She Shall Crush Thy Head: 6 Examples of Women “Crushing” the Heads of Men in Scripture

Listers, in Genesis our first parents suffered a curse due to their fall into sin. One condition of the Fall was that God would place enmity between the woman and the serpent – but the phrase explaining the enmity and what will happen due to that enmity has been a matter of much debate. To wit, should it read he shall crush thy head or she shall crush thy head or even they shall crush thy head?1

Notice older translation below from the Douay-Rheims Bible:

“And the Lord God said to the woman: Why hast thou done this? And she answered: The serpent deceived me, and I did eat. And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” Douay-Rheims Bible2

Modern Catholic texts read he shall crush your head:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” RSV-CE

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” NAB3

Proponents of the prophecy reading and she shall crush often cite the strong biblical typology of women killing men by “crushing” their head. The typological pattern of a woman killing a man via “crushing” their head occurs three times in the Historical Books and five times overall in the Old Testament. The fulfillment of the prophecy comes with Mother Mary standing on Golgotha – the mount named the skull.4 Thus, you have a woman crushing the head of the serpent through the victory of Christ.5

 

And She Shall Crush: Typology in Holy Scripture

1. Jael

The debate is pertinent to the Book of Judges due to the story of Jael as a type cast of the woman “crushing” the head:

"Jael and Sisera, by Artemisia Gentileschi." Wiki.
“Jael and Sisera, by Artemisia Gentileschi.” Wiki.

Sisera, in the meantime, had fled on foot to the tent of Jael, wife of the Kenite Heber, since Jabin, king of Hazor, and the family of the Kenite Heber were at peace with one another. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come in, my lord, come in with me; do not be afraid.” So he went into her tent, and she covered him with a rug.

He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink. I am thirsty.” But she opened a jug of milk for him to drink, and then covered him over. “Stand at the entrance of the tent,” he said to her. “If anyone comes and asks, ‘Is there someone here?’ say, ‘No!'”

Instead Jael, wife of Heber, got a tent peg and took a mallet in her hand. While Sisera was sound asleep, she stealthily approached him and drove the peg through his temple down into the ground, so that he perished in death. Then when Barak came in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, I will show you the man you seek.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg through his temple.6

 

2. The Tower & Abimelech

“The biblical account of the Battle of Thebaz begins in the middle of the siege. Already, Abimelech has taken most of the city and comes upon a heavily fortified tower. The civilians head towards the top of the tower while he fights his way through. Abimelech successfully fights most of the way towards the tower, however he was struck on the head by a mill-stone thrown by a woman from the wall above. Realizing that the wound was mortal, he ordered his armor-bearer to thrust him through with his sword, so that it might not be said he had perished by the hand of a woman.”7

Gustave Dore, "The Death of Abimelech." Wiki.
Gustave Dore, “The Death of Abimelech.” Wiki.

And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; he took the city, and killed the people that were in it; and he razed the city and sowed it with salt. When all the people of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the stronghold of the house of El-berith. Abimelech was told that all the people of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together. And Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the men that were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bundle of brushwood, and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the men that were with him, “What you have seen me do, make haste to do, as I have done.”

So every one of the people cut down his bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about a thousand men and women. Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it. 51 But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the people of the city fled to it, all the men and women, and shut themselves in; and they went to the roof of the tower. 52 And Abimelech came to the tower, and fought against it, and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it with fire. 53 And a certain woman threw an upper millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called hastily to the young man his armor-bearer, and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest men say of me, ‘A woman killed him.'” And his young man thrust him through, and he died.8

 

3. Head of Sheba

“When David returned to Jerusalem after the defeat of Absalom, strife arose between the ten tribes and the Tribe of Judah, because the latter took the lead in bringing back the king. Sheba took advantage of this state of things, and raised the standard of revolt, proclaiming, “We have no part in David.” With his followers he proceeded northward. David seeing it necessary to check this revolt, ordered Abishai to take the gibborim, “mighty men,” and the body-guard and such troops as he could gather, and pursue Sheba. Perceiving Amasa to be delaying his pursuit of Sheba, David appointed Abishai and Joab to join the expedition. Having treacherously put Amasa to death, Joab assumed the command of the army. Joab and Abishai arrived in the North of the nation at the city of Abel-beth-maachah, where they knew Sheba to be hiding. They besieged the city. A wise woman from the city (unnamed) convinced Joab not to destroy Abel Beth-Maacah, because the people did not want Sheba hiding there. She told the people of the city to kill Sheba, and his head was thrown over the wall to Joab.”9

Illustration from the Morgan Bible of Joab approaching Abel-beth-maachah and Sheba's head being thrown down (2 Samuel 20). Wiki.
Illustration from the Morgan Bible of Joab approaching Abel-beth-maachah and Sheba’s head being thrown down (2 Samuel 20). Wiki.

And all the men who were with Joab came and besieged him in Abel of Beth-maacah; they cast up a mound against the city, and it stood against the rampart; and they were battering the wall, to throw it down. 16 Then a wise woman called from the city, “Hear! Hear! Tell Joab, ‘Come here, that I may speak to you.'” 17 And he came near her; and the woman said, “Are you Joab?” He answered, “I am.” Then she said to him, “Listen to the words of your maidservant.” And he answered, “I am listening.” 18 Then she said, “They were wont to say in old time, ‘Let them but ask counsel at Abel’; and so they settled a matter. 19 I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel; you seek to destroy a city which is a mother in Israel; why will you swallow up the heritage of the LORD?”

Joab answered, “Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not true. But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, called Sheba the son of Bichri, has lifted up his hand against King David; give up him alone, and I will withdraw from the city.” And the woman said to Joab, “Behold, his head shall be thrown to you over the wall.” 22 Then the woman went to all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they dispersed from the city, every man to his home. And Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king.10

 

4. Judith

In the Book of Judith, “The story revolves around Judith, a daring and beautiful widow, who is upset with her Jewish countrymen for not trusting God to deliver them from their foreign conquerors. She goes with her loyal maid to the camp of the enemy general, Holofernes, with whom she slowly ingratiates herself, promising him information on the Israelites. Gaining his trust, she is allowed access to his tent one night as he lies in a drunken stupor. She decapitates him, then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen. The Assyrians, having lost their leader, disperse, and Israel is saved. Though she is courted by many, Judith remains unmarried for the rest of her life.”11

Judith Beheading Holofernes (1610-1620), by Cornelius Galle der Ältere - Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris).
Judith Beheading Holofernes (1610-1620), by Cornelius Galle der Ältere – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris).

