- Spiritual Communion of Christ with His Believers
Christ, our Lord, established the Church for this purpose: that His believers might carry on the work begun by Him, the work of human salvation. The apostles and disciples, as well as their followers, were to prepare and lead humanity into the Kingdom of God; assured that if they fulfilled this task, He would be with them. For He had promised them, saying, “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” Mat. 18:20. “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Mat. 28:20.
This presence of His, however, He made conditional. He would be with His disciples, if they would be gathered together and work in His Name, for His purpose, according to the plan indicated by Him.
He said to them, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?” It is thence-forth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.” Mat. 5:13. “Ye are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Mat. 5:16. “But be ye not called masters, or teachers for one is your Master, even Christ and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father on earth; for one is your Father which is in heaven.” Mat. 23:8, 9, 10.
So if the members of the National Catholic Church will live according to these teachings of the Lord, our Master, and will Propagate the democratic principles of Christ, they will be assured of His presence, help and cooperation. When we gather for common prayer, tasks or efforts, when we struggle for His Holy Cause; He our Master,Leader and Saviour, will sustain us. For our work is His work; our toil, our suffering, our tears, our persecutions and the final triumph of His ideal of a Divine Society, are His suffering, His tears, His persecution and the victory of a common ideal with Him.
“If ye abide in My Word (that is, the program give by Me to you) then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32.
2. The National Catholic Church and the Kingdom of God on Earth.
The most important task and mission of Jesus Christ, according to His own declaration and the words of His disciples, as recorded in the Gospels and documents of the first two centuries of our era, was the proclaiming and establishing of the Kingdom of God upon earth. From the moment when He returned from the wilderness, where He had suffered trials for forty days and nights and said to the multitudes, “Repent ye: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Mat. 4:17. Until the time when, out-stretched upon the cross, He whispered with His last breath. “It is finished,” our Master, the Nazarene, served the mighty purpose of preparing humanity for the Kingdom of God upon earth.
The apostles and their immediate followers took up this appointed task, and for its sake suffered and died martyrs’ deaths; but later generations forgot it, and become entangled in a system of Church politics directed from the Vatican. Official Christendom devoted itself to the unravelling of theological problems; to building magnificent cathedralIs. of stone, brick, gold and silver; and in curtailing human thought and freedom; serving the kings, lords and potentates of the world in general and forgetful of building a regenerated, living society, the. Kingdom of God upon earth.
For this reason, there arose among the poor Lithuanian immigrants in America, the Lithuanian National Catholic Church, in order to remind the world and especially the Lithuanian people, of that immortal and indispensable idea of organizing a Divine Society founded on love, heroic courage, cooperation, righteousness and brotherhood. “Repent ye; for the Kingdom of Christ has come nigh to us.”
Repent that you have wasted so much time, talents, strength of soul and body, in fratricidal struggle, extortion, mutual deception, trickery, treachery, trafficking, in the holiest feelings and ideals. Cease from doing unrighteousness. Line up, begin a new period of your own life, of that of the Lithuanian people and of all humanity. Go forth, and may all that the Eternal Wisdom has purposed, be fulfilled in you.
- Salvation, the Condition of Entering the Kingdom of God
Religion is the living bond uniting man with God; it is the most powerful, noblest and holiest sentiment of man’s heart and the highest flight om man’s understanding. It arises in the mystery of the soul and is kept alive by faith, unbounded trust and good deeds toward fellow men.
No one should therefore, debase, or ridicule, or traffic in religion, or use it for his own personal ends. Whoever does this, exposes himself to the horrible consequences; his rejection by God and by humanity. History brands none so severely as those who traffic in God, virtue, faith and the Sacraments; brands them as blasphemers, perjurers, destroyers of sacred things, sacrilegious.
