Commitment, Continuity, and Conversation

The particular spirituality of the Appalachian Riders For Our Lady is based on our three foundational principles of commitment, continuity and conversation in addition to the general Catholic evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability adapted to a lay context. The Riders strive to promote a conversational culture, proclaiming Christ crucified, authentically Christian and Catholic, in the midst of a world largely lacking culture of any sort.  Our vows of commitment, continuity, and conversation do not necessarily mean that we have any natural inclination or talent in these areas. My booklist (each Rider, during their novitiate, settles on at most 24 books of primary importance) is:

  • Bible, unabridged Revised Standard Version
  • The Liturgy of the Hours, unabridged
  • Vergil: The Aeneid; by Sarah Ruden
  • The Confessions; by Saint Augustine
  • Dante’s Divine Comedy; Anthony Esolen
  • Reformations: 1450-1650; Carlos Eire
  • Sixteen Plays;  by William Shakespeare
  • Collected Poems & Prose; Robert Frost
  • The Lyrics 1961-2012; by Bob Dylan
  • Night’s Bright Darkness; Sally Read
  • Complete Short Novels; Anton Chekhov
  • Everyman Chesterton; editor Ian Ker
  • Ancient World History; Susan Bauer
  • Day the Revolution Began; NT Wright
  • Book of Bible Stories; Amy Welborn
  • Veritatis Splendor; Saint John Paul II
  • Genesis commentary; by R. R. Reno
  • Three Encyclicals; Pope Benedict XVI
  • Compendium of the Catholic Catechism

Essential to the culture of the Appalachian Riders For Our Lady is participation in daily Mass at our particular parishes (7am Mass at St Ambrose in Salt Lake City  in my case) and our encouragement of increasing use of the Liturgy of the Hours.

wasatch

Thomas Gwyn and MaryAlice Dunbar

Christian Perspectives

The foundation of everything is Christ Jesus, and him crucified. However, beyond the personal aspects of that, what are the implications for our social relationships?

I want to commend the Catholic perspective to you. Of course, that raises several questions:

  • Is it reasonable to speak of THE Catholic perspective?
  • Is my characterization of this perspective warranted?
  • Can one also speak of THE Protestant perspective, especially given the range of protestant ecclesial bodies?

I propose that the protestant perspective is that the Christian life is best lived and considered from the primary viewpoint of the individual or, at most, the congregation. On the other hand, I commend the Catholic perspective: the Christian life is best lived and considered from the primary viewpoint of the universal Church, the Bride of Christ, extended in spacetime and militantly subsisting in the Catholic Church whose chief steward is the bishop of Rome. Besides addressing those preliminary questions, I intend to commend the Catholic perspective in three aspects:

  • better able to cope with adversity
  • more resources for spiritual formation
  • closer alignment with the scriptural canon

All these points are controversial; however, I intend not to argue for them but rather to chew on them.  The difference between a primarily individual perspective and a primarily ecclesial perspective also has a significant political component since the State desires no competitor to its hegemony (see, for example, Alan Jacobs biography of The Book of Common Prayer which documents how this worked out in England) and hence is inclined to favor an individual perspective which it can divide and conquer.

I’m also assuming that the more alive an entity, the more applicable the principle that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. In addition, whenever possible I’d like to phrase matters sociologically rather than ecclesiologically. A major advantage of a perspective more social than individual is that one can “check one’s answers”– the boredom of, for example, discussion about end-time scenarios or sectarian doctrine being that one can not check one’s theory in one’s day to day life and interactions with others as one can, on the other hand, regarding ethics and how to live in community.

On a personal level, I think the core of the Protestant error centers on the attempt to place faith above love (see Luther’s commentary on Galatians) contra Saint Paul and the Catholic tradition.

The noted Evangelical scholar Mark Noll, in the book ‘Is the Reformation Over’, argues that Catholic and Protestant disagreements really come down to different understandings of the nature of the Church.  I don’t disagree; however, I very much disagree with the view that “well, maybe so but that’s not important to me..it’s my personal relationship with God that is important.”  The nature of the Church is essentially intertwined with the work of the Holy Spirit, as is reflected in both the Nicene and Apostle’s creed.  God is able to sustain what was initially established and it is wrong-headed to try to start over on one’s own.