So Judith was left alone in the tent , with Holofernes stretched out on his bed, for he was overcome with wine. 3 Now Judith had told her maid to stand outside the bedchamber and to wait for her to come out, as she did every day; for she said she would be going out for her prayers. And she had said the same thing to Bagoas. 4 So every one went out, and no one, either small or great, was left in the bedchamber. Then Judith, standing beside his bed, said in her heart, “O Lord God of all might, look in this hour upon the work of my hands for the exaltation of Jerusalem. 5 For now is the time to help thy inheritance, and to carry out my undertaking for the destruction of the enemies who have risen up against us.” 6 She went up to the post at the end of the bed, above Holofernes’ head, and took down his sword that hung there. 7 She came close to his bed and took hold of the hair of his head, and said, “Give me strength this day, O Lord God of Israel!” 8 And she struck his neck twice with all her might, and severed it from his body. 9 Then she tumbled his body off the bed and pulled down the canopy from the posts; after a moment she went out, and gave Holofernes’ head to her maid, 10 who placed it in her food bag. Then the two of them went out together, as they were accustomed to go for prayer; and they passed through the camp and circled around the valley and went up the mountain to Bethulia and came to its gates.12

 

5. Queen Esther

Gustave Dore, "Esther Accuses Haman."
Gustave Dore, “Esther Accuses Haman.”

Along with being the New Ark of the Covenant and the New Eve, Mother Mary is also the new Queen of the Kingdom. One of the key roles of the queen-mother was to intercede for her people. In the Davidic Kingdom, Bathsheba comes before the throne of her son to intercede for the people. In the New Davidic Kingdom, Mary comes before her son and intercedes for her people. In light of this queenly intercessory role, Queen Esther serves as a type of Mary, because she interceded for her people as well. It is probably due to the already strong Marian underpinnings that Esther is traditionally also listed among the women who “crushed” the head of a man. As Judith decapitates a man by severing his head from the neck, Esther intercedes and a man is hung on the gallows by his neck. It also helps that Scripture states that the plot of Haman comes “upon his own head.”

For Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to crush and destroy them; but when Esther came before the king, he gave orders in writing that his wicked plot which he had devised against the Jews should come upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows.13

 

6. Mary & Golgotha

The skull of Adam at the foot of the Cross: detail from a Crucifixion by Fra Angelico, 1435. Wiki.
The skull of Adam at the foot of the Cross: detail from a Crucifixion by Fra Angelico, 1435. Wiki.

The fulfillment of the prophecy comes with Mother Mary standing on Golgotha at the foot of the Cross. “In some Christian and Jewish traditions, the name Golgotha refers to the location of the skull of Adam. A common version states that Shem and Melchizedek traveled to the resting place of Noah’s Ark, retrieved the body of Adam from it, and were led by Angels to Golgotha – described as a skull-shaped hill at the centre of the Earth, where also the serpent’s head had been crushed following the fall of man. This tradition appears in numerous older sources, including the Kitab al-Magall, the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan, the Cave of Treasures, and the writings of Patriarch Eutychius of Alexandria. It is also suggested that the location’s landscape resembled the shape of a skull, and gained its name for that reason.”14

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; 24* so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the scripture, “They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” 25* So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26* When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 28* After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.15

 

  1. Jimmy Akin: For an in depth treatment of the languages, see Who Will Crush the Serpent’s Head? []
  2. Note on v. 15 from DRB commentary – [15] She shall crush: Ipsa, the woman; so divers of the fathers read this place, conformably to the Latin: others read it ipsum, viz., the seed. The sense is the same: for it is by her seed, Jesus Christ, that the woman crushes the serpent’s head. []
  3. Notes on v. 15 NAB – “He will strike . . . at his heel: since the antecedent for he and his is the collective noun offspring, i.e., all the descendants of the woman, a more exact rendering of the sacred writer’s words would be, “They will strike . . . at their heels.” However, later theology saw in this passage more than unending hostility between snakes and men. The serpent was regarded as the devil (⇒ Wisdom 2:24; ⇒ John 8:44; ⇒ Rev 12:9; ⇒ 20:2), whose eventual defeat seems implied in the contrast between head and heel. Because “the Son of God appeared that he might destroy the works of the devil” (⇒ 1 John 3:8), the passage can be understood as the first promise of a Redeemer for fallen mankind. The woman’s offspring then is primarily Jesus Christ.” []
  4. Golgotha: ORIGIN from late Latin, via Greek from an Aramaic form of Hebrew gulgoleth ‘skull’ (see Matt. 27:33). []
  5. Women of the Gen. 3:15 Prophecy: in Judges you have Jael and the woman who drops the millstone on Abimelech in chapter nine; the head of Seba in II Samuel 20:16; it occurs again with Judith and in the book of Esther. []
  6. 4:17-22 []
  7. Abimelech. []
  8. Judges 9:45-54. []
  9. Sheba, Son of Bichri. []
  10. II Samuel 20:15-22. []
  11. Judith. []
  12. Judith 13:2-10 []
  13. Esther 9:24-25; cf., “You will therefore do well not to put in execution the letters sent by Haman the son of Hammedatha, because the man himself who did these things has been hanged at the gate of Susa, with all his household. For God, who rules over all things, has speedily inflicted on him the punishment he deserved.” 16:17-18; also, “Three selections from the Book of Esther are used in the Mariology of the early Christian writers and in the Catholic liturgy (Est 2:16-18; C:12, 14-15, 25, 30; and 8:3-8, 16-17).” []
  14. Wiki, citing,  Mount Calvary. Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. III (New York: Robert Appleton Company). 1908. []
  15. John 19:17-30; cf., “And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).” Mark 15:22; “And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).” Matthew 27:33; Luke 23:33. []

