Church Calendar
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By In Family and Children, Theology, Wisdom, Worship

Epiphany and Purpose

God’s people are a missionary people, and this is not true only of the New Testament church. God called Abraham to bless the Gentiles through him, and one of Israel’s recurring sins was her failure to carry out this mission. Israel was supposed to evoke praise from the Gentiles, but instead , er idolatries and sins caused the Lord’s name to be blasphemed. (more…)

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By In Podcast

Episode 3: “Why Celebrate the Church Calendar?”

On this third episode, Andrew Isker interviews Uri Brito to discuss the question of why we should celebrate the Church Calendar.

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By In Theology

The Unlikely Ascension of Jesus

Ascension Of Jesus Ascension Day

The Ascension of Jesus can be a confusing scene. It is to be counted among the high holy days of the church calendar. Events on the church calendar are limited to items of theological significance, which is why the nativity (Christmas), passion (Good Friday), and resurrection (Easter) of Christ are memorialized with such pomp. Yet the Ascension is easily the least understood of the great feast days. This is to the detriment of the modern church which desperately needs to recover the meaning of the Christ ascended on high.

A Textual Confusion

Part of the problem is that the Biblical authors have offered limited descriptions of what actually happened at the Ascension. Our Scriptural references to the event are limited to a few quotations. One such description comes from St. Matthew’s Gospel following the words of the Great Commission.a Where Christ gathers his disciples at the mountain where he will presumably ascend. The Ascension in this account can only be inferred by its correlation with the descriptions offered by St. Luke in his Gospel and in the Book of Acts. St. Luke’s Gospel gives us a description of Jesus taking his disciples to Bethany, blessing them, and then, “He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.” b Later in the first chapter of Acts, St. Luke describes the scene as Jesus boarding a cloud rising up through the sky. c

So that the general picture we get from the text is that the resurrected Christ gathers his disciples, gives them a sort of farewell speech, and then zephyrs his way into Heaven.

Why does it matter that Jesus ascended and why does the Church calendar mark this event as significant in the theological history of the Church?

Sorrow in Separation

Perhaps the Apostles were expected to understand the Ascension in the context of the Old Testament? How often is Christ compared to the Prophet Elijah, who himself was taken up into heaven by a chariot of fire? d But is this event similar the Ascension of Christ? Do the disciples of Christ rend their garments in grief and anguish as did Elisha? No.

Christ’s words seem to imply the reverse. Rather than separation, Christ teaches that his presence has penetrated the two planes of existence by the reality of the Incarnation and by the work of the Holy Spirit. Where Elijah was taken away from Earth, Jesus teaches that in the Ascension the Kingdom of Heaven is coming into contact with Earth in a way that is only comparable to how his own divinity took on human flesh. (more…)

  1. The Holy Gospel of St. Matthew Ch. XXVIII:16-20  (back)
  2. The Holy Gospel of St. Luke Ch. XXIV:51  (back)
  3. The Acts of the Holy Apostles Ch. I:9  (back)
  4. Fourth Book of Kings Ch. II  (back)

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By In Culture, Politics

St. Ambrose: The Proto-Kuyperian

December 7th is the day set aside on the Church Calendar to remember St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan.

Ambrose of Milan

st-ambrose-1While men like St. Athanasius defended the faith at the Council of Nicaea, the real work restoring orthodoxy throughout the empire required local hands. While the Church had clearly spoken and declared that arianism was heresy, many of the bishops installed around the world remained loyal to arianism. As Rev. Steve Wilkins often says, “heretics don’t listen to church councils.” The labors of the council would be for not if Christ did not raise up men in local jurisdictions to protect the word and church. One such man who would serve as a protector of the church against all such heresies was St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan.

Contemporary with the fourth century councils, St. Ambrose rose to the rank of Roman governor over the region of Liguria and Emelia. Titled the “Consular Prefect” Ambrose was headquartered in Milan, the functional capital of the western Roman empire. In such an influential seat, Ambrose had the attention and recognition of the emperors.

St. Ambrose the Proto-Kuyperian

The cornerstone of the Kuyperian worldview is the principle of sphere sovereignty, the idea that God has ordained the institutions around us (e.g. Church, State, Family) and given them limited authority and responsibilities. These spheres work together like cogwheels as God expresses his will through the created order. Ambrose himself set many of the sphere boundaries that will later be embraced by Kuyperian systems.

During Ambrose’s tenure as governor, Milan’s episcopal seat was maintained by an Arian Bishop. When he died, both factions of the Church sought to place their own man in the vacant seat. Recognizing that his place was a servant of the public, not a member of the clergy, Ambrose refused to take a side. Instead he made a plea for peace between the two parties and urged the people of Milan to choose a new bishop without violence. While Ambrose could have easily called down the power of the state to squash Arianism, he recognized that such an act would have been outside his office’s legitimate authority and purpose.

The people of Milan then did the unthinkable – they demanded the unbaptized Roman governor as their new Bishop. Ambrose fled to plead with the Emperor for any excuse out from under the miter. Having no imperial sympathies, Ambrose was baptized and finally succumbed to episcopal consecration on this day (December 7) in 375 AD.

