Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cyprian and the Babylonian Captivity

Whenever Mother's Day approaches, I end up thinking of Cyprian's famous dictum, "No one can have God for his Father, who does not have the Church as his mother." It's one of my favorite quotes from the fathers - one of the more profound ones, and one that we in America, who tend to lord things over the Church ought to remember. We are not in authority over the Church but the Church has authority over us. The Church is not created to follow our whims, but we are to honor and obey the Church.

Yet, this is also a passage that is often thrown at Lutherans by those of Rome, for their argument is that we have left the Church. However, I would note what Cyprian also says later in the same paragraph - "Does anyone believe that such unity which comes from the strength of God and is held together by the sacraments of heaven, can be divided by the falling out of opposing wills?"

The focus of this unity that is within the Church is centered upon the actions of God and upon His Sacraments. The unity of the Church is truly a sacramental unity. Thus, I think it is no surprise that when Luther strikes out against the abuses of Rome, one of the first full fledged critiques comes in the form of Luther's Babylonian Captivity of the Church. It was in the abuse of the Sacraments that Rome revealed her own error. The unity Rome wished for was not that from God via the Sacraments, but of submission to the will of the Papacy.

To be a Christian is to be gathered around the Gospel rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered - to be those who hear and do the Word in the liturgy and prayers - to be those who ask of our Heavenly Father to receive His good gifts. Any focus or definition of Church which pulls away or detracts from the Centrality of God is of the devil and is anti-christ.

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