Skip to comments.Some Megachurches Closing for Christmas
Posted on 12/06/2005 3:32:33 PM PST by franky
This Christmas, no prayers will be said in several megachurches around the country. Even though the holiday falls this year on a Sunday, when churches normally host thousands for worship, pastors are canceling services, anticipating low attendance on what they call a family day.
Critics within the evangelical community, more accustomed to doing battle with department stores and public schools over keeping religion in Christmas, are stunned by the shutdown.
It is almost unheard of for a Christian church to cancel services on a Sunday, and opponents of the closures are accusing these congregations of bowing to secular culture.
"This is a consumer mentality at work: `Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient,'" said David Wells, professor of history and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Hamilton, Mass. "I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing." The churches closing on Christmas plan multiple services in the days leading up to the holiday, including on Christmas Eve. Most normally do not hold Christmas Day services, preferring instead to mark the holiday in the days and night before. However, Sunday worship has been a Christian practice since ancient times.
Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., said church leaders decided that organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994, and only a small number of people showed up to pray, she said.
"If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" she said. Among the other megachurches closing on Christmas Day are Southland Christian Church in Nicholasville, Ky., near Lexington, and Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, outside of Dallas. North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., outside of Atlanta, said on its Web site that no services will be held on Christmas Day or New Year's Day, which also falls on a Sunday. A spokesman for North Point did not respond to requests for comment.
The closures stand in stark contrast to Roman Catholic parishes, which will see some of their largest crowds of the year on Christmas, and mainline Protestant congregations such as the Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran churches, where Sunday services are rarely if ever canceled.
Cindy Willison, a spokeswoman for the evangelical Southland Christian Church, said at least 500 volunteers are needed, along with staff, to run Sunday services for the estimated 8,000 people who usually attend. She said many of the volunteers appreciate the chance to spend Christmas with their families instead of working, although she said a few church members complained.
"If we weren't having services at all, I would probably tend to feel that we were too accommodating to the secular viewpoint, but we're having multiple services on Saturday and an additional service Friday night," Willison said. "We believe that you worship every day of the week, not just on a weekend, and you don't have to be in a church building to worship."
Troy Page, a spokesman for Fellowship Church, said the congregation was hardly shirking its religious obligations. Fellowship will hold 21 services in four locations in the days leading up to the holiday. Last year, more than 30,000 worshippers participated. "Doing them early allows you to reach people who may be leaving town Friday," Page said.
These megachurches are not alone in adjusting Sunday worship to accommodate families on Christmas. But most other congregations are scaling back services instead of closing their doors.
First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., led by the Rev. Bobby Welch, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, will hold one service instead of the usual two. New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., led by the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, will hold one Sunday service instead of the typical three.
Nope. Don't matter.
We know that it would look like bread and wine under the tests.
But its real substance is the Body and Blood.
Every now and then, though, something like this happens:
The miracle occurred on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1331, at the first Mass of the day, which was offered by Hugues de la Baume, the vicar of Blanot. Because of the solemn occasion, two men of the parish named Thomas Caillot and Guyot Besson were also serving in addition to the altar boys. At Communion time the two men approached the altar railing, took their places at each end and turned the long cloth over the railing. The parishioners took their places, held their hands under the cloth and waited for the approach of the priest.
One of the last to receive was a woman named Jacquette, described as being the widow of Regnaut d'Effour. The priest placed the Host on her tongue, turned, and started walking toward the altar. It was then that both men and a few of the communicants saw the Host fall from the woman's mouth and land upon the cloth that covered her hands. As the priest was then placing the ciborium inside the tabernacle, Thomas Caillot approached the altar and informed him of the accident. The priest immediately left the altar and approached the railing; but instead of finding the Host, he saw a spot of blood the same size as the Host, which had apparently dissolved into blood.
When the Mass was completed, the priest took the cloth into the sacristy and placed the stained area in a basin filled with clear water. After washing the spot and scrubbing it with his fingers numerous times he found that, far from becoming smaller and lighter, it had actually become larger and much darker. On removing the cloth from the basin he was surprised to find that the water had turned bloody. The priest and his assistants were not only astonished, but also frightened, and exclaimed, "This is the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ!" The priest then took a knife and, after washing it, cut from the cloth the piece bearing the bloody imprint of the Host. This square piece of cloth was reverently placed in the tabernacle.
In 1263 a German priest, Peter of Prague, stopped at Bolsena while on a pilgrimage to Rome. He is described as being a pious priest, but one who found it difficult to believe that Christ was actually present in the consecrated Host. While celebrating Holy Mass above the tomb of St. Christina (located in the church named for this martyr), he had barely spoken the words of Consecration when blood started to seep from the consecrated Host and trickle over his hands onto the altar and the corporal.