Continuing in the proto-kuyperian theme, Ambrose recognized that in this new sphere of the state, his worldly titles and wealth would be an hindrance to the proper function as the overseer of Milan. Ambrose disposed of his worldly wealth by giving it to the poor and the church. All his silver and gold, his lands and estates were given away as he sought to focus himself on the ministry. Overnight, the once powerful Roman governor becomes Victor Hugo’s “Monseigneur Bienvenu.” His consistency alone is worthy of our admiration.

Bishop Ambrose vs the Emperors

As bishop, Ambrose was at liberty to take on the arian heresy and his efforts proved quite successful. They were, however, noticed as the Arian empress Justina maneuvered the child regent Valentinian II against his efforts. The emperor began to make laws showing lenience toward the arians and ordered Ambrose to give up two of his churches in Milan for arian use. Ambrose refused and upon being summoned to Valentian’s court was able to successfully defend his position.

Milan is then absorbed into Theodosius’s empire as he defends Valentinian II against the conquest of Magnus Maximus. Valentinian II continues to pressure Ambrose to provide for the arians and demands the Portian basilica. Ambrose responds by having his parishioners barricade themselves inside the basillica until the order is rescinded. Ambrose continues to maintain sovereignty of the church refusing to bow to the state’s demands of religious tolerance.

Ambrose’s civil disobedience is most famous in his excommunication of Emperor Theodosius, who oversaw the brutal massacre of 7,000 people in the city of Thessalonica. Ambrose refused the emperor access to the Lord’s table and demanded repentance. Ambrose is said to have met Theodosius at the door of the Church and said,

“It seems, sir, that you do not yet rightly apprehend the enormity of the massacre lately committed. Let not the splendour of your purple robes hinder you from being acquainted with the infirmities of that body which they cover. You are of the same mould with those subjects which you govern; and there is one common Lord and Emperor of the world. With what eyes will you behold his temple? With what feet will you tread his sanctuary? How will you lift up to him in prayer those hands which are still stained with blood unjustly spilt? Depart, therefore, and attempt not, by a second offence, to aggravate your former crime; but quietly take the yoke upon you which the Lord has appointed for you. It is sharp, but it is medicinal and conducive to your health.”  (Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume XII: December. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.)

Ambrose gives the emperor eight months of penance, which he submits to from his palace.

The Legacy of St. Ambrose

St. Ambrose’s ministry serves to solidify the victory of trinitarian orthodoxy and serves as an example of what the proper relationship between church and state looks like. He was influential among emperors and loved by his people. In addition to his contributions as a bishop, he went on to write hymns and is traditionally credited with the hymn Te Deum, which is said to have been composed when he baptized St. Augustine. Ambrose is a champion of the faith and a worthy name to add to your family’s baby names list.

For more on St. Ambrose of Milan: click here for a lecture from Rev. Steve Wilkins of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church.

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By In Worship

What Does the Ascension of Jesus Mean for Us?

The Church celebrates the Ascension of our Lord today. Since most churches are not able to have Thursday services, traditionally many of them celebrate Ascension on Sunday. The Ascension of Jesus is barely mentioned in the evangelical vocabulary. We make room for his birth, death, and resurrection, but we tend to put a period where God puts a comma.

If the resurrection was the beginning of Jesus’ enthronement, then the ascension is the establishment of his enthronement. The Ascension activates Christ’s victory in history. The Great Commission is only relevant because of the Ascension. Without the Ascension, the call to baptize and disciple the nations would be meaningless. It is on the basis of Jesus’ enthronement at the right-hand of the Father that we image-bearers can de-throne rulers through the power and authority of our Great Ruler, Jesus Christ.

The Ascension then is a joyful event, because it is the genesis of the Church’s triumph over the world. Further, it defines us as a people of glory and power, not of weakness and shame. As Jesus is ascended, we too enter into his ascension glory (Col. 3:1) This glory exhorts us to embrace full joy. As Alexander Schmemann once wrote:

“The Church was victorious over the world through joy…and she will lose the world when she loses its joy… Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy.”

A joy-less Christian faith is a faith that has not ascended. Where Christ is we are.

And we know that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He is ruling and reigning from his heavenly throne. The Father has given him the kingdom (Psalm 2), and now he is preserving, progressing, and perfecting his kingdom. He is bringing all things under subjection (I Cor. 15:24-26).

We know that when he was raised from the dead, Jesus was raised bodily. But Gnostic thinking would have us assume that since Jesus is in heaven he no longer needs a physical body. But the same Father who raised Jesus physically, also has his Son sitting beside him in a physical body.  As one author observed:

Jesus has gone before us in a way we may follow through the Holy Spirit whom he has sent, because the way is in his flesh, in his humanity. a

Our Lord is in his incarnation body at the right hand of the Father. This has all sorts of implications for us in worship. We are worshipping a God/Man; one who descended in human flesh and who ascended in human flesh. He is not a disembodied spirit. He is truly God and truly man.

As we consider and celebrate the Ascension of our blessed Lord, remember that you are worshiping the One who understands your needs, because he has a body just like you and he rejoices with you because he has a body just like you.<>skypebreaker.comстатистика ключевых слов гугл

  1. Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World. Paraphrased  (back)

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