Friday, December 15, 2017

The Third Sunday in Advent - Gaudete - Sunday 17 December 2017

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,

A picture of Gaudete vestments, which my German friend Wolfgang posted to Facebook. Beautiful vestments indeed. I personally don't have a set of rose
vestments, so shall be using my purple ones.

"It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful."

(1 Corinthians 4.2)

In the season of Advent, our attention is focused upon the coming of the Lord: his coming as our saviour and our judge. We are like servants who await a master. We watch and wait. And on this third Sunday of Advent, the Church's liturgy presents us with the figure of St. John the Baptist - John the baptizer - as the great example of one who watched and waited. 

We know very little, really, of John the Baptist, the preacher in the wilderness of Judaea, "who clothed himself in camel's hair, and wore a girdle of skin about his loins." (Matthew 3.4) He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness who said "Make straight the way of the Lord." (Isaiah 40.3) 

It is sometimes supposed that he must have belonged to one of the radical sects of Judaism, such as the community of Qumran, which produced the "Dead Sea Scrolls." The Qumran community was a group who had separated themselves from the main stream of Jewish life, and had gone to live in caves by the Dead Sea, awaiting the coming of the Messiah with intense expectation. Perhaps John came from such a group. At any rate, he was one of those who watched and waited for the fulfillment of the mystery of God's promises. He was a minister and steward of the mystery of God's coming in Christ. He watched and waited, asking,"Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?"; that mystery was revealed to him: "Go and show John again those things ye do hear and see." 
As John was witness to the promise, so the Apostles were witnesses to its fulfillment in Christ: "Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1.26) This is the mystery of God's coming to us, the mystery of God's presence with us and in us, the hope of glory. 

In the Epistle for today, St. Paul argues with the Christian converts at Corinth. Some of them claim to be followers of Paul, some of another preacher, called Apollos. St. Paul tells them that "that way of thinking" is nonsense: "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed?" (1 Corinthians 3.5) "Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." That is to say, the mystery of Christian faith, the mystery of "God with us," is not the invention of Paul or Apollos. It is there in Christ, once for all. The Apostles are simply its ministers and stewards, and their task is to be faithful to that revelation. They are not judges of that mystery, picking and choosing, redesigning and improving, deciding what works best, and so on; rather, they are its servants. Judgement belongs to the Lord. 

St. John the Baptist is our Advent example, for it is our vocation, too, to be ministers and stewards of the mystery of God's coming. It is our vocation, too, to watch and wait. And in our time, as much as ever, perhaps even more than ever, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful. 

Faithfulness to the mystery is no easy matter. The world is always ready with other ideas: ideas for redesigning and improving, ideas about what works best, ideas about what is more relevant to our times and customs. It is not easy for us, really, to think of ourselves as servants of a truth revealed so long ago. Even some of our theologians tell us that we have reached maturity now, and have no need of the old authority; that we have grown up and can judge for ourselves now. Well, it's an engaging notion, perhaps; but surely the evidence of our religious maturity is less than overwhelming. 

There are those who would persuade us that the old forms of Christian belief and life are antiquated and irrelevant: we must keep up with the times, and redesign our creeds and institutions in accord with current fashions. There are those who claim that a new spirit is abroad, and that we must move with it. And no doubt there is a new spirit abroad (or maybe it's not really so new), but the advice of St. John is good, when he says, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try (test) the spirits, whether they be of God: because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4-1). 

It would be nice to be able to say with St. Paul, "it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgement"; but in fact, it is uncomfortable and disagreeable to be out of step with the times. "But it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful"; that is, faithful to the mystery revealed in Christ. 
We prepare ourselves to rejoice in Christmas, because it shows us that amid all the confusions and uncertainties of our lives, amid all the fancies and fads of this world's gyrations, there is the fact of God's coming. There is the revelation of the mystery of God with us. This is the mystery of which we are ministers and stewards; servants of a returning Master, "Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts." As a very ancient hymn expresses it, 

Happy those servants, whether he returneth 
At dead of midnight, or at early morning; 
Happy those servants, if he only find them 
Faithfully watching.

 (#813 Nocte Surgentes verse 2, trans R. Bridges in Yattendon Hymnal) 

Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Second Sunday in Advent

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,

From my younger days in Wellington's Saint Pauls Cathedral Choir , I shall always remember our Dean Walter Hurst reading the gospel for today from Saint Luke , chapter 21 beginning at verse 25 " At that time Jeus said unto his disciples:And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken."When you are young life is so exciting and you dont think deeply to what is being said by Jesus.