The priest was immediately confused. At first he attempted to hide the blood, but then he interrupted the Mass and asked to be taken to the neighboring city of Orvieto, the city where Pope Ur ban IV was then residing.
The Pope listened to the priest's account and absolved him. He then sent emissaries for an immediate investigation. When all the facts were ascertained, he ordered the Bishop of the diocese to bring to Orvieto the Host and the linen cloth bearing the stains of blood. With archbishops, cardinals and other Church dignitaries in attendance, the Pope met the procession and, amid great pomp, had the relics placed in the cathedral. The linen corporal bearing the spots of blood is still reverently enshrined and exhibited in the Cathedral of Orvieto.
Dr. Edoardo Linoli says he held real cardiac tissue in his hands, when some years ago he analyzed the relics of the Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano, Italy.
The phenomenon dates back to the eighth century. A Basilian monk, who had doubts about the real presence of Christ in the sacred species, was offering Mass, in a church dedicated to St. Legontian in the town of Lanciano.
When he pronounced the words of the consecration, the host was miraculously changed into physical flesh and the wine into physical blood.
Later the blood coagulated and the flesh remained the same. These relics were kept in the cathedral.
Linoli, a professor of anatomy and pathological histology, and of chemistry and clinical microscopy, and former head of the Laboratory of Pathological Anatomy at the Hospital of Arezzo, is the only doctor who has analyzed the relics of the miracle of Lanciano. His findings have stirred interest in the scientific world.
At the initiative of Archbishop Pacifico Perantoni of Lanciano, and of the provincial minister of the Franciscan Conventuals of Abruzzo, and with authorization from Rome, in November 1970 the Franciscans of Lanciano decided to have the relics examined scientifically.
Linoli was entrusted with the study. He was assisted by Dr. Ruggero Bertelli, retired professor of human anatomy at the University of Siena.
Linoli extracted parts of the relics with great care and then analyzed the remains of "miraculous flesh and blood." He presented his findings on March 4, 1971.
His study confirmed that the flesh and blood were of human origin. The flesh was unequivocally cardiac tissue, and the blood was of type AB.
So it was that on August 14, 1730, during devotions for the vigil of the feast, while most of the Sienese population and the clergy of the city were attending these services, thieves entered the deserted Church of St. Francis. Taking advantage of the friars' absence, they made for the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was kept, picked the lock to the tabernacle and carried away the golden ciborium containing consecrated Hosts.
The theft went undiscovered until the next morning, when the priest opened the tabernacle at the Communion of the Mass. Then later, when a parishioner found the lid of the ciborium lying in the street, the suspicion of sacrilege was confirmed. The anguish of the parishioners forced the cancellation of the traditional festivities for the feast of Our Lady's Assumption. The Archbishop ordered public prayers of reparation, while the civil authorities began a search for the consecrated Hosts and for the scoundrel who had taken them.
Two days later, on August 17, while praying in the Church of St. Mary of Provenzano, a priest's attention was directed to something white protruding from the offering box attached to his prie dieu. Realizing that it was a Host, he informed the other priests of the church, who in turn notified the Archbishop and the friars of the Church of St. Francis.
When the offering box was opened, in the presence of local priests and the representative of the Archbishop, a large number of Hosts were found, some of them suspended by cobwebs. The Hosts were compared with some unconsecrated ones used in the Church of St. Francis, and proved to be exactly the same size and to have the same mark of the irons upon which they were baked. The number of Hosts corresponded exactly to the number the Franciscan friars had estimated were in the ciborium -- 348 whole Hosts and six halves.
Since the offering box was opened but once a year, the Hosts were covered with the dust and debris that had collected there. After being carefully cleaned by the priests, they were enclosed in a ciborium and placed inside the tabernacle of the main altar of the Church of St. Mary. The following day, in the company of a great gathering of townspeople, Archbishop Alessandro Zondadari carried the Sacred Hosts in solemn procession back to the Church of St. Francis.
During the two centuries that followed it has sometimes been wondered why the Hosts were not consumed by a priest during Mass, which would have been the ordinary procedure in such a case. While there is no definite answer, there are two theories. One explanation is that crowds of people from both Sienna and neighboring cities gathered in the church to offer prayers of reparation before the sacred particles, forcing the priests to conserve them for a time. The other reason the priests did not consume them might well have been because of their soiled condition. While the Hosts were superficially cleaned after their discovery, they still retained a great deal of dirt. In such cases it is not necessary to consume consecrated Hosts, but it is permitted to allow them to deteriorate naturally, at which time Christ would no longer be present.
To the amazement of the clergy, the Hosts did not deteriorate, but remained fresh and even retained a pleasant scent. With the passage of time the Conventual Franciscans became convinced that they were witnessing a continuing miracle of preservation.