7 Illustrations of How People in the Old Testament Viewed the Universe

Listers, the concept of ancient Hebrew cosmology is fascinating. In general, the world was a flat disc covered by a firm dome. Beneath the disc was Sheol – the place of the dead – and the deep waters. Above the dome, there was more water and finally the high heavens where God dwells. “The notion that the sky was a vast solid dome seems to have been common among the ancient peoples… According to the notion prevalent among the Greeks and Romans, the sky was a great vault of crystal to which the fixed stars were attached, though by some it was held to be of iron or brass. That the Hebrews entertained similar ideas appears from numerous biblical passages.” For example, Job 37:18 reads, “And was it with help of thine God fashioned the heavens, firm as cast bronze?.”1 The firmament acted as the separation between the higher waters of the heavens and the lower waters of the deep.2 The dome of the earth sat upon pillars and upon the foundations of the world.3 In the dome there are windows or doors from which the rain falls – the most famous example being Noah’s flood in Genesis.4 Finally, deep within the earth was Sheol. Sheol “is generally supposed to come from the Hebrew root meaning, ‘to be sunk in, to be hollow:’ accordingly it denotes a cave or a place under the earth. In the Old Testament (Septuagint hades; Vulgate infernus) sheol is used quite in general to designate the kingdom of the dead, of the good (Genesis 37:35) as well as of the bad (Numbers 16:30); it means hell in the strict sense of the term, as well as the limbo of the Fathers. But, as the limbo of the Fathers ended at the time of Christ’s Ascension, hades (Vulgate infernus) in the New Testament always designates the hell of the damned. Since Christ’s Ascension the just no longer go down to the lower world, but they dwell in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1).”5 As with most concepts, there are debates on how literal to take certain passages.

 

Ancient Hebrew Cosmology

 

 

Hebrew Cosmology 1

Hebrew Cosmology 2

Ancient Hebrew Cosmology

Hebrew Cosmology 4

Hebrew Cosmology 5

Hebrew Cosmology 6

Hebrew Cosmology 7

  1. Quote from Catholic Encyclopedia, Firmament. []
  2. See Job 26:11; 37:18; the dome is blue due to separation of the waters, Gen. 1:7; the earth is surrounded by water, Gen. 1:6,7; cf. Psalms 24:2; 148:4, Deut. 5:8. []
  3. Job 26:11; II Sam. 22:8. []
  4. Gen. 7:11-12; 8:2; for verses on the lumenaries of heaven, see Gen. 1:14-19; Ps. 19:4,6; for verses on the dome and birds, see Gen. 1:20; Deut. 4:17. []
  5. Catholic Encyclopedia, Hell. []

Bible Study: 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Biblical Interpretation

7 Essential Principles for Catholic Study
Click to view on Amazon.

Listers, “what does a Catholic approach to Scripture study look like?” This is the question Dr. Steven C. Smith takes up in his work 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Scripture Study: The Word of the Lord. The book strikes an excellent balance between academic insights and a tone/format that is easily accessible to the everyday Catholic. His Eminence Cardinal George comments, “this is a helpful book at a time when the relations between Scripture and Tradition and Scripture and Divine Revelation are background for many other conversations in the Church today.” In the Foreward by Dr. Scott Hahn, the Scripture scholar states, “most importantly, readers are guided step by step through seven principles of Catholic biblical interpretation by a veteran teacher of Sacred Scripture at Mount St. Mary’s seminary, one of the oldest and most respected houses of formation in the United States. From years of experience in the classroom and parish, Dr. Smith is able to communicate clearly for a wide range of readers, from seminarians and clergy to young adults and professionals.” The following are the principle titles and descriptions as written in Dr. Smith’s work. SPL highly suggests 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Scripture Study as a proper introduction to reading Holy Scripture as a Catholic.1

 


 

 

Principle 1: God’s Word: Divine Words in Human Language

Catholic Biblical Interpretation is governed by the firm belief that Scripture is the inspired word of God, expressed in human language. God’s Word was written under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit and – at the same time – was written by true human authors with their intellectual capacities and limitations The thought and the words belong both to God and to human beings in such a way that the whole Bible comes simultaneously from God and from the inspired human authors.2

 

Principle 2: God’s Word is Revealed in History

Catholic Biblical Interpretation is profoundly concerned with history because of the nature of biblical revelation and the Living Word who revealed himself to humanity in history (John 1:14). Yet, Scripture can never be reduced to the natural order but fully affirms the supernatural and God’s intervention in history. Interpretation of a biblical text must be consistent with the meaning expressed by the human authors. Thus, Catholic exegetes must place biblical texts in their ancient contexts, helping to clarify the meaning of the biblical authors’ message for their original audience and for the contemporary reader.3

 

Principle 3: God’s Word is Revealed in History

Catholic Biblical Interpretation is grounded in the firm belief that there is one source of Divine revelation: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The living presence of God’s Word in the Church’s life through time “flow from the same one divine wellspring” (DV, 9) and “form one sacred deposit of the word of God” (DV, 10). It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the biblical canon (DV, 8) and it is above all Sacred Tradition that helps us to truly and properly understand the Word of God.4

 

Principle 4: God’s Word: Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture

Catholic biblical interpretation insists upon the unity and coherence of the whole canon of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. This unitive dimension of the word of God is evident in many ways; Catholic exegetes should be particularly aware of three:

The Theme of Covenant
Biblical Typology
Recapitulation in Christ

In these and other ways, we affirm Augustine’s conclusion: “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”5

 

Principle 5: God’s Word Has Meanings(s)

Catholic Biblical interpretation affirms that God’s Word is rich in meaning and a multiplicity of approaches can assist the exegete in explaining texts. No one method of interpretation is adequate in itself to plumb the depths of Scripture. Catholic exegetes thus benefit from exploration of various methods, including ancient, medieval, and modern biblical scholarship. Such an array of approaches can cast valuable light on the Sacred Page, provided one “reads” them within the tradition of the Church and according to the hermeneutics faith.6

 

Principle 6: God’s Word Requires Sound, Balanced, Methodological Analysis

Catholic biblical interpretation requires sound and balanced analysis. In the end, all analysis should be based upon excellence in scholarship, encountered from a robust Christian faith, and reflect pastoral concern and the needs of God’s people. Three essential criteria for ensuring such control in one’s exegesis of Sacred Scripture:

1. Attention to the content and unity of the Bible
2. Reading all of Scripture within the living Tradition of the Church
3. Reference to the analogy (or rule) of faith.7

 

Principle 7: God’s Word is Life-giving and Active!

God’s inspired word fulfills a life-giving, foundational, and authoritative role in the life of the Church. Thus, Catholic biblical interpretation does not conclude with an understanding of words, concepts and events. It must seek to arrive at the reality of which the language speaks, a transcendent reality, communication with God. The Church is called to continually actualize the ancient texts as the Word for today, and embody it in all situations and cultures. To this end, the Catholic student of Scripture must have competence in all of the previous principles so that he/she can read, study, pray and proclaim Scripture faithfully and clearly with full confidence in their transformative power.8

 

Once again, please visit Dr. Smith’s personal website and check out his 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Scripture Study.

 


 

New list coming soon on how to read Scripture as a Catholic – or just how to read it correctly. #catholic #catholicism #bible

A photo posted by St. Peter’s List (@stpeterslist) on

 

More Lists on Holy Scripture

 

  1. Dr. Smith’s personal website is The God Who Speaks. []
  2. Id. 17. []
  3. Id. 61. []
  4. Id. 85. []
  5. Id. 109. []
  6. Id. 161. []
  7. Id. 199. []
  8. Id. 215. []

Night Holds No Terror: 7 of the Best Psalms to Pray Before Bed

Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.

Compline via anglicanbreviary.net
Compline via anglicanbreviary.net

Listers, the Liturgy of the Hours is a gift from Sacred Tradition that allows the Faithful to truly pray without ceasing. Though quite complex, this rich tradition is basically the Psalms adorned with hymns and other prayers. The Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours are the only two public prayers of the Church. It is also interesting to note that under Canon Law, the Liturgy of the Hours is a requirement of all Roman Catholic priests and deacons. Though the Liturgy of the Hours has prayers for the entire day, the following list is a selection of Psalms from the prayers called Compline. Compline is “night prayer” and stems from the same Latin word as the word complete, because the prayers of Compline complete the day.

The following list highlights some of the more striking and thematic verses of the Compline psalms. Particularly after the Second Vatican Council, the psalms selected for compline thematically reflect the trust we have in God at the end of each day. We are going to sleep, and we pray that God may watch over us – even when we are surrounded by our enemies. The theme is perfectly captured by the antiphon: “Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.” May God grant all us of quiet night and a peaceful death.


 

 

Saturday Night (Sunday Vigil)

When I call, answer me, O God of Justice;
from anguish you released me;
have mercy and hear me!

O men, how long will your hearts be closed,
will you love what is futile and seek what is false?

[…]

“What can bring us happiness?” many say.
Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord.

You have put into my heart a greater joy,
than they have from abundance of corn and new wine.1

 

Sunday Night

It is he who will free you from the snare
of the fowler who seeks to destroy you;
he will conceal you with his pinions
and under his wings you will find refuge.

You will not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day
nor the plague that prowls in the darkness
nor the scourge that lays waste at noon

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand fall at your right,
you, it will never approach
his faithfulness is buckler and shield.2

 

Monday Night

In the day of distress I will call
and surely you will reply.
Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;
nor work to compare with yours.

[…]

The proud have risen against me;
ruthless men seek my life:
to you they pay no heed.

But you, God of mercy and compassion,
slow to anger, O Lord,
abounding in love and truth,
turn and take pity me.3

 

Tuesday Night

The enemy pursues my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead, long forgotten
Therefore my Spirit fails;
my heart in numb within me.

[…]

Lord, make haste and answer;
for my spirit fails within me.
Do not hide your face
lest I become like those in the grave.4

 

Wednesday Night

My soul is waiting for the Lord,
I count on his word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
more than watchman count on daybreak
Let the watchman count on daybreak
and Israel on the Lord.

Because with the Lord there is mercy
and fullness of redemption,
Israel indeed he will redeem
from all its iniquity.5

 

Thursday Night

He has put into my heart a marvelous love
for the faithful ones who dwell in his land.
Those who choose other gods increase their sorrows.
Never will I offer their offerings of blood.
Never will I take their name upon my lips.

O Lord, it you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize.
The lot marked out for me is my delight:
welcome indeed the heritage that falls to me!6

 

Friday Night

For my soul is filled with evils;
my life is on the brink of the grave.
I am reckoned as one in the tomb:
I have reached the end of my strength,

like one alone among the dead;
like the slain lying in their graves;
like those you remember no more,
cut off, as they are, from your hand.

[…]

Wretched, close to death from my youth,
I have borne your trials; I am numb.
Your fury has swept down upon me;
your terrors have utterly destroyed me.

They surround me all the day like a flood,
they assail me all together.
Friend and neighbor you have taken away:
my one companion is darkness.

 

Concluding Prayers

Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee to we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

May almighty God grant us a quiet night and a peaceful death. Amen.

 

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Compline #prayer #catholic #catholicism #saints #jesus

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Night Prayer – #compline #prayer #catholic

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  1. Psalm 4; also read Psalm 134. []
  2. Psalm 91; the antiphon for this particular psalm is where this list draws its name: Night holds no terrors for me sleeping under God’s wings. []
  3. Psalm 86. []
  4. Psalms 143:1-11. []
  5. Psalm 130; read also Psalm 31:1-6. []
  6. Psalm 16. []

Lamentabili: The 65 Errors of the Modernists Condemned by the Church

Listers, “there is no road which leads so directly and so quickly to Modernism as pride.” Pope St. Pius X fought with all of his heart and soul to defend the Church against the heresy of modernism. One of the gifts he gave Holy Mother Church was the Syllabus of Errors entitled Lamentabili Sane Exitu. As the traditionalist blog Rorate Caeli explains: “In a warm July day in 1907… the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition (which would be renamed simply as Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in 1908) made public a list, a new Syllabus of errors against sane Catholic doctrine, by way of the Decree Lamentabili sane exitu, approved by Pope Saint Pius X. The heresy of Modernism was going to be successfully stopped and kept under control for several decades, and the glorious history of the Catholic Church during the first half of the 20th century would be built on the foundations of those papal measures of 1907: Lamentabili, the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (which would be published in September of that same year), and the motu proprio Præstantia Scripturæ Sacræ (November 18, 1907).”1 As an introduction to Pope St. Pius X’s fight against modernism, SPL has gathered together 12 memes that represent the best of his quotes in Restore All Things to Christ: 12 Memes on Pope St. Pius X with Explanations & Sources.

Following Rorate Caeli, SPL has included the headnotes of “one of the most well-known commentators of the Syllabus of Lamentabili, Monsignor Franz Heiner.” The good monsignor sets the sixty-five errors into seven distinct categories. The added headnotes are below in red. In addition, SPL has inserted a few footnotes where further context and reading may help more fully discern the modernist error.


