Fr Stephen Smuts

Archive for March 2012

Cuba Makes Good Friday a Holiday!

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USA Today is reporting:

Havana (AP) – Cuba has honored an appeal by Pope Benedict XVI and declared next week’s Good Friday a holiday for the first time since the early days following the island’s 1959 Revolution, though a decision on whether the move will be permanent will have to wait.

The Communist government said in a communique Saturday that the decision was made in light of the success of Benedict’s “transcendental visit” to the country, which wrapped up Wednesday. It said the Council of Ministers, Cuba’s supreme governing body, will decide later whether to make the holiday permanent.

Benedict’s appeal was reminiscent of his predecessor John Paul II’s 1998 request that Christmas be restored as a holiday. Religious holidays were abolished in the 1960s after brothers Fidel and Raul Castro came to power, ushering in a Marxist government.

Good Friday is the day Catholics commemorate the death of Christ, but it is not a holiday in the United States, most of Europe or even Mexico, the most Catholic of the world’s Spanish-speaking countries.

Cuba removed references to atheism from its constitution in the 1990s, and relations have warmed with the church. Still, less than 10% of islanders are practicing Catholics.

Benedict was met by large, but not overwhelming, crowds during his three-day tour. He dismissed Marxism as outmoded even before he arrived, then sprinkled his homilies and speeches with calls for more freedom and tolerance, often as senior members of the government watched from front-row seats. The pope also spoke out against the 50-year U.S. economic embargo, which the Vatican has long opposed.

The Vatican welcomed the decision, saying it hoped it would lead to greater participation in Easter celebrations.

“The fact that the Cuban authorities quickly welcomed the Holy Father’s request to President Raul Castro, declaring next Good Friday a non-work day, is certainly a very positive sign,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

“The Holy See hopes that this will encourage participation in the religious celebrations and joyous Easter festivities, and that following the visit of the Holy Father will continue to bring the desired fruits for the good of the church and all Cubans.”

Cubans said they were thrilled, if slightly incredulous, to hear of the day off…

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 31, 2012 at 22:10

Italian Bishops Forbid Scattering of Ashes after Cremation

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Catholic Culture:

In new guidelines for funerals and burials, the Italian bishops’ conference has said that the scattering of ashes of the deceased is not allowed.

The revised funeral rites, released on March 31, said that although civil law allows for the scattering of ashes, that practice raises “considerable doubts as to their coherence to Christian faith.”

This instruction is placed in an appendix to the new book of funeral rites, a spokesman for the Italian bishops’ conference explained, because the Church, “although she does not oppose the cremation of bodies, when not done in odium fidei, continues to maintain that the burial of the dead is more appropriate, that it expresses faith in the resurrection of the flesh, nourishes the piety of the faithful, and favors the recollection and prayer of relatives and friends.”

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 31, 2012 at 18:52

TTAC Communication

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For March is out from Fr Ian Gray, Vicar General:

My Dear Friends,

I have delayed writing this letter whilst I received news from the Johannesburg meeting of the
Traditional Anglican Church College of Bishops.

I can now state that contrary to some reports, this meeting was not a meeting of a few Bishops, but a rather full and fully ratified College of Bishops meeting held in accordance with the Traditional Anglican Church concordat.

Archbishop John Hepworth’s resignation was verified and accepted with immediate effect, he was not deposed as some have suggested. With Archbishop Hepworths departure also came the ending of any appointments he made including those concerned with Episcopal oversight.

I understand that Bishop David Moyer will shortly be writing to us, he is fully aware of the outcomes of the meeting.

Archbishop Prakash has been appointed as our acting Primate and Bishop Michael Gill as the new secretary to the College of Bishops.

For Britain, Ireland, Kenya, Zambia and Japan, new Episcopal oversight appointments will shortly be announced.

The College of Bishops meeting witnessed a renewed and invigorated TAC with a strong emphasis on Mission and Evangelism as our Lord would have for His church.

I will write a more detailed report in my April News Letter including the news of all appointments.

I understand that Father Brian Gill my predecessor has been accepted for the Ordinariate. I would like to place on the record on behalf of us all, heartfelt thanks for the work he did as Vicar General during his time in office and for his steady and faithful witness. I wish him well for the future and pray that his Ministry be Blessed. I also wish to thank Ann, his wife for her unfailing support in the life and witness of the Church and the faithful that are Father Brian’s congregation.

