24 October 2018

Comments are dead. Long live comments!

Welp, since Google Plus is now dead, and my blog used it for commenting, I can no longer moderate old comments — including removing some spam. So I was reluctantly forced to switch to regular Google-based commenting, which nuked all old comments. My apologies, but…well.

On the upside, at least with this new commenting system, I can moderate more effectively than before. Comments are always welcome, but no spam, no personal promotion, and please keep it respectful and polite.

31 May 2018

Anglican history, part III: Who founded Anglicanism?

The following completes my series on Anglican history. Part I can be found here, and Part II can be found here. The text of this was originally posted on Quora in answer to a question there.

As I alluded to in Part II of this series, the common misconception is that Henry VIII “founded” Anglicanism (or at least the Church of England). That is actually completely false. The true founder — if we discount St. Augustine of Canterbury founding the English Church in 597 — was not Henry, but his daughter, Elizabeth. This is something of a pet peeve of mine…

Elizabeth I was formally the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, technically the first to hold that title. (Her father, Henry VIII, and her brother, Edward VI, had been Supreme Head, but many loyal English Catholics were offended by it and Elizabeth changed the title to appease them.) All British monarchs ever since Elizabeth have held that title.

The pet peeve is that it is commonly (and wrongly) said that Henry VIII “founded” the Church of England. He did not. The existing English Church simply cut ties to Rome. These ties were restored by Mary I, and again cut under Elizabeth.

It is also commonly (and wrongly) assumed that Henry dramatically reformed the Church of England, and that he left a lasting mark on it. Actually, Henry stoutly resisted any attempts at reforms, and feuded with Luther and the Reformers on the Continent. Priests were still required to be celibate, the Mass was still usually in Latin (though an English Bible was published), belief in transubstantiation was required by law (see Six Articles), prayers for the dead were still said. And anyway what little he did change was restored by Mary. (She was unable to reverse the Dissolution of the Monasteries for political reasons, but otherwise wiped out the few small changes Henry did allow.)

The Church of England — and with it the Anglican Communion as a whole — was reformed not by Henry, but by Elizabeth. The hallmarks of Anglicanism are not to be found in Henry’s church, but in Elizabeth’s, and broadly speaking, the essentials of the Elizabethan Settlement are still what makes Anglicanism unique in uniting Catholicism and Protestantism in a single body.

So if anyone could be said to have founded Anglicanism (besides Jesus Christ and St. Augustine of Canterbury), it would be Elizabeth — not Henry VIII. Her vision of a single church uniting all Christians regardless of denomination is what makes Anglicanism what it is today.

Hence I would argue that the only real service Henry VIII did for Anglicanism is fathering Elizabeth. She is the true central figure in Anglican history, and really should get a lot more credit for it.

15 November 2017

What is liturgy and why is it necessary?

The following was originally posted on Quora as an answer to the question at hand.

I literally just did a workshop on liturgy for my parish last weekend. Liturgy is a big passion of mine. The word liturgy comes from Greek and literally means “public service”. In other words, by doing the liturgy, we are rendering a service unto God and our community.

In general, liturgy refers to the structure and ritual elements of a church service, be it a Mass/Eucharist or daily prayer.

Liturgy and ritual or rites are often (mistakenly) used as synonyms. Actually, liturgy specifically means ritual with a purpose.

The purpose of liturgy is to lead people to God and one another. That’s it. Which sounds simple, but it is actually not. Liturgy should (in a Christian context) take disparate people, with different tastes and beliefs and ideas and backgrounds, and join them together as one mystical Body of Christ.

That is a tall order. And anyone trying to claim that one particular liturgy works for everyone — one size fits all — is horribly mistaken.

Liturgy also seldom “just works”. It requires constant education and catechism of the parish to help them understand the meaning and purpose of the liturgy. The parish ideally should also be active participants in the liturgy, not just passive spectators. By involving the parish directly in the liturgy, they are joined more effectively with one another and with the living God made truly present on the altar in the Mass.

But liturgy does not stop there. All of this is utterly pointless if the people who consume the transformed Body and Blood are not themselves transformed. If the parish members do not take heed of it and go forth into the world to make it a better place and care for God’s gift of creation, then the liturgy has singularly failed to fulfill its purpose.

The liturgy thus should help us to see and hear and feel and touch and taste Christ, not just in the Body and Blood, but in our fellow human beings. “God became man so that man might become like God.” That is the basic sentiment and mission of the liturgy.1 Everything else is just gravy.

1 See Wikipedia’s article on Divinization.

15 September 2016

The simplest explanation for the difference between nominative, accusative, dative and genitive articles in German

The following was original written in answer to a question on the topic on Quora.

Nominative: Subject case. The thing performing the action. Marked below in bold.
Accusative: Direct object case. The thing being acted upon by the action. Marked below in italics.
Dative: Indirect object case. The thing receiving the action. Marked below in bold italics.
Genitive: Posessive case. Marked below with ALL CAPS.

Consider these nouns, all masculine (der in nominative):

Der Junge (the boy)
Der Knochen (the bone)
Der Hund (the dog)
Der Nachbar (the neighbor)

Consider this sentence:

Der Junge gab dem Hund DES NACHBARN einen Knochen
(The boy gave the NEIGHBOR’S dog a bone)

Because of these inflections, German is able to reverse word order while maintaining the same meaning, but creating subtle changes in emphasis:

Dem Hund DES NACHBARN gab der Junge einen Knochen
Einen Knochen gab der Junge dem Hund DES NACHBARN

In each case, the noun that comes first gets added emphasis. This sort of highly flexible sentence structure is virtually impossible in modern English without resorting to prepositions or other constructions.

There are other ways case is affected, particularly by prepositions. The dative prepositions always cause nouns that directly follow to be dative:

Aus, außer, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu, gegenüber

The accusative prepositions always cause nouns that directly follow to be accusative:

Bis, durch, entlang, für, gegen, ohne, um

Finally, these flexible prepositions can be either dative (if static) or accusative (if implying motion or change) depending on the situation:

An, auf, hinter, in, neben, über, unter, vor, zwischen

In dem Zimmer is dative and therefore means in the room, whereas in das Zimmer is accusative and thus means into the room.

There is more to it than that, but that’s it in a nutshell.