Monastic Monday: Monastic Vows/Practices Part 3: Hospitality

Meinrad-says-Mass-in-the-monasteryOne aspect of the monastic practices that is sometimes forgotten by the world is the monasteries commitment to hospitality.  The Rule of St. Benedict makes the role of hospitality clear.  The start to chapter 53 of the Rule sets the tone for the whole practice, “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ.”  The rest of the chapter is expanding on this principle and some housekeeping details of how the monastery should run with a guest, staying at the monastery.  So hospitality is an important principle to monastics, other monastic orders have similar principles regarding the reception of guests.

Since I think the lives of saints and stories about people often best demonstrate the principles we are to have as Christians, I have a story about a Benedictine monk who carried out hospitality to the end of his life.  St. Meinrad was a Benedictine monk in the 9th century who lived in Switzerland.  He lived as a hermit, in a small chapel.  One day he was in the chapel praying and there was a ruckus caused by the chickens, which the hermit kept.  While still in prayer it was revealed to the man of God what would happen.  Soon two men arrived at the chapel.  The monk greeted the two men, kindly and offered them the chapel to pray to the Lord on their behalf and told them after they were done praying to come see him and he would share the love of God with them and give them whatever blessing he could.  The men entered the oratory, but did not do as Meinard had urged, but rather came back quickly out of the chapel.  Meinard then gave them, his tunic and cuculla, then he gave them bread and drink.  While in prayer it had been revealed to the man of God that these two men would kill him this day.  However, for the love of Christ and the Rule, he greeted the men with an open heart and open arms, asking only one thing of them, to light candles at his head and feet after they had killed him, but telling them to be quick so that they might not be caught by people who come to check on him.  So the men seized him and killed him.  The murders did not get away with it; two ravens which often visited the man of God followed the men through the woods and alerted people to their presence and crime.

So St. Meinard practiced hospitality to the point of death.  He easily could have kept the doors to the chapel closed or tried to fight off the men.  But instead he humbly submitted to God’s plan and even offered them to go and pray, so that maybe they would see the fault in their plan and repent.  He also gave them food and drink for after their plot was carried out so they could stay refreshed when they fled.  I am not saying that we should all give hospitality to those who mean to do us harm.  But we should be willing to give friends and family hospitality.  As a church we also have to be hospitable to guests.  More than just handing them a bulletin when they walk through the door or shaking their hand as they come into the church.  Especially in liturgical churches we need to have someone willing to sit with guests and guide them through the liturgy.  Deacons are probably the best suited for this task when they are not required for liturgical jobs.  But anyone in the church can help new people feel welcomed and offer them hospitality.

Posted in Monastic Monday | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saints Friday: Why We Learn from the Saints

Again this is another week where there are not any really good saints next week.  I know, Martin Luther’s feast day is Monday, but he is not really a saint in the technical sense.  We have a lot to learn from him and in a general sense I am going to be writing about that today.

So I started this blog so long ago and named it Learning from the Saints, because I wanted to have an online presence and have a place to occasionally post some of my thoughts.  But as you might have notice from the start of 2013 I have tried to faithfully update the blog and have a weekly schedule.  But I named the blog Learning from the Saints, because I think we can learn a lot from holy people who lived faithful lives devoted to God.  As much as we can and should learn from Jesus, because he lived as one of us and lived a sinless life, a perfect life totally devoted to God.  However, he was also God and it was his purpose to live a perfect life and be our perfect example.  I think we also learn a lot from the holy lives of the saints.  Sometimes their lives and spiritual practices are very well documented or we have primary sources on their practices.  Also they represent a range of ways of following after Jesus.  For example look at the various monastic orders, there are cloistered orders, which seek God through contemplative prayer; then there are the friar orders, which seek God through working in the world and helping people.  We can also look at all the different personality dimensions and how people suggest they connect with God, through these different personality types.  We can also look at all the different types of churches in the world, some of they have developed for doctrinal reasons but some have developed out of how different personality types experience God.  The charismatic movements are some great examples of this, various ways of connecting with God.  So because we have so many different ways of connecting with God, we have various examples in Jesus, but even more in the lives of the saints.

