Archive of February 17, 2013

Patriarch St. Flavian's faithful witness honored Feb. 18

Denver, Colo., Feb 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Feb. 18, the Roman Catholic Church remembers Patriarch Saint Flavian of Constantinople, who is honored on the same date by Eastern Catholics of the Byzantine tradition and by Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Known to Eastern Christians as “St. Flavian the Confessor,” the patriarch endured condemnation and severe beatings during a fifth-century dispute about the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ. Though he died from his injuries, his stand against heresy was later vindicated at the Church’s fourth ecumenical council in 451.

St. Flavian is closely associated with Pope St. Leo the Great, who also upheld the truth about Christ’s divine and human natures during the controversy. The Pope’s best-known contribution to the fourth council – a letter known as the “Tome of Leo” – was originally addressed to St. Flavian, though it did not reach the patriarch during his lifetime.

Flavian's date of birth is unknown, as are most of his biographical details. He was highly-regarded as a priest during the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II (which lasted from 408 to 450), and he became Archbishop of Constantinople following the death of Patriarch Saint Proclus in approximately 447.

Early in his patriarchate, Flavian angered a state official named Chrysaphius by refusing to offer a bribe to the emperor. The ruler's wife Eudocia joined the resulting conspiracy which Chrysaphius hatched against Flavian, a plot that would come to fruition in an illegitimate Church council and the patriarch's death.

As head of the Church in Constantinople, Flavian had inherited a theological controversy about the relationship between deity and humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. In an occurrence that was not uncommon for the time, the doctrinal issue became entangled with personal and political rivalries. Flavian's stand for orthodoxy gave his high-ranking court opponents a chance to act against him by encouraging the proponents of doctrinal error and manipulating the emperor in their favor.

The theological issue had arisen after the Council of Ephesus, which in 431 had confirmed the personal unity of Christ and condemned the error (known as Nestorianism) that said he was a composite being made up of a divine person and a human person. But questions persisted: Were Jesus' eternal divinity, and his assumed humanity, two distinct and complete natures fully united in one person? Or did the person of Christ have only one hybrid nature, made up in some manner of both humanity and divinity?

The Church would eventually confirm that the Lord's incarnation involved both a divine and a human nature at all times. When God took on a human nature at the incarnation, in the words of Pope St. Leo the Great, “the proper character of both natures was maintained and came together in a single person,” and “each nature kept its proper character without loss.”

During Flavian’s patriarchate, however, the doctrine of Christ’s two natures had not been fully and explicitly defined. Thus, controversy came up regarding the doctrine of a monk named Eutyches, who insisted that Christ had only “one nature.” Flavian understood the “monophysite” doctrine as contrary to faith in Christ’s full humanity, and he condemned it at a local council in November of 448. He excommunicated Eutyches, and sent his decision to Pope Leo, who gave his approval in May 449.

Chrysaphius, who knew Eutyches personally, proceeded to use the monk as his instrument against the patriarch who had angered him. He convinced the emperor that a Church council should be convened to consider Eutyches’ doctrine again. The resulting council, held in August 449 and led by Dioscorus of Alexandria, was completely illegitimate, and later formally condemned. But it pronounced against Flavian and declared him deposed from the patriarchate.

During this same illicit gathering, known to history as the “Robber Council,” a mob of monks beat St. Flavian so aggressively that he died from his injuries three days later. Chrysaphius seemed, for the moment, to have triumphed over the patriarch.

But the state official’s ambitions soon collapsed. Chrysaphius fell out of favor with Theodosius II shortly before the emperor’s death in July 450, and he was executed early in the reign of his successor Marcian.

St. Flavian, meanwhile, was canonized by the Fourth Ecumenical Council in 451. Its participants gave strong acclamation to the “Tome of Leo” – in which the Pope confirmed St. Flavian’s condemnation of Eutyches and affirmed the truth about Christ’s two natures, both divine and human.

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Jesuit high school gets new chapel to foster devotion

Tampa, Fla., Feb 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Jesuit High School in Tampa, Fla., recently dedicated its new chapel, which was beautifully re-designed to encourage devotion to God.

“The Jesuits recognized that the existing chapel was becoming inadequate to the growing liturgical needs and desires of the community,” artist Joel Pidel, who re-designed the chapel, told CNA Feb. 13.

Pidel noted “that greater devotion would be fostered” by transforming the space “into a place that more fully or evidentially manifested God's beauty.”

“Beauty increases devotion,” he added, “beauty is the 'natural' analog of grace, a continual reminder that everything is gift, and that our every response should be one of gratitude.”

The newly renovated residence chapel for the community teaching at Jesuit High School, as well as the larger school community, was dedicated Jan. 5 after a little more than a year's work.

The chapel was originally built in the early 1960s, and is an octagonal room which had no clearly marked sanctuary, limited seating space without pews, and dark brown walls. The renovation features a larger space with a clearly demarcated sanctuary, a prominent tabernacle and altar, a large 19th century stained glass window, elegant wooden pews, and numerous references to the Society of Jesus.

Father Richard Hermes, president of Jesuit High School, told CNA Feb. 15 that the chapel had been “altered from its original design to accommodate the new Missal (of 1969), but then also just to accommodate deteriorating liturgical sensibilities, where nobody kneels.”

He said the remodel was a “great opportunity” to give the chapel “an architecture in communion with the Church.” His own understanding of Church liturgy and architecture has been influenced by the works of Pope Benedict, he said.