Fifty years after the recovery of the stolen Hosts, an official investigation was conducted into the authenticity of the miracle. The Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Father Carlo Vipera, examined the Hosts on April 14, 1780, and upon tasting one of them he found it fresh and incorrupt. Since a number of the Hosts had been distributed during the preceding years, the Minister General ordered that the remaining 230 particles be placed in a new ciborium and forbade further distribution.
A more detailed investigation took place in 1789 by Archbishop Tiberio Borghese of Sienna with a number of theologians and other dignitaries. After examining the Hosts under a microscope, the commission declared that they were perfectly intact and showed no sign of deterioration. The three Franciscans who had been present at the previous investigation, that of 1780, were questioned under oath by the Archbishop. It was then reaffirmed that the Hosts under examination were the same ones stolen in 1730.
As a test to further confirm the authenticity of the miracle, the Archbishop, during this 1789 examination, ordered several unconsecrated hosts to be placed in a sealed box and kept under lock in the chancery office. Ten years later these were examined and found to be not only disfigured, but also withered. In 1850, 61 years after they were placed in a sealed box, these unconsecrated hosts were found reduced to particles of a dark yellow color, while the consecrated Hosts retained their original freshness.
These things still happen. I know a priest who had something like this happen to him, too, although the local bishop didn't want to make much of it either.
In a day where people are uncomfortable that supernatural things can happen, there is a lot of disbelief, but that's like how Thomas Hardy chose to refuse to believe in God even
though he wrote about how he longed for God to give him a sign that he existed. The signs are there. People may choose to think they're hokey,and that's ok for them, I guess, but some of us are happy to say, "Thank you, Jesus" for what he has shown us.
You've been given links to material explaining transubstantiation. You've been given simple explanation of sccidents and substance. This is surely not the first time for either of these.
Now, you can either read the material and pose a reasonable question, or you can continue to feign ignorance.
Perhaps you have some scientific evidence that the elements have literally changed?
Please study the subject of accidents and substance, then explain why this question is postulated on an erroneous inderstanding. Then we can begin discussing the topic.
You don't understand transubstantiation. Go read the article I provided you. It answers your question.
Consider also, a significant part of Jesus' ministry was dedicated to teaching His followers through parables. When a parable was told, He used the phrase, "like unto". The equivalent here would be Jesus saying, "the bread of life IS LIKE UNTO..." He didn't, though. He stated clearly, "the bread that I will give IS my flesh..." He did NOT state, "the bread I will give is LIKE UNTO my flesh"...
Also, get a load of this:
The Pharisees have approached Jesus and asked Him why His apostles are neglecting the tradition of washing their hands before eating.
Jesus says to them, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man: but what cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."
Okay. So here come the Apostles, and they know what He just said is going to stir up trouble with the Pharisees.
"12 Then came his disciples, and said to him: Dost thou know that the Pharisees, when they heard this word, were scandalized? 13 But he answering them, said: Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. 14 Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit."
Now here's the important part: Who approaches Jesus at this point, and what does he say?
The answer is "PETER". And what does Peter say?
"15 And Peter answering, said to him: Expound to us this PARABLE." Peter in Matthew 15, is saying to Jesus, "okay, now tell us what you mean by what you're saying".
What is Jesus' response?
"16 But he said: Are you also yet without understanding? 17 Do you not understand, that whatsoever entereth into the mouth, goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the privy? 18 But the things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and those things defile a man. 19 For from the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. 20 These are the things that defile a man. But to eat with unwashed hands doth not defile a man."
Jesus has rebuked Peter's notion that He was speaking symbolically about what goes in and what comes out being unholy. He's telling him, "I was speaking plainly to you. Are you telling me you STILL don't understand what I'm saying?"
Fast forward to John 6.
What's happening here? Something controversial is being taught. It's so shocking, in fact, it's scattering the flock. The Jews "murmured" the same way they murmured about the manna in the desert! Manna, a spiritual food with physical appearance! (what does that sound like?)
Jesus says, "51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven." Manna was the bread that came down from heaven, created to be consumed. In the desert, they murmured; here, they murmur again.
Jesus explains, "56 For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. 57 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. "
No ambiguity here. "This is what you MUST do". For something that bears the weight of life and death of the soul, it's a little ridiculous to think He'd be playing 20 questions about "what He really means".
What's the response here?
"61 Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it?
Jesus responds to their disbelief:
62 But Jesus, knowing in himself, that his disciples murmured at this, said to them: Doth this scandalize you? 63 If then you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 64 It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing.
Jesus is saying, "if this is how you react to this teaching, how will you react when you see Me coming in my glory when I return?" The SPIRIT (read: FAITH) quickeneth. The flesh can do NOTHING for us. Jesus is telling them they have to take it on FAITH that His teaching is true because the flesh cannot comprehend the miracle of the Eucharist.
Okay, almost everyone splits at that point. Jesus turns to His disciples and says, "Will you also go away?"