May God Bless and Keep You All,

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Father Ian Vicar General.

_____________________________________________

Note from webmaster.

There is no point in repeating issues of contention. From Easter the situation will be as described for those remaining in TTAC. It is hoped that other arrangements will be made for those still on the way to the Ordinariate.

It is unlikely that I will make further postings, other than to remove known departing clergy and parishes from the list of contacts. It is for those remaining in TTAC to decide how to provide for the future internet needs of the body. An outsider cannot know what those needs are or how to meet them.

The above is in pdf. here.

Not much new.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 31, 2012 at 17:07

Off the Beaten Track: City of David

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There’s no better place this Passover to explore new excavations that have so much to do with the holiday.

Joe Yudin writes in the Jerusalem Post:

… Starting this Passover you will be able to walk the entire distance from the Shiloach (Siloam) Pool to the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. If you go before Passover begins you can walk from through the tunnels from the Givati parking lot to the Western Wall.

There are terrific guided tours given by staff at the national park. Start your tour with the 3-D movie, which gives a wonderful recreation of the City of David from Canaanite times through the destruction of Solomon’s Temple.

Go up to the roof for a terrific view of the Temple Mount and surrounding area. From there make your way down below the ticket area by way of a metal staircase between the movie theater and the ticket booth. Here you will find a huge public building complex dating back to the time of King David, uncovered by Eilat Mazar in 2005. She contends that this is the remains of the palace of King David and we can be almost certain that later Kings of Judah ruled from this spot.

Several clay seals where found in this excavation bearing names in biblical Hebrew. Notice the large stone walls from the 9th and 10th centuries BCE and the ritual baths from the later Maccabean period, then make your way down to the Area G excavations on the far side of the “palace.” Here you can view the older excavations from the 1960’s and before.

Make your way all the way down to Warren’s Shaft and you can check out the excavations of the Israelite and Canaanite underground water systems which have been explored and excavated since 1867. Near Warren’s Shaft you can see the difference between the Israelite renovations of the tunnel at your level and the original Canaanite tunnel above you.

After turning the corner you will see some relatively new excavations. In 1995 archaeologists Reich and Shukron began excavating the “Spring House” and discovered an interconnecting complex of a tower, fortress, reservoir, walls and tunnels that may have been the entry point for David’s soldiers led by Yoav (Joab) in his conquest of the Jebusites.

Go down the spiral staircase and either walk through King Hezekiah’s water tunnel (bathing suit, flashlights and water shoes required) or the adjacent Canaanite water tunnel (well lit and now dry) which was a part of the newly-discovered tower complex.

Both tunnels will eventually take you to the Shiloach Pool if you follow the signs.
In 2004, while fixing a sewer pipe, construction workers stumbled upon some long stairs a few dozen meters from where the Byzantines believed was the Shiloach Pool.

Reich and Shukron’s excavations uncovered what we now know is the pool, an important site for both Jews and Christians. For Jews this was the first stop for those coming to Jerusalem from abroad, on their way up to the Temple for the Passover sacrifice. It was here, after coming out of the desert, that they could cleanse themselves and start the ascent up to the Temple Mount.

For Christians, this site takes on another meaning. When Jesus comes to Jerusalem for the Passover sacrifice, he comes upon a blind man in Jerusalem he spits on the ground and using the spit-mud, rubs it in the man’s eyes and tells him “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam…He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing (John 9:7).”

Walk west up the hill, up the stairs just after the pool and there is a metal door. Inside you will find a narrow portion of a giant stairway built in the time of King Herod which heads all the way up to the Temple Mount. If you were to come here 2,000 years ago there would be nothing but sky up above you but today there are layers of destroyed civilizations, all from different periods of Jerusalem’s history above you. Just to the right of the stairway is a sewer with some of the stone coverings broken open. Inside Ronny Reich found remnants of the Jewish rebels battle against the Romans in the year 70 CE.