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Faith and the Future

…the future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith.  It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticize others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves.
To put this more positively: the future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality.  Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial.  By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone, a man’s eyes are slowly opened.  He sees only to  the extent that he has lived and suffered.  If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other.  Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us.  If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are.
From Ratzinger’s 1969 book ‘Faith and the Future’
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Baldwin of Ford, Archbishop of Canterbury

Baldwin of Ford was the 39th archbishop of Canterbury. His birthdate is unknown and he died on November 19th, 1190 AD. He was a Cistercian monk and the abbot of their Abbey at Ford, in Devonshire, before being elected to the see at Canterbury in 1180.

“The Spiritual Tractates were written almost entirely during the decade Baldwin lived at Forde, probably as sermons which were then recast later. They reveal a man thoroughly and happily at home in cistercian spirituality, an acute theologian well aware of contemporary currents, and one of the last true representatives of the rich patristic-monastic tradition.”

In the Liturgy of the Hours, the second reading for November 3rd has this extract from one of his writings:

The word of God is alive and active
The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely. These words tell us how much power and wisdom there is in the word of God for those who seek Christ, who is the word and the power and the wisdom of God. This word, with the Father from the beginning and co-eternal with him, came at its own chosen time, was revealed to them, was proclaimed by them, and was humbly received in faith by its believers. A word, therefore, in the Father; a word in the mouth; and a word in the heart.
  This word of God is alive. The Father gave it life coming from itself just as the Father’s own life comes from himself. The word is not just alive, therefore, it is life, as it said itself: I am the way, the truth, and the life. Since the word is life, the word is alive to give life. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses. He gives life, as when he calls the dead man out of the tomb, saying Lazarus, come forth.
  When this word is preached, the voice of its preaching which is heard outwardly calls forth a voice of power that is heard inwardly, that voice by which the dead are restored to life and their praise raises up sons for Abraham. So this word is alive in the heart of the Father, alive in the mouth of the preacher, and alive in the hearts of those who believe and love. If a word is alive in this way, how can it not also be active?
  The word is active in creating, active in guiding the world, active in redeeming the world. What could be more active? What could be more powerful? Who shall tell of his powerful deeds? Who shall proclaim the praises of the Lord? It is active when it works, it is active when it is preached. For it does not come back empty-handed: wherever it is sent, it prospers.
  It is active and cuts finer than a double-edged sword when it is believed and loved. For what is impossible to the believer? What is hard for the lover? When this word speaks, its words transfix the heart like a flight of sharp arrows, like nails hammered deep into its very essence. This word is sharper than a double-edged sword in that it cuts deeper than any strength or power, it is finer than anything made by human ingenuity, sharper than any human wisdom or learned speech.
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Weinandy’s Letter

July 31, 2017

Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Your Holiness,

I write this letter with love for the Church and sincere respect for your office.  You are the Vicar of Christ on earth, the shepherd of his flock, the successor to St. Peter and so the rock upon which Christ will build his Church.  All Catholics, clergy and laity alike, are to look to you with filial loyalty and obedience grounded in truth.  The Church turns to you in a spirit of faith, with the hope that you will guide her in love.

Yet, Your Holiness, a chronic confusion seems to mark your pontificate.  The light of faith, hope, and love is not absent, but too often it is obscured by the ambiguity of your words and actions.  This fosters within the faithful a growing unease.  It compromises their capacity for love, joy and peace.  Allow me to offer a few brief examples.

First there is the disputed Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.  I need not share my own concerns about its content.  Others, not only theologians, but also cardinals and bishops, have already done that.  The main source of concern is the manner of your teaching.  In Amoris Laetitia, your guidance at times seems intentionally ambiguous, thus inviting both a traditional interpretation of Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce as well as one that might imply a change in that teaching.  As you wisely note, pastors should accompany and encourage persons in irregular marriages; but ambiguity persists about what that “accompaniment” actually means.  To teach with such a seemingly intentional lack of clarity inevitably risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth.  The Holy Spirit is given to the Church, and particularly to yourself, to dispel error, not to foster it.  Moreover, only where there is truth can there be authentic love, for truth is the light that sets women and men free from the blindness of sin, a darkness that kills the life of the soul.  Yet you seem to censor and even mock those who interpret Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia in accord with Church tradition as Pharisaic stone-throwers who embody a merciless rigorism.   This kind of calumny is alien to the nature of the Petrine ministry.  Some of your advisors regrettably seem to engage in similar actions.  Such behavior gives the impression that your views cannot survive theological scrutiny, and so must be sustained by ad hominem arguments.