Jesus has the same reaction here as He did in His literal teaching above in Matthew: "You, too? You don't understand this teaching, either? Are you going to bolt, as well?"
Guess who speaks up. It's the same guy Jesus rebuked in Matthew for trying to treat His teaching above like it was some parable or a "representation" of something different :
And what does Peter say?
"Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 70 And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God." To believe in the Eucharist is to believe the words of Simon Peter.
This wasn't a parable. It wasn't "symbolism". It was plainly spoken and it was iron-clad. Enough so that his disciples ran away.
And do you know what verse that was?
The only place in the Bible where a "chapter 6, verse 66 occurs" - the rejection of the teaching of the Holy Eucharist.
At this point the "miracles" you reference are anectdotal. If in fact there were a literal physcial presence, then these miracles would be present at every communion. They're not. If they still occur today, then the only way to make a determination that they are the actual blood and flesh of Christ is to do a DNA test everytime the miracle occurred. If the DNA matched in all cases, then I think your case would be much stronger.
Right now, however, since the elements do not change physically, then the evidence suggests that there really is no physical change. It may well change literally on a spiritual level, but on a physical level there really is no scientific evidence that suggests that it really happens.
It is an exercise in Faith and not an exercise in digestion.
Just explain it in your own words. If you have to rely upon an article, then I suspect that you don't really understand it either. You are leaning on the understanding of others.
The term "physical" is a bit of a problem. Modern science usually claims that a "physical change" is one that is physically observable. If that's your definition of "physical change," then we don't claim that transubstantiation is a "physical change".
*However*, there is also nothing physically observable about a Galilean carpenter preaching on a hilltop that would cause you to conclude that he's God the Son incarnate in human flesh, and not just a Galilean carpenter. Yet, when Mary carried him as a baby, she literally, physically, carried her God around in her hands. (That's essentially a quotation from Mr. Luther, if you're interested.)
So -- if you're an orthodox Christian -- you already have to reject the materialist supposition that a physically observable change or quality is the only kind that matters.
All miracles are anecdotal by definition.
She's not the one asking nonsensical questions.
It's very simple. Accidents are how an object appears. Substance is what an object is.
In transubstantiation (literally "a change in substance") the substance changes, but the accidents (or "appearances") do not.
End of lesson.
Because he doesn't need to demonstrate it.
If signs and wonders are demanded, God often says, Tough.
But sometimes he gives them as presents.
Since there is no scientific evidence for any change in actual substance, is there any scriptural support for these so called "accidents" and "appearances" and "transubstantiation"?
No. You don't understand the terms as used. Please read the material already referenced. Campion's post is enlightening as well.
You can't use your senses or scientific instruments to probe and observe "substances." By definition, you can only observe and probe accidents.
You mean when God himself says "my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink ... take, eat, this is my body ... take, drink, this cup is the new covenant in my blood" that's not enough "scriptural support" for you to take him at his word?
Thanks! I TRIED to explain that distinction between accidents/appearances and substance/essence . . . but didn't do very well, apparently.
Then why the emphasis on calling it a "phsycial" presence?
In fact, it is a "mystical presence" even by your own definition. From a mystical or spiritual standpoint it is a "literal presence" but to call it a "physical presence" is to call it something that it is not. From a physical standpoint the substance remains bread and water.
I believe you can make a legitimate argument that from a mystical or spiritual standpoint the mystical substance of the bread is literally change to the literal substance of Christ's body and blood, but to call it a "physical presence" is to deny reality. I will accept that you believe it is literally Christ's body and blood, but I don't believe you can legitimately call it "physically" his body and blood.
But then I suppose such an interpretation might upset the apple cart of long held non-scriptural traditions.
Um... the Last Supper?
"This is My body, given up for you."
This is where you interrupt this solemn moment and interject, "No it's not. It's still just a piece of bread since it doesn't look like a piece of flesh. How can it be your body? Because you just told me it is? When will You stop talking in riddles? And why is your last meal part of Divinely Inspired Sacred Scripture? It's just bread and wine, so what?"
I agree and I responded.
It is "physical" in the sense that it occupies a location in the world. As opposed to a purely spiritual presence. It is "physical" inasmuch as one can see it, feel it, smell it, taste it, etc. The Presence is physical, in this world, tangible. What we mean when we say the Real Presence is that it is truly God and it is truly present right in front of our eyes.
"In transubstantiation (literally "a change in substance") the substance changes, but the accidents (or "appearances") do not."
When the Lord's Supper was instituted Jesus had not been crucified and was still in His natural body. He ate of the same bread and drank of the same cup that the disciples did which he declared to be His body and blood. He then said He would not drink of the cup again until in the Kingdom of God. Why would Jesus eat of His own flesh and drink of His own blood and then state He would not drink of His blood until in the Kingdom unless they were meant to be symbols, memorials? They could not be substance since He had not received His glorified body.