Go around the corner and check out the artist’s rendition of the pool and continue around the corner. Here is a terrific map that shows the path of the road and the drainage channel that reaches the Western Wall. The road was once lined with shops, including moneychangers, sellers of animals for the sacrifice and ritual baths. Today you may walk underground through this tunnel all the way to the Western Wall at the Davidson Center just as Jewish pilgrims once did when the Temple was still standing.

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 31, 2012 at 16:45

Archbishop Charles Chaput: Make the Most of the Final Days of Lent

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“Lent is a time for self-denial and prayer; a time to reconnect with  Scripture; a time to purify ourselves and reconcile with God through the  sacrament of penance,” wrote Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia in a  recent CatholicPhilly.com column. “It’s an invitation to humility,  forgiveness of others, honest self-examination and repentance — but also to  growing joy, because, with Easter, our redemption will be at hand.

“Lent is a precious time and gift; a unique chance to reorient our lives  toward those unseen but enduring things that really matter. This year, may God  grant us the wisdom to use these weeks of Lent well. May we remember that we  serve justice best by first giving ourselves to God, and then bringing the light  of Jesus Christ to others through the witness of our lives, our words and our  actions. There is no justice without truth; and only Jesus Christ is the way,  the truth and the life.”

Source

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 31, 2012 at 09:45

Catholic Interpretation of Scripture

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Self-conscious reflection on the proper methods of interpretation of Scripture began already with the early Church Fathers. One of the most definitive patristic statements on interpretation is St. Augustine’s De Doctrina Christiana, “On Christian Doctrine.” While its title might lead the modern reader to expect a treatment of Church dogma in systematic form, De Doctrina is in fact a handbook for the interpretation of Scripture. This fact in itself is significant: for Augustine and the other fathers, Christian doctrine was the interpretation of Scripture. This truth continues to be affirmed by the Second Vatican Council: “the ‘study of the sacred page’ should be the very soul of theology” (DV §11), and by Pope Benedict XVI: “Dogma is by definition nothing other than an interpretation of Scripture” (Ratzinger 1983, 178).

Augustine’s De Doctrina represents a synthesis of patristic thinking on the interpretation of Scripture, and it continued to be used as a handbook for exegesis throughout the medieval period. In the following discussion of the Catholic interpretation of Scripture, we follow St. Augustine’s basic framework, fleshed out with more recent teachings of the Church and developments within biblical studies.

None of the Church Fathers was so naïve as to believe that interpretation could be reduced to a certain method which would yield consistent results regardless of the character of the interpreter applying it. Augustine was no exception: therefore his discussion of the exegesis of Scripture falls essentially into two..

Read on at The Sacred Page here. Follow the blog for the series will continue.

A nice academic read on a Saturday morning.

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 31, 2012 at 08:18

The Cross and You

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Via Fr Jeremy Davies:

This is the week when the Cross looms very large in our lives. Today, at Mass we hear again the passion story so that we might focus our full attention on the cross through the week. It begs the question – how important, how central, is the Cross of Jesus Christ in your life?

I remember at Anglican theological college being asked how I would feel if someone broke a crucifix in front of me. My reaction was instantaneous – I’d be very upset. “Why?”, I was asked. “Because the cross means everything to me,” I said. “Without the Cross, there’s no meaning to life.”  “So what about two pieces of wood shaped into a cross?  Would that have the same effect?”  “Yes, if those pieces were intended to represent the cross of Christ.”   The level of questioning was designed to make us aware of the importance of symbols and symbolic language. When something or a place or someone matters to us deeply, anything that speaks of that thing, place or person takes on special significance, be it a photo or ornament or a news story on TV. It matters because your life is anchored to it or them in some way.  So when we see a block of flats go up where there used to be our local park, we get distressed. When someone who matters walks out of your life, you get upset. When someone smashes a crucifix in front of you, it hurts deeply.

So how much does the cross mean to you? In an age when wearing a crucifix can get you reprimanded at work, or even the sack, I believe it is time for us Catholic Christians to start wearing our crucifixes with pride, not to be provocative, but because we want it seen that the cross is important to us. It is a witness to what motivates and directs our lives, and we are not afraid to let others know.

Maybe this Holy Week, you can join me in wearing something that speaks of your faith, and put a Holy Week poster in your front window at home as well.  Let others know the importance of the cross in your life.

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 31, 2012 at 02:50

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