Second, too often your manner seems to demean the importance of Church doctrine.  Again and again you portray doctrine as dead and bookish, and far from the pastoral concerns of everyday life.  Your critics have been accused, in your own words, of making doctrine an ideology.  But it is precisely Christian doctrine – including the fine distinctions made with regard to central beliefs like the Trinitarian nature of God; the nature and purpose of the Church; the Incarnation; the Redemption; and the sacraments – that frees people from worldly ideologies and assures that they are actually preaching and teaching the authentic, life-giving Gospel.  Those who devalue the doctrines of the Church separate themselves from Jesus, the author of truth.  What they then possess, and can only possess, is an ideology – one that conforms to the world of sin and death.

Third, faithful Catholics can only be disconcerted by your choice of some bishops, men who seem not merely open to those who hold views counter to Christian belief but who support and even defend them.  What scandalizes believers, and even some fellow bishops, is not only your having appointed such men to be shepherds of the Church, but that you also seem silent in the face of their teaching and pastoral practice.  This weakens the zeal of the many women and men who have championed authentic Catholic teaching over long periods of time, often at the risk of their own reputations and well-being.  As a result, many of the faithful, who embody the sensus fidelium, are losing confidence in their supreme shepherd.

Fourth, the Church is one body, the Mystical Body of Christ, and you are commissioned by the Lord himself to promote and strengthen her unity.  But your actions and words too often seem intent on doing the opposite.  Encouraging a form of “synodality” that allows and promotes various doctrinal and moral options within the Church can only lead to more theological and pastoral confusion.  Such synodality is unwise and, in practice, works against collegial unity among bishops.

Holy Father, this brings me to my final concern.  You have often spoken about the need for transparency within the Church.  You have frequently encouraged, particularly during the two past synods, all persons, especially bishops, to speak their mind and not be fearful of what the pope may think.  But have you noticed that the majority of bishops throughout the world are remarkably silent?  Why is this?  Bishops are quick learners, and what many have learned from your pontificate is not that you are open to criticism, but that you resent it.  Many bishops are silent because they desire to be loyal to you, and so they do not express – at least publicly; privately is another matter – the concerns that your pontificate raises.  Many fear that if they speak their mind, they will be marginalized or worse.

I have often asked myself: “Why has Jesus let all of this happen?”   The only answer that comes to mind is that Jesus wants to manifest just how weak is the faith of many within the Church, even among too many of her bishops.  Ironically, your pontificate has given those who hold harmful theological and pastoral views the license and confidence to come into the light and expose their previously hidden darkness.  In recognizing this darkness, the Church will humbly need to renew herself, and so continue to grow in holiness.

Holy Father, I pray for you constantly and will continue to do so.  May the Holy Spirit lead you to the light of truth and the life of love so that you can dispel the darkness that now hides the beauty of Jesus’ Church.

Sincerely in Christ,

Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap.

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On Romans

I’m participating in Bible Study Fellowship’s session on Romans. Their ‘study’ is mostly a presentation of standard reformed protestant understandings and I find to useful to collect a few quotes, in response, from N.T. Wright’s ‘The Day the Revolution Begin”

from beginning of chap 12 of Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began (the first of the 2 chapters on Romans in that book).