The saints of the Church teach us so much.  We have to remember that all the New Testament was written by the saints, so they teach about Jesus, the establishment and structure of the Church, and essential doctrines.  The Early Fathers (and Mothers) of the Church, established even more essential doctrines and practices of the Church.  They stomped out heresies and converted large parts of the ancient world.  They kept the Church holy throughout the Medieval period and reformed her, to continue to produce saints (even if parts of the Church do not consider them saints), and they have continued to encourage and strengthen people’s faiths into the modern period.  I think if we were to pay more attention to the saints of the past and not just reading the Bible on our own.  I have noticed that when some lay people read the Bible outside the Church and outside the history of the Church or educated histories of Biblical time periods, they often start to develop beliefs which were declared heresy within the first 500 years of the Church (I should also mention these people also do not pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit before reading their Bibles).  This is the problem with forgetting our history.

So I encourage you to learn from the saints.  I often try to learn from the saints and I try to share their teachings on here; even if I do not quote directly from the saints, I try to pass on their wisdom.  So come back to learn from the saints with me.

Posted in Saints Friday | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spiritual Formation Thursday: Guest Post

Today I am sending you over to my friend and Benedictine brother, Brayan Sherwood’s blog.  He asked me to do a guest post about Lent.  So he has what would have been posted here on his blog.  You can find the post here.  I also invite you to check out the rest of his blog, he posts a lot about monasticism, Anglicanism, and the general Christian life.  He also take a lot of photos around Kentucky and at the famous Abby of Gethsemani.

Posted in Spiritual Formation Thursday | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bible Study Wednesday: The Gospel According to St. Matthew 6:5-8

As promised on February 7, 2013 (from Spiritual Formation Thursday: The Jesus Prayer), today’s post of Bible Study Wednesday will be about Jesus’ teaching about prayer from Matthew 6.  I wanted to do this to show that praying the Jesus Prayer over and over again is not against the Bible.  This is a bigger problem than some of you might think, many very conservative evangelical Protestant Christians who, frankly, think the practice of the Jesus Prayer is against the Bible and a totally useless prayer.  I cannot agree with this because of the personal experiences I have had with the Jesus Prayer and the experiences I have seen other people have with it.

First off, I should acknowledge that this passage comes from the Sermon on the Mount.  If you will indulge by rabbit trail, the Sermon on the Mount was not one sermon, but most likely pieces of several sermons, preached many times and in many places.  But St. Matthew, most likely did not want to say well in this place Jesus said this and then over here he talked about this, etc. (he also probably did not remember where Jesus said all these things).  Alright back to the main point.  Jesus starts his preaching on prayer, by bringing up something that his audience would have seen.  He brings to mind someone, everyone in his audience, and pretty much any audience for that matter, would hate: the hypocrite.  They make a show of their pious nature, going out onto the street corners and in the middle of the synagogue to pray.  Most of the people Jesus was talking to would be praying rote prayers, like the Shema, binding their hands and foreheads with leather straps and boxes.  But in contrast Jesus tell people to go into a private place and pray there.  God will hear their prayer, even if no one else does.  So Jesus does not want use going out into the middle of the local church building and pray loudly, possibly interrupting other people’s prayers.  Or going out to the busiest part of the city and calling out to God, so that everyone can see how religious/spiritual we are.  This does not change us as prayer should, it puff us up.

Jesus then moves on to talk about how the Gentiles pray.  He does not want us to pray the same way the Gentiles do.  We are not to heap up empty phrases and call that prayer.  So how the Gentiles prayed was to ask, let’s say, Zeus for something.  Then right after they asked Zeus for something they would ask the same thing from Hera or some other got in the pantheon.  They thought if they asked enough gods for favors then maybe they might get what they asked.  So saying the Jesus prayer is not like heaping up empty phrases, it is asking Jesus for mercy and acknowledging who God is.  It is a prayer of praise and petition.  I know that I constantly sin and thus I need mercy and forgiveness all the time, so by the time I say one prayer I might have sinned or might need more mercy.  Jesus also does not want us to make requests as much, because God is a good Father, he knows what we need and he will give us what we need.  This is another reason the Jesus Prayer is good, because it only asks for mercy which God is rich in, it does not address any other needs we might have.  Instead it lets us just focus on God.  It is also not that we should not ask God for things, because in the Lord’s Prayer which follows this teaching, there are requests for things, like food, forgiveness, and protection.

Question: What have you been taught about these teachings on prayer?

