part series exploring sacrifice. Press the “Previous” button for parts 1 and 2.

Sacrifice consists of three necessary elements. First it requires an Offeror. The one who offers sacrifice must have the intent to offer something of real value back to God. Secondly, sacrifice requires an Offering. The offering must be something pure if it is to be sanctified (made holy) in order to be presented before God. Thirdly, the sacrifice needs a Recipient, that is some divinity to whom the sacrifice is presented as gift. These three elements, Offeror, Offering, and Divine Recipient are essential to offering any true sacrifice.

But how can sinful humans make an acceptable sacrifice to an all holy God? The one who makes the sacrificial offering is called a priest and for a pure offering to be made we need a sinless high priest. That priest is Jesus Christ who instituted a new priesthood distinct from the old Levitical priesthood. “Like Melchizedek, you are a priest forever.” (Ps. 110:4). Continue reading

Sacrifice: the Mystical Dialogue

This is the second post in a four part series. Click the ‘previous’ tab for part 1

If you want to drive a committed Darwinian crazy simply mention sacrifice because sacrifice is one of those quirky human traits that seemingly undermine every law of natural selection, primacy, or utility. Still, it keeps reappearing in many guises. Worse, nobody particularly likes making sacrifices and yet some innate moral sense seems to compel us to do it at times. (And to refuse would only mean losing one’s self respect.) So why would selfish creatures like ourselves ever make sacrifices?

Sacrifice has been a fundamental component of religion for thousands of years, from ancient pagan cults even up to our own day. But what exactly is sacrifice? Unfortunately, the word itself has been greatly stretched from its original Latin root which literally means, “to make sacred or holy.” Continue reading

Angels, Partners in Salvation

One of the joys of Christmas is bringing the presence of angels back to the forefront of our consciousness. Angels are wondrous beings who reflect the unfathomable glory of the Creator. Unfortunately, as too often portrayed in popular culture, they come off as some semi-human celestial hybrids trying to ‘earn their wings.’ (Think of Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life” or Billy Bigelow in  “Carousel.”) On the contrary no angel ever had a body in some previous life nor shared in our human nature. Angels are purely spiritual beings created that way by God.

Perhaps the term ‘angel’ itself is misleading. St. Augustine observes that ‘angel’ is the name of their office, not their nature. In other words, it refers to their job description as messengers and servants of God. Continue reading

The Problem With Death

“The worst is death, and death will have his day.”  (Shakespeare, “Richard II”)

We are living in a culture where random psychotic violence has become alarmingly endemic. Yet I would venture that most of us have experienced our own close brush with death at some point in our lives. I am not just talking about so-called ‘near death’ experiences where somebody appears to die only to be unexpectedly revived but something far more common, the ‘close call:’ a mislabeled toxic vial that you nearly mistook for medication, an emergency appendectomy that saved your life, the speeding vehicle that narrowly missed sending you to your eternal reward. At such moments one can almost feel the cold icy breath of death on the neck.

Close calls produce a particularly chilling release of adrenaline, yet they also serve as periodic reminders of the fragility of life. After recovering from a life threatening illness do we not see life in a very different way? We suddenly remember how each day is its own special gift; not to be taken for granted. Our fear of death is inversely proportional to the joy and beauty we experience in life. Continue reading

Shocking Mockings

The declining sense of public decency sank to a new low in the aftermath of the tragic shootings in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I refer to the vicious mockery which broke out like a sour chorus among various “progressive” entertainers and journalists after various public calls to prayer and reflection were made. Actress Maria Sirtis summed up the progressive’s mood succinctly. “To all those asking for thoughts and prayers… it seems that your direct line to God is not working.” In other words, praying to God as such moments is a delusional, if not worthless, placebo at best and at worst, nothing more than self-indulgent superstition. So when are all you ignorant rubes going to figure out that your ‘unproven’ God doesn’t have all the answers? We progressives, on the other hand, could surely fix everything overnight (in the form of ever more intrusive social controls.) Continue reading

“Follow Me”

The very first command that Christ utters in the Gospel to his followers is this direct and simple summons, “Follow Me.” And in a sense this may be considered to be the first commandment of the New Covenant, which builds upon its Old Covenant counterpart, “I am the Lord Your God, You shall put no strange god before Me.” But this summons is both an invitation and a command, for Christ never imposes on our free wills as if we were boot camp recruits. He desires only a freely given response on our part. But, like those first apostles, once we make that commitment there must be no turning back. The only one who turned back from the original twelve was Judas whose fate we might not wish to share. And where does that divine command to “Follow me” eventually lead? It takes one to wherever the master goes, which means it ultimately leads to the very brow of Calvary.

We just returned from an exhilarating trip to Great Britain and one of the most edifying aspects of our journey was discovering the many English martyrs who so heroically accepted their Lord’s challenge to “follow me” throughout 150 years of persecution during the 16th and 17th centuries. Continue reading

Calm Before the Storm

On Monday, August 21 several million Americans will witness a total eclipse of the sun. From ancient times solar eclipses, like comets, have been considered portents of singular events, either great or chilling, something like a celestial early warning system. I am not normally prone to make wild predictions based upon astronomical signs, but this year already seems to be filled with foreboding on many fronts, as though something great and terrible looms on the horizon. Being the 100th year of the Fatima apparitions in Portugal, many others have also expressed a sense of imminence, as though a significant spiritual storm is brewing the likes of which our generation has never seen. Like any premonition there is no real way to accurately predict what form that storm might take. But, as always, the best clues about the future often come from the past. Continue reading

Happiness Is…

    We were made to be happy. Happiness is the desire and ultimate goal of every human heart. In practical terms a good definition of happiness might read, the anticipation or enjoyment of those things we perceive to be good. Few people would disagree with the first part of that statement. The tough part comes at the end, deciding what is truly good. Vibrant health is undoubtedly good, but can the same be said of a drug like heroin that provides a momentary euphoria, but destroys one in the end? Sometimes even a legitimate pleasure like alcohol can become harmful if carried to excess, thus it is necessary to distinguish between pleasure and happiness.

At best pleasure is a limited, and temporal, good. Happiness knows no such boundaries. We all have an insatiable capacity for it. Health and pleasure are to the body what happiness is to the soul. While pleasure may certainly lend itself to happiness, it cannot entirely replace it. Continue reading

What Does it Mean to be Saved?

All are Redeemed, but not all are Saved

    “Never was there a worse sinner, and never was God kinder to one,” remarks the fictional character J. Blue in Myles Connolly’s classic novelette Mr. Blue.  Although intended as an epithet for his gravestone, the childlike Blue innocently encapsulates the entire mystery of salvation into a single, plain-spoken truism. There is not one of us who could not make that motto his or her own, for it is only the kindness of God which allows any person to be saved. Nothing we can ever do merits such extraordinary kindness. All salvation is God’s pure gift.

Of course many in our secular culture do not see it that way. Today’s world is profoundly skeptical of a benevolent God. The belief that mankind can and will save itself, solve its own problems, and create its own sanguine future has become the new gospel. Continue reading