 LAMENTABILI SANE EXITU

Pius X
July 3, 1907

With truly lamentable results, our age, casting aside all restraint in its search for the ultimate causes of things, frequently pursues novelties so ardently that it rejects the legacy of the human race. Thus it falls into very serious errors, which are even more serious when they concern sacred authority, the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, and the principal mysteries of Faith. The fact that many Catholic writers also go beyond the limits determined by the Fathers and the Church herself is extremely regrettable. In the name of higher knowledge and historical research (they say), they are looking for that progress of dogmas which is, in reality, nothing but the corruption of dogmas.

These errors are being daily spread among the faithful. Lest they captivate the faithful’s minds and corrupt the purity of their faith, His Holiness, Pius X, by Divine Providence, Pope, has decided that the chief errors should be noted and condemned by the Office of this Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition.

Therefore, after a very diligent investigation and consultation with the Reverend Consultors, the Most Eminent and Reverend Lord Cardinals, the General Inquisitors in matters of faith and morals have judged the following propositions to be condemned and proscribed. In fact, by this general decree, they are condemned and proscribed.

 

I. Errors 1 to 8: Attacks to the Magisterium of the Church, to its authority, and to the obedience it is owed.

1. The ecclesiastical law which prescribes that books concerning the Divine Scriptures are subject to previous examination does not apply to critical scholars and students of scientific exegesis of the Old and New Testament.

2. The Church’s interpretation of the Sacred Books is by no means to be rejected; nevertheless, it is subject to the more accurate judgment and correction of the exegetes.

3. From the ecclesiastical judgments and censures passed against free and more scientific exegesis, one can conclude that the Faith the Church proposes contradicts history and that Catholic teaching cannot really be reconciled with the true origins of the Christian religion.

4. Even by dogmatic definitions the Church’s magisterium cannot determine the genuine sense of the Sacred Scriptures.

5. Since the deposit of Faith contains only revealed truths, the Church has no right to pass judgment on the assertions of the human sciences.

6. The “Church learning” and the “Church teaching” collaborate in such a way in defining truths that it only remains for the “Church teaching” to sanction the opinions of the “Church learning.”

7. In proscribing errors, the Church cannot demand any internal assent from the faithful by which the judgments she issues are to be embraced.

8. They are free from all blame who treat lightly the condemnations passed by the Sacred Congregation of the Index or by the Roman Congregations.

 

II. Errors 9 to 19: False exegetic propositions, opposed to the divine origin of Sacred Scripture.

9. They display excessive simplicity or ignorance who believe that God is really the author of the Sacred Scriptures.

10. The inspiration of the books of the Old Testament consists in this: The Israelite writers handed down religious doctrines under a peculiar aspect which was either little or not at all known to the Gentiles.

11. Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures so that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every error.

12. If he wishes to apply himself usefully to Biblical studies, the exegete must first put aside all preconceived opinions about the supernatural origin of Sacred Scripture and interpret it the same as any other merely human document.

13. The Evangelists themselves, as well as the Christians of the second and third generation, artificially arranged the evangelical parables. In such a way they explained the scanty fruit of the preaching of Christ among the Jews.

14. In many narrations the Evangelists recorded, not so much things that are true, as things which, even though false, they judged to be more profitable for their readers.

15. Until the time the canon was defined and constituted, the Gospels were increased by additions and corrections. Therefore there remained in them only a faint and uncertain trace of the doctrine of Christ.

16. The narrations of John are not properly history, but a mystical contemplation of the Gospel. The discourses contained in his Gospel are theological meditations, lacking historical truth concerning the mystery of salvation.

17. The fourth Gospel exaggerated miracles not only in order that the extraordinary might stand out but also in order that it might become more suitable for showing forth the work and glory of the Word lncarnate.

18. John claims for himself the quality of witness concerning Christ. In reality, however, he is only a distinguished witness of the Christian life, or of the life of Christ in the Church at the close of the first century.

19. Heterodox exegetes have expressed the true sense of the Scriptures more faithfully than Catholic exegetes.

 

III. Errors 20 to 26: False exegetic propositions, which falsify the origin and the intrinsic value of Divine Revelation.

20. Revelation could be nothing else than the consciousness man acquired of his revelation to God.

21. Revelation, constituting the object of the Catholic faith, was not completed with the Apostles.

22. The dogmas the Church holds out as revealed are not truths which have fallen from heaven. They are an interpretation of religious facts which the human mind has acquired by laborious effort.

23. Opposition may, and actually does, exist between the facts narrated in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s dogmas which rest on them. Thus the critic may reject as false facts the Church holds as most certain.

24. The exegete who constructs premises from which it follows that dogmas are historically false or doubtful is not to be reproved as long as he does not directly deny the dogmas themselves .

25. The assent of faith ultimately rests on a mass of probabilities .

26. The dogmas of the Faith are to be held only according to their practical sense; that is to say, as preceptive norms of conduct and not as norms of believing.

27. The divinity of Jesus Christ is not proved from the Gospels. It is a dogma which the Christian conscience has derived from the notion of the Messias.

 

IV. Errors 27 to 38: Denials of the most important dogmas of Christianity, related to the Person of the Divine Redeemer, to his Divinity, to his supernatural knowledge, to the expiatory character of his sufferings, Passion, and Death, and to his bodily Resurrection.

28. While He was exercising His ministry, Jesus did not speak with the object of teaching He was the Messias, nor did His miracles tend to prove it.

29. It is permissible to grant that the Christ of history is far inferior to the Christ Who is the object of faith.

30 In all the evangelical texts the name “Son of God” is equivalent only to that of “Messias.” It does not in the least way signify that Christ is the true and natural Son of God.

31. The doctrine concerning Christ taught by Paul, John, and the Councils of Nicea, Ephesus and Chalcedon is not that which Jesus taught but that which the Christian conscience conceived concerning Jesus.

32. It is impossible to reconcile the natural sense of the Gospel texts with the sense taught by our theologians concerning the conscience and the infallible knowledge of Jesus Christ.2

33 Everyone who is not led by preconceived opinions can readily see that either Jesus professed an error concerning the immediate Messianic coming or the greater part of His doctrine as contained in the Gospels is destitute of authenticity.

34. The critics can ascribe to Christ a knowledge without limits only on a hypothesis which cannot be historically conceived and which is repugnant to the moral sense. That hypothesis is that Christ as man possessed the knowledge of God and yet was unwilling to communicate the knowledge of a great many things to His disciples and posterity.

35. Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His Messianic dignity.

36. The Resurrection of the Savior is not properly a fact of the historical order. It is a fact of merely the supernatural order (neither demonstrated nor demonstrable) which the Christian conscience gradually derived from other facts.

37. In the beginning, faith in the Resurrection of Christ was not so much in the fact itself of the Resurrection as in the immortal life of Christ with God.

38. The doctrine of the expiatory death of Christ is Pauline and not evangelical.

 

V. Errors 39 to 51: Denials of the institution of the means of salvation by Christ through his Church, particularly the Sacraments, and of their efficacy.

39. The opinions concerning the origin of the Sacraments which the Fathers of Trent held and which certainly influenced their dogmatic canons are very different from those which now rightly exist among historians who examine Christianity.

40. The Sacraments have their origin in the fact that the Apostles and their successors, swayed and moved by circumstances and events, interpreted some idea and intention of Christ.

41. The Sacraments are intended merely to recall to man’s mind the ever-beneficent presence of the Creator.

42. The Christian community imposed the necessity of Baptism, adopted it as a necessary rite, and added to it the obligation of the Christian profession.

43. The practice of administering Baptism to infants was a disciplinary evolution, which became one of the causes why the Sacrament was divided into two, namely, Baptism and Penance.

44. There is nothing to prove that the rite of the Sacrament of Confirmation was employed by the Apostles. The formal distinction of the two Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation does not pertain to the history of primitive Christianity.

45. Not everything which Paul narrates concerning the institution of the Eucharist (I Cor. 11:23-25) is to be taken historically.

46. In the primitive Church the concept of the Christian sinner reconciled by the authority of the Church did not exist. Only very slowly did the Church accustom herself to this concept. As a matter of fact, even after Penance was recognized as an institution of the Church, it was not called a Sacrament since it would be held as a disgraceful Sacrament.

47. The words of the Lord, “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23), in no way refer to the Sacrament of Penance, in spite of what it pleased the Fathers of Trent to say.

48. In his Epistle (Ch. 5:14-15) James did not intend to promulgate a Sacrament of Christ but only commend a pious custom. If in this custom he happens to distinguish a means of grace, it is not in that rigorous manner in which it was taken by the theologians who laid down the notion and number of the Sacraments.

49. When the Christian supper gradually assumed the nature of a liturgical action those who customarily presided over the supper acquired the sacerdotal character.

50. The elders who fulfilled the office of watching over the gatherings of the faithful were instituted by the Apostles as priests or bishops to provide for the necessary ordering of the increasing communities and not properly for the perpetuation of the Apostolic mission and power.

51. It is impossible that Matrimony could have become a Sacrament of the new law until later in the Church since it was necessary that a full theological explication of the doctrine of grace and the Sacraments should first take place before Matrimony should be held as a Sacrament.

 

VI. Errors 52 to 63: Attacks on the divine foundation of the Church, of her essential constitution, and activities.

52. It was far from the mind of Christ to found a Church as a society which would continue on earth for a long course of centuries. On the contrary, in the mind of Christ the kingdom of heaven together with the end of the world was about to come immediately.

53. The organic constitution of the Church is not immutable. Like human society, Christian society is subject to a perpetual evolution.

54. Dogmas, Sacraments and hierarchy, both their notion and reality, are only interpretations and evolutions of the Christian intelligence which have increased and perfected by an external series of additions the little germ latent in the Gospel.

55. Simon Peter never even suspected that Christ entrusted the primacy in the Church to him.3

56. The Roman Church became the head of all the churches, not through the ordinance of Divine Providence, but merely through political conditions.

57. The Church has shown that she is hostile to the progress of the natural and theological sciences.

58. Truth is no more immutable than man himself, since it evolved with him, in him, and through him.

59. Christ did not teach a determined body of doctrine applicable to all times and all men, but rather inaugurated a religious movement adapted or to be adapted to different times and places.

60. Christian Doctrine was originally Judaic. Through successive evolutions it became first Pauline, then Joannine, finally Hellenic and universal.4

61. It may be said without paradox that there is no chapter of Scripture, from the first of Genesis to the last of the Apocalypse, which contains a doctrine absolutely identical with that which the Church teaches on the same matter. For the same reason, therefore, no chapter of Scripture has the same sense for the critic and the theologian.

62. The chief articles of the Apostles’ Creed did not have the same sense for the Christians of the first ages as they have for the Christians of our time.

63. The Church shows that she is incapable of effectively maintaining evangelical ethics since she obstinately clings to immutable doctrines which cannot be reconciled with modern progress.

 

VII. Errors 64 and 65: Calls for the “reform” of the Church.

64. Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian doctrine concerning God, creation, revelation, the Person of the Incarnate Word, and Redemption be re-adjusted.

65. Modern Catholicism can be reconciled with true science only if it is transformed into a non-dogmatic Christianity; that is to say, into a broad and liberal Protestantism.

The following Thursday, the fourth day of the same month and year, all these matters were accurately reported to our Most Holy Lord, Pope Pius X. His Holiness approved and confirmed the decree of the Most Eminent Fathers and ordered that each and every one of the above-listed propositions be held by all as condemned and proscribed.

 

PETER PALOMBELLI, Notary of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition


Modernism is a most pernicious heresy, because it is not the corruption of a single orthodox belief; rather, modernism corrupts the believer’s mode of thinking, coloring everything a person believes with a heretical shade. Modernism has also been assumed into the general culture of modernity; thus, any individual born in the West is ingratiated into this heretical way of thinking – even from childhood. The worst part, however, is that since the Second Vatican Council, the Church – at least in the majority – has dropped her campaigns against modernism and has continued on as if it were a conquered thing of the past. In reality, modernism is probably the greatest threat to the Church and has claimed the majority of the faithful – not because they self-described as modernists, but because they are suffering from a disease no one has ever told them even exists. As Rorate Caeli states,  “It is painful to notice that so many of these errors (condemned by Saint Pius X under pain of excommunication, as he would expressly establish in the aforementioned motu proprio) persist to this day, and have become even dominant interpretations among ordinary Catholics, and especially among theologians, under the eyes of the successors of the Apostles: Kyrie eleison!”