Pidel said the remodel “was to be a visible response to the Holy Father's inauguration of the year of faith in a manner which would both demonstrate and orient the priorities of the community.”

Fr. Hermes said he wanted the new chapel to “bespeak the sacred. When you walk in there, you're gonna know this is a sacred space and a holy chapel...the main vision was sacred space, and nobility, and make it a place where not only Mass is celebrated, but devotions, the rosary or stations of the Cross.”

He said the students have been “awestruck” by the beauty of the chapel, and have commented on the beauty of the new stations of the Cross, and he sees this as an opportunity to “let's get a group together and pray the stations” on Fridays.

Pidel said that beauty is a “safeguard of gratuity over-against every functionalism or reductionism” that cannot be mistaken for “mere aesthetics.” He said, “sacred art and architecture are called to bear specific witness by calling the individual and the community to a universal act of gratitude, in the imitation of Christ, through the highly personal, specific, ritualized form of the liturgy.”

It was important for him to create a beautiful chapel because “a chapel is the house of God, not merely the house of the people of God, and the desire for a beautiful chapel should arise out of gratitude to the God who has deigned to make his dwelling with us.

“The Faith, like the Truth to which it attains, is beautiful, and so a chapel which does not manifest this beauty does not efficaciously represent the Faith of which it is its architectural image, regardless of whether or not it is functionally adequate.”

A chapel, he said, should be beautiful because it “both manifests and facilitates our encounter with the Living God.”

He made reference to the 20th century theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, who wrote that the man who “sneers” at beauty “can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.”

Pidel was inspired by the great Jesuit churches in the baroque tradition, particularly the Jesuits' Roman novitiate chapel, including an “architectural hierarchy between elements of the nave and sanctuary.”

The chapel now has an altar rail which provides “visual and liturgical demarcation” between the nave and sanctuary, so that no-one's roles are confused.

When asked if he imagines that Saint Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus, and Our Lady, the Society's queen, are well-pleased with the renovation, Fr. Hermes said, “I devoutly hope so.”

“Baroque churches came to be synonymous with the Jesuits, and it's striking how much they engage the senses, how much they lift the mind and heart to God, and how they speak of the communion of saints.”

Fr. Hermes concluded, saying that “to the extent that this little chapel takes its humble place within in that liturgical tradition, I think it's very much in line with St. Ignatius and the great history of Jesuit churches,  and Jesuit preaching and evangelizing.”

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Pope says Lent is spiritual battle

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI used his second to last Angelus to tell thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square that Lent is a “spiritual battle.”

Lent, he said, “always involves a battle, a spiritual battle, because the spirit of evil naturally opposes our sanctification and seeks to divert us from the way of God.”
Pope Benedict has just 11 days left as head of the Catholic Church until his almost unprecedented resignation takes effect Feb. 28. Over 35,000 people have officially registered with the Pontifical Household to bid him farewell.
The Pope, speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace, explained that the Lenten “spiritual battle” is the reason why the Gospel of the first Sunday of Lent relates each year to Jesus’ temptations in the desert.

He reflected on the Sunday gospel, which tells how Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil after having received the Holy Spirit in his baptism at the Jordan river.
“Upon starting his public ministry, Jesus had to expose and reject the false images of the Messiah that the tempter proposed,” said the Pope.
“But these temptations are false images of man and during all times undermine the conscience, disguised and proposed as affordable, effective and even good,” he added.
Pope Benedict said the evangelists Matthew and Luke reveal three temptations of Jesus, but differ only in the order in which they present them.
He said the core of these temptations is always to exploit God for some lowly ends, giving more importance to success or to material goods.
“The tempter is sneaky: he does not go directly to evil, but to a false good, making one believe that the true reality is power and that this meets one’s basic needs,” said the pontiff.
“God becomes secondary in this way, (he) ultimately becomes unreal because he no longer matters and thus vanishes,” he added. 
Pope Benedict said that faith is what is ultimately at stake in temptations because God is at stake.
“But in hindsight we are at crossroads -- do we want to follow the ‘I’ or God? The individual interest or the real good and what is really good?” said the Pope.

“As the Fathers of the Church teach us, temptations are part of the ‘descent’ of Jesus in our human condition and in the abyss of sin as well as of its consequences,” he said.
He explained that Jesus is “the hand that God has tended to man, the lost sheep, to bring him back to safety.”
But the pontiff said we do not have to fear facing the fight against the spirit of evil since “Jesus took our temptations to give us his victory.”
“The important thing is that we do this with him, with the Victor,” said the Pope.

Pope Benedict said Lent is a time of “conversion and penance” and a “favorable time to rediscover faith in God as the criterion of our life and the life of the Church.”

“The Church, which is mother and teacher, calls all her members to be renewed in the spirit, to re-orientate closely to God, denying pride and selfishness in order to live in love,” he said.

He then greeted the pilgrims in different languages. He told the Italian pilgrims their attendance in such large numbers is “a sign of affection and spiritual closeness that I have been shown these days.”
Sunday Pope Benedict was scheduled to take part in spiritual exercises with members of the Curia at 6 p.m. local time in the Apostolic Palace.
The retreat will finish on Feb. 23. For this reason, he has no appointments scheduled this week and he will not hold his weekly general audience on Feb. 20.

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