Father John J. Lombardi & Stephen Quinn
History of the Church:
Did the Church,
established by Jesus Christ on the Rock of Peter
(Mt 16:18), survive intact as we know it today?
Have Jesus' Teachings continued after He died?
Do the principles of the Holy Bible endure in
some way after the first century? Some think
not; Catholics, however, think so. How so? Jesus
says: "The Father will give you another Advocate
to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth…The
Advocate…will teach you everything and remind
you of all I told you" (Jn 12:16, 26). Jesus
promises a linkage of Himself and His teachings
thru all time. The Catholic Church preserves and
promotes this succession of holy teaching-it is
called Sacred Tradition. We continue our
investigation of this in our third installment
of the History of the Church.
First, given the
questions above, let's ask: Was there ever a
time, or occasion, when Jesus' teachings did not
continue? Yes and no: this has occurred
voluminously throughout two thousand years as
people broke off from His teachings and formed a
different "church" or community from the
Catholic Unity established by Jesus. Today there
are thousands of Christian "churches" or
communities in the world. (We use the word
"church" in quotes, lower-case, in accordance
with Vatican distinctions-cf. "Dominus Jesus".
As Jesus founded only one Church and intended
this to last forever as His Bride-(cf Mt 16; Eph
5), we believe the Catholic Unity is His
Church-"I will build My Church…"-(Mt 16:18;
Secondly, then, what are
some instances or descriptions of break-offs
from Jesus' teachings? The two major errors and
distinctions are described in the Catechism of
the Catholic Church (they are seemingly strong
terms, but probably occur more frequently than
we think): "Heresy is the obstinate
post-baptismal denial of some truth which must
be believed with divine and Catholic faith, or
it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the
same… Schism is the refusal of submission to the
Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members
of the Church subject to him" (CCC: # 2089).
Throughout the centuries, as we shall soon see,
these phenomena occurred, and individuals,
either out of ignorance or direct free choice,
have gone by themselves to start a new community
and dis-form Jesus' Unity .
Meditations: Have you
ever refused-consciously, willfully-- to believe
Jesus as He speaks thru His Catholic Unity and
Church? Vatican Council II calls Catholics to
believe all teachings of the Faith ("Lumen
Gentium"--# 25). Do you refuse the submission of
your mind and will in matters of Faith and
morals? -regarding abortion, contraception,
human sexuality, following Jesus? How can you
believe more fully and completely?
The schism of Montanism
was one which caused trouble for the Church from
within (and continues in a different fashion to
plague the Church today), through spiritual
pride and self-righteous sectarianism. Montanism
began in the second century and lasted until the
mid-fifth century, when St. Augustine reconciled
its remaining adherents to the Church. The
Montanists, named for their founder Montanus,
were a renewal group. Montanus's followers were
impressed with his charisma and apparent
holiness, and believed that many bishops and
average believers weren't really Catholics
because they weren't as holy as the Montanists
were. This unreasonable "striving standard"
turned out to be inordinate and unjust,,
disjointed from other valid Catholic-Christian
teachers and the Bible-Montanism became
impossible for the mass of "normal believers".
Montanism was not a heresy because it rejected
Church doctrine about the Trinity or the Person
of Christ-- they were a schismatic group because
they held the personal teachings of Montanus to
be of greater authority than Church teaching, as
if there were additional revelation. But not
even the Church has the power to reveal new
doctrine. Sacred Revelation ceased with the
death of the last Apostle (John); the Church has
the power only to interpret and develop what has
already been revealed (cf. Jn 16:12).
As the Second Vatican
Council explains, "To see Jesus is to see His
Father (John 14:9). For this reason Jesus
perfected revelation by fulfilling it through
his whole work …and we now await no further new
public revelation before the glorious
manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (see 1
Tim. 6:14 and Tit. 2:13: fr. Dei Verbum).
Meditations: Ultra traditionalists fail to see
legitimate development in our Faith and morals;
progressivists see too much and neglect
tradition. How about you? Are you awaiting a new
teaching-about morality, celibacy, the Second
Coming of Jesus?...Do you believe some private
revelations or teachers which "circumvent" the
Public Revelation of the Bible and Church?
In the fourth century,
the Arian heresy denied Jesus' s divinity. The
priest Arius of Alexandria, Egypt, taught,
"There once was a time when the Son was not"--in
a catchy song. He held that Jesus was less than
the Father, and thus denied the Trinity.
Arianism became so influential that at one point
a majority of the Church's bishops taught
it--evidence that individual bishops do not
share the Pope's charism of infallibility, i.e.
(cannot be wrong) when teaching matters of faith
and morals. It would take two Church councils,
the Council of Nicea in 325 and the Council of
Constantinople in 381, to finally break its
power. Nicea taught, as we say in its Creed at
Mass to this day, that Jesus Christ is "one in
being with the Father," not a mere creature.
(Note: an influential priest once rejected two
other priests from coming to "his parish"
because he does not allow the Nicene Creed to be
recited. So: Don't break with Sacred Tradition -
help pass on this precious Faith by prayerfully
reciting these important and sacred words!).
St. Athanasius, the
bishop of Alexandria, stood firm as a fierce
defender of Our Lord's divinity, and reminded
the Church that unless Christ was both human and
divine, he could not have redeemed us from sin.
Athanasius was persecuted and exiled more than
once! Athanasius' work, "On the Incarnation of
the Word," is one of the best, brief
demonstrations from Scripture of Christ's
divinity, and well worth reading today.