The first four chapters of Romans have for many years been read as though they were a statement of our old friend the ‘works contract’.  Humans were supposed to behave themselves, they didn’t. God had to punish them, but Jesus stood in the way, so God forgave them after all (provided they believed in Jesus). Rather than going to hell, they can no go to heaven instead. That, with small variations, is how Romans 1-4 has been read.  It is frequently referred to as the “Romans road.”  When people in churches preach and teach the kind of view that I have been warning against throughout this book, it is to Romans that they go to “prove” what they are saying.
And I am convinced that this is mistaken.  That is why we need, in this chapter and the following one, to look at Romans in much more detail.  At this point  we cannot avoid getting our hands dirty with some detailed reading of the text.  I have suggested in the previous chapters that the four gospels are far more important than has usually been supposed for understanding the early Christian view of what Jesus’s death achieved. But sooner or later we must come back to Romans.  Debates about the meaning of Jesus’s death in the New Testament tend to stand or fall right here.
=======================
The general structure of Wright’s two chapters is:
Chap 12
    a) general intro/outline
            then
    b) chap 5-8 in detail
Chap 13
   a) intro on Passover and Atonement
   b) usual reading of Romans 3 and its problems
   c) redemption re-imagined
=======================
Wright focuses on Rm 1-8 .. not much detail on rest of Romans, for complex reasons (not all of which are due to the focus on “Debates about the meaning of Jesus’s death in the New Testament tend to stand or fall right here.”  More on Romans 9 and following would, I think, require Wright to write more about the nature of ‘The Church” than he thinks appropriate at the present time.)
anyway  at the end of the general intro in Wrights chap 12, there is this brief overall outline of Romans as a whole:
That true worship, contrasting with the failure seen in 1:18-26, is what Paul sees Abraham offering in 4:18-22. The result, for those who share Abraham’s faith, is expressed in cultic terms: “we have been allowed to approach, by faith, into this grace in which we stand; and we celebrate the hope of the glory of god” (5:2) — the “hope of God’s glory” being, in the Jewish world of the time, the hope for the divine Glory to return at last to the Temple. That is part of the meaning of Romans 8, where the indwelling Spirit means that the Messiah’s people not only share his “rule” over the new creation (8:18-25), picking up from 5:17), but also share his priestly intersession for the world (8:26-27, looking forward to 8:34). This then sets Paul up for the prayer theme, which holds together chapters 9-11, starting with lament (9:1-5), continuing with intercession (10:1) and ending in praise (11:33-36). This framework means that Paul is exemplifying and embodying the idea of a renewed priesthood standing between God and his people.  It should be no surprise that chapter 12 begins with an equally “priestly” theme:
“so my dear family, this is my appeal to you by the mercies of God: offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.  Worship like this brings your mind into line with God’s.” (12:1)
Here again the section that is introduced with this “cultic” appeal concludes with a similar call to worship: the point of the whole gospel is to fulfill the promises to the patriarchs and to bring the nations to praise God for his mercy (15:8-9).  Nor should we then be surprised (tho some readers have been) when Paul moves into the concluding section of the letter by describing how he has been called to work “in the priestly service of God’s good news, so that the offering of the nations may be acceptable, sanctified in the holy spirit” (15:16). All of this could be considerably expanded. This summary ma be enough to alert us to the fact that, in Paul’s presentation of salvation, the GOAL is for humans to share the “royal” and “priestly” ministry of the Messiah himself.
If that is the goal, how is that goal attained?  This is the particular puzzle that Romans presents to our present topic.  Granted all this framework, what does Paul say about the way in which the death of Jesus has dealt with this problem (idolatry and sin) about brought about this result?
from chap 13 of Wrights book, on the problems with the ‘Romans road’ reading of Romans 3

this understanding of Rm 3:21-26 leaves vv 27-31 stranded. It appears to change the subject from “how you acquire this ‘righteousness’ ” to “how Jews and Gentiles come together into a single faith family.”  That, indeed is what many writers and preachers have imagined.
So too chapter 4 becomes seriously undervalued.  Many who expound Romans regard Abraham in this chapter merely as an “example” of “someone in scripture who was justified by faith.”  Sometimes the chapter is simply labeled as a “proof from scripture” of the “doctrine” that Paul has supposedly been expounding in chapter 3. But this misses the whole point.
This reading also ignores the plain meaning of 2:17-20.  It flattens out Paul’s careful statement of the vocation of “the Jew” (to be the light of the world) into simply another aspect of the general truth that “all have sinned” This in turn leaves 3:1-9 high and dry, or at least very difficult.  This short passage consists of a rapid fire series of questions and answers that make excellent sense if we read 2:17-29 in the way I am suggesting, but very little sense any other way. Again many commentators and preachers have noticed this; some very careful and “conservative” expositors declare that the passage is too complex and puzzling to be much help. This in turn results in a failure to see what Paul is getting at in 3:21-26.
Finally, the “problem” Paul is addressing is assumed to be simply human wrongdoing (“sin”).  However, in Romans 1:18-32 and in the summary of that passage in 3:23 we find a deeper element as well. “Sin” is rooted in idolatry, the swapping of the divine Glory for images.  Here Paul is exactly on the map of Second Temple Jewish writings. But many today, eager to talk about “sin,” have forgotten that it is the second-order problem. The root cause of the trouble is worship of idols.
These exegetical problems point to the underlying theological difficulties with the usual reading.  This usual reading is all about how we get “right with God” in order to “go to heaven”; but Paul never mentions “going to heaven,” here or elsewhere in Romans, and the idea of being “right with God,” though related to Paul’s theme, is usually taken out of the specific context he intends.  Ironically, the usual reading takes “going to heaven” (or some near equivalent) for granted and then complains if, instead, someone tries to reintroduce into these chapters the themes that Paul demonstrably IS expounding.  It all become so complicated, people grumble — when what they really mean is “I am so used to reading this passage one way that I find it hard to switch and consider other opinions.”
…..
In Israel’s scriptures, to which Paul explicitly appeals in 3:21b (“the law and the prophets bore witness to it”) God’s righteousness is not simply God’s status of being morally upright. It is, more specifically, God’s faithfulness to the covenant — the covenant not only with Abraham and Israel, but through Israel to the wider world.
This idea of God being faithful the covenant clearly seems to be Paul’s meaning here in Romans 3.  Within the larger unit of chapters 1-4 as a whole, 3:21-26 is framed more particularly between the argument that starts at 2:17 and the exposition of Genesis 15 in chapter 4.
Romans 2:17-3:9 is concerned, first, with the worldwide purpose of Israel’s divine vocation (2:17-20), second, with Israel’s covenantal failure (2:21-24; 3:2-4), and third, with the problem that this poses for God’s “dikaiosyne”, his “righteousness (3:5).  How is God to be faithful to the covenant — to rescue and bless the world through the Jews — if Israel is faithless”  Romans 4 is then all about Gods covenant with Abraham, its worldwide purpose, and the way n which, through the gospel, God has now been faithful to that covenant.  These two (Israel’s vocation to rescue the world; God’s covenant promises to Abraham to give him a worldwide family) obviously go together. The divine purpose through Israel for the world is the subject of the passages both before and after 3:21-26.  There is every reason, therefore, for taking “God’s righteousness” in 3:31 in its normal biblical sense of “covenant faithfulness.”  There is every reason too to understand the display of that “righteousness” as connected with God’s somehow rescuing the world from idolatry and sin, through Israel, in order to create a single worldwide family for Abraham. The actual arguments Paul advances on either side of our passage, in other words, strongly support a reading of dikaiosyne theos and cognate ideas in 3:21=26 ad “covenant faithfulness.”  This fits with what we have just seen about the passage itself, which ends with an emphatic reference to God himself being “righteous,” rather than to “God’s righteousness” as a moral status or quality that God credits to others.
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Evangelical Fundamentals 2