 

Further Reading:

  1. Restore All Things to Christ: 12 Memes on Pope St. Pius X with Explanations & Sources
  2. 4 Steps to Understand the Crisis of Modernity
  1. Rorate Caeli: The Pascendi Centennial Year: 100 years of Lamentabili sane exitu. – All Rorate Caeli quotes are pulled from this article. []
  2. SPL Note: Errors #32-35 deal specifically with the identity of Christ and Christ’s own knowledge of that identity. For an example of an error, many held (and still hold) that Christ was not aware he was God or even aware he was the Messiah. His statements that would seem to import that he did know these realities were really Christ just speaking in faith. SPL’s HH Ambrose has written a detailed list walking the reader through St. Thomas Aquinas’ teachings on Christ’s knowledge. For example, in Scriptures, Christ as times seems to know everything, even what people are thinking, at other times, he seems to not know certain things only the Father knows, and finally, Scripture speaks of Christ “growing” in wisdom. How then do we properly speak of Christ’s knowledge as the Second Person of the Trinity with both a human and divine nature? See 8 Considerations on Whether Christ has Acquired, Infused, or Beatific Knowledge. []
  3. SPL Note: Regarding the papacy, SPL has submitted a 12 Step Biblical Guide to the Papacy & Infallibility. The list demonstrates that the Son of David, Christ the King, selecting a Vicar to watch over his Kingdom would have been an intelligible and arguably an expected move by a people, the Jews, who were expecting the return of the Davidic Kingdom. The concept of a Vicar of the Davidic Kingdom is deeply rooted in the Old Testament. []
  4. SPL Note: Unfortunately, this modernist error persists even today, and its pernicious character has led many astray. The premiere rebuke of this theory was submitted by Pope Benedict XVI in his (in)famous Regensburg Address. In short, His Holiness laid out three stages of “de-hellenization,” in which he showed the original Jewish and Greek culture that gave rise to the New Testament had been jettisoned by the West in three stages. Most important, the idea that there is a “pure” Hebrew faith apart from its historical context of a hellenized culture was a rallying cry for the Protestant Reformation – entire protestant heresies are predicated upon this modernist error. In fact, this modernist error is arguably one of the first errors and a foundation for many others. []

The 12 Step Biblical Guide to the Pope and Infallibility

The pope leads the King’s people according to the King’s laws and at times must clarify those laws so the people may continue to live in full adherence to the King.

Listers, the Office of the Papacy and Infallibility are biblical gifts to the Church. According to the Gospels, St. Peter – the first to be given the Office of the Papacy – was commissioned by Christ to be the vicar of the kingdom of God, to strengthen the faithful, and to be the chief shepherd of the Lord’s flock. In short, the Vicar governs the kingdom according to the King’s laws until the King returns. The following list is meant to demonstrate the strong biblical argument for the papacy, but it is certainly not an exhaustive list. Catholics should be weary of proof-texting – a subpar hermeneutic that seeks to support ideas by stringing together selective Scriptures – for a few reasons. First, Holy Scripture should always be viewed holistically. A single verse that can be tortured to read a certain way is not a legitimate reading of Scripture. The list at hand seeks to avoid proof-texting by offering a wide range of Scriptures from both the New and Old Testaments supported by historical and linguistic insights.

Second, Catholics embrace the Sacred Tradition of the Church. Piecing together an argument from Scriptures holds little weight if no Christian in the last two-thousand years has held it to be legitimate. For Catholics, there is always the historical and spiritual consideration of how the Early Church interpreted Scriptures. They lived in a biblical time and worked with the disciples of the disciples. In this context, it should be noted the Early Church undoubtedly held that the Bishop of Rome held a special authority in Christ’s Kingdom. He was the successor to St. Peter, the first Vicar of Christ; thus, the following argument is not simply a Catholic reading of Scripture, it is also the historical Christian reading.1

 

The Last Supper is a painting painted between 1496 to 1498 by Leonardo Da Vinci in the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
The Last Supper is a painting painted between 1496 to 1498 by Leonardo Da Vinci in the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

 

St. Peter Among the Apostles

 

1. What is an Apostle?

Before discussing whether or not St. Peter held a primacy among the apostles, the term apostle should be defined. The Hebrew word for apostle is shaliah, which is defined as an agent or legal emissary. The term agent in the context of shaliah, however, is richer than the modern concept of an ambassador or representative. The term denotes someone who comes with the same authority as the one who sent him. The person may delegate any task to his shaliah, his apostle.2

The Apostles received full authority and power from Christ to go forth with the mission of representing him. The apostles did not simply go out and tell people about Christ, they went forth with the power of Christ, e.g., casting out demons, after Christ’s Ascension, the power to forgive and retain sins (discussed below), . The requirements for the title apostles are (1) an encounter with the Risen Christ and (2) be personally commissioned.3

 

2. Did St. Peter Hold Any Honor Among the Twelve?

There are many small signs within the Gospel narratives that indicate St. Peter held an honored place among the twelve. When choosing his twelve disciples, Christ called St. Peter first and his interaction with Christ served as a the “original pattern of apostolic vocation par excellence.”4 Second, throughout the New Testament, St. Peter is named first when the disciples are listed, e.g., “And the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother…”5 Third, St. Peter is always among those disciples chosen for a particular event; thus, he is present with James and John at the Transfiguration and at the Mt. of Olives. In both instances, St. Peter is singled out from the other two.6 Finally, St. Peter was the only apostle to walk on water and delivered the homily on the first Pentecost.7

For these reasons – and Scriptures below – St. Peter held a primacy among the twelve and is known historically as the “Prince of the Apostles.”

 

St. Peter receiving the Keys of the Kingdom.
St. Peter receiving the Keys of the Kingdom.

 

St. Peter’s Vocation in the Gospel of St. Matthew

 

3. What Type of Kingdom did Christ Intend?

In writing his gospel to the Jews, St. Matthew draws heavily from the Old Testament in order to show Christ as the Jewish Messiah. One of the most important Messianic Old Testament concepts is the New Davidic Kingdom. King David is promised a descendent who would “rule forever” and sit on “David’s throne” forever.8  According to the Bible, Jesus Christ is a descendent of King David. He is referred to as the “Son of David.”9

 

4. What Office did Christ give to St. Peter?

St. Matthew records one of the most import pericopes in Scripture. First, St. Peter is singled out as the one among the twelve that correctly identifies Christ as the Son of the Living God. Second, Christ singles out St. Peter and gives him a unique vocation/office within the New Davidic Kingdom.

And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. Then he commanded his disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.