Meditations: Do you fully believe in the
divinity of Jesus Christ - in His power to die
for, and free you from, sins? Are you defending
the orthodoxy of the Church in dialog with its
opposite, progressivism? Can you avert spiritual
pride and self-righteousness in this dialog?
The Nestorian heresy
that rocked the fifth-century Church resulted in
a doctrinal pronouncement, which Catholics and
Protestants proclaim together today. The monk
Nestorius, who became Patriarch of
Constantinople in 428, taught that Jesus Christ
was not God incarnate, but that the divine
Christ only dwelt in the human Jesus as in a
temple (not fully inhering). There would thus be
two persons in Christ. Thus, Nestorius reasoned,
the Virgin Mary could not be the mother of God (theotokos-God-bearer)
but only the mother of the human Jesus. Leo
taught that Mary must therefore not only be the
mother of the man-Jesus, but the Mother of God,
because Jesus Christ was one person with two
natures, not two persons with one nature.
The Council of Chalcedon,
which condemned Nestorius in 451, proclaimed the
full doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinitarian
doctrine was taught and understood from the time
of the Apostles, in one fashion or another (for
instance, baptismal formulas, etc.); however, a
formal declaration became necessary. All
Christians accept the doctrine of the Trinity
(even though the word Trinity is not found in
the Bible), as the doctrinal teaching that ended
this early Church heresy lives on in some
Christians today. Are you aware that the
Trinitarian doctrine was revealed through
Scripture and declared by the Catholic Church?
Meditations: How can you help others who do not
rightly believe in the Blessed Trinity (since it
is the central core and tenet of our Faith ( CCC:
# 234)--for instance, Mormons (who do not
believe in Christ's full divinity, or truths
about the Trinity)? And, from a possible
dialogue with them, how can you learn to
cultivate evangelical zeal from their lively
Read History of the
The Great Eastern Schism
"From the beginning of
the See of Constantinople to the great schism in
867 the list of these temporary breaches of
communion is a formidable one. There were
fifty-five years of schism (343-98) during the
Arian troubles so for the 544 years period
(323-867) no less than 203 were spent by
Constantinople in a state of schism" (from: The
The Eastern Churches
broke from communion with Rome, over what they
saw as a Western idolatry of the papacy. The
reality is more complicated; why God allowed
this development is a mystery of His Providence.
We are hopeful for a full communion with the
East and must pray and sacrifice for this
reunion-as Pope John Paul has encouraged.
Centuries later, another
eastern community broke away from Rome over the
doctrine of filioque and began the Eastern
Orthodox church. We Roman Catholics believe that
the procession of the Holy Spirit is "from the
Father and the Son", and not just from the
Father alone. Along with political, social and
cultural issues, the two Lands separated and are
still apart-doctrinally and morally, but more
close together than apart.
Meditations: How can you
pray and work for this unity in our
Church/churches? Have you ever been to a valid,
Catholic-Eastern Mass which emphasizes mystical
worship, praise of the Trinity and smells
(incense) and bells to enlighten the intellect
and help worshippers bow and surrender?! Do you
possibly neglect wounds and errors in the Body
of Christ which can be avoided and "fixed"? Pope
John Paul has said our Church needs to "breathe
with both lungs"-meaning, along with our Latin
lung we need the other Eastern lung to fully
function What treasures are you neglecting?
-By S Quinn and FJL.
Historical facts from: Church History by Fr.
John Laux and the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Advent means "to come
to." Notice-we are not at Christmas-- not yet.
We are pilgriming thru Advent to come to
Christmas. Just as the Virgin Mary and St Joseph
prepared for that First Christmas, so must we
prepare, above all by our prayer, meditation,
Mass and confessions; by our Bible reading and
serving the poor, sick and dying. Prepare to
Receive the Divine Share.
Advent helps to prepare
for two things: the Second Coming of Jesus and
His First Coming-Christmas. How prophetic. We
need not slumber or get slothful (thinking He's
not come for two thousand years so why now?"…)
and against materialism. Even the original St
Nicholas gave presents and charity because of
the Divine Presence of Jesus in the Sacrifice of
the Mass, and he lived a simple, humble life.
A Spiritual Meditation:
Rest in Him…Impress within…Coalesce in
Him…Commentary: Rest in Him. First, we busy
people need to rest in God (Ps 46:10-Be still
and know that I am God). We actually need to
stop to give God our best time ("not just on the
run"). Impress within: Then we need to allow God
to impress Himself within us, as when a camera
lets light within, to be impressed on the film
surface, imprinted. Then-coalesce with Him--we
are called to be one with God-as far as possible
in this life, to "participate in the divine
nature" -II Pt 1:4; and "abide in Me (Jesus) and
I in you"-Jn 15:4). These are steps, poetic
signifiers to mystical prayer and contemplation.
Are you willing to take them? Heroically keep
trying to be quiet, quieted within to receive
Come to Our Advent
Series-"Preparing for Christmas," led by Fr
Francis Kelly, a Franciscan of the Primitive
Observance. This Sunday night--5pm Mass and
spiritual conference/Holy Hour following...Mon
and Tues: 6.30 Holy hour and 7.30 Mass and
Spiritual Conference following...All are
New Website: is
www.veritaschristi.org. ("Truth of Christ")
led by the Grotto Chaplain and others. The main
topic is "spirituality," with other articles of
interest in apologetics, returning to the
Faith," "Mysticism East and West," Meditations,"
etc. Check it out and gain some spiritual
Read History of the
other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi