Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Power in Unity, Diversity in Rank: Subordination and the Trinity in the Fathers of the Early Church - a valuable paper

Back on January 30, 2020 I reviewed a book by the Evangelical scholar, Michael J. Svigel (link). The book was the second contribution of his that I have read; the first being a paper that he delivered back in 2004 at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, with the title: Power in Unity Diversity in Rank - Subordination and the Trinity in the Fathers of the Early Church. [Full paper available in PDF format HERE.]

This paper is one of the better treatments concerning the doctrine of God in the Greek Church Fathers from the late 1st century through the end of the 2nd century.

As the introduction of the paper explicitly points out, Dr. Svigel’s analysis/survey is inextricably linked to the Trinitarian controversy concerning the issue of subordination that arose within Evangelicalism with the publication of John Dahms' article, “The Generation of the Son”, back in 1989 [link - see also his subsequent article].

With the above in mind, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of the paper remained quite objection in its analyses—the section on Irenaeus being the most in depth survey. The quotations from the Greek Fathers concerning the doctrine of God that he surveys are exhaustive; I noticed only a few notably exclusions—e.g. citations of Proverbs 8:22 by Justin and Athenagoras with reference to the origin of the Son of God. [See this thread for the citations.]

I was also pleased that Dr. Svigel touches on the issue of the monarchy of God the Father. Note the following selections:

In Ignatius’s thinking the Father is the ultimate authority, the monarchia of the Godhead, and this relationship seems to precede and transcend the limits of the incarnation. (Page 7)

the fact that for Athenagoras (and, in fact, for all of the writers of the second century), the monarchia of the Godhead rests with the Father while the Son and Spirit operate in submission to the Father’s will. (Page 27)

There is an overwhelming tradition of what is today described as ontological equality and functional subordination within the Trinity that emphasizes the monarchia of the Father. While the Son and Spirit are not creatures, the Father is their head, meaning that all activities conform to his will. (Page 38)

In ending, though I personally do not fully agree with all of Dr. Svigel’s assessments, the paper as a whole is a valuable contribution for those folk interested in the teachings of the early Greek Fathers concerning the doctrine of God.

Grace and peace,


Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Last Mass of Padre Pio - The Secret Soul of the Stigmatic Saint: A provocative biography of Francesco Forgione

On January 30th, I received in the mail a book sent to me by my close friend, and brother in Christ, Rory—the same Rory who frequently comments here at AF—much thanks Rory!

A couple of days before the reception of the book, Rory had given me a 'heads-up' that he was sending the tome to me. Prior to my reading of the book, I knew virtually nothing about Padre Pio, apart from the claims that he was a stigmatist and miracle worker (I did not even know that he had been canonized by John Paul II).

I finished the contribution yesterday, reading portions of the book everyday since last Saturday, whilst supplementing those readings with a good deal of online research to provide greater depth to what I was learning.

The book was originally written in Italian by two Italian authors—Alessandro Gnocchi and Mario Palmaro—and translated into English by Marianna Gattozzi. It is divided into two main parts: “Part One – Toward the Lord" (4 chapters - pp. 21-104), and “Part Two – The Abuse of the Enemy and the Caress of Grace" (5 chapters - pp. 107-194).

The Prologue – In The Devil’s Territory” (pp. 1-18), sets the tone for “Part One”. Under the sub-heading, “The Mass cannot change”, the following is provided from the lips of Padre Pio: “My mission…will end when on Earth the Mass will no longer be celebrated…The World could even exist without sunlight, but not without the Holy Mass” (p. 5).

On page 7, our authors quote the following from the 19th century liturgical scholar, Dom Prosper Gueranger:

From the terminology used by the Church we understand how much the Holy Mass surpasses personal devotions. Therefore, the Mass must be kept first among all of them, and its intentions must be respected. This is how the Church makes all its members partakers of this great sacrifice; therefore, should the Sacred Sacrifice of the Mass cease, it will not be long before we will fall back into the abyss of depravity where the pagans once were, and this would be the work of the Antichrist. He will all means he can to impede the celebration of the Holy Mass, so that this great counterbalance might be abolished, and thus God will put an end to all things, having no more reason to keep them in existence.

They then write:

During the last years of his life, Padre Pio was weighed down by the realization that the words of Dom Gueranger were becoming more and more manifest in the world. (Ibid.)