Posted in Bible Study | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Church History Tuesday: A History of Lent

Ash CrossLent is one of the oldest practices of the Church.  St. Irenaus of Lyons wrote about a season of Lent in the late 100s.  Granted at that time the season only lasted a few days.  Even for the early Church, Lent was a time of self-examination and penance, to prepare for Easter.  What better way is there to prepare for such as an amazing feast as Easter, than to examine ourselves and try to root out sins in our lives?  The purpose of Lent has always been to make us better able to celebrate Easter.  Other practices associated with Lent have been added over the centuries, but the central focus of Lent has always been preparing for Easter.

At the Council of Nicea, in 325, the Church recognized that Lent was being practiced for 40 days.  Some areas practiced it differently, with some churches not fasting on Saturday and Sunday (thus making Lent last eight weeks); other churches fasted every day except Sunday (thus making Lent last six weeks).  There were also different restrictions on foods depending on the church’s location, some allowed fish, some did not, others allowed people to eat more depending on their work, some kept to a stricter fast (the Christians pretty much became vegans for Lent), and it really depended on what was available to the churches at the time.  But one thing, the whole Church agreed with was spiritual practices should be taken up during Lent.  This was a time when people were to be growing closer to God through prayer and fasting.

Pope Gregory the Great is credited with the institution of Ash Wednesday; he decided in the West, Lent should start 46 days before Easter.  He marked the occasion with marking parishioners’ heads with ashes, signifying their repentance (the Biblical idea of putting on ashes and sackcloth) and reminding them that it was from dust they were created and to dust they shall return.  People were also coming to the Church on Ash Wednesday for forgiveness before taking on the great fast.

On a more practical note Lent also developed from the practice of new Christians being baptized on Easter Sunday.  These catechumens would enter into a time of fasting and self-evaluation before being baptized.  This is also why the Easter liturgy has a renewal of Baptismal Vows.  It was an important time in the life of the Church because it taught those who wanted to profess Christ, what the Christian life entailed, a life of sacrifice leading to joy.

So what lesson should you take from the history of the practice of Lent?  I hope that you would take that, this not just a season of giving something up, but also a season of taking up new spiritual practices.  We do fast, but we also pray.  We take a deep long look at ourselves, but we also reflect on God’s work in the world and in our lives.  And though looking at ourselves and looking at God’s work we see where Christ is transforming us to look more like himself.  So when we go to celebrate the Great Easter Vigil we come out of darkness, to the bright and shining light of Christ Resurrection, being revealed as better people and better Christians; ready to go out into the world reflecting the Light of Christ into the places still in darkness.

Question: What are you giving up for Lent, what are you taking up as a spiritual discipline?

Posted in Church History Tuesday | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Monastic Monday: Monastic Vows/Practices Part 2: Chastity

I know you might be thinking to yourself, what is this guy going to tell me about chastity, he is married and has a kid.  So obviously he sucks at chastity.  Well my answer is that you (person I made up) probably have an incorrect understanding of chastity and what being chaste means.  Chaste does not mean not engaging in sexual relations (granted that is one way to think about it), that is more being celibate.  Chastity is about not engaging in sexual relations which are contrary to moral or religious values.  So I can still be married and be chaste, because I am not engaging in sexual relations which are contrary to my moral or religious values.  But I am not going to talk a lot about my personal experiences with chastity, but rather the general concept behind it.  Most of this paragraph was pretty much explaining how the Third-Order can hold to this monastic vow.

The monastic concept of chastity is based on Paul’s life, in which he states that if someone can remain unmarried they should, so they can fully devote themselves to God.  Without a family or spouse a monastic is better able to devote more time to God.  Monks and nuns prove this fact that a single life, lived out in a monastic community, allows one to focus more time on prayer to God.  In this way, at least some of the problems of married people and of the world can be lifted from the monk/nun.  However, other problems can come from chastity, such as the sin of lust (not to say the sin of lust does not affect non-celibate people).

Many of the early Desert Fathers struggled with lust, the Enemy will try to find any foot hold that he can to tempt those who want to live a life devoted to God.  St. Benedict even struggled with lust at one point in his early monastic life.  Benedict decided to cure himself of the sin of lust.  To do this he threw himself in to a large amount of thorn bushes (naked) and rolled around.  He caused himself a lot of physical pain, in order to later remind himself of the consequences of the sin of lust, and to remind himself the pain he felt was nothing compared to the fires of hell.  The monastics also have the help of God and their community to help them overcome their sins.

The other purpose of chastity is to keep the monastic with as few worldly ties as possible.  In other words if someone does not have to worry about a spouse or child they are more able to move around the world.  In some monastic orders, such as the Dominicans or the Franciscans, the monks travel as part of their ministry.  There are several stories of Sts. Dominic and Francis traveling to different parts of the world spreading the Gospel.  In this way they needed to be detached from certain worldly responsibilities, such as wives, children, and property.

Posted in Monastic Monday | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saints Friday: Monks and Martyrs

There are not really any good saint feast days coming up within the next week.  I know there is St. Valentine’s day, but there is almost no information available about St. Valentine.  So instead of trying to write a lot of fluff or talking about how St. Valentine’s Day became a thing I am going to share part of a paper I wrote some time ago.  It is about the similarities between martyrs and monastics.  This section is about their similar ministry roles, specifically the title of “Pillars of the Church.”  But next week I will have a saint to tell you about.  So for now enjoy this little bit of information about the saints.

Martyrs and monks shared similar ministries in the church, so much so that monks were considered the successors of the martyrs.  Some similarities are their role: they were spiritual warriors, advisors/spiritual directors, wonder workers, they forgave sin, and had the title pillars of the church.  However, martyrs and monks did have some differences in their roles.  Such as the martyrs were witnesses for the church, the monks prayed for the church, the monks were usually more ascetical, the martyrs were put on display and were more public figures, whereas the martyrs fled from the cities and from the public eye to be alone.  These are the main ministries of the martyrs and monk; each area will be explored further and more in-depth in the rest of the paper.

Monks and martyrs not only shared in ministry to the church, but also had the same title in the church, “pillar.”  This might sound like a strange or unimportant title to modern ears but in the ancient world, it held a significant place in the culture.  To fully understand this one must remember the ancient world was filled with pillars; they held up structures, were used to decorate buildings, and some were quite awe inspiring.  St. Paul says, “James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars,” in 2:9 of his Letter to the Galatians.  Using the term for respected leaders and foundation of the church, and it is no surprise two of these “pillars” would go on to martyrdom.  St. Clement of Rome went on to say of the martyrs Sts. Peter and Paul “through envy and jealousy the greatest and most righteous pillars were persecuted and engaged in contest unto death.”[1]  It does not seem Clement is praising Peter and Paul as “pillars” just because they were apostles of the church or because they started/founded many churches, but because of their martyrdom for the church.  The term pillar does not stop there; for example, Dr. Lois Gandt in a paper read at the 2010 North American Patristics Society annual meeting showed, “in the Acts of Peter, the bishop of Alexandria who was martyred during the Diocletian persecution is identified as ‘the first pontiff and pillar of this see.’”[2]

Evagrius of Antioch in his translation of Athansius’ work The Life of St. Antony from Greek to Latin did go so far as to identify Antony as a “pillar.”  There are several reasons Evagrius might have done this, most have to do with Antony’s willingness to be a martyr for Christ.  Gandt identifies some reasons; Evagrius might have had for doing so, such as Antony’s willingness to die for Christ.[3]  He was the ascetical suffering of Antony and other desert monks, as similar to the martyrs suffering.[4]  The term also gives Antony and other monastics a type of authority, which the martyrs also had.[5]  The title “pillar of the church” is important, it suggests the person or group is a support structure for the church.  This idea will continue to be developed in the rest of the paper, but here it is important to say, the church stands on the powerful prayers of her pillars, those who are willing to give up their lives to pray for the church, both in the monastery and in heaven.


[1] Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians, Chp 5.  Trans by Bettenson, Henry. The Early Christian Fathers: A selection of the writings of the Fathers from St Clement of Rome to St Athanasius. (New York: Oxford, 1956), 38.

[2] Lois Gandt, “A Pillar of the Church:” Evagrius of Antioch’s Portrayal of Abba Antony.”  Presented at North American Patristics Society May 28, 2010. 7.

[3] Ibid. 7-8.

[4] Cf. Ibid. 8.

[5] Ibid. 12.