“Woe unto the shepherds,” cries the great Israelite prophet to all those who abuse religion by making it serve their low, base and selfish ends, “who feed themselves.” Should not the shepherds feed the sheep? Ye eat the fat and ye clothe you with wool and ye kill the fatlings: but ye feed not the sheep. The dis-eased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with rigor have ye ruled over them. And my sheep were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became meat to all the beasts of the field and were scattered. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord, which the Lord God saith: Behold I am against the shepherds; and will require my sheep at their hands and will cause them to cease from feeding the sheep; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; and I will deliver my sheep from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.” Ezekiel 34:2-10.
Were not these prophetic words fulfilled in the course of human history, on the priesthood of Egypt, Judea, and Rome? May they not likewise be fulfilled concerning the Lithuanian priesthood, of the Roman Church, if they turn no back from their course, in their faithlessness toward God? The same causes bring the same results.
- Leading a Man Into the Kingdom of God
The leading of a man into the Kingdom of God, that perfect state of human society for which mankind yearns and toward which it constantly turns its steps, is called in the language of religion, a saving work of salvation.
According to the teaching of Christ our Lord, the Kingdom of Heaven is the condition of people united with God in His boundless love; surrendered completely to Him; living and working in cooperation with Him. In order to attain this state, a man must go through a long process of inward change; he must be spiritually regenerated and above all, be free from sin and its consequences.
Sin is misunderstanding of the being and purpose of God on the part of the individual man, the nation, even all humanity. For the effects of that lack of knowledge of God within him and of his denial of God the source of every life, are for man simply fatal, crushing. Left to himself in his own spiritual life, a sinful man does not only fail to develop or progress, but on the contrary retrogrades and becomes dwarfed in soul. For a while he vegetates and then becomes moribund and wastes away; and would necessarily perish, but for the help which comes to him from that Father and Creator who desires not the death of a poor sinner, but rather that he be converted and live.
This He accomplishes through Jesus Christ. The saving work of God’s Mediator depends on this – that He shows to fallen man the terrible consequence of sin; also God’s Divine compassion and righteousness and that God’s primary and final purpose is man’s eternal bliss. He makes a bond uniting the Creator with man, who has so shattered to naught his life and disposes anew the moral relationship which will give him life. Man is a social being, not only in the sense that he lives with creatures similar to himself in a union of causation and must cooperate for the common good if he would profit by it; but also, in a higher and larger sense, that he is dependent on the First cause of every being, on the Supreme Organizer of the Universe; being joined to Him by spiritual and moral ties, the natures of which are determined by his conscious existence, his degree of development and the final goal toward which he tends.
A man may not with impunity isolate himself from nature, his family, his people, nation, state, Church or God. Every such deviation brings about fatal and terrible consequences; above all, the severing of his relation with God. This produces in man a spiritual desert, which makes barren and discourages all that we call the beautiful, moral, creative and spiritual life of man; and fills him with the opposite impulses, toward a brutish, low and base life. Borne away on the whirlpool of bestial and inert living, man wallows lower and lower, soiling and polluting himself in the depths of shamelessness and evil doings; till he descends into an abyss, at the bottom of which awaits him, either the complete decay of his humanity, despair, suicide, heinous crime or else something yet more dire, hell, Gehenna.
And then Christ saves him from extinction. He restores in him a sense of awe of loathing; regret for his wasted life; longing for what is better and holier He shows him the Divine mercy and righteousness and reveals to him his wretched heart; that its filth, poison, misery and despair may flow out and a ray of hope may enter in Divine compassion, united with repentance, confession and resolve. With His hand of a Great Physician and Most Loving Friend, Christ binds up the wounds of the rescued man and restores him to the Church, family, and nation; but above all restores him his own self and to God. He helps him to be saved forever.
For as the greatest privilege of man is salvation, so God’s holiest right is to assist man in attaining salvation.