If many of Padre’s spiritual sons, because of their fidelity to the Mass of all time, had been rejected by the majority of the churchmen of the 1960’s who had taken the new path, it is easy to suppose the the first stigmatic priest in history would of foreseen the crisis and would suffer the consequence. It was a dramatic event never seen before because, for the first time, the Mystical Body of Christ was lacerated through the attempt to revolutionize the sacrifice offered at the alter. (Page 13)

Immediately following the above assessment, the authors take us way back to the 2nd century—specifically, to St. Irenaeus—and relate the following:

The words of S. Irenaeus of Lyon, in his treatise Against the Heresies, are hard to forget, even by those in more remote areas, focused on the timelessness of the Mass. The importance of the words lies in their connection with the work of Padre Pio. Such a link reveals itself in all its disquieting evidence. "For this reason," explains St. Irenaeus, talking about the coming of the Antichrist,

Daniel says: "The sanctuary will be desolate: sin has been offered instead of sacrifice, and justice has been thrown to the ground. He did it and he was successful."

St. Irenaeus also writes:

The angel Gabriel [...] then, in order to indicate the length of the tyranny, during which the saints who offer to God a pure sacrifice will be put to flight, declares: "And in the middle of the week the sacrifice and the libation will be suppressed and in the temple the abomination of desolation will take place, and until the end of time the desolation will be accomplished." [...] the things [...] that Daniel prophesied regarding the end of times have been proved by The Lord, when He says: "When you will see the abomination of desolation prophesied by Daniel."

The abomination of desolation prophesied by Daniel, confirmed by Our Lord, and recalled by St. Irenaeus, is, undoubtedly, a world without the Mass. (Page 14)

The authors' provocative interpretation of Daniel's prophecy seems foundational to their understanding of Padre Pio's unique role in the unfolding of the end times. Attention is drawn to the length that Pardre Pio had the stigmata—exactly 50 years to the day—with the stigmata vanishing just prior to his final mass.

Padre Pio's intense devotion to the sacrifice of the Mass via the Traditional Roman Rite Liturgy is detailed in "Part One" of their book, as well as their belief that the Novus Ordo mass is a grave corruption.

The following selection is the authors’ detailed description of the consequences that have followed the institutionalization the Novus Ordo mass:

The results became evident in the decades that followed. We saw emptied convents and monasteries, decimated vocations, and infatuation for the world and its sweetly anti-Christ sirens, a feverish spirit of continuous reforms with inevitable loss of any sense of hierarchy and obedience, parish priests rebelling against their pastors, pastors revolting against their bishops, bishops dissenting with the pope, sacraments considered a minor bureaucracy to be avoided, deserted confessionals, the practice of prayer annihilated, liturgical creativity to the point of parody, a fading faith in the Rea Presence, empty tabernacles and tabernacles removed from the altars, the Blessed Sacrament hidden in the sacristies, altars reduced to workplace cafeteria tables, relics and sacred books sold in flea markets...All of them are bad fruits of the abandonment of the Mass of all time and of the good doctrine which, naturally and supernaturally, goes along with it. (Page 67)

"Part Two" relates of number supernatural events throughout the life of Padre Pio. Chapter 1, "The Devil Exists, I Met Him", deals with Padre Pio's lifelong battles against Satan and his demonic hosts. It also includes three important visions that he had received in 1903 (pp. 120-124). Chapter 2, deals with Padre Pio's interactions with souls in Purgatory. Chapter 3 with the confessional and the conversion of some skeptics.

Chapter 4, "The Little Flowers of San Giovannia Rototndo", is my personal favorite of the book. It is a concise history of Padre Pio's life, with additional supernatural, historical events related. The chapter begins with the following:

Bilocaton, scents and extraordinary aromas, the ability to “see" the thoughts of people, knowledge of diverse languages without having ever studied them, descents into Hell, visits to Purgatory, healings, prophecies, and conversions: Padre Pio’s case is one of a kind, the case of a man who had experienced an unusual abundance of phenomena definitely inexplicable, at least according to the categories of science and the physical world. (Page 161)

So much more could be included in this 'review' of mine; but I shall end here, hoping that what I have written will encourage many to obtain, and read, this fascinating contribution.

Grace and peace,