 

Posted in Saints Friday | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spiritual Formation Thursday: The Jesus Prayer

Prayer RopeThe Jesus Prayer is an ancient prayer of the Church.  It is a simple prayer containing just two lines, meant to focus the mind and body for meditation upon God and prepare a receptive heart for him to speak to.  The Jesus Prayer is a breath prayer, it is usually prayed silently.  While taking a breath one prays, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.”  While exhaling one prays, “Have mercy on me a sinner.”  That’s it!  Those two simple lines are the Jesus Prayer.  So why has the Church found this prayer so helpful throughout the centuries and continues to teach it today?  I am glad you asked the rest of this post will be an answer to that question and some more information about practicing the Jesus Prayer.

The prayer started with the Desert Fathers and Mothers, as an answer to Paul’s admonishment to “pray constantly” (1 Thess. 5:17).  The Jesus Prayer has been described as a prayer, which leads to prayer.  It is meant to be used as a type of bridge to contemplative prayer.  You can start praying the Jesus Prayer to align you heart and mind to a place where you can then move into contemplative prayer or a place where you can better practice listening prayer or a prayer of waiting or just resting with God.  The Jesus Prayer is meant to be repeated over and over again (many Orthodox Christians pray it using a prayer rope of 50 to 100 knots, praying it on each knot).  This does not go against Jesus’ command in Matthew 6:7 to not babble when praying or use many words (to save space and not rabbit trail here, I think I will make this the subject for the next Bible Study Wednesday, so keep an eye out for it).  But just briefly it does not because this is not using many words but few words repeated and because let’s face it we all sin constantly and we can ask for mercy all the time.  People continued to pray this prayer because it worked; they found God at work in the prayer.  The prayer has been written about and described in several spiritual classics, such as The Way of the Pilgrim and The Wisdom of the Desert.  Historical texts and ideas can only take us so far, so it is important to suggest some practices of the Jesus Prayer.

I have found there are several beneficial ways to practice the Jesus Prayer.

  • One is to sit alone in a room, with a prayer rope or prayer beads (just to give your hands something to do or focus any nervous energy on), with eyes closed, and to silently pray the prayer, breathing in and out until I reach the end of my prayer beads.  In this time I try to focus on the Jesus Prayer and listen to its words but also relax and rest in God’s presence.
  • I have also said this prayer to myself when I am driving, stuck in traffic, making copies, walking the dog, or walking with the family.  At this time I pray it as a calming prayer and so that I can try to pray without ceasing.  At these times I will also pray for others, using the Jesus Prayer as a model, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God; have mercy on ______ a sinner.”  This is also a good way to remind yourself that God is always with you.  I have also found that confessing myself to be a sinner and asking for mercy is a good way for me to remember to be merciful to others.
  • Probably the most beneficial way I have found to pray the Jesus Prayer is to use it as a way into contemplative prayer.  I sit in a room by myself, in a relaxed position and start to pray the Jesus Prayer.  But then after a while I let the Jesus Prayer slip away and journey into the Cloud of Unknowning where I just sit with God.  At this point the Jesus prayer has acted as a bridge for me, it started out by allowing me to focus my breathing, and it put me into the mindset of prayer and focusing on God.  Then when I no longer needed it to do those things I let it go.  But if I lose my focus and need to come back I can take up the prayer again.

I hope these methods will be helpful for you and I encourage you to practice this in your own way and see what works best for you.  This is an ancient prayer and the Holy Spirit does move through it.

Question: Have you used the Jesus Prayer before?  What was your experience?  Do you have a favorite way to practice it; do you mind to share that way?

Posted in Spiritual Formation Thursday, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bible Study Wednesday: The Gospel According to Mark 8:11-26

Gospel of MarkAt first this section of Mark might just seem like two slightly connected stories about Jesus’ disagreement with the Pharisees and warning the disciples to be on the watch for the yeast of the Pharisees.  Then after he gets off the boat Jesus heals a blind man.  But I think that all three of these stories are connected, the first and the last sandwich the second.  Jesus starts out by telling the Pharisees that they will not be given a sign, but then in Bethsaida he heals the blind man, thus giving the man and the disciples a sign.  So there is all the bit in the middle that is odd, stuff about yeast and Jesus berating the disciples for thinking he was actually talking about yeast.  So what could Jesus actually be talking about?

It seems that Jesus is telling the disciples to not be like the Pharisees and Herod and worry about superficial signs of his ministry.  He wants them to understand his actual ministry is focused on the putting the world to right through the Cross and Resurrection.  But he is also there to prove he is from God by miraculous signs, healings, and forgiveness.  But when they start to worry about the only one loaf of bread that they brought he reminds them of how he did so much more with a few loaves of bread.  Jesus is teaching the disciples that they do not have to worry about their physical needs when they are with him.  He and the Father will take care of their needs.