When you mature and get older, hopefully you have come to realize that this world we live in has definetely become a place of distress. Look at the threat of a nuclear war, look at the tight situation in the middle East, look at the immigration problems experience by many European countries, where because of vast increase in Muslem population, one start loosing its own identity, including the deminishing of the Christian Religion. Countries such as America, Russia and China are all flexing their muscles and there is constant feeling of mistrust amongst them. There are many more horrible things to mention today, we are asking ourselves as Catholic Christians to how long all this is continuing to go on. We are sometimes frightened by it all and we need courage for the future.

But.. if we read the rest of this gospel carefully , then we realize that it contains good news for those, who love the Lord. Living in this world , is like living in the winter, with its barren trees and fields. Jesus goes on to tell us the parable of the figtree and in fact all the trees, when you see when they shoot forth you know that the tide is changing and the summer is at hand.

In the same way, all of a sudden when these frightening things are happening around us , then we know that the Kingdom of God is at hand and the Son of men is returning in a cloud with power and great glory.

Remember that all the world's power brokers such as Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong Un, they will not last , but pass away. Jesus said: Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

A very comforting message at the end of the gospel for today. Are we working hard towards the coming of God's Kingdom here on earth? Are you and I ready to receive Jesus when He comes again. Lets pray for the Lord to come and set us free.

Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province,
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne,

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is in perfect harmony with the spirit of Advent; while the soul is preparing for the coming of the Redeemer, it is fitting to think of her, the all-pure one, who was His Mother.
The very promise of a Saviour was joined to, or rather, was included in the promise of this peerless Virgin. After having cursed the insidious serpent, God proclaimed: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head” (Gen 3:15). And behold, the Virgin whose coming was foretold, approaches, “white as snow, more beautiful than the sun, full of grace, and blessed above all women” (Roman Breviary).

Precisely in view of the sublime privilege which would make her the Mother of the Incarnate Word, Mary alone, among all creatures, was preserved from original sin. Yet in Mary Immaculate we see not only her preservation from original sin, and the complete absence of the slightest shadow of an imperfection, but we also see the positive side of this mystery which made her, from the very first moment of her existence, “full of grace.”

Theologians teach that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary began her spiritual life with grace much more abundant and perfect than that which the greatest saints have acquired at the end of their lives. When we consider also that during her whole life, the Blessed Virgin corresponded fully and most perfectly to every movement of grace, to every invitation from God, we can understand how charity and grace increased in her with incessant and most rapid progress, making her the holiest of creatures, the one most completely united to God and transformed in Him.

O Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, what light and strength your sweet image brings me! The most beautiful, the holiest, the purest of all creatures, so “full of grace” that you were worthy to bear within you the Author and Source of all grace, you do not disdain to give yourself to me—a poor creature, conscious of my sin and misery—as a model of purity, love, and holiness.

Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston on Tasmania

Friday, December 1, 2017

The First Sunday in Advent , 3 December 2017

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,

"And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light" (Romans 13:11-12).  

Today is Advent Sunday, the beginning of the season of Advent and the starting point of the new ecclesiastical year. What makes today different from the secular New Year’s Day is that there is little of the typical "out with the old, in with the new" that attends that holiday. 

If anything, our Christian Advent is a promise of "more of the same." We plan to read the same lessons and to say the same prayers in this new year that we did in the year past, and for almost two thousand years before that. Even our "New Year’s resolutions," found in this morning’s excerpt from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, are the "same old" resolutions that Christians have made every year since that glorious year so long ago when our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. 

We are not in a rut, however. By the standards of the "secular world" (which means literally, "the world of this age"), we lack imagination and our religious observances are boring because we have no plans to change what we believe and what we hope for from year to year. But "the world of this age" functions on the basis of an unexamined fantasy—namely, that the material world and the human race have an infinite supply of years ahead of them. And if this world were "the world without end," the eternal reality from which all subordinate realities proceed, they would be right. 
Advent, however, tells us otherwise. The name itself is a play on words, since the Latin "Adventus" means simply "a coming," but the Church uses it to refer to two comings of the same Divine Person: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. On Advent Sunday we look back to the climax of history, as far as the purposes of God are concerned, to the conception and birth of the Son of God, made man by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary. When Jesus Christ shed his Blood on the Cross and offered his life before his Father’s throne, all sins were redeemed—completely bought and paid for. The victory of God in Christ over the world, the flesh, and the devil was accomplished once and for all, and all anybody had to do, then, now, or a thousand years from now (if God gives the world that much time), to share in that victory, was to confess his sins and to submit to the merciful rule of the Lord God in Jesus Christ his Son. 