- The Church and Its Foundations
The church is an organized body of free religious people, who strive by the help of their organization to achieve life’s highest purpose. Every religious act has to develop by man’s free will; it must not yield in any way whatsoever to external compulsion. Religion and the Church, its exponent, must not be servants of political parties, governments or the potentates of this world, it must not combat the free aspirations of man or a nation toward liberty, but on the contrary, it is the obligation of the Church to inspire and to spiritually strengthen man in the struggle of life, in order to fulfill its mission to humanity as a whole.
- The Word of God, the Great Sacrament of the National Catholic Church
A great Sacrament of Christ’s National Catholic Church, as set forth in the ideals of its Divine Founder, is the preaching and hearing of the Word of God.
God addressed mankind most plainly through Jesus Christ. When, therefore, a priest from the National Catholic Church takes from the Treasury of Eternal Light Strength and Life; when he repeats the Gospel of the Saviour in the self-same spirit as the Great Mediator showed toward mankind; when he interprets, simplifies, extends and sounds its depths, according to the needs of the time, he is fulfilling the highest duty attainable by man, since he is proclaiming the will of God, eternal, holy and creative.
Likewise those who harken worthily, confidently and sincerely to the Word of God, are united with their Divine Lord, are fellow workers with Him. Through such an act they become all things their hearts are fixed, they are God’s reborn; they grow strong in their resolves; in heirs of the universe.
Christ, our Lord, proclaimed this power of the Word of God in these sayings. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life and shall not come to judgement; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that the hour cometh, yea, now is, when the dead shall harken to the voice of God and they that hear shall live.” John 5:24-25.
- God is Love and There is No Eternal Punishment
We cannot conceive that God created man out of sheer caprice, or selfishness, (as various theological systems, drawn up accord-ing to the model of present day political and social relations, interpret the matter) nor for the purpose of delivering him to the devils, for them to abuse him and treat cruelly, by physical and spiritual torment and tortures; nor would He destroy, bring to naught and erase His own work, the child of His mind, love and power. Nay, He created man for this – that man should live his own life according to his Creator’s likeness. Therefore man thinks and acts; therefore, he yearns to possess more and more the sum total of light, truth, love, creative energy and bliss. Man has had given to him the necessary powers and means for the attainment of these Divine purpose and a period of time sufficiently long for arriving at the appointed goal. Given that tendency, man is left by God with a free will in order that his acts may have a moral value, so that he may of his own self, think, feel, act, save his own soul.
God did not create man perfect, but relatively weak; yet He infused man’s being with a spark of longing for perfection; a sort of germ of eternal life, impulse, creative power. This makes man to go on through the centuries, from stage to stage, so that he continually climbs higher, develops and approaches perfection both as an individual and as the human species. Now, since man is not omniscient nor all powerful and does not know completely the laws that govern his physical and spiritual nature, he often deviates from the sure path of life. He goes astray, struggles, falls down; then arises with sorrow and considers the whole immensity of his physical, moral and spiritual experiences, till purified through these sufferings and struggles, through these creative thoughts, through toil and yearning, he enters upon the way of partial emancipation and then in due time, that of a freer, more perfected existence; till at last he becomes united with the goal of his life, God.
Some people attain this goal sooner, even in this temporal life; others later; some in a higher, others in a lower degree. It depends on the manner in which they make use of their Divine endowments of will, intellect, inspiration and of the mediations of Jesus Christ and His Church.
In the Holy Scriptures and especially in the New Testament books, we find numerous episodes which confirm the above hopeful view concerning the gradual development and final salvation of the individual man and of the whole of the human race. Expressions such as eternal fire, undying worm, fiery place, mouths of hell, place of torment, outer darkness where there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth, lake burning with fire, full of brimstone and pitch and similar phrases, are expressive illustrations, having the purpose of picturing the greatness of guilt and punishment for sinners; but were not meant to indicate hell in the Roman Catholic sense of the term. Neither were the pagan peoples nor the Jewish synagogue acquainted with such an eternal hell as the Roman Catholic Church teaches; nor were the Christians of the first centuries – not until the time when in the year, 1215, the fourth General, Lateran Council finally decided that “The wicked receive from the devil eternal punishment; but the good, from Christ, eternal glory.”