Then to really drive home the fact that he does have power from the Father, Jesus heals a blind man when they reach the other shore and the city of Bethsaida.  However, Jesus does take him out of the village and heals him.  Of course in the Jesus fashion he tells him not to tell anyone; he also tells him to not even go back into the village.  So this is a sign for this man, his family, and the disciples.

At this point I would offer some encouragement, trust me there are a lot of times that we are going to misunderstand God.  He might say something obscure to us like Jesus did to the disciples; we might try to understand it in light of a situation we are in right now.  But God might mean it in a way we did not think about.  However, God is good and he will have to explain it to us like the children we are.  Saying you might have thought I meant this, but really I wanted to show you how I was working here.  My family and I have had to deal with this recently.  We thought God was going to have things happen one way.  But instead things worked out very differently and he has taught us to live more simply and rely on people, allowing us to see how much we are really and truly loved.  God does this quite often, you have probably heard about the footprints in the sand.  Someone looks back and only sees one set of foot prints and they ask God where he was, he says he was caring them at that point.  But usually we look back and see a long ditch in the sand.  When we ask God what happened there, he usually says that is when I had to drag you, because you did not want to walk with me or you saw something that distracted you from where I was leading you.  So understand that usually God is going to drag you because we are stubborn and not willing to just let him carry us/care for us.

Posted in Bible Study | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church History Tuesday: How the Church Dealt with the Lapsed

St CyprianLast week you will remember I discussed the persecution of the 3rd century (if you don’t remember or didn’t read that post you can find it here).  At the end of the persecution there were several people who had denied Christ and offered sacrifice to the gods and emperor; these people were called the lapsed.  As stated last week, the persecution was not about getting a large body count, but more about control, so many of the Christians taken prisoner were not killed but tortured.  When the edicts were reversed or the jailers got tired of torturing the Christians they were released; these Christians were called confessors, since they continued to confess Christ.

The problem of the lapsed started when the edicts were reversed or forgotten about, many people who had denied Christ or had burned incense to the idols, wanted to come back to the Christian Church.  There was a question of what to do with these people, who had once confessed Christ but then denied him and who now wanted to confess him again when there was no threat of persecution.  The two major sides of the debate revolved around two men: St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage and Novatian, of Rome.

The problem of the lapsed went a little further than just wither or not the lapsed should be allowed back into the Church.  There was a controversy about who should be allowed to bring them back into the Church and under what circumstances they should be allowed back into the Church.  Some believed only the confessors should be able to bring the lapsed back into the Church, because they had stayed strong unlike the lapsed and did not flee like some Church leaders (this was the stance Novatian took).  Others believed that only the bishops should be allowed to bring the lapsed back to the Church, because they were responsible for the Church and were the ones who could forgive sin (this was the stance Cyprian took).  Novatian and those like him felt only the confessors had more authority than the bishops, because they had actually undergone the persecution and could tell the lapsed what must be done to rejoin the Church (possible examples might be to perform some sort of penance, like making a journey from their city to a holy place, something like 25, 50 or 100 miles away, while on their knees).  While the bishops like Cyprian and some confessors believed, the some lapsed should be allowed back into the Church if they confessed their sin.  Cyprian called a synod in Carthage to settle the matter in his area; it was declared that those who had purchased or otherwise obtained certificates without sacrificing should be immediately remitted to the Church.  Those who had sacrificed would be remitted only on their deathbeds or when a new persecution gave them the chance to prove the sincerity of their repentance.  Those who had sacrificed and did not show any sign of repentance would never be remitted.  These actions should only be taken by the bishops and not the confessors.  This synod ended the controversy but the schism caused by the controversy lasted for several generations.  Novatian was later excommunicated from the Church because of his disagreements with the bishop of Rome and his stance on the lapsed.  These events showed what would continue to be a problem throughout the Church, the divide between the hierarchy of the Church and those within the Church, also what to do with those who wanted to be reunited with the Church.

Question: Who do you think was right in the debate about the lapsed?  Do you agree with Cyprian’s Synod’s decision about the requirement of admitting the lapsed, should it be more relaxed or stricter?  Let me know in comments.

Posted in Church History Tuesday | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments