The Apse is the curved wall around the east-most end of our cruciform Cathedral Soul. We go through a door leading into the space between the outer wall and the apse-shaped altar wall. Here are often found small chapels, or shrines dedicated to saints, or niches containing sacred relics. In some cathedrals, pilgrims can visit this area without being seen from the nave.
This picture shows|
the curved apse wall
at the east end of
Clement of Alexandria's word to all pilgrims:
The prayerful grow more and more like the angelic "watchers" and "vigilers" at all hours including in the way they sleep.
Chapels 1 through 7
Behind the apse wall, behind the High Altar area of our Cathedral souls are rightfully found the chapels that celebrate the holy and ancient shepherds of our religion and the formulation of our beloved dogma, our bulwark against the spirit of Antichrist. Like the Christian pilgrims of old we ought to stop in those chapels during our moments of quiet reflection. As we behold the guidance of the Holy Spirit through those formative and often dangerous years for Christianity, we realize more and more that beauty and truth are inseparable: that holy mystery and our very being are intertwined in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Author's note: While much of the narratives concerning the work of the Seven Ecumenical Councils were found at the excellent St Michael's Depot website, and the author recognizes the contributions of some of the ancient Patriarchs of Rome, he is inclined from his teaching of Christian history over the years to agree more with the Eastern Orthodox viewpoint, that the Councils were a collegium of bishops with the Pope (generally represented by his legate) as first among equals. -- Glen Davis)
1. Council of Nicaea (325). Council of Nicaea lasted two months and twelve days. Three hundred and eighteen bishops were present. Hosius, Bishop of Cordova, assisted as legate of Pope Sylvester. The Emperor Constantine was also present. To this council we owe The Creed Of Nicaea, defining against Arius the true Divinity of the Son of God, and the fixing of the date for keeping Easter.
This affirmation of Christ by this council as the Second Person in the Holy Godhead was, and is, vital to our faith in His salvific life, death, and resurrection for us sinners. God, and God alone, could have saved us from our wretched and utter fall from grace. Therefore the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. (see John, chapter 1)
The seven Ecumenical
Councils of the church
all took place in Asia Minor.
Here, my soul, consider that Jesus your Lord and Savior is truly God the Son and coequal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. We have in Christ the Bridge between time and eternity, sin and salvation, man and God! You will remember always that those whom the devil has influenced, particularly the cults, are most anxious to deny this. But, the wise men were wise because they fell down and worshipped Him. With St. Thomas we declare unto Him, "My Lord and my God!" Amen.
John Kebel wrote movingly:
And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the
heavenly host praising God. St. Luke ii. 13
WHAT sudden blaze of song
Spreads o'er the' expanse of heav'n?
In waves of light it thrills along,
Th' angelic signal given---
"Glory to God!" from yonder central fire
Flows out the echoing lay beyond the starry quire;
Like circles widening round
Upon a clear blue river,
Orb after orb, the wondrous sound
Is echoed on for ever:
"Glory to God on high, on earth be peace,
And love towards men of love (Note 1) ---salvation and release.
Yet stay, before thou dare
To join that festal throng;
Listen and mark what gentle air
First stirr'd the tide of song;
'Tis not, "the Saviour born in David's home,
To Whom for power and health obedient worlds
'Tis not, "the Christ the Lord:"--
With fix'd adoring look
The choir of Angels caught the word,
Nor yet their silence broke:
But when they heard the sign, where Christ should be,
In sudden light they shone and heavenly harmony.
Wrapp'd in His swaddling bands,
And in His manger laid,
The Hope and Glory of all lands
Is come to the world's aid:
No peaceful home upon His cradle smil'd,
Guests rudely went and came, where slept the royal Child.
But where Thou dewellest, lord,
No other thought should be,
Once duly welcom'd and ador'd,
How should I part with Thee?
Bethlehem must lose Thee soon, but Thou wilt grace
The single heart to be Thy sure abiding-place.
Thee, on the bosom laid
Of a pure virgin mind,
In quiet ever, and in shade,
Shepherd and sage may find;
They, who have bow'd untaught to Nature's sway,
And they, who follow Truth along her star-pav'd way.
The pastoral spirits first
Approach Thee, Babe divine,
For they in lowly thoughts are nurs'd,
Meet for Thy lowly shrine:
Sooner than they should miss where Thou dost dwell,
Angels from heaven will stoop to guide them to Thy cell.
Still, as the day comes round
For Thee to be reveal'd,
By wakeful shepherds Thou art found,
Abiding in the field.
All through the wintry heaven and chill night air,
In music and in light Thou dawnest on their prayer.
O faint not ye for fear--
What though your wandering sheep,
Reckless of what they see and hear,
Lie lost in willful sleep?
High Heaven in mercy to your sad annoy
Still greets you with glad tidings of immortal joy.
Think on th' eternal home,
The Saviour left for you;
Think on the Lord most holy, come
To dwell with hearts untrue:
So shall ye tread untir'd His pastoral ways,
And in the darkness sing your carol of high praise.
2. First Council of Constantinople (381). Under Pope Damasus and the Emperor Theodosius I, was attended by 150 bishops. It was directed against the followers of Macedonius, who impugned the Divinity of the Holy Ghost. To the above-mentioned Nicene creed it added the clauses referring to the Holy Ghost and all that follows to the end.
The assembled bishops stood firmly against those false teachers who held that the Holy Ghost was less than God. That God the Holy Spirit was sent down upon the Church at Pentecost and shall continue with us until the end of history is evidenced to this day by the survival of Christ's Church throughout nearly 2,000 years. It is therefore God who calls His Elect unto Himself and causes us to persevere until the end by the power of the Holy Spirit. God alone could do this.
My soul consider, He that dwells within your Cathedral is God the Holy Spirit. It was this same Holy Spirit who hovered over the void and called forth life and with the Father and the Son He is forever and ever worshipped and adored. Ananias and Sapphira withheld from the Lord and lied about it: how fearful was their fate for the apostles said unto them that when they lied to the Holy Spirit they lied to God Himself. Oh Spirit of Truth, inspirer of all Scripture who spake by the prophets. Guide and direct Christ's people, especially their bishop, in Thine infallible ways. Amen.
The following was preached by me on Sunday, August 31, 1986 at both the Greensboro Baptist and Presbyterian Churches.
Here's an old riddle. What has eyes and cannot see, ears and cannot hear yet can jump as high as the Empire State Building?
Why a wooden horse! It has eyes but cannot see, ears yet cannot hear.
But you ask, "Wait a minute, you said it could jump as high as the Empire State Building, what wooden horse can do that?"
Well, dear friends, just how high can the Empire State Building jump? And yes, that was a terrible excuse for a joke. It was, nevertheless, a riddle. Like most riddles it involved a puzzle and not just a little trickery; some mental sleight of hand.
I fear that to modern day Christians another thing that ought not be a riddle is, nevertheless, a puzzle. Modern day Christians treat the Holy Spirit as a riddle. But it is not a riddle, what it is a Divine Mystery. Not a puzzle but a glorious Mystery which we ought to hold in reverence and awe. Not something to be figured out but Someone to believe in.
Why do I believe in the Holy Spirit? I believe in the Holy Spirit because I believe in God, and the Holy Spirit is part of God. Maybe I should have entitled this sermon, "What the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit" for if you, like me, truly believe this Book to be the Inspired, Infallible Word of God, then we need to realize how plainly, how forcefully it speaks to this matter of the Holy Spirit being part of God.
First of all, the Holy Spirit is a Person or Personality of the one true God! God, unlike any of His myriads of visible and invisible creatures has three Personalities, His creatures have but one each. His three Personalities are in such close, holy union, they are actually One. This is why we read that "God is love". Love is never solitary. All true love must have an object of love and a product or outcome of that love. One cannot be in love alone and the outcome of true love is a relationship, be it friendship or matrimony. The Bible says God the Father has loved the Son and that the Son loved the Father from Eternity. This Eternal Loving produces an eternal relationship of Loving called God, the Holy Spirit. This Love is so Infinite, so Eternal, so Holy that it's relationship, its eternal product, is God the Holy Spirit who is equally God with the Father and the Son.
Mortals and immortals have a relationship of love, but in this "God-love", the relationship itself is God. When Jesus says, "I will ask the Father and He will send another Comforter", He is referring to the Divine Love of All Eternity, the Holy Spirit. Charles Wesley penned these wonderful words concerning Him: "Love Divine, all loves excelling, Joy of heaven to earth come down . . ." This Love Divine is the Holy Spirit.
Some say He's an "it", just a force, something rather like electricity, but, in the Holy Spirit's case, a supernatural electricity. Of course, it is proper to refer to electricity as a force, but never would we suppose that electricity has a mind. Never would we speak of the will of electricity; this would be nonsense. Nor has it ever been supposed that electricity has foreknowledge of history's outcome. Electricity is only a force, and thus it hasn't the ability of love. It may be able to power a machine but it cannot communicate.
The Bible says that the Holy Spirit does all of the above. The Bible, without reservation or qualification, refers to the mind of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:27) for "we do not know how to pray worthily as sons of God, but his Spirit within us knows how to and is actually praying for us in those agonizing longings which never find words." He has a will (I Cor. 12:11). "Behind all these gifts is the operation of the same Spirit, who distributes to each individual man, as he, the Spirit, wills to distribute." He has foreknowledge (John 16:13). "Yet when that one I have spoken to you about comes -- the Spirit of Truth ... he will inform you about what is to come." He loves (Rom.. 15:30). "I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle, by praying to God for me."
Just as I've said I, believe in the Holy Spirit because He is a Personality of God. I can now say, I believe in the Holy Spirit because with the Father and the Son he is the One God! Psalms 139:7 asks, "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?" I learn from such a question what my life in Christ has, all along, tried to tell me: the Holy Spirit of God is everywhere and He cannot be outrun for He is where I am and wherever I am going. He is also along the way to where I'm going. Only God is everywhere.
I read Jesus' blessed promise, "I will ask the Father and he shall send you another Comforter". Only God is eternal Comfort, eternal Peace, eternal Benediction. When the Holy Spirit comes He brings God's goodness for He is God and so He brings God! Like little Billy when his mom asked him what he had learned in Sunday School, wide-eyed he said: "I learned how Jesus is sending us a nice blanket from heaven." "What?", asked his amazed mother. "Miss Jones would never tell you that!" "Oh, but mommy, she did. She said God would send us another Comforter." And I am not about to belittle Billy's wonderful faith: He is another Comforter bringing Christians supernatural warmth and security, holy comfort beyond all expectation. Jesus calls Him not just the Comforter but another Comforter.
Another Comforter. One in Godhood like unto Himself who would be with all of us all the time whilst Jesus returned to the Father to intercede personally for us. Another Comforter, for all our strife he brings us love, for all our discouragement He brings us joy, for all our mortal bickering and warfare He brings us peace, for all our worry he brings us prayer, and for all our agitation He brings us a gentleness that is not native to the human condition.
The Bible clearly says that we're His Temple to hold His love, His joy, his peace, His prayerfulness, His gentleness. We're His Temple to hold His Spirit. That's why we were constructed by the Great Architect. Now, at best, we know we're leaky vessels in this life; that is, we're imperfect. But Christ commands these Temples that we are to be filled with the Spirit. Be continuously filled; it is not a one shot deal. How could it be when we are finite while God's Spirit is infinite? Surely we aren't surprised that His Spirit must fill us daily, hourly, moment by moment, second by second. Little wonder St. Paul tells us to, "pray without ceasing". Can anything so small as our poor mortal heart be filled with the Love of God? Shouldn't we be on our knees far more than we are?
To the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus described the Holy Spirit as Living Water from which we never thirst again. This Living Water, He promises us, shall spring up in us over and over and over; again and again. There is then this Glorious Fountain of God's Holy Love available to us because of Christ's glorious salvation. His Spirit eternally springs forth from the Eternal Love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father. We are His Temples down here. His Spirit falls down here. Like empty cups let us be held up toward Heaven's Love and be filled constantly with God the Holy Spirit. Amen.
3. At the Council of Ephesus (431), more than 200 bishops, presided over by St. Cyril of Alexandria representing Pope Celestine l, defined the true personal unity of Christ, declared Mary the Mother of God against Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, and renewed the condemnation of Pelagius.
The fathers of our faith stood boldly for the Faith once delivered. They declared that the Godhood and Manhood of Christ is a true and personal unity within the Man, Christ Jesus. The orthodox title, theotokos, or God-bearer, was given to the mother of Jesus because that same unity of God and Man dwelt within her virginal womb for nine months.
With St. Elizabeth of old we greet the Mother of our Lord and rejoice that her virgin's womb was the new Eden wherein God the Son took upon Himself our Humanity that He might save us forever. We love and adore You God, that in the fullness of time the New Eve obeyed the holy angel and stood faithfully beneath the tree of the Cross. Amen.
4. At the Council of Chalcedon (451), 150 bishops under Pope Leo the Great and the Emperor Marcian defined the nature of the unity of the Godhood and the Manhood within Jesus of Nazareth against Eutyches, who was excommunicated. The Chalcedonian definition spoke of these two natures within Christ as perfect unity with but one will, the will of God. Many devout scholars have written concerning this wonderful mystery, but all of them, along with the humblest follower of Christ, will, at the end fall down in adoration of Him who is the God-Man. For where our human intellect fails us, our cathedral souls bow down in adoration of their God.
All glory, laud, and honor, to Jesus Christ our King. He who defeated death as God, also wept at the graveside of Lazarus as Man. He who called forth the mighty oceans of the globe as God, also asked the woman at the well for a drink as Man. He who is adored by the flights of angels as God, was mocked and scorned by sinful man, as Man. Oh Jesus Christ, I adore Thee! Amen.
5. At the Second Council of Constantinople (553), 165 bishops under Pope Vigilius and Emperor Justinian I, condemned the errors of Origen and certain writings of Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia, and of Ibas, Bishop of Edessa; it further confirmed the first four general councils, especially that of Chalcedon whose authority was contested by some heretics.
With the holy men and women of old we rejoice in the two natures within our Savior. Upon the cross He was both the Chief Priest and the Holy Sacrifice. Assuming our Humanity, God hath ascended to the right Hand of the Father's glory and there in His unfallen righteousness, the Father sees us. Christ has justified us from all sin and hell: Alleluia!
6. Third Council of Constantinople (680-681). Under Pope Agatho and the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus, was attended by the Patriarchs of Constantinople and of Antioch, 174 bishops, and the emperor. It put an end to Monothelism by defining two wills in Christ, the Divine and the human, as two distinct principles of operation. It anathematized Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, Macarius, and all their followers.
Our Lord Jesus Christ had but one will, that will to do whatsoever the Heavenly Father asked of Him from all eternity. We worship and adore Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit. At Gethsemane, He sweated blood for love of Love, to do that one will which was God's, to redeem the fallen universe.
7. At the Second Council of Nicaea (787), convoked by Emperor Constantine VI and his mother Irene, under Pope Adrian I, and presided over by the legates of Pope Adrian; the veneration of holy images was regulated. Between 300 and 367 bishops participated.
The writing of Ikons is honored by the church because it proclaims the reality of God's incarnation, that God has humbled Himself into the human form for our sakes. He who turned the water into wine now also turns the wine and the wheat into His own body and blood ... and His own body and blood into the communion wine and wheat. Alleluia!
As Anglican Christians we enjoy the fullest range of Christian devotion. We are not tied down to the highly restricted forms of Protestant spirituality nor are we tied to the often excessive and, at times, nearly idolatrous spiritualities in much of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. This, I think, is a gift to us this side of Heaven's gates for we are free to adore our God with all of the holy wealth of prayer-life from the 2,000 years of our Christian religion. But in the use of prayers and litanies, of icons and rosaries, of all the beauteous instruments of the Devotionals, we must pray "lawfully", that is, in the spirit of the Holy Scriptures. Prayer itself is reserved to God alone and may be addressed to God in His unity or to any of the Three Holy Persons of the Divine Trinity. We may lawfully pray for anything pertaining to heaven or earth through the Mediator of all prayers, Jesus Christ alone. No saint, no angel, not even the Blessed Virgin may be approached as a "co-mediator" for they are creatures and there is an infinite gulf of being between them and God, the Creator. They are, along with all true Christian people living and dead, intercessors (or pray-ers) and they pray for us just as surely as we Christians pray for one another here on earth. The nature of their praying is a mystery as is the invisible operation of holy angels on behalf of Christ's church here on earth. Never ought they be addressed with requests for other than their prayers for us. We do not ask St. Mary for a healing, for example, but we may ask her or others of our Christian compatriots to pray for our healing. It is good to have the prayers of the church (here below and above) behind our living and our dying. Statues, icons, crosses, are not to be directly addressed for they only represent an invisible and holy reality behind them. We may look upon them and study the spiritual theology behind their beauty but we must guard to keep in mind that our recited prayers are directed to God alone and our invocations before these pictures, etc., must never ever cross that very fine line that leads good souls to a ruinous idolatry. We must always guard the wording of many prayers that come to us from the Roman or Eastern Orthodox world, often it will be appropriate to redirect much of what is said to God! Center your life upon Jesus Christ and all that is painted or sculpted or written will center upon Him. Invocations are very scriptural, especially invoking the angels to help one glorify the Lord. This same lawful spirit is extended to the blessed in paradise and the heavenly regions including the faithful departed and those commonly called the saints. Our fellowship, our communion with the saints and angels and blessed departed can only enrich our prayer life if we invoke their aid in our worshipping of God and the following of Christ. Such good "prayer" is one of our safeguards from the dangers of "spiritualism", seances, and other dark practices. Apparitions may lawfully appear to us of angels, of saints, of the blessed departed with help from Heaven, they have often been missionaries to us in these apostate times. However, they must never be sought after and we must ground ourselves in Christ alone for we are forewarned by St. Paul that the devil can easily masquerade as an angel of light. Being solidly studied in the Holy Scriptures and constantly pleading the blood of Christ upon such things as are supernatural is a sound and healthful practice for the Christian at prayer. Happily, we have this Prayer Book proven to be sound and good over the centuries, its prayers are framed by godly souls, many of them martyrs for the holy Faith. The written prayer of the saintly is our safeguard against vain praying or self-centered worshipping. We would be wise to pattern our extemporaneous praying after the prayers we have inherited, particularly the Lord's Prayer.
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