Saturday, February 19, 2011

What America can learn from Caesarea Philippi IV

[B]y pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition.

Just as there are four regions of the world in which we live, and four universal winds, and since the Church is disseminated over all the earth, and the pillar and the mainstay of the Church is the Gospel, the breath of life, it is fitting that she have four pillars [i.e., four Gospels], breathing immortality on every side and enkindling life in men anew.

-St. Irenaeus, 180 A.D.


In the eighth century B.C., the descendants of Abraham had fallen away from the worship of Yahweh, the one true God, and turned to other gods. From amidst this religious confusion, the prophet Isaiah raised his voice and told them to return to the rock from which they were hewn; the rock being father Abraham. It was on this rock where God's lighthouse shined the light of truth. Similarly, St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr in the second century A.D., found himself surrounded by those who had succumbed to error and had fallen away from the Gospel preached by the Apostles. In order to demontrate the truth of the Gospel it wasn't enough debate his opponents using Scriptural passages; instead, he simply pointed to those churches that were founded by the Apostles. The most important among them, he said, was the church of Rome where St. Peter and St. Paul had laid its foundations. This Church, he continued, is superior in origin and all other churches must agree with it. Because from her proceeds the breath of immortality which enkindles life in men anew.

As we have said, Jesus founded his Church upon the Rock, who was St. Peter. This Rock became a mountain which covered the earth. (cf. Daniel 2:35) For centuries, the nations would stream toward this mountain to receive the knowledge of God. The ministry of St. Peter continues to this day through Pope Benedict XVI. From him comes the religious and moral certainty amid a confused world. It is the same Rock that Abraham represented; it is the same Rock upon which Christ built his Church; and this Rock is none other than God himself. As our Lord promised, the gates of hell would not prevail against it. If hell cannot prevail against it, neither can Islamic and Secular totalitarianism.

On the other hand, the ambivalence of religious pluralism and egalitarianism is no match for Islamic and Secular totalitarianism. The deference paid to other religious leaders by Liam Neeson may be the etiquette in Hollywood; disavowing the Christian identity of America by President Obama during a press conference in Turkey may have been a politically correct posture; however, this neutrality and open-mindedness, so highly esteemed now days, makes for a poor foundation for any civilization.

Western Civilization, if it is to retain the blessings of God, must return to the Rock from which it was hewn. From the ministry of St. Peter, better known as the papacy, the truth about God, life, love, sex, marriage, contraception, abortion and euthanasia can be known with certainty. From this Church comes “the breath of immortality and the enkindling of life anew.” But the further we drift from this mountain, the further we drift from Christian morality. As history bears witness, the alternative to Christ's moral law is the darkness of pagan morality. If you recall, this pagan morality is aptly represented by ancient Caeserea Philippi where the cult of the State and the worship of many gods flourished. Inseparable from this religious confusion was the prevalence of human cruelty and incivility.

There are many opinions about Christ today and what he actually taught. Nevertheless, the truth of faith and morals, so necessary for our stability and happiness, is to be found coming from the Rock upon which Christ built his Church.