The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Sacrament Requires Both Kinds

 On the twelfth of March, 2020, the Anglican Church of Canada released a document entitled “Primate’s update regarding COVID-19”.   This was a response to the World Health Organization’s, in obedience to their Communist overlords, having declared the bat flu to be a pandemic.   It began by outlining the practices that our Anglican bishops had begun to put in place in the interest of being “actively engaged in the protection of themselves and those around them”.  

 

I am not going to go through the whole list.  I thought at the time that this was all a lot of hooey and everything that has subsequently occurred has confirmed me in that opinion.   One of the practices, however, stood out more than all of the others because of its intense theological ramifications.  There are, of course, theological ramifications to this entire attitude of allowing politicians and power-mad medical bureaucrats to dictate how the Church worships, allowing the sanctity of the Church to be invaded by the same intrusive health measures that have made everyday mundane living so miserable and thus interfering with the Church’s being a holy sanctuary from the evils of the temporal world, and essentially telling the Church to walk by fear rather than faith, the opposite of the Apostolic injunction.   There was one practice, however, that had much more specific theological ramifications than all of this.   This was:

 

communion in one kind only;.

 

This practice explicitly disobeys the Thirtieth of the Articles of Religion.   That article is entitled “Of both kinds” and reads:

 

The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people: for both the parts of the Lord’s Sacrament, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.

 

Even more astounding than the fact that our Church was so brazenly doing what its Reformed Confession forbids was the theological justification we were given for this.   We were told that Concomitance was the official teaching of our Church.  Concomitance is the idea that although the bread is specifically said to be the Body of Christ and the wine is specifically said to be the Blood of Christ, both Body and Blood are received in each element because they cannot be separated, any more than the two natures of Christ can be separated in His One Person.   This was the argument the Church of Rome used to justify her breaking from the universal practice of the Catholic Church of the first Christian millennium, the only one of the Churches to emerge from the Primitive Communion of Churches to do so, by withholding the Cup from the laity.   It was a nice way of smearing anyone who objected to this papal innovation with the implication that their Chalcedonian orthodoxy was questionable. 

 

Concomitance was revived in certain Anglican circles in recent decades for reasons that had nothing to do with the practice of withholding either of the elements.   This was to accommodate people who for personal reasons could not take either the bread or the wine.   Someone struggling with bondage to drink, for example, might for this reason abstain from the Cup.   There were also those who could only receive the Cup because gluten intolerance prevented them from taking the bread.    Many priests found in the old Roman doctrine of Concomitance an answer to the pastoral dilemma of how to counsel people in such situations.   However, as with other recent instances of our Anglican leaders sacrificing our Reformed and Catholic heritage in the name of pastoral issues this has born rotten fruit and now we find this doctrine being used to justify the very practice to which the Reformers rightly objected.

 

Fateor etiam sub altera tantum specie totum atque integrum Christum verumque Sacramentum sumi” is not an article of any of the Creeds received by the Anglican Church from the Primitive Catholic Church (Apostles, Nicene-Constantinopolitan, Athanasian) nor is it one of the Articles of Religion, the Reformed Confession adopted by the Church of England in the Elizabethan Settlement.   These words, which translate into English as “I also confess that under either species alone Christ is received whole and entire, and a true Sacrament” are found in the Creed of Pope Pius IV, produced by the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and issued by bull of said pontiff in 1656.    This is a document in which the Church of Rome added its late innovations to the essential tenets of faith contained in the ancient Creeds and declared them to be on par with the same, a very serious break from Primitive orthodoxy.   In both practice and doctrine, therefore, at the beginning of the bat flu panic our present Anglican leadership betrayed our own tradition, one which conforms both to Scripture and the Catholic tradition of the first millennium, and adopted a practice the Roman Church had introduced no earlier than the thirteenth century and made uniform throughout their Communion as late as 1415 AD, and a doctrine which the Roman Church, doubling down on its errors in response to the Reformation in the sixteenth century, declared to be a tenet of the faith essential to salvation, on part with the articles of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.

 

The Thirtieth Article makes it quite clear what the official position of the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion is with regards to the Roman practice of withholding the Cup.  Let us now listen to what the greatest apologists and doctors of our Church have said in the past in defence of this position.

 

In 1562, the penultimate year of the Council of Trent, the Right Reverend John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, published his Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae in Latin.   From Scripture and the Patristic writings, he defended the sixteenth century reforms of the Church of England as restoring the Church to the state of its original, Primitive Catholicism.   Two years later, the popular standard English translation by Lady Ann Bacon was published.   The translator, the daughter of Edward VI’s tutor and the mother of Sir Francis Bacon, was, like her sisters (the poets Lady Elizabeth Russell and Lady Catherine Killegrew, and the translator Lady Mildred Cecil Burghley who was the wife of Elizabeth I’s chief advisor and spymaster William Cecil) was an accomplished scholar.   The following is from her translation of Part II of Jewel’s Apologia:

 

Moreover, when the people cometh to the Holy Communion, the Sacrament ought to be given them in both kinds: for so both Christ hath commanded, and the Apostles in every place have ordained, and all the ancient fathers and Catholic bishops have followed the same.   And whoso doth contrary to this, he (as Gelasius saith) committeth sacrilege.   And therefore we say, that our adversaries at this day, who having violently thrust out, and quite forbidden the Holy Communion, do, without the word of God, without the authority of any ancient council, without any Catholic father, without any example of the primitive Church, yea, and without reason also, defend and maintain their private masses, and the mangling of the Sacraments, and do this not only against the plain express commandment and bidding of Christ, but also against all antiquity, do wickedly therein, and are very Church robbers.

 

Next, let us turn to the Most Reverend and Right Honourable William Laud, who was the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of the Royal Martyr, Charles I, and who was himself martyred for the Primitive faith and practice of the Church of England by the fanatics who had taken over Parliament a few years before the same villains murdered the king.   Before he became the Anglican Primate, however, during the reign of Charles’ father James I, shortly after his consecration as Bishop of St. David’s, Laud was asked by the king to debate with John Percy, the Jesuit chaplain employed by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.   The transcribed debates were published with the collection of Laud's contributions eventually being given the title A Relation of the Conference Between William Laud, Late Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Mr. Fisher, the Jesuit, “Fisher” being a pseudonym for Percy. 

 

We find the following from Laud in this work as part of an argument against the inerrancy of Church councils:

 

And that a council may err (besides all other instances which are not few) appears by that error of the council of Constance.   And one instance is enough to overthrow a general, be it a council.   Christ instituted the sacrament of his body and blood in both kinds.  To break Christ’s institution is a damnable error, and so confessed by Stapleton.  The council is bold, and defines, peremptorily, that “to communicate in both kinds is not necessary, with a non obstante to the institution of Christ.”   Consider now with me, is this an error or not?  Bellarmine and Stapleton, and you too, say it is not; because to receive under both kinds is not by divine right.  No!   No sure; for it was not Christ’s precept, but his example.   Why, but I had thought that Christ’s institution of a sacrament had been more than his example only, and as binding for the necessaries of a sacrament, the matter and form, as a precept; therefore speak out, and deny it to be Christ’s institution, or else grant with Stapleton, “it is a damnable error to go against it.”   If you can prove that Christ’s institution is not as binding to us as a precept, (which you shall never be able,) take the precept with it, Drink ye all of this; which though you shift as you can, yet you can never make it other than it is, a binding precept.

 

A few pages later Laud raises the issue again, this time addressing the doctrine of Concomitance:

 

Secondly, I will instance in the institution of the sacrament in both kinds.  That Christ instituted it so, is confessed by both churches; that the ancient churches received it so, is agreed by both churches: therefore, according to the former rule, (and here in truth too,) it is safest for a man to receive this sacrament in both kinds.   And yet here this ground of A. C. must not stand for good; no, not at Rome; but to receive in one kind is enough for the laity.   And the poor Bohemians must have a dispensation, that it may be lawful for them to receive the sacrament as Christ commanded them.  And this must not be granted to them neither, unless they will acknowledge (most opposite to truth) that they are not bound by divine law to receive it in both kinds.   And here their building with untampered mortar appears most manifestly: for they have no show to maintain this but the fiction of Thomas of Aquin, “That he which receives the body of Christ receives also his blood per concomitantiam, by concomitancy, because the blood always goes with the body:” of which term, Thomas was the first author I can yet find.   First then, if this be true, I hope Christ knew it; and then why did he so unusefully institute it in both kinds?  Next, if this be true, concomitancy accompanies the priest as well as the people; and then, why may he not receive it in one kind also?   Thirdly, this is apparently not true: for the eucharist is a sacrament sanguinis effusi, of blood shed and poured out; and blood poured out, and so severed from the body, goes not along with the body per concomitantiam.

 

Laud’s protégé Jeremy Taylor, who would become Bishop of Down and Connor after the Restoration, made this same argument against Concomitance in his Ductor Dubitantium, originally published in 1660.   This lengthy treatise, published in English translation under the title “The Rule of Conscience”, was written in several books.  Book II, chapter 3, includes a lengthy debunking of the practice of “Half Communion” as commentary on Rule IX “The Institution of a Rite or Sacrament by our Blessed Saviour is a direct Law, and passes a proper obligation in its whole integrity”.   Taylor’s entire treatment of the matter is worth reading as it is very thorough.   I will only quote the following pertaining to Concomitance:

 

The dream of the Church of Rome, that he that receives the body receives also the blood, because, by concomitance, the blood is received in the body, is neither true nor pertinent to this question.  Not true, because, the eucharist being the sacrament of the Lord’s death, that is, of his body broken and his blood poured forth, the taking of the sacrament of the body does not by concomitance include the blood; because the body is here sacramentally represented as slain and separate from blood; and that is so notorious that some superstitious persons, A. D. 490, refused the Chalice, because (said they) the body of Christ represented in the holy Sacrament exsangue est, it is without blood, but now the Romanists refuse the Chalice because the body is not without blood: they were both amiss; for it is true the body is represented Sacramentally as killed, and therefore without blood, which had run out at the wounds; and therefore concomitance is an idle and an impertinent dream: but although the body is without blood in his death; yet because the effusion of the blood is also Sacramentally to be represented, therefore they should not omit the Chalice.

 

Dr. Henry Hammond, who ministered to the Royal Martyr as chaplain and who helped keep the orthodox faith alive during the period of the Puritan Tyranny, dying on the very day Parliament voted for the Restoration, had this to say in his A Practical Catechism:

 

Christ’s pleasure was, that all that were present should partake of both elements in the Sacrament, the wine as well as bread; as may appear by the plain words, “Drink ye all of this,” and “they all drank of it.”   And if it should be objected, that the ‘all’ were disciples, and so, that no others have that full privilege to drink of the cup, the answer is clear, first, that by this argument the bread might as well be taken away from all but disciples too, and so the laity would have no right to any part of this Sacrament.   Secondly, that the practice and writings of the ancient Church, which is the best way to explicate any such difficulty in Scripture, is a clear testimony and proof, that both the bread and the wine belong to all the people, in the name of His disciples at that time.