Back on July 2, 2008 I wrote:

Jim Packer recently commented: It is important to know who our friends are. Anglo-Catholics generally believe in Trinity, Scripture, atonement, resurrection, judgement, prayer, etc. A ‘higher’ view of sacraments and priesthood seems secondary in the light of those primary correspondences. I can be friends with Anglo-Catholics. Modern Anglo-Catholicism has a different agenda from in the past. I can, with qualifications, be friends with Anglo-Catholics.

Yes, evangelicals generally consider soteriology and theology proper to be more fundamental than ecclesiology. So much more fundamental that, for all practical purposes, it doesn’t seem completely unfair to say that evangelicals don’t believe in the Church (except as a mere label for the set of all Christians). The “with qualifications” is, I think, a bit amusing and, I suspect, relates to how pushy the non-evangelical is about ecclesiology as summarized in, say, the fourth part of the Nicene Creed.

It’s difficult to make sense of the Anglican “Communion” nowadays.

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Advertising

The goal of advertising is to persuade folks that stuff they don’t care about is, in fact, important. This extends far beyond, say, the selling of toothpaste.   Furthermore, since only some many matters can be considered important, advertising also has a secondary goal to persuade folks that stuff they do consider important is, in fact, not important.

Consider any major media source nowadays and the main thing advertised is: Politics is important; Religion is not important.

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On Baptism

As an infant, I did not choose my food. I ate the good food given and was healthy.

An infant does not choose its name, body or basic personality. Rather, to be healthy one later consciously accepts these, as given.

The effectual work of the sacraments depend on God, not on us. Thus, as the Church teaches, infant baptism is entirely appropriate but, as the Church also teaches, the later conscious acceptance of this baptism is essential for one’s spiritual health.

In the office of readings of the Liturgy of the Hours for today, there’s a reading from Saint Justin, Martyr. In his first Apology, written around 156AD, he writes:

I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, “Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Now, that it is impossible for those who have once been born to enter into their mothers’ wombs, is manifest to all. And how those who have sinned and repent shall escape their sins, is declared by Esaias the prophet, as I wrote above; he thus speaks: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from your souls; learn to do well; judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, saith the Lord. And though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white like wool; and though they be as crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if ye refuse and rebel, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”

And for this [rite] we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; he who leads to the layer the person that is to be washed calling him by this name alone. For no one can utter the name of the ineffable God; and if any one dare to say that there is a name, he raves with a hopeless madness. And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings. And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed.

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