That was the First Coming of Jesus Christ. The fate of this world was fixed under God’s judgment, and the terms of the salvation of mankind were made as clear as they could possibly be. All the history that has followed that First Coming, however grand or terrible to us, is from the perspective of God much like the final chapter of a novel or the final five minutes of a movie that wrap up the loose ends after the main event has occurred. 

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ, then, when he comes in glory to judge the world, is the time when he declares in the Name of his Father what happened to all of the other "characters" in the human story. The Second Coming represents no change in plans on the part of God, no surprise ending, no "new thing" at all, except that Jesus Christ will announce "The End" of human struggles and the beginning of eternal blessedness for the resurrected and redeemed, who in God’s grace and mercy will do even better than living "happily ever after." This is the true "world without end"—the eternal reality of a changeless God whose mercy never fails and whose rule cannot be overturned. 

The tragedy of our times is that so many people have been duped into trusting this world’s fantasy of never-ending years, at the cost of their losing the real hope of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming to finish what he began at his First Advent. It is a pure waste of time and life to govern ourselves by dreams and vapors while ignoring the one consistent reality that can save us now and forever. 
Perhaps the best remedy for this error is to try to recover in our minds the mind of the first Christians, full of the Holy Ghost and the most realistic people who have ever lived. Let us begin with something Our Lord said about himself: "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). 

We have to understand that the first Christians took this saying as more than a nice bit of poetry. They understood the difference between life with Jesus and life without Jesus as the difference between day and night, and they lived in a world without electric lights in which the night was dark indeed and a time of hidden crime and terror. Thus, St. Paul could write, as we heard earlier, "…now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we [first] believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light." 

The coming of Jesus Christ is as the coming of the sun to bring a new day. He is the sunrise of the day of the Lord, in whose light all the decent things of human life have their proper place and opportunity. For this reason, St. Paul continued, "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying" (Romans 13:13). Some things belong in the darkness because they belong to the darkness: carousing, illicit affairs and wrong actions of all kinds, sitting around griping about others, or lying in our beds sleepless because of our envy of what other people have or because of our plotting against them. Christians, on the other hand, should live right now as if the light were completely come again on the final day. 

The first Christians saw the history of the whole world from the fall of man until the coming of Christ as one long night of death, danger, and temptation. But it was still a night of promise, since God had promised his Son. We know these things as facts, since they are stated in one of the first prayers of the New Testament, the prophecy that the Holy Ghost gave to Zacharias at the birth of his son John the Baptist. We still say this prayer as the Canticle Benedictus in the Morning Office: 
And thou, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people for the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us; to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death (BCP 14). 

That old word "day-spring" means "the dawn," and the first coming of Jesus Christ was the dawn of salvation upon the world. The Second Coming, likewise, is no sunset, but the second dawn that puts an end to the night of waiting for the details to be sorted out and brings with it nothing but light forever. Those who love that light and wish to live in it will join in Christ’s light forever. Those who love the secret and deadly things of the darkness will have their own place, too, with the devil and his angels in that darkest of places, hell. 

The Coming of Christ was as real to the first Christians as the sunrise, and they looked for the day of the Lord on the final day as the best day of their lives, as the dawn of the eternal day of their life with God. Those Christians were so sure of this they even began the custom of aligning churches so that we face the East, where the altar and pulpit are, as the place where the sun will rise. 

We need to be as sure of the same sunrise of the Light of Christ, the Light of the world. That time will come as God wills, but in the meantime, God’s Church reminds us every year of the reality and trustworthiness of the promise of light in Advent. The Light has come. The Light will come again. And when that light comes, we must belong to it or endure an eternal darkness. We begin, then, with our new Church year, the lessons, prayers, and discipline that will prepare us for light eternal.
Advents blessings,

Father Ed Bakker 
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston, TAS

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Sunday next before Advent


Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
“Come and see”   St. John 1. 35
Scripture sounds the notes of an ending and a beginning on this day, the Sunday Next before Advent.  This day both concludes the course of the Son’s life in us – “the Lord our Righteousness” - and returns us to the beginning of the course he runs for us – “Behold the Lamb of God”.   The righteousness of Christ, the right ordering of our loves and our lives, is what we have sought in the long course of the Trinity season.  But the course he runs for us is the way of the cross, the way of sacrifice.  It is the way that we travel with him in the pageant of faith from Advent to Trinity. 
Such times of transition signal occasions of renewal - a renewal of love, a re-awakening of the soul’s desire for holy things, a divine stirring up of our wills.  We come to the Advent of Christ. Advent is the season of God’s revelation, the motion of God’s Word and Son towards us for the sake of our knowing.  Our text sounds the measure of the season and beyond the season strikes the note of our soul’s salvation.  “Come and see”. 
In St. John’s Gospel, this is Jesus’ first statement.  It comes in response to the disciples’ answer to his very first gospel utterance, a question which he puts to them and to us, “What seek ye?” (What do we want?).  They answer with a question that has a twofold significance: “Rabbi (which means Teacher), where are you staying?”  Here is no question of idle curiosity, but one which is deep and profound.  It speaks about the yearning of our hearts and the desiring of our minds.  It speaks about the awakened desire of the soul for God.  But how is the question twofold?  By its address as well as its request.
"Rabbi – Teacher”.  They identify Jesus as a Teacher, one who can instruct them, teach them, enlighten them with an understanding which they seek but do not have.  They seek to know.  To know what?  Is it information?  Do they seek to know a host of busy details about a myriad of busy things?  “God is in the details”, it is commonly said.  To be sure, but he is not the details.  God cannot be reduced to a data sheet of statistics or to the memory bank of a computer.  “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” T.S.  Eliot asks, the knowledge of God lost not found in the details, in the rush and crush of busy and disordered lives. 
For in such things there is no satisfaction; no true seeking where there is no desiring for a true finding .  No.  They seek more than information.  And so must we.  They seek the understanding upon which all our inquirings and all our doings depend.  They seek the reason and cause of all things, the knowledge of what is, what remains, and what ever shall be.  And so must we. 
They seek an understanding of God’s will and purpose.  They seek his abiding Word in the midst of the changing world.  Why?  Because nothing else is worth living for and they would live with the knowledge of that truth.  And so they ask, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  They would remain with him who would enlighten their minds to their heart’s desire.  They seek the Messiah, the promised anointed one of God, yet Christ will be more than the Messiah  they seek.  For God’s revelation of himself does not so much mean  the lowering of God to us, as the raising of us to God, hence “Come and see”.  He has come to us in order that we might come to him. 
But our seeking is not itself our seeing.  Jesus’s question seeks to draw out their proper intention, their true desire and what is truly to be desired.  They seek for what they do not have.  They seek for what is beyond them.  Such a seeking manifests an openness to God’s Word, to the possibilities of divine illumination.  As such it belongs to Revelation, to what comes from God to man, what we could in no wise invent.  Revelation, not our seeking, is the premise of our seeing.  “In thy light, shall we see light”.  We cannot attain to God simply by our seeking.  Our seeking cannot make him in the image of our seeking.
No doubt our lives are lives of seeking, of the desiring to know, to have and to enjoy.  But according to our own lights, according to the light of our own experiences, we are but darkness.  To know that and not to yield to it, but instead to seek for the light which shines in the darkness, is to be open to God’s Revelation. 
“Show us the light of thy countenance and we shall be whole”, the Psalmist cries and behold, “Jesus turned and saw them”.  Our illumination depends upon God’s Revelation, his turning towards us, his seeing us in the light of his divine knowing.  His motion towards us manifests his divine light and makes us partakers of his eternity, now in the illumination by grace and then in the vision of glory.
We are light only in the light of Christ. We are bidden to “come and see” because that light who is Christ comes to us in the darkness of our uncertainties and fears.  It is no mere lightning bolt which comes and goes in a flash; it is more like the beacon of a lighthouse constant and secure, at once a warning and a guide.  Our faith shall deepen to understanding if we attend to his revelation and let the Teacher teach us about the truth of himself and the truth of ourselves in the light of his grace.  He comes to teach us.  And so let us indeed cry out, “Rabbi-Teacher”, but even more, let us “come and see”, this Advent and evermore.
“Come and see”

Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church/ Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne,
Launceston, Tasmania,