 

 

George Bull, ordained a priest by Robert Skinner the ejected Bishop of Oxford during the Cromwellian tyranny before Charles II was restored to his throne, following the Restoration was made rector of the two small parishes of St. Peter’s and St. Mary’s in Suddington which he served jointly for almost thirty years.   After this he was preferred to the rectory of Avening in Gloucestershire, in the cathedral of which he was already a prebendary.  A few years before his deprivation in the non-juring controversy, William Sancroft, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, appointed Bull to the archdeaconry of Llandaff.   He was consecrated Bishop of St. David’s when he was 70 years old in 1705 and died five years later.   In the course of his ministry, the story of which was told in a very readable biography by his friend the lay writer Robert Nelson which came out three years after his death, he wrote a number of polemical theological works that established his theological reputation abroad.   One of these, his Defensio Fidei Nicaenae, published in 1685, was a demonstration, contra the claims of certain continental theologians, that the ante-Nicene Fathers held to the Trinitarian theology expressed in the Nicene Creed.   This work, and its sequel Judicium Ecclesiae Catholicae which rebutted Simon Episcopius’ claims that the deity of Christ was not regarded as absolutely essential to the faith by the Nicene Council, won him the praise of Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Meaux in France.   Through Robert Nelson, a friend of both who acted as intermediary, Bossuet expressed his high views of Bull’s work and questioned why Bull was not a member of the Roman Communion.   Bull, in answer to the question, wrote Corruptions of the Church of Rome which was published in his life.   After his death, and after the publication of Robert Nelson’s biography, a document by Bull that Nelson had alluded to but believed to be lost surfaced, under the title “A Letter to the Countess of Newbrugh” which answered a tract written by a Roman apologist under the title “The Catholic Scripturalist” which purported to prove the Roman position from the Scriptures.   The manuscript was brought to Bull’s son, Robert Bull, who arranged for it to be published together with Corruptions of the Church of Rome under the title A Vindication of the Church of England.

 

In both documents joined in this one work, Bull addressed the matter of Half-Communion.   To the Countess of Newbrugh he wrote:

 

One of the points he undertakes to prove out of Scripture is the Half-communion, or receiving the Sacrament only in one kind, viz. the bread, practiced and (not only so, but) enjoined in the Church of Rome.  I know your ladyship to be well-versed in the Holy Scriptures, and therefore humbly beseech you only to recollect what you have read therein concerning this matter; as, That our Saviour instituted and commanded the Sacrament to be received in both kinds; and that every institution and command of Christ, especially in so important a matter as is the great Sacrament and most mysterious rite of Christianity, ought with all possible care and exactness of religion to be observed, that St. Paul, in pursuance of our Saviour’s institution, enjoins, that every Christian, after due examination, should not only “eat of the bread,” but also “drink of the cup” in the Sacrament, that it appears the Apostolic Church did accordingly receive the Sacrament in both kinds, and then I shall leave it to thy ladyship’s conscience, to judge of the intolerable impudence of those hectors in divinity, who dare undertake the proof of such things out of Scripture, as may be discerned by all to be manifestly repugnant thereunto.   Indeed, that the Romanists have no ground in Scripture, or primitive antiquity, to rob the laity of one half of the Communion, is plainly confessed by that very Council which first established this sacrilege; I mean the Council of Constance.   For the Fathers of that Council (if it be lawful to give that title to a sorry convention of men so wholly regardless of the command of Christ, and the practice of the Apostolic Church, yea, of the whole Church of God, for many ages after) in express terms acknowledge, that Christ instituted the Sacrament to be received in both kinds, yea, that it was so administered and received in the primitive Church; yet with a non obstante, notwithstanding all this, they boldly and blasphemously decree against communion in both kinds, as a thing dangerous and scandalous; and the decree denounceth excommunication to the priest that shall dare to administer the Sacrament as Christ appointed it.   I wrong them not.  All this is plainly delivered in the thirteenth session of that Council.  And think you not, madam, that those were rare Scripturists?   What Christian is there, that bears any due honour to Christ or respect or reverence to His commands, whose soul does not rise up against such an antichristian decree? 

 

Later in the same treatise he addressed Concomitance:

 

For when they tell us, that the people receive a perfect sacrament only in one kind, because both the body and blood of Christ are truly and perfectly contained under each species of the Sacrament, they egregiously prevaricate in a matter of great concernment to the souls of men.   For, 1.  If this be true, then our Saviour did superfluously institute the Sacrament to be received in both kinds: for if there be a perfect sacrament in one kind only, to what purpose did Christ institute the other?  2.  It is most false that the body and blood of Christ are sacramentally in each element: for it is the bread only that doth sacramentally signify and exhibit the body of Christ, and the wine only that doth sacramentally signify and exhibit the blood of Christ. 3.  That which doth not perfectly represent and set forth the death and passion of our Lord, is no perfect sacrament, (for this is the very end of this divine institution, “to shew forth the Lord’s death”;) but communion only in one kind, doth not perfectly represent the death and passion of our Lord Jesus: therefore communion only in one kind is no perfect sacrament.   The effusion and shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross, (which is so considerable a part of His passion, as that it is everywhere emphatically insisted on in the Scriptures of the New Testament, and Christ Himself, in the very institution of the Sacrament, urgeth it, when consecrating the cup He saith, “This cup is the new testament in My blood, which was shed for many;” I say, this effusion of Christ’s blood, is in the communion only of the bread so far from being perfectly, that it is not at all represented, but totally obscured.  And therefore, 4. Some of the more ancient and learned writers among the Papists themselves have plainly confessed, that communion in one kind is but an imperfect sacrament.

 

To the Bishop of Meaux he declares the Roman practice to be:

 

manifestly against our Saviour’s first institution of the Sacrament, against Apostolic practice, and the usage of the universal Church of Christ for a thousand years, as is confessed by divers learned men of the Roman Communion.

 

He expresses indignation against the “Trent Creed” (the aforementioned Creed of Pope Pius IV” for declaring Concomitance, which he calls the “insolent (and as I may justly term it) antichristian decree of the Roman Church in this point”, to be an essential of the faith to be denied on penalty of eternal damnation and astonishment that the Trent Fathers, against the express hopes of many in the Roman Communion that the reforms of the Council would restore Communion in both kinds to the laity:

 

turned a deaf ear to their loud cries and supplications, only bidding them believe for the future, (what they could not believe,) that half the Sacrament was every whit as good as the whole.

 

To these could be added countless other similar quotations from almost every published orthodox Anglican divine from the Elizabethan Settlement through to the Oxford Movement but I think I have made my point.   Should anyone object that I have cited only from the kind of Anglican theologians who stress the Catholicity of the Church of England – her continuity with, and in the Reformation recovery of some aspects of, the doctrines and practices of the Primitive Church of the early centuries – I will simply point out that no disagreement on this particular point could possibly be logically expected from the kind of Anglican theologians who stress the Reformed character of the Anglican Church and understand this character primarily in terms of conformity to continental Protestant, usually Calvinist, theology.   John Calvin’s views of withholding the Cup from the laity and the doctrine of Concomitance were identical to those of Laud and Bull.  You can find them expounded upon at length in the seventeenth chapter of the fourth book of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, see especially paragraph 47.   The Twenty-Second Article of the Lutheran Augsburg Confession insists, like our Thirtieth Article, and at much greater length, that Communion is to be given to the laity in both kinds.   Needless to say, the corresponding Article in the Apology for the Augsburg Confession says the same thing.   Article VI of the Smacald Articles takes the same position and dismissed the doctrine of Concomitance as sophistry.   It would be bizarre, therefore, if the Anglican theologians who stressed the evangelical character of our Church would, contrary to the Lutherans and Reformed, disagree with Jewell, Laud, Hammond, Taylor and Bull and accept the doctrine of Concomitance, and, of course, they did no such thing.   William Henry Griffith-Thomas, an evangelical Anglican theologian who from 1910 to 1919 was Principal of Wycliffe College in Toronto, in his commentary on the Thirty-Nine Articles entitled The Principles of Theology, clearly identified Concomitance with the Roman doctrine and practice and declares the Anglican position to reject it.   This book came out in 1930.

 

Therefore, when our leadership today tells us that Concomitance is our official doctrine, to justify doing what Article XXX clearly forbids, they are going against the clear historical and traditional consensus of Anglicanism in both its High and Low forms.   This sort of thing has become far too common in recent decades, as more and more of our ecclesiastical leaders no longer feel themselves bound to keep their doctrine and practice in any meaningful way within the limits of the Historical Formularies (Restoration Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal, Thirty-Nine Articles, Books of Homilies).   In this particular instance it was done to justify their support for draconian health policies enacted by our governments, provincial and Dominion, which by their actions have been demonstrating a similar disregard for the limits imposed upon them by constitutional law and protected rights and freedoms.   Ironically, had they decided that they now believed in Transubstantiation and so come around to the position of Constance and Trent, this would have been a much less contemptible reason for their abandonment of traditional Anglicanism on this point.     

 

 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Still Standing - a Reactionary Tory in 2022

After the second of two anni horribiles in a row, the Kalends of January is upon us once again.   In the civil calendar this is New Year's Day and in the sacred Kalendar it is the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ.    When I began to write I borrowed a custom from one of my favourite writers, the late Charley Reese, a curmudgeonly, common-sense conservative, op-ed writer from the Orlando Sentinel with a thrice-weekly syndicated column.   At the beginning or end of each year he would write a column in which he talked about himself, his  positions, the causes he supported, and the organizations to which he belonged.   He encouraged other writers to do the same because he felt they owed it to their readers to regularly disclose these things so their readers would know where the opinions they were reading were coming from.   Reese's column would come out in late December or early January on a day his column was scheduled to appear.   Since I self-publish my essays on a blog and can keep my own schedule I have always timed mine to come out on New Year's Day.


I am 45 years old.  I have lived in the city of Winnipeg for almost a quarter of a century.  I have lived in the province of Manitoba, of which Winnipeg is the capital, in the Dominion of Canada all my life.   I grew up on a farm in southwestern Manitoba near the village of Oak River and the town of Rivers, and studied theology for five years at what is now Providence University College (at the time it was called Providence College and Theological Seminary) in Otterburne, about a half-hour south of Winnipeg.


There are two words that I regularly use to describe my general point of view in all of its aspects - political, theological, philosophical, cultural, etc.   These are reactionary and Tory.  The former has long been a term of abuse by progressives or leftists and I learned the habit of self-applying it from the late historian John Lukacs.   When I do so, I use it more in the sense in which he used it, and in which Michael Warren Davis uses it in his just published The Reactionary Mind: Why "Conservative" Isn't Enough, than in the sense that in which Curtis Yarvin aka Mencius Moldbug, et al, use it, although by making this distinction I do not mean to disparage the latter who have written much that is worthy in criticism of the Modern and what has followed it.     In this sense it means someone who looks back to the social, civil, and religious order of Christendom, the civilization that preceded Modern Western Civilization, and rather than finding there darkness from which he thanks Modernity for rescuing us, finds goodness and light and a solid place to cast his anchor so as to keep from being tossed adrift on the stormy seas of Modernity and Postmodernity.   A reactionary then is very different from a conservative.   The latter is usually someone who values Western Civilization only for the achievements of Modernity, distinguishing himself from progressives merely by the fact that the strain of Modernity he prefers, is the older, somewhat saner, form of liberalism, rather than that of the increasingly looney left.


From what I have just said about being a reactionary, it should already be clear that when I describe myself as a Tory I don't mean a small-c conservative, although I usually agree with small-c conservatives in their disputes with progressives, much less a big-C Conservative.     I mean it in the sense of Dr. Johnson's famous definition as "one who adheres to the ancient constitution of the state, and the apostolic hierarchy of the church of England, opposed to a whig" and of T. S. Eliot's description of himself, which reads like an update of Dr. Johnson's definition, and goes " an Anglo-Catholic in religion, a classicist in literature and a royalist in politics."


When it comes to the political aspect of being a Tory, the "royalist in politics", I have been one all my life.   Although a subtle distinction can be made between a royalist and a monarchist - the former denotes loyalty to royal blood, the latter denotes loyalty to and belief in the institution and office of the monarch - I will use the word royalist to encompass both meanings.   I have always been glad that my country is a parliamentary monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as our head of state and the head of the family of nations, the Commonwealth, to which we belong, rather than a republic.   Like Anthony Burgess, one of my favourite novelists who had similar views, "I hate all republics", although I might make the long defunct Confederate States of America the exception that proves the rule, if only because the kind of people who would be most offended by my doing so are also the sort of people who irritate me the most.  As I learned the history of my country, I was very pleased - I don't like to use the word proud because Pride is the worst of all sins and vices - to know that Canada's history diverged from that of our republican neighbour because we chose the way of the older virtues of Loyalty to the Crown and Honour, over that of rebellion and sedition in the name of new-fangled abstract ideals.   I very much despise the way Modern man prefers abstract ideals over time -proven concrete institutions.    I am very much the opposite of that in my thinking, which is why I will defend parliament, the time-honoured institution that legislates under the reign of the Crown, but not democracy, the abstract ideal, and insist that this distinction is crucial.   It always infuriates me when certain small-c conservatives speak gushingly about democracy and disparagingly about the Crown.   The Honourable Eugene Forsey was raised Conservative, but became a socialist, was one of the founders of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (predecessor to today's New Democratic Party), worked as research-director for the Canadian Labour Congress, and was appointed to the Senate as a Liberal by Pierre Eliot Trudeau.   There were a great many issues on which his position was the polar opposite of mine.   Nevertheless, he was a great defender of Canada's constitution, about which he knew more than any other Canadian in history except the Fathers of Confederation, and of the monarchy and always called himself a "Sir John A. Macdonald Conservative".   I gladly acknowledge him to have been a brother Tory.  I would not extend the same courtesy to such small-c conservatives as Anthony Furey, Lorne Gunter, J. J. McCullough and Spencer Fernando who have expressed their preference for the republican form of government, even though on a wide battery of other issues I would agree with them.   I would recommend that they all read John Farthing's Freedom Wears a Crown.  The most totalitarian governments in history have been republics, the freest have been headed by monarchs.  The more I have read and reflected on political science over the years, the more confirmed I have become in a royalism that was at first instinctual.   A country needs a hereditary, unelected, head of state who is above partisan politics, and so can truly fulfil the role of the office of head of state, which is to represent the country as a whole, including not just all the various factions of those living in the present, but those who have gone before and who are yet to come as well.  Only a king or queen can do this.


I had what for Canadians of my generation was a fairly typical mainstream Protestant upbringing.   My mother attended the United Church in Oak River, my grandmother on my father's side subscribed to the Anglican Journal and the newspaper of the Brandon diocese, we were read Bible stories and said the Lord's Prayer in school, and celebrated the two main Christian holidays.   From the New Testament the Gideons gave me when I was twelve and Christian books I borrowed from the library, I gained a fuller understanding of Who Jesus Christ was, and why He died on the Cross and rose again.   When I was 15 I placed my faith in Him as my Saviour.   I was baptized in a Baptist church about a year and a half later and a couple of decades after that was confirmed as an adult in the Anglican Church.  Several years ago, Michael Coren, a writer who had been a prominent social and religious conservative, left the Church of Rome and joined the Anglican Church in which he was later ordained.   Nowadays, whenever he appears in print, he can be depended upon to consistently take the wrong position on whatever hot button topic he has been invited to address.   For Coren the move from Romanism to Anglicanism was a move from conservatism to liberalism, a move that I had suspected that he would one day take ever since I had seen him take the republican side in a in-print debate about the monarchy in the National Post years earlier.   My decision to join the Anglican Church was very different from this.   For me, it was the outcome of a deepening of my theological conservatism from a mere Protestant fundamentalism to a High Anglican orthodoxy.


There was an instinctual element to my theological conservatism as there was to my political royalism.   Even before my conversion theological liberalism had repulsed me.  By theological liberalism I don't mean the making of theological arguments for politically liberal positions.  I mean the approach to Christianity of those churchgoers who either pick and choose from the Creed what they want to believe and discard what they don't (keeping heaven and getting rid of hell is an obvious example of this) or profess a "belief" in the articles of the Creed that looks more like unbelief in disguise (think of the sort of person who says he believes in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ but means by it something that did not require Jesus' body to return to life and leave the tomb).    This sort of thing disgusted me before I was  a believer, and the disgust intensified when I became a believer.   Over the years I have come to recognize in what I call hyper-Protestantism something that is akin to theological liberalism in attitude and spirit and arguably its immediate ancestor.   Hyper-Protestantism goes beyond Protestantism's rejection of what can be clearly demonstrated from Scripture to be the errors of the Church of Rome and rejects everything it associates with the Church of Rome which is not absolutely required by Scripture even if it is genuinely Catholic, that is to say, held by all the ancient Churches that go back to the unbroken Communion of Churches of the early centuries, from those early centuries to this day.   I have come to be as repulsed by this attitude as by liberalism and as a consequence my theological conservatism has deepened and matured.


I hold to the fundamental truths of the Reformation as much now as ever.   The first of these is that the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, is the inspired written Word of God, and as such its authority is infallible.   The Church, whether it be the actual Catholic Church - all Churches that were once part of the unbroken Communion - or a particular Church, such as the Roman, that falsely claims to be the entire Catholic Church, is not infallible.   The Bible, therefore, is the infallible standard of truth, to which the Church is held accountable.   Hyper-Protestantism, however, takes this way too far.   Rather than merely saying the Church is not infallible, it assumes the Church - not just the Roman Church but the actual Catholic Church - to be wrong about everything, unless it is clearly, in the most literal way possible, proven by Scripture, and takes the position that it is better for the individual believer to ignore the Church and rely directly upon the Holy Spirit for understanding the truth of the Bible.   This, however, in effect, treats the private interpretation of the individual believer as infallible, which is a far worse error than that of Rome.   The promise of Christ that the Holy Spirit would guide to all truth, was not made to the individual believer but to the collective society of believers the Church, in the persons of the Apostles whom He had set as governors over the Church.   This did not make the Church infallible, but it means that personal interpretation must be subject to the teaching of the actual Catholic Church, just as the latter must be subject to the corrective authority of the infallible Word of God.


The second fundamental truth of the Reformation is that salvation in its spiritual sense of the restoration of the sinner to God's favour, including such things as eternal life and bliss, pardon for sins, and righteousness in God's eyes, is something that is utterly beyond the reach of our own efforts - we cannot achieve it for ourselves, earn it, or exchange anything for it - and so it has been freely given to us in the gift of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who in His Incarnation, life, suffering, and death did everything necessary to accomplish that salvation and in His Resurrection and Ascension demonstrated it to be complete.   We merely receive our salvation as the gift it is in the only way a gift of this nature can be received - by faith, which is believing and trusting, believing the Gospel message that proclaims to us that God has given us a Saviour Who has taken away our sins, trusting Him to have accomplished for us what the Gospel says He has accomplished, which are, of course, the same thing stated two different ways.   Our own works - our efforts to please God by what we think, say, and do - as important, essential and necessary, as they are, contribute nothing to our salvation, but rather flow out of our salvation as the effect of its liberating and transforming aspects and our way of thanking God for it.    Our works cannot please God in any way, even the sense in which He graciously accepts the imperfect works of believers, if they are done with the intent of contributing to our salvation.   The Reformers stressed this truth which is so central to the Johannine and Pauline writings of the New Testament against the the teachings of the Church of Rome which, by the sixteenth century, had fallen so far from the grace of God, that not only did its teachings make salvation resemble a carrot dangled in front of a horse from a stick, but its Patriarch even stooped to the sacrilege and blasphemy of trying to sell salvation as a fund-raiser.   Hyper-Protestantism, however, in the name of this fundamental truth, rejects what the Scriptures and Catholic - not just Roman - doctrine clearly teach about the ordinary means God has appointed through which He works to bring the freely give grace (favour) Christ obtained for us on the Cross to us and to create in us the faith by which we receive it.   In the New Testament, Jesus Christ establishes a religious society called the Church, which people became members of through the initiatory ritual of baptism, appointing His Apostles as governors over the Church and committing to them the ministry of the Gospel, which included both teaching and preaching and the administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper, the Gospel Sacraments.    The Church, her Apostolic government, and her Gospel ministries of Word and Sacrament are the appointed ordinary means through which God works to bring the grace of Christ to us, and to create in us the faith by which we receive it.   Hyper-Protestants reject this in the name of the Reformation truth of the freeness of God's saving grace, but place themselves in a quandary with regards to the New Testament verses that taken literally, as hyper-Protestants usually claim they prefer Scripture to be taken, tell us that baptism unites us with Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:3-4, Col. 2:12) and that the food that sustains our spiritual life is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (John 6:53-58) which, of course, is offered us as food only in the Eucharist.   Since they see baptism and the Lord's Supper as works, things we do in obedience to God in order to please Him, rather than Sacraments, things through which God works to bless us, they see works salvation in the literal meaning of these passages, and must twist them to fit their theology.   Ironically, hyper-Protestants are themselves susceptible to the charge of works salvation.  If they are Arminians, they make faith itself into a work by making it into an act of our will by which we meet God's condition for salvation.   If they are Calvinists, they teach that God gave Christ to save only a limited few elect, and that we can only know we are of this elect by seeing the evidence of it in our holy lives, thus essentially telling us to place our faith in our works instead of Christ.   By contrast, the Catholic doctrine based on the literal meaning of the above passages is entirely consistent with the freeness of God's saving grace if Sacraments are understand, as they have been since the Church Fathers - see St. Augustine especially - as a visible, tangible, way of preaching the Gospel, and if it is understood that God works through extraordinary as well as ordinary means.


In both of the above examples of hyper-Protestantism twisting fundamental Reformation truths to attack genuinely Catholic doctrine as well as Roman error it is obvious that hyper-Protestantism is fundamentally rebellion against the legitimate authority God has placed in His Church and not just the exaggerated claims of Rome.    In rejecting the Patriarch of Rome's claim to supreme authority over the entire Catholic Church, the Reformers were actually taking the Catholic position for early attempts by said Patriarch to assert such supremacy were clearly rebuffed in the Ecumenical Councils.   Hyper-Protestants, however, reject the entire Episcopal College's claim to authority over the Catholic Church.   That claim, however, is founded in the Bible.   Jesus Christ gave the government of His Church to the Apostles, which governing authority could only be passed on to others from those who had it before, which is precisely what we see the Apostles doing in the New Testament when they admitted others such as Timothy and Titus to their government over the lower Orders they, on their Christ-given authority had created, the Presbyters and Deacons.   Dr. Luther taught the New Testament truth of the universal priesthood of all believers.   Hyper-Protestants conclude from it that if all Christians are priests, then Christ could not have established a more specific priesthood and set it over His Church.   This logic, however, would condemn the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament, because national Israel was also described as a nation of priests (Ex. 19:6).   The accounts of the Last Supper, especially those of St. John and St. Luke taken together, make it quite clear that Christ established His Apostles as the new priesthood of His Church.   Compare the ritual footwashing described by St John at the beginning of his account (13:3-18) with the ritual washing when the Aaronic priesthood was established (Ex 40:12, 30-31).   Then note the institution of the Eucharist, the bread and wine of which clearly allude to the grain and drink offerings of the Levitical system, and which are proclaimed to be the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the One effective sacrifice to which the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed.   If it were not already obvious that when the Lord told the Apostles to perform this rite  He was telling them to do something only priests could do, note that the word St. Luke uses for "this do" in instituting the Sacrament while generally meaning "make this" or "do this" has a ceremonial meaning of "offer this".  The hyper-Protestant position smacks of the rebellious attitude of Dathan, Korah and Abiram.


The more I studied this the more I came to see how hyper-Protestantism led to theological liberalism, because the rejection of the legitimate albeit not-infallible authority Christ had placed in those He set over His Church and not just the false supremacy claimed by the Roman Patriarch was a step towards rejecting the infallible authority God had placed in His written Word.   Latitudinarianism paved the way for deism and rationalism, and Puritanism became the ancestor of both political liberalism (the Whigs began as the successors to the Puritan party in Parliament) and leftism (the French Revolution, the template of all subsequent Communist totalitarian revolutions, was itself inspired by the Puritan rebellion against the godly King Charles I).   This led me to place a much higher value on the ancient Creeds, the teachings of the Fathers, and the Councils of the early Church than I had before, and my theological conservatism matured into High Anglican orthodoxy.


The last two years have put a strain on these theological convictions, as the leaders, not only of the Anglican Communion, but the other Communions with an Apostolic ministry, have with few exceptions, submitted to the tyranny of the new false religion of Antichrist that has made an idol out of physical health to which it has demanded that spiritual health and wellbeing as well as psychological health and the health of society, economy, and community all be sacrificed.   Abusing the Keys Christ gave to the Apostles - not just St. Peter - they have locked people away from the Gospel Ministry of Word and Sacrament, not because of unrepentant open sin, but because a respiratory disease that resembles the flu far more than it does cholera, the Black Death, or any of the other far worse historical plagues that nobody ever behaved this stupidly over has been going around.   When they opened the Churches again, they imposed all sorts of "safety protocols" such as capacity limitations, social distancing, wearing masks, and in some cases, mercifully much fewer, vaccine passports , all of which are completely contrary to the example set by Him Who healed the sick that were brought to Him, including the infectious lepers, rebuked His disciples for sending the little children away, and promised that whoever comes to Him He would in no wise cast out.  Some of these, especially the masks and vaccine passports, are chillingly reminiscent of St. John's prophecy of the Mark of the Beast.   Christ promised, however, that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church, and I pray that He will rescue her from this apostasy soon.


It is difficult to be a classicist in culture today in a practical rather than a merely theoretical sense because of the aforementioned false religion of Antichrist.   The medical Beast has locked me out of museums, the Centennial Concert Hall where I used to attend the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Manitoba Opera, or anywhere else where edifying culture might be found, except libraries, because I refuse to be bullied into taking his vaccine.   Even if I were fully persuaded that the vaccine was 100% safe and effective I would not take it because the bullying manner in which it is being imposed on people is behaviour that ought not to be either rewarded or even tolerated by the civilized.   When I look at what the Winnipeg Art Gallery currently has on exhibition according to its website, and the current season of the Manitoba Opera, the loss becomes somewhat more bearable.   Having to miss Beethoven's Fifth a little over a month ago and Haydn's final symphony later this month is rather stinging however.   On the popular culture front I am also shut out of the movie theatres.   That is perhaps something to be thankful for.  Movies and television shows have been noticeably declining in quality for decades and this has recently accelerated.   Look at everything that is now being released through the online streaming platforms.  Or better yet don't.   It is all trying to preach the message of "wokeness", i.e., the racial superiority of people of colour, the sexual superiority of women, the normality of homosexuality and transgender identity and abnormality of heterosexuality and cisgender identity, the impending doom from climate change unless we all stop burning fossil fuels and start eating vegan, and other nonsense of the sort.   On the plus side, plenty of  classic older films, Shakespeare plays , and the like are readily available to stream as well, although the habit of spending all of one's time watching a screen is not one that ought to be cultivated.


Happy New Year

God Save the Queen!


Friday, December 17, 2021

Christmas Customs and Hyper-Protestant Killjoys

 

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.  – Phil. 4:4

 

In an earlier essay I debunked the neo-Cromwellian, hyper-Protestant claim that Christmas is actually a pagan holiday and demonstrated that it is of Christian origin.   It is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, which early Church Fathers had calculated to have fallen on the twenty-fifth of December at least a century before the events – the legalization of Christianity, the conversion of Constantine the Great, the making Christianity the official religion of Rome – that the hyper-Protestants believe initiated the syncretism that in their view corrupted Christianity with paganism, and, indeed, before there was even any pagan significance to the date of the twenty-fifth of December.   I also demonstrated that the information that St. Luke provides us about the timing of the birth of Christ in his Gospel – the Annunciation took place in the sixth month of St. Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist, which pregnancy began shortly after St. Zechariah was visited by Gabriel in the Temple, which most likely occurred during the week of Yom Kippur if not the exact day – supports the placing of Christ’s birth in December-January.    The exact process by which the Church Fathers calculated more specific dates is not clear, although the date of the Annunciation seems to have been calculated first and some theorize that it had to do with the idea that Christ was conceived on the same day He died.   That the Church Fathers were looking for dates when the Jewish holy days that the events in St. Luke’s chronology fell on or around – Passover for the Annunciation, Hanukkah for the Nativity – matched up with the events on the solar calendar that they approximate (the spring equinox and winter solstice) is perhaps a likelier explanation than the influence of the Jewish concept of “integral age”.   The twenty-fifth of March and December would not line up with the precise date of the solar events by our calculations today, but these were calculated differently back then.   Looking for such convergence does not indicate a pagan influence.   That the sun, moon, and stars were placed in the firmament for “signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” by God Himself is asserted in the first chapter of the Bible (Gen. 1:14).

 

Having debunked the hyper-Protestant claims about the date of Christmas, let us turn to their claims about the manner in which it is celebrated.   In one sense they seem to be on firmer ground here.  Every place in which Christmas is celebrated has its local customs as to how it is celebrated and many of these seem to have been adopted from traditions that were around before the area was evangelized.   Nevertheless, this hardly makes Christmas “pagan”.  

 

The sort of things we are talking about here are the accidents of Christmas, not its essence.   What makes Christmas Christmas, is not the goose or turkey and pudding, the gift-giving, the holly and mistletoe, the stockings and Yule log, the wreathes and wassail, or any such thing.   It is the Christmas story, which comes directly from Sacred Writ, the early chapters of the Gospels of both SS Matthew and Luke.   Many of the most beloved of Christmas carols either retell the Christmas story in verse or proclaim the theological significance of the events narrated in the story or both.   I am not talking about “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman”, obviously, but carols like Charles Wesley and George Whitefield’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, Dr. Martin Luther’s “Silent Night, Holy Night”, and “Adeste Fidelis” and its English translation “O Come All Ye Faithful”.    The very name of the holiday speaks of Christians celebrating the Nativity of Christ by participating in the Holy Sacrament.   Christmas is a contraction of “Christ’s mass”.   Hyper-Protestants will no doubt read every last bit of Romanist doctrine regarding transubstantiation into the word “mass” but this word, taken from the Latin words used to dismiss (another word that we get from the same Latin source) the congregation at the end of the service, simply means a liturgical service in which the Eucharist is celebrated.   Things are defined by their essence, not their accidents.   Christmas is defined by the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, not by the decorations, food, and merry-making.

 

That having been said, if our hyper-Protestant friends persist in objecting some of the food and drink, gifts and games, and decorations having had roots in pre-Christian traditions, then the manner in which these came to be incorporated into the celebration of Christmas needs to be pointed out to them.   This is because hyper-Protestantism is based upon the idea that everything in the pre-Reformation Christian tradition that the hyper-Protestants object to, which is basically everything for which they cannot find an exact Scripture verse either authorizing or commanding it, is something that was imposed upon the unsuspecting Christian laity by an evil clergy out to rob them of their Christian liberty.   This is precisely the opposite of how elements from pre-Christian winter festivals became a part of Christmas celebrations.   It was the people who brought these sorts of things into Christmas, not the Church that imposed them upon the people.   If anything, the Church may have initially tried to dissuade the people from doing this, but tolerated and eventually accepted it on the grounds that these sort of things are not intrinsically pagan, are minor matters, and that what Scripture does not prohibit it permits (the hyper-Protestants operate on the reverse of this, John Calvin’s regulative principle, that what Scripture does not permit it prohibits, which is clearly far less compatible with the Pauline doctrine of Christian liberty).  

 

One of the silliest examples of hyper-Protestant opposition to Christmas traditions with pre-Christian origins has to do with the Christmas tree.   A Christmas tree is an evergreen tree – spruce, pine or the like – that people set up in their homes, usually in the living room, and decorate with stars, angels, tinsel, candles or electric lights, and other ornaments, and under which they place the presents to be opened at Christmas.   It is a relatively recent addition to Christmas traditions and appears to be of Germanic origin.   Dr. Luther is known to have decorated Christmas trees with candles and some have attributed the start of the tradition to him, others trace it back to the pre-Christian Germanic traditions of Yule.   Either way, some hyper-Protestants maintain that it is explicitly condemned in the prophecy of Jeremiah in the Old Testament.    They are referring to a passage found at the beginning of the tenth chapter of Jeremiah - specifically the third and fourth verses.   Here are those verses:

 

For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.   They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

 

Now, the hyper-Protestants who interpret these verses as referring to Christmas trees, might have a point if the people who put up Christmas trees erected altars in front of the Christmas trees, offered sacrifices to them and burned incense to them, prayed to them, trusted them to deliver them from their enemies, and did any of that sort of thing.   I don’t know of anyone who does this sort of thing with his Christmas tree, nor do I know of anyone who knows somebody else who does.    

 

The entire passage in which these verses are found – the first sixteen verses of the chapter, make it abundantly clear that what is being talked about is not a custom of erecting a tree and decorating it for festive purposes, but the making of an idol.    Consider the verse that immediately follows the ones quoted above:

 

They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go.   Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.  

 

When Jeremiah talks about how they “are upright as the palm tree, but speak not” this very similar to the places in which the Psalmist says of idols “they have mouths, but they speak not” (115:5, 135:16), and when he adds “they must needs be borne, because they cannot go” this brings to mind the verse that says “feet have they, but they walk not” (115:7).   There would have been no need to point anything in this verse out if the decoration of trees for festive purposes were the custom being condemned here.   If that is what the prophet had in mind, those to whom he was addressing the prophecy could have legitimately come back with “Well duh, what’s your point?”    Jeremiah is speaking of images that the heathen make and worship instead of the True and Living God.      In this case they are carved from wood and plated with gold and silver.   The folly of placing faith in the works of men’s own hands, that cannot use the anthropomorphic features they are given by their crafters, and which cannot save their worshippers as the True and Living God can, is the point of all of this.

 

Anyone seeking a present day equivalent of what Jeremiah was speaking about in the tenth chapter of his book of prophecy may find one in the practice of the many who put their faith in their savings accounts, government social programs, or modern technology for their safety, security, and the solution to their problems.   This is far closer to what Jeremiah was condemning  than the practice of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas.   Idolatry is giving to that which is created, especially the work of man’s own hands, that which belongs only to the Creator.   Decorating a Christmas tree may superficially resemble what Jeremiah was talking about in the third and fourth verses of his tenth chapter if the context is ignored but the resemblance is only superficial.  

 

The hyper-Protestants who think that Christmas trees are condemned by Jeremiah are being incredibly silly indeed.   They have allowed their hatred of the pre-Reformation Christian tradition, the pre-Reformation Church, and anything they associate with these, such as the celebration of Christ’s birth, to blind them to the obvious meaning of passages like Jeremiah 10:3-4 so that they can twist these verses into condemnations of entirely innocent things like Christmas trees that are part of a holy festival that brings joy to people’s hearts.

 

H. L. Mencken once said that Puritanism “is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is happy”.   We are in the third week of Advent, which began with the Sunday that is customarily called Gaudete Sunday.    Gaudete is the plural imperative of a Latin verb that means “to rejoice” and thus is a command to rejoice.    The commandment to “rejoice” is repeated over and over again throughout the Scriptures.   Deut. 32:43; 1 Chr. 16:10, 31; Psalm 2:11, 5:11, 32:12, 33:1; Rom. 12:15, 15:10; Phil. 2:18, 4:4 are but a few examples.   The last mentioned of these, quoted as the epigraph of this essay, is the traditional Introit for the third Sunday of Advent, which is the origin of its name.   God is the Author of joy.  It would be unseasonably uncharitable to speculate as to where Puritanism – the original name for hyper-Protestantism in the English-speaking world- gets the aversion to human joy, happiness, and merry-making that is prominently on display in its condemnation of everything associated with these things in Christian festivals and traditions as “pagan”, but this, at least, is clear - it does not come from God.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Bad Politicians Pass a Bad Bill

As anyone who has followed my writings for any significant length of time will know when I identify my politics and general philosophy as Tory this is not in reference to the Conservative Party.   This is something that I wish to emphasize in light of the disgraceful behaviour of that party in the last couple of weeks.   To me, being a Tory means being loyal to and supporting traditional institutions that have proven themselves over long ages of time.   In the political sense the primary such traditional institution is hereditary royal monarchy.   The second such institution is parliament.   True Toryism means placing these institutions ahead of abstract ideals like democracy, equality, and even freedom although freedom is not just an abstract ideal but also a basic human good, a good which over the long run is better protected by traditional institutions than by political crusades launched in its name as an abstract ideal.   It also means suspicion and skepticism towards the utopian schemes of those who think that either such ideals or what they consider to be "science" should be the basis of a new, re-ordered, engineered society.    It is a confidence in traditional institutions over the long term, rather than the people who make them up in the short term.   This needs to be stressed especially in regards to parliament.   Earthly human institutions, even traditional ones, are not infallible.  They are of necessity made up of people, and therefore fallible due to the flaws in fallen human nature.   Parliaments are made up of politicians, who have more than their fair share of those flaws.

 

The recent actions of our Canadian Parliament alluded to above in reference to the disgraceful behaviour of the Conservative Party illustrate the point.   In passing Bill C-4, a bill which is objectively not only evil but insane, Parliament failed big time.   This was not because of some flaw in the Westminster System as it evolved over time that can be fixed by social and political engineers.   The problem is entirely in the character of the human beings who make up both the House and the Senate.  

 

Bill C-4 is a new version of a bill the Liberals introduced in the last Parliament which failed to pass the Senate in time to become law, itself a re-worked version of an earlier bill that had expired when Parliament was prorogued last summer.   It was introduced on the twenty-ninth of November, passed the House of Commons on the first of December when all parties extradited it, and passed the Senate on the seventh of December.    The bill that had been introduced in the last Parliament had been quite controversial and this new version, rather than remove the objectionable elements, made them worse.   Therefore, for the Conservatives led by Erin O'Toole to help the Grits pass this bill unanimously was for them to abdicate their duties in the role of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.   For the Senate to pass the bill so quickly was for them to abdicate their duty as the chamber of "sober second thought".  The Liberals, in this Parliament as in the last, are a minority government.   Even if they were a majority, they ought not to be able to fast-track controversial legislation like this.    Something is very, very, wrong here.

 

Bill C-4 amends the Criminal Code to forbid “causing another person to undergo conversion therapy”, “doing anything for the purpose of removing a child from Canada with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada”, “promoting or advertising conversion therapy” and “receiving a financial or other material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy”.   Now, some explanation may be required here.

 

There are people who, like almost everyone else, were born either biologically male or biologically female but who, unlike most other people, either a) think that they are of the other sex than what their body would indicate, b) think that they are some option other than male or female, c) identify as their biological sex but are sexually attracted to members of their own sex either instead of or in addition to members of the opposite sex, or d) are some combination or minute variation of the above.   Those among these who have politicized their gender/sexual identities – or allowed ideologues of the cultural revolutionary far-left to politicize these for them - and who collectively refer to themselves by an ever-increasing stretch of letters standing for the various labels they identify themselves with and which currently goes something like LGBTTQAEIOUandsometimesY, have demanded that “conversion therapy” be banned. 

 

Now, among those in the aforementioned group who believe their true “gender” to be different from the biological sex they were born with, some seek out reconstructive surgery that would make their bodies, at least in outward appearance, conform to the gender with which they identify.    This is not what is meant by “conversion therapy” and those who have been pushing for the ban on “conversion therapy” would be appalled at the thought of banning this sort of thing.   Indeed, many of them wish to see it available to young children with or without parental approval or consent.

 

No, “conversion therapy” could be said to be the opposite of the above mentioned procedure.   Whereas gender reassignment surgery is cosmetic surgery that makes the appearance of the body conform to the self-image, that makes the physical conform to the psychological, on the assumption that the physical is “wrong” and the psychological “right”, “conversion therapy” is psychological treatment aimed at correcting the psychological so that it conforms to the physical, on the opposite assumption, the assumption that the physical is right and the psychological wrong.

 

Now, among those who support legislation like Bill C-4 that bans “conversion therapy”, there seem to be many who base their support on the assumption that “conversion therapy” entails something like the Ludovico technique that features into Anthony Burgess’ 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange and the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film of the same title featuring Malcolm McDowell.   In that story, you might recall, Alex – the character portrayed by McDowell in the film – is the leader of a gang of “ultraviolent” youth that he calls his “droogs”, who, after robbing and beating an eccentric elderly woman, the last in a string of such thuggish acts, is abandoned by his friends, arrested, and charged for the murder of the woman who dies from her wounds.   In prison, he is offered the chance to get out early if he will undergo the experimental Ludovico technique that would make him incapable of reoffending.   The jumps at the opportunity.   The technique involves strapping him in a chair, with his eyes propped open, and forcing him to watch hours of extremely violent film footage, while he is injected with drugs that cause pain and nausea.    He is thereby so conditioned to experience pain and illness at the slightest thought of violence that he cannot even defend himself.   Proponents of Bill C-4 have certainly encouraged people to assume that this is how “conversion therapy” works.   The legislation itself, however, is worded in such a way as to cover a lot more than just this sort of thing.

 

The bill introduces into law a definition of “conversion therapy” as meaning:

 

a practice, treatment, or service that is designed to

(a)    change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual;

(b)   change a person’s gender identity to cisgender;

(c)   change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth;

(d)   repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour;

(e)   repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity; or

(f)    repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned to the person at birth.

 

Notice the following about this definition:

 

First, if someone were to create something like the Ludovico technique designed to turn a heterosexual person into a homosexual person, or a cisgender person into a transgender person, it would not meet the definition of “conversion therapy’ introduced in the bill.   Thus, although this sort of legislation has been sold to the public as a ban of a harmful technique akin to brainwashing it is no such thing.   No technique that has been used in “conversion therapy” in the past is banned by this legislation and remains legal under it provided the conversion is in the opposite direction of what the bill forbids.

 

Second, the definition is broad enough to take in any sort of counselling or advice that encourages people to recognize, acknowledge and identify as their birth sex and to live within the limits of traditional sexual ethics.   Indeed, (d) could be interpreted as banning the teaching of traditional sexual ethics altogether.   It would not surprise me if the clowns that now occupy Her Majesty’s bench in most jurisdictions in the Dominion were to interpret it in just this manner.

 

So what we have here is a definition that errs by being too broad and too narrow at the same time.   It is too broad in that it takes in things that government has no business legislating against – traditional sexual ethics and counselling based on the same.  It is too narrow in that it does not ban what the public has been told it bans – coercive and abusive techniques qua coercive and abusive techniques.

 

In its previous incarnations as Bill C-8 (first attempt) and C-6 (second attempt), this legislation met with opposition on precisely the grounds that the definition of “conversion therapy” was too broad and could take in professional and pastoral counselling, pulpit teaching and preaching, and even ordinary conversation in which traditional views of sexual identity and ethics are expressed.   The present bill has done nothing to assuage such concerns and, indeed, is worse than its predecessors in that whereas the earlier bills were attempts to ban “conversion therapy” for children the bill which actually passed Parliament also bans “conversion therapy” for adults.   The earlier versions were bad enough in that given the broad definition of “conversion therapy” they would have made criminals out of parents who seek out help for their children in accordance with their own consciences and beliefs rather than those of the left-wing ideologues in the Liberal Party of Canada.   With the passing of this bill, however, when it comes into effect the state of the law will be such that those who identify their gender as something other than the biological sex with which they were born will have no problem obtaining the kind of “conversion therapy” that consists of physical surgery to make the body conform in appearance to “gender identity”, and should someone for some reason or another want professional help in converting from heterosexuality to homosexuality or from cisgender identity to transgender identity  (1) the law would not prohibit some quack from providing this service even if it involves dangerous, pain-inducing, methods, but those who want help in accepting their biological sex or controlling same-sex desires that they believe it is wrong to act upon will be prevented from finding such help and anyone offering such help, even in the form of conversational counselling, will face criminal punishment for doing so.

 

A bill of this sort is fundamentally and thoroughly rotten legislation that is clearly aimed at imposing “woke” ideology as it pertains to sex and gender on Canadians at the expense of traditional religious and moral beliefs as well as personal freedom of choice.   It ought never to have passed Parliament at all, much less without debate and with unanimous support in both chambers, and with Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and the Upper Chamber of “sober second thought” both patting themselves on the back for refusing to do their jobs.    Parliament is an institution that has stood the test of time and proven itself over and over again, but if we keep sending to it the sort of people who currently fill its seats – and I include those on the Opposition bench as well as those in government in this – then cruddy legislation like this will keep making it into law.

 

(1)     A case can be made that what goes under the name “education” today in most schools (other than private and parochial ones) and universities amounts to little more than just this sort of “reverse conversion therapy” inflicted upon unsuspecting youth.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Christmas and the Birth of Christ

 BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen. – Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent

 

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever.  Amen. – Collect for the First Sunday in Advent

 

We are once again at that time of the year when the Christmas haters come crawling out of the woodworks.   I don’t mean the sort of people who object to Christmas as being Christian and wish to replace it with a generic “season” or “holiday”.   Nor am I referring to those who have problems with the commercialized version that has for many replaced the solemn and joyous Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord.   I am talking instead about the sort of people that we might call hyper-Protestants.   Ordinary Protestants “protest” the errors that are particular to the Patriarch of Rome and the Churches in his Communion.   Hyper-Protestants oppose what is Catholic – belonging to the entire pre-Reformation Christian tradition as a whole.   Hyper-Protestantism is inescapably sectarian and in its extreme form rejects even the Trinitarian faith of the ancient Creeds.    Hyper-Protestantism regards Catholicism as a synthesis between Christianity and paganism, in which the Christianity is the outward veneer and the paganism is the dominant, inner, reality.   It usually dates the origin of this synthesis to the fourth century, the legalization of Christianity, the reign of Constantine the Great, and Christianity’s becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire.   Hyper-Protestants maintain that Christmas and Easter are pagan festivals that were given a superficial Christian makeover as part of this process.

 

Some hyper-Protestant ideas have become so widespread that they are now commonly accepted assumptions even among regular Protestants and non-Protestant Christians.   The pagan origin of Christmas is one such idea.   Indeed, until quite recently my answer to this argument would not have been to challenge the assumption but the spin placed on it.   I would have said something along the lines of “Okay, so the ancient pagans had a holiday around the winter solstice, and the Church took the day over and made it Christmas, big deal, it is far better that we honour Christ than some pagan idol in December, and anyway, the Jews did exactly the same thing, they set their ‘festival of lights’ to occur around the winter solstice, in commemoration of an event that isn’t even recorded in books they regard as canonical, yet Jesus is described as participating in that celebration in the tenth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John and I don’t see you complaining about that!”    While I would still regard that reasoning as valid, I would no longer concede to the hyper-Protestants the idea that Christianity borrowed the holiday from paganism.

 

What initially led me to reconsider this concession was the article “Calculating Christmas” by William J. Tighe, Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, which appeared in the December 2003 issue of Touchstone Magazine.    In this article, Tighe argued that the pagan festival of Dies Natalis Sol Invictus (“the day of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun”) was actually more recent than Christmas.   It was the emperor Aurelian who established the cult of Sol Invictus in 274 AD, towards the end of his brief reign.   This, Tighe argued, “was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians”.   He explains that long before this Christians had attempted to determine the calendar date of Christ’s death, which was important to the debate over when to celebrate Pascha/Easter, and that Christians in the Greek-speaking East had determined in to be the sixth of April, while Latin-speaking Christians in the West had calculated it to be the twenty-fifth of March.   Both were wrong in these calculations, Tighe argued, but influenced by the then extent Jewish idea of “integral age”, that a prophet of Israel would live a whole life and die either on the day he was conceived or born, concluded that these were also the dates of either Christ’s birth or conception, eventually settling upon the latter and declaring the twenty-fifth of March to be the Feast of the Annunciation, which, of course, is exactly nine months prior to the twenty-fifth of December.

 

Was Tighe correct?

 

He was certainly right that Christians had concluded that Christ was born on the twenty-fifth of December long before Aurelian established the cult of Sol Invictus on that day.   St. Hippolytus of Rome had written in his Commentary on Daniel (IV.23) that the birth of Christ in Bethlehem had taken place eight days prior to the Kalends of January, on a Wednesday, in the forty-second year of Augustus (he was obviously counting from the rise to power of the Second Triumvirate, not from either Octavian’s birth or his becoming emperor) and five thousand, five hundredth after Adam.   St. Hippolytus died in 235 AD, almost forty years prior to the establishment of the cult of Sol Invictus, and  his Commentary on Daniel was written about thirty years before that.   The Kalends of January is, of course, the first of January, New Year’s Day, and eight days prior to that is the twenty-fifth of December.   In his very next sentence he went on to say that the Lord died in his thirty-third year, eight days before the Kalends of April, which is, of course, the twenty-fifth of March.    Tertullian also testified to the twenty-fifth of March as the date of the Passion in a work, Adversus Judaeos, (VIII.17) that came out around the same time as St. Hippolytus’ Commentary, possibly a few years earlier.    That the date of Christ’s birth was calculated from the date of the Annunciation, considered to be identical to the date of the Passion, is indirectly testified to by another work of St. Hippolytus, his Chronicon, written shortly before his death, which makes the twenty-fifth of March not only the date of the events mentioned, but of the Creation of the world.   He was not the only one to make these connections.   Sextus Julius Africanus in his Chronographiai, also maintained that the twenty-fifth of March was the date of Creation and that the Incarnation took place five thousand, five hundred years to the day later.   This five-volume work, no longer extent except in fragments and insomuch as it is quoted at length by later writers such as Eusebius of Caeserea, was completed in 221 AD.   While there were some who followed Julius Africanus and St. Hippolytus in seeing the twenty-fifth of March as the date of Creation who did not join them in identifying it as the anniversary of the Incarnation and Passion – the author who wrote De Pascha Computus (243 AD), falsely attributed to St. Cyprian of Carthage is one example – even this testimony supports the point that great significance was attached to the twenty-fifth of March first, and that the date of Christmas was calculated from this rather than the other way around.  

 

The weakest part of Tighe’s argument is the explanation of the dates by means of the Jewish tradition of integral age.   The Patristic writers referred to do not use this explanation in their own writings and, indeed, it would have been strange if they had for two reasons.   The first is that they were writing in a period in which the Jewish and Christian traditions were distancing themselves from each other – note the title of the Tertullian work mentioned above.   The second is that the Jewish tradition in question is about men who died on their birthdays.   Moses is the primary example of this, and the only one of whom Old Testament support for the idea can be found (Deuteronomy 31:2 can be interpreted as saying that it was Moses’ one hundred and twentieth birthday when he gave his final address to Israel).   The Babylonian Talmud also says of the patriarchs in the Rosh Hashanah tractate that they died in the same month that they were born, which might suggest that they died on their birthdays.   That Moses died on his birthday is asserted several times in the Babylonian Talmud.   In one place (Kiddusin 38a) this is discussed at length and explained it as a fulfilment of Exodus 23:26’s “the number of thy days I will fulfill”.   The Patristic writers, however, assigned Jesus’ day of conception rather than His day of birth to the same day He died.    This does not necessarily mean that the integral age tradition did not influence their calculations.   It is possible that they chose date of conception rather than date of birth to distinguish a Christian version of the concept from the Jewish one.   A theological case for doing this can even be made.   The moment Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit was the moment God became Man.    This was not true of the conception of Moses or of anyone else other than Jesus.   Therefore in His case the fullness of the number of His days was counted from the moment of Incarnation rather than the moment of birth.   If this sort of thinking figured into the calculations of the Patristic writers, however, they neglected to inform their readers of it.

 

The important point, of course, is not whether the Church Fathers were influenced by this Jewish tradition in their calculations of the date of the birth of Christ, but that they calculated that date as having been the twenty-fifth of December for reasons that have nothing to do with paganism, idolatry, or the festivals associated with the same.   While this does not necessarily mean that their calculations were correct, a strong case can be made from the New Testament that both the Western calculation of the twenty-fifth of December and the Eastern calculation of the sixth of January, fall within the span of time in which the birth of Christ had to have occurred.

 

Consider the part of the calculation that dates the birth of Christ to exactly nine months after the Annunciation.   Some might quibble over whether the nine months had to be exact to the day or not, but that the birth took place nine months after the Annunciation, whether approximately or to the exact day, we can take from the Gospel according to St. Luke, the sixth chapter of the second verse which states “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered”.  

 

So does St. Luke tell us anything about when the Annunciation took place?

 

Yes, he does.   The first chapter of his Gospel begins the account of the Annunciation by saying “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.” (Lk. 1:26-27)

 

What is meant by “in the sixth month”?

 

The verses immediately preceding the account state that St. Elizabeth, the wife of St. Zechariah, “conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.”   (vv.24-25)

 

So the Annunciation took place in the sixth month of St. Elizabeth’s pregnancy.   Well, does St. Luke tell us when St. Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist?

 

Again, the answer is yes.   The twenty-third verse and the first part of the twenty-fourth read: “And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.   And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived” which brings us back to the start of the previous quotation.   So the conception of John the Baptist took place immediately after the days of St. Zechariah’s ministration in which the same angel Gabriel had been sent to him to tell him of the upcoming birth of John the Baptist.

 

So do we know when the time in which St. Zechariah was ministering in the Temple actually was?

 

To answer this, I will first point out that there is a very early tradition in the Church that would pinpoint the exact day on which Gabriel came to St. Zechariah.   This tradition states that St. Zechariah was acting in the capacity of High Priest that year and that this was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.   A very early attestation to this is found in the pseudepigraphal Protoevangelium of James which dates to the second century and it seems to have been commonly held by many, probably most of the Church Fathers.   While the Gospel of St. Luke does not state this explicitly, I will show a bit later that it does not actually contradict it either, and drops a few hints in support of the idea.   

 

Before doing so, however, I will point out the interesting fact that even if St. Zechariah was just an ordinary priest the evidence would strongly suggest that the day in which Gabriel appeared to him was the Day of Atonement, or at least in the week of the Day of Atonement. 

 

It is stated in the fifth verse that he belonged to the course of Abijah.    In I Chronicles 24, the priests were divided into twenty-four courses or divisions.   All priests were required to do priestly service on three weeks of the year – the weeks in which Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles occurred.   For the rest of the year, the priestly courses would be assigned weeks of service according to their lot in a rota, which, after it was completed, would start again in the same order, so that each course ended up with two weeks assigned especially to it each year, other than the ones common to all priests.     I Chronicles 24:10 tells us that Abijah was assigned the eighth lot.    It is doubtful that the priests of any other course envied them the spot.  This meant that their first week fell after the week of Pentecost in the Jewish month of Sivan, and their second week fell immediately before the week of Tabernacles in the Jewish month of Tishri.   Twice a year, in other words, they had two weeks of service in a row.      Yom Kippur falls on the tenth day of Tishri – five days before the first day of Sukkot (Tabernacles) and thus in the second week assigned to Abijah.  

 

If the second week assigned to Abijah is the time that St. Luke had in mind this could explain the language that hints at the Day of Atonement even without St. Zechariah being the High Priest, and even how the mistake of the author of the Protoevangelium of James, if it is indeed an error, came about.    Further evidence identifying the day Gabriel spoke to St. Zechariah as the Day of Atonement, or at the very least the week as the week of the Day of Atonement, can be found in the thirty-ninth verse of the second chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel.  

 

This verse follows immediately after the account of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, when the period of Purification for His mother was completed, forty days after His birth.   The verse says “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth”.   This means that either a) the Holy Family moved to Bethlehem at some point after this but before they received the Visit from the Magi, then moved back to Nazareth after the Flight into Egypt, b) the Magi went to Nazareth rather than Bethlehem (which would torture the meaning of the second chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel and make the Flight into Egypt unnecessary as Herod targeted Bethlehem and the surrounding coasts in the Slaughter of the Innocents), or c) the Visit of the Magi, the Flight to Egypt and the Holy Family’s return had all taken place between the Circumcision of Christ, eight days after His birth, and His Presentation in the Temple, forty days later.

 

Yes, option c) is a real possibility.  You can walk to Egypt from Bethlehem in a little under a week, and with the gifts the Magi had brought – gold, frankincense and myrrh - it was hardly necessary that the Holy Family walk.   Option c) is the option that best fits the texts of both St. Luke and St. Matthew.   That places the death of Herod the Great in the forty days between Jesus’ birth and His Presentation in the Temple.   This rules out the first week assigned to the course of Abijah, the week after Pentecost in Sivan, as the week of service mentioned by St. Luke.   If St. Zechariah had been ministering in Sivan this would place the birth of Jesus around the time of Tabernacles (the way the conception of John the Baptist, his birth, the conception of Jesus, and His birth are spaced, Tabernacles and Passover, and the equinoxes approximate to them, appear in connection to these events, albeit different ones, regardless of which week of Abijah it was).   There are those who prefer this version on the grounds of the fourteenth verse of St. John’s Gospel – “and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” because this verse uses the word ἐσκήνωσεν for “dwelt”.   This verb is derived from the word from which our English word “scene” is derived, the word used in the LXX for the Tabernacle.   Liddell and Scott give the primary definition of the verb as to “pitch tents, encamp” with the derived meanings of “live or dwell in a tent” and more generally “settle, take up one’s abode”.  This is one word, however, in a chapter which describes Jesus the following way:

 

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.   There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.   He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.  That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (vv. 4-9)

 

If the use of ἐσκήνωσεν in John 1:14, which those who support the theory ludicrously suggest ought to be rendered “tabernacled” in English, is grounds for thinking the Lord was born at Sukkot, the dominant theme of light earlier in the passage in which this verse is found would be a counterargument that He was born in Hanukkah.   Note that the Gospel of John is the only book in the New Testament – or, for that matter, the undisputed books of the Christian sacred canon - to mention Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. 

 

At any rate, my point is that Flavius Josephus tells us that Herod the Great died in the early part of the year before Passover, following a lunar eclipse.   If he died in the first forty days of Jesus’ life, as the best of the options for fitting the events recorded in the second chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel into the account in St. Luke’s indicates, then it had to be John the Baptist who was conceived around the time of Tabernacles and not Jesus Who was born around then, which confirms what the Church has pretty much universally thought since the earliest centuries of Christianity.   Josephus also tells us that after mourning his father for seven days, Herod’s son Herod Archelaus, whom Herod had named his successor in his will shortly before his death,  arrayed in white, ascended a golden throne in Jerusalem and declared this his reign would be one of leniency and benevolence. (Antiquities of the Jews, XVII.8.iv)  The crowd then began to make demand after demand, and eventually degenerated into a riotous mob.   Archelaus then sent his troops in to crush the rebellion, and, after about three thousand had been killed, ordered the cancellation of Passover.   (Antiquities of the Jews, XVII.9.i-iii)  The Gospel according to St. Matthew tells us that after Joseph had received the message from the angel of the Lord in a dream telling him it was safe to return from Egypt he did so but hearing that Archelaus had succeeded his father, he took Mary and Jesus to Nazareth in Galilee (2:19-23).   If Joseph brought Mary and Jesus to the Temple to fulfil the requirements of the Law immediately upon returning from Egypt, then, hearing of Achelaus’ succession took them back to Nazareth before the slaughter of the three thousand and the cancellation of Passover, this would accommodate the narratives of both Evangelists.

 

Therefore, the narratives of Christ’s birth and infancy in both SS Luke and Matthew, taken together, make a powerful case that St. Zechariah had to have been ministering in the Temple, on or about the Day of Atonement, when Gabriel appeared to him.   This is true regardless of whether he was an ordinary priest, doing the ordinary priestly duties of his course for that week, or whether he was the High Priest on the Day of Atonement.

 

The fact that the first chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel does not state the latter explicitly does not rule it out either.   St. Luke does not assert anything about St. Zechariah in this chapter that could not be taken as the account of an ordinary priest, serving at the altar of incense at one of the ordinary sacrifices that took place twice a day, during his course’s week of duty.   Nor does he assert anything that would rule out the interpretation that he was serving as High Priest on the Day of Atonement.    Interestingly enough, both Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, XVII.17.iv) and the Babylonian Talmud in numerous places, tell us that on one occasion around this time the first Matthias ben Theophilos to serve as High Priest (the second served just before the destruction of the Temple and was possibly the Theophilos to whom St. Luke was writing) became ritually unclean the day before Yom Kippur and so a substitute, Joseph ben Elem, was chosen to fulfil his duties in his place, and then excused from all subsequent priestly duty, even the common ones.   It is not entirely out of the range of possibility that this Joseph ben Elem was the same person as St. Zechariah.   St. Luke does not mention St. Zechariah’s father’s name, there were plenty of individuals who went by more than one name, and the only other extent information about this Joseph ben Elem was that he was related to Matthias ben Theophilos and lived in Sepphoris.   The latter would be an argument against the identification of the two – Sepphoris is in lower Galilee, about 85 miles away from Hebron, where SS Zechariah and Elizabeth lived.   This detail is not found in the oldest account of the incident, however, that of Josephus.  A bigger obstacle to the identification is the fact that Josephus indicates that the incident occurred on the Day of Atonement immediately prior to Herod’s death, which is a year too late.   However, the fact that something happened once suggests that it could have happened more than once, and, given how easy it was to become ritually unclean – in Matthias ben Theophilos’ case it was by dreaming about his wife – it is likely that this sort of thing happened more than once.   The year prior to the incident recorded by Josephus, Simon ben Boethus, one of Herod the Great’s fathers-in-law, was High Priest.   If something similar happened to him, and St. Zechariah was chosen to fulfil his duties out of the common priests whose course was on duty that week, the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 12b) indicates that the same thing would have happened to him, he would have been dismissed from all priestly duty, high and common, immediately after Simon was ritually cleansed.   If this is what happened, this would bring the day of John the Baptist’s conception even closer to the Day of Atonement.  

 

If this is what happened, the absence of any explicit mention of it in St. Luke’s Gospel is harder to explain than the same absence in Josephus and the Babylonian Talmud.   It is only to be expected that the rabbis who compiled the latter and were blatantly hostile to Jesus Christ and all things Christian would not want to bring up such an incident involving the father of John the Baptist and cousin-in-law of Mary, and irregularities in the affairs of the Temple were not Josephus’ primary concern, although it is strange that he would only mention the second of two such incidents if they occurred two years in a row, unless, of course, his own sources of information were incomplete.  

 

Why, if it happened something like this, would St. Luke not mention it?

 

St. Luke does drop hints at the Day of Atonement in the chapter.   Again, his narrative is worded in such a way that everything mentioned could be accounted for by ordinary priestly service.   However, the way he describes how “the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense” (v. 9) could point to the Day of Atonement.  The word rendered “whole multitude” is πλῆθος from which we get our “plethora” which indicates a very large number and can mean “the entirety”.   It is modified by the phrase τοῦ λαοῦ (“of the people”) which could just mean the laypeople as opposed to the priests (our words “lay” and “laity” come from this word), but could also mean “the people” in the sense of the nation, and if this latter meaning is intended and the meaning of “the entirety” is intended by πλῆθος then the image of the Day of Atonement is what is conjured up here.   Further support for this interpretation is found in the references to how when St. Zechariah “saw him, he was troubled and fear fell upon him” (v. 9), the angel’s assuaging his fears (v. 10), and the reference to the people waiting for him to come out and marveling at how long he was taking (v. 21), all of which could suggest that the “time of incense” indicated was not just the ordinary burning of incense, but the censing of the Ark in the Holy of Holies.   Only the High Priest could enter there and only on this one day.   If, upon returning the censer to the altar of incense from the Holy of Holies (Lev. 16:12-13) he found someone standing by the altar when nobody else was supposed to be inside at all (Lev. 16:17), this would very much produce the described reaction, while the people would have been wondering if the delay meant he had been struck dead inside and whether they would have to pull him out by the cord attached for precisely that purposed.