Christ, our Lord, speaking to the Jewish people, made use of their language, employing phrases and imagery familiar to their minds, that He might appeal to their imagination, understand-ing and feelings. Thus, in order to point out to these people the greatness of sin and its punishment, by choosing an example of this sort, He compares that punishment to Gehenna. Now Gehenna, was a place near Jerusalem where in former times sacrifices had been made to the Syrian god, Moloch; it was later used for burning the city refuse, so that over it rose continually black clouds of smoke mingled with fiery red flames and from it issued fetid and suffocating fumes; so that it was a place of horror and oppressiveness.
The Greek adjective, ainios, used by the Evangelists with word, Gehenna, does not mean everlasting, but long lasting, that is, lasting through a certain time or period through a future age, a future time. So when the Lord Jesus represented the consequences of transgressions, He did not say that they would be everlasting, for ages and ages; but He wished to make plain that those consequences would assuredly befall sinners in the future and that they would be a severe and grave character.
His teaching concerning the salvation of all humanity is corroborated by the following texts of Holy Scripture:
“Now is the judgement of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out; and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” John 12:31-32.
“And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke 3:6.
“The grace of God hath appeareth, bringing salvation to all men.” Titus 2:11.
“For as in Adam, all die; even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits and afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming. Then cometh the end, when He shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. And when all things shall have been subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also be subject to Him that put all things under Him: that God may be all in all.”1 Cor. 15:22-28.
“Whom Jesus Christ the heavens must receive until the time of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3:21.
- Nations, As God’s One Family on Earth.
Nations are members of one great family of God on earth. Hence it is not right for one nation to rob another nation of land, their political, religious and social freedom, their right to create a native culture; just as it is not right for one man to rob another of his property, his good name, freedom of conscience, and the pursuit of happiness, insofar as that pursuit does not interfere with the common good. The right to live and develop is the highest of all rights.
- The Kingdom of God and the Federation of Nations.
The Kingdom, or Society, of God, for which Jesus Christ laid the foundations, is to be a federation of all free nations of the earth, conceived as one mighty ideal of brotherhood, cooperation and justice. The fulfillment of one’s obligations toward God, nation, government, family, self and toward individual members of society is the best regulator for that living mechanism called Man, or collective humanity.
- Religious Rites in the Lithuanian Language
All religious rites in the Lithuanian Church and the Lithuanian home should be conducted in the Lithuanian language; since they are the outward manifestations of the relation of the Lithuanian soul and the Lithuanian people to God. Christ spoke to God, His Father, in Syro-Chaldean, that is, in the language of His own People; He ministered in his tongue the Holy rite at the Last Supper and at the final moments of the most dreadful tragedy that ever took place on this earthly sphere,He cried out to God. likewise in the speech of His own people, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.”
Why then should Lithuanian priests, followers of Jesus Christ, the Lawgiver, show disdain for the marvelous Lithuanian speech, the language of a great, immortal people; and interpose between a Lithuanian soul and God the alien Latin tongue, the language of a dead people?
- The People Own All Church Property.
The owners and controllers of National Catholic Church property are the Lithuanian people who build, maintain and believe in that Church. Bishops and priests are its guardians with the consent of the people.
The First Lithuanian National Catholic Church was established in America in the City of Scranton, Penna., in the year, 1913; supported on one hand by God’s Gospel proclaimed to the world by Jesus Christ; and, on the other, by Lithuanian working people who thirst for truth and righteousness.
The above principles comprise in themselves the substance of God’s Revelation given to man through the prophets, through Jesus Christ our Lord and His disciples. These are sufficient for a knowledge of the way of God and of the obligations of religion and salvation, for the individual soul and for the whole nation as well.
Prime Bishop Hodur.
—From Lietuvių Katalikų Tautine Bažnyčia Scrantono Parapija (1949), pp. 175-190.