 

While the question remains as to why St. Luke would have made allusion to it in this way without outright stating it, the answer might very well be that it was a style of narration that he picked up from the example of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Consider two parables that he records Jesus telling, one of which is entirely distinct to his Gospel, the other of which is similar to one that St. Matthew records Jesus’ having told on a different occasion.   The latter is the parable of the pounds in the nineteenth chapter (vv. 12-27).   It was told by Jesus following His encounter with the tax collector Zacchaeus at Jericho.   It is similar to the parable of the talents that He told as part of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 25:14-30).    The amounts and kind of money is different.   There is one other big difference.   That is that in the parable of the pounds (minas), Jesus gives a lengthy explanation of the nobleman’s journey.   The details are taken from the life of Herod Archelaus.   In fact, they are the events from his life that immediately follow the ones related above.   After wreaking vengeance on the rebelling Jews in Jerusalem, Archelaus sailed to Rome to have Caesar confirm his succession to his father’s kingdom, but was followed by his own opponents, including his brother Herod Antipas who contested the will,  an entourage of pretended supporters led by his aunt Salome, the sister of Herod the Great, and one of the greatest female schemers of all time (1) who actually went to support Antipas and condemn Archelaus, and a later delegation of Jews from Jerusalem who pleaded with Caesar not to confirm the appointment because of the aforementioned atrocities.   This was to no avail – Augustus confirmed the succession and named Archelaus Ethnarch of Judea, Samaria and Idumea. Josephus tells the whole story in Antiquities of the Jews, XVII.9.iii-vii;11.i-v)   Jesus’ allusion to all of this might seem strange, considering that Archelaus was a despised figure, and the nobleman in the parable obviously represents Himself, but the parable was a prophecy of the judgement that would soon be coming upon those who rejected His rule (v. 27).

 

The other parable is the parable of Dives (Latin for “rich man”, not a proper name) and Lazarus found at the end of the sixteenth chapter (vv. 19-31).    The entire parable is an ironic counter-factual allusion to the events recorded by St. John in the eleventh chapter of his Gospel.   The rich man, while not named, is clearly identified as Caiaphas from the description of him as wearing the high priestly robes (v. 19) and his telling Abraham that he had a father and five brothers and home (vv. 27-28), which is a reference to Caiaphas’ father-in-law Annas, and Annas’ five sons each of whom served at one point or another as high priest.   One of those sons was Theophilos, the father of Matthias ben Theophilos II, both of whom are among the possible candidates for being the Theophilos to whom St. Luke was writing.  The entire point of the parable is found in its final verse in which Abraham tells Dives, the parabolic caricature of Caiaphas in response to his request that Lazarus be sent to his father and brothers “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead”.   In the actual events, of course, Lazarus was raised from the dead, and it was in response to this and the publication of the fact, that Caiaphas launched the conspiracy to kill Christ (Jn. 11:47-53).   In the parable Jesus was also taking aim at the doctrines of the sect/party of the Sadducees to which Caiaphas and all of his aforementioned relatives – including the ones to whom St. Luke might have been writing – belonged.   The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, even the resurrection at the end of time prophesied in the Old Testament.   This was because they did not have “Moses and the prophets”.   They recognized only Moses (the books of Moses, the Torah or Pentateuch) as sacred Scripture.

 

Since St. Luke records Jesus making such cryptic but extensive allusions to figures and events that His audience would have been familiar with in order to say something without saying it directly, a characteristic that appears to be distinctive of the parables which he alone of the Evangelists recorded it is not improbable that he would have attempted to follow His Lord’s example in his own writing style.   Later in St. Luke’s Gospel, his account of the Last Supper (22:14-20) mentions two cups of wine.   Jesus is described as blessing both of them, but drinking of neither Himself, with the explanation given with the first cup mentioned that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine with them again until the Kingdom of God.   This alludes to the four cups of a traditional Passover Seder.   The cup over which the Eucharist is instituted, the second mentioned in St. Luke’s text, is undoubtedly the third of these, the Cup of Redemption.   This makes it likely that the first mentioned in the text was the second up, the Cup of Deliverance, with the implication that Jesus had already drunk with His disciples from the Cup of Sanctification.  (2) It can also be inferred from this that the fourth Cup – the Cup of Praise – was omitted altogether that night or rather deferred until after the Resurrection when the Eucharist both took its place and fulfilled the promise that He would eat and drink with them again in the kingdom (the Sacrifices of the Old Covenant suggest the idea of God sharing a meal with His people – this becomes explicit in the Sacrament that takes their place in the New Covenant).   If this is not quite the same thing, consider the numerous allusions to the best known stories of classical Greco-Roman literature that St. Luke employs in narrating the Acts of the Apostles, in the sequel to his Gospel.   (3)  That this is so characteristic of his style helps explain why the language suggestive of the Day of Atonement in his account of St. Zechariah’s service in the Temple, written in such a way that he could merely be describing an ordinary priest doing common service, might have been hinting to Theophilos that St. Zechariah was serving as High Priest that day, even if only for that day for reasons similar to that for which Joseph ben Elum was known to have so served.

 

Either way, however, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that it was at least the week of Yom Kippur in which this encounter took place.  The Day of Atonement falls from late September to early October, near the fall equinox.   John the Baptist was conceived shortly thereafter.   This places the Annunciation in March-April, near both the spring equinox and the time of Passover.   It places the birth of Jesus in December-January.   When the early Christians attempted to narrow it further, some to the sixth of January, others to the twenty-fifth of December which latter won out,  (4) they might have been wrong in their calculations, but they would not have been far off either way.

 

So when a hyper-Protestant comes up to you and says in true Pharisaic spirit “I thank God, that I am not like you pagans, celebrating an idolatrous sun holiday and thinking you are keeping the birthday of Jesus” pay him no heed.

 

Have a very Merry Christmas.

 

(1)   This Salome should not be confused with the other Herodean Salomes.   Herod the Great had a daughter by that name as well.   The best known Herodean Salome was the daughter of Herod Philip and Herodias who, after her mother re-married Herod Antipas (Herod Philip’s brother), danced for her step-father and asked for the head of John the Baptist.   None of the Gospels name her, but we know her name from Josephus.   Although it is not uncommon for family dynasty’s to reuse names the Herodeans made things especially confusing.   Salome – the one mentioned in the text of the essay, the notorious intriguer who was the sister of Herod the Great had a daughter named Berenice, who is frequently confused with the Berenice who was the daughter of Herod Agrippa I, who appears with her brother Herod Agrippa II in the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth chapters of the Book of Acts in which they hear St. Paul plead his case at Caesarea, and whose doomed love affair with Titus of Rome is the subject of countless plays, novels, and operas.


(2)   Later that evening, in His prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus refers to the suffering of His Passion as a “cup”.   (Lk. 22:42)  As His disciples had just drunk of the literal cups at the Passover, He would drink from this cup alone.    Earlier He had referred to the same sufferings as both a “baptism” and a “cup” in His response to the sons of Zebedee’s request that they sit at His right and left hand in the kingdom (Mk. 10:35-40).   On another occasion (Lk. 12:50) He referred to those sufferings as just a “baptism”.   It is through His partaking of this “baptism” and “cup” that He obtained for us the grace of the New Covenant of which baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the outward marks.


(3)   I will give only a few examples.   St. Luke alludes to Homer’s Iliad in his narration of the lives of both SS Peter and Paul.   St. Peter’s escape from prison in the twelfth chapter of Acts calls to mind King Priam’s escape from the Greek camp after pleading with Achilles for the body of Hector in the twenty-fourth book of the Iliad.    St. Paul’s farewell address to the elders of the Church of Ephesus in the twentieth chapter of Acts calls to mind Hector’s words to Andromache in the sixth book of the same.  Note that the parallels drawn are between the Apostles and the Trojans.   Priam was king of Troy and Hector, his son, was its war leader.   The Trojans were believed to be the ancestors of the Romans – less than a century before St. Luke wrote, Virgil told the story of how Aeneas, a survivor of Troy, travelled to Latium in Italy, having a disastrous relationship with Dido of Carthage along the way foreshadowing the Punic wars, and in Italy fathered the line from which Romulus would come.    Of all the heroes depicted in Homer’s Iliad, the most well-known and loved epic poem of the ancient world, Priam and Hector would have been the ones the Romans would have admired the most.   That St. Luke uses language evocative of them to tell the stories of SS Peter and Paul makes sense when we consider that the latter’s arrival in Rome brings the book of Acts to its conclusion and that the former we know from the universal testimony of the ancient Church to have arrived there at about the same time and to have ministered with St. Paul there before both were martyred there.  Another example is the allusion to the story of Philemon and Baucis in the eighth book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the fourteenth chapter of Acts.   In this example, the people of Lystra mistake SS Barnabas and Paul as Jupiter and Mercury in reference to Ovid’s story in which the said Olympians had visited the title characters, an elderly couple in Phrygia under the guise of poor human travelers.   In Ovid’s story the couple are the only ones who offer the deities hospitality and are rewarded while their countrymen are punished.  In Acts, it is rather the opposite of this that occurs – the Apostles heal a crippled man and the entire community tries to worship them as gods.   Many other examples of this sort of thing could be given.  Acts abounds in them.


(4)  Some Christians continue to celebrate Christmas on the sixth/seventh of January.   Of these, the Armenian Church celebrate it on the sixth of January qua the sixth of January because they accept the rival set of calculations from the early Church.   Others celebrate Christmas around then as the twenty-fifth of December on the Julian Calendar which was for a long time twelve days off of the Gregorian Calendar and is currently thirteen days off, moving towards a fourteen day difference in about seventy years.   That the change in calendars would put the twenty-fifth of December of the old calendar onto the rival date for Christmas on the new calendar can only be described in Nabokov’s words as “one of those dazzling coincidences that logicians loathe and poets love”.   There are also some who celebrate Christmas on the Julian sixth of January which is currently the nineteenth of January.   The Western tradition, in which the sixth of January is the Feast of Epiphany and the twelve days prior to it from the twenty-fifth of December are the Twelve Days of Christmas accommodates both of the early Church dates.