Christ changes Simon Bar-Jona’s name to Peter, meaning Rock and declares that it is upon this rock Christ will build his Church.10 In the Old Testament, God changing a person’s name signified a new vocation for that individual. Abram was changed to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, and Jacob to Israel. Simon Bar-Jona’s new vocation as Peter is to be the Rock for Christ’s Church. How exactly St. Peter is to fulfill this role of rock is expressed in a biblical understanding of the keys he is given.

 

5. Is St. Peter the Rock in the Original Language?

Before a discussion of the keys, certain protestant polemics that attempt to state St. Peter was not the rock in St. Matthew’s famous passage should be addressed. In Greek, Christ changes St. Peter’s name to Petros and then says upon this petra I will build my Church. The assertion here is that the two terms are distinct and St. Peter is consequently not the rock upon which the Church is built. There  are two main reasons this polemic is in error.

First, there is a distinction between the language Christ spoke and the language of the New Testament. Christ spoke Aramaic, which renders the passage, “That thou art Kepha; and upon this kepha I will build my church.” There is no distinction.11 This reading in the Aramaic is affirmed by the fact St. Peter is also called Cephas in the New Testament. The name Peter comes from the Greek petros/petra meaning rock, while Cephas comes from the Aramaic word kepha.

Second, there is a distinction in the Greek itself. First, even though Greek is an inflected language – meaning the form/spelling of the noun is predicated upon its function in the sentence – the distinction between petros and petra is not an inflection of the same word. They are cognates, meaning they are two words with the same root word. In the old Attic Greek, this distinction held a nuanced difference in the definitions; however, this nuance had disappeared by the time the New Testament was written. The New Testament is written in Koine Greek, which holds petros and petra to be synonyms.12 There is again, no discernible distinction between petros and petra.

St. Peter is the rock in both the spoken language and the written language of the New Testament. There are other protestant concerns that pivot on the misguided belief that only Christ may be referred to as the rock. This belief lends to a tormented reading of the text that asserts the rock is either Christ himself or St. Peter’s faith. First, the text is difficult to reconcile with these views as St. Peter is undeniably given the keys of the kingdom. He is the focus on the entire passage. Second, many forget that Abraham was also referred to as the rock of Israel. Isaiah 51:1-3 states, “Look to the rock from which you were hewn… look to Abraham your father.” The connection between Abraham and St. Peter only further solidifies the belief that St. Peter’s vocation is one of extreme importance – as both Abraham and St. Peter serve as foundations for the People of God.13

 

6. Are St. Peter’s Keys in the Bible?

One of the most intriguing aspects of St. Matthew’s passage is Christ giving St. Peter the keys of the kingdom. Since Christ is the “Son of David” and he sits on throne in the New Jerusalem, it follows that the keys must have a Davidic significance.  In examining the passage, it is clear that Christ is drawing from the Old Testament and perfecting a passage from Isaiah that speaks of a position within the Davidic Kingdom.

And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a peg in a sure place, and he shall be for a throne of glory to the house of his father.

The similarities in the Old Testament passage are striking. In both passages, a person within the Davidic Kingdom is given keys that come with the authority to open and shut or to bind and loose.14 Reading Isaiah 22 and Matthew 16 together, the office given to St. Peter appears to be one of a steward or vicar. The vicar is the person who governs in the king’s stead when the king is away. He does not have the authority to change the teachings of the king, but he does have the authority to enforce and clarify them. In King David’s time, his vicar would rule when David was off to war or some other errand. In our age, the Vicar of Christ, aka the Office of the Papacy, governs the Church according to Christ’s teachings until Christ the King returns for his Kingdom. Notice David’s Vicar has one key to open and close the earthly kingdom, but Christ’s Vicar has two keys: one for heaven and one for earth.

Another important aspect of the keys is their ability to “bind and loose.” The phrase is deeply rooted in the Jewish rabbinic tradition and denotes the power to set the boundaries of a community. The binding and loosing power Christ attached to the keys clarifies for the community what was right and what was wrong. As the steward governed King David’s House according to the King’s order, so too does the new steward of the Eternal King’s House govern according to the Eternal King’s order.

 

St. Peter’s Vocation in the Gospel of St. Luke

 

7. How does St. Luke describe St. Peter’s Vocation?

In the Gospel of St. Luke, Christ charges St. Peter with the role of confirming his brothers in the faith.15

And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. Who said to him: Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said: I say to thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, till thou thrice deniest that thou knowest me.

One of the comforts of being a Catholic is that Christ chose an imperfect man to be the first Pope. St. Peter fails time and time again. Note here, however, that it appears God has given up St. Peter to Satan as he did Job. St. Peter does fail and he betrays Christ three times, however, unlike Judas, St. Peter is able to discover grace and return to fulfill his biblical role. He returns and strengthens the brethren. Compare the St. Peter who denied Christ to the St. Peter who – again in a unique act – stood and delivered the homily at the first Pentecost.

 

St. Peter’s Vocation in the Gospel of St. John

 

8. What is St. Peter’s Vocation in St. John’s Gospel?

The Gospel of St. John records St. Peter’s vocation in terms of a chief shepherd. Take note of the threefold commission given to St. Peter. The thrice nature of the commission has both a ancient juridical element and hearkens back to St. Luke’s description.16

This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to his disciples, after he was risen from the dead. When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.

He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep. Amen, amen I say to thee, when thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not. And this he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had said this, he saith to him: Follow me.

First, notice that the vocation given to St. Peter is one founded on love and expressed in service. The threefold nature of the commission serves two purposes. First, St. Peter thrice proclaims his love for Christ, which corresponds and heals his three denials of Christ. Second, Christ asking St. Peter the same question three times in a row is a juridical formula. The threefold question was a solemn juridical rite that expressed the installation of an office or the transfer of authority.

 

9. How does the modern papacy reflect St. Peter’s biblical vocation?

Did the office of the papacy endure after St. Peter? Yes, if the role of the pope is to be the vicar in the King’s absence, then the office of the papacy endures until the King returns. The pope leads the King’s people according to the King’s laws until the King returns. Moreover, the Isaiah 22 passage that speaks of the Davidic key is in the context of one steward replacing another.

The pope’s authority is articulated in Holy Scripture. The pope strengthens his brother bishops and all Catholics in the faith by writing encyclicals and other works. He stands as an exemplar – hopefully – in faith, morals, and the liturgy. He is the Chief Shepherd watching over God’s flock.

He is the Rock that holds the Keys of the Kingdom. He may bind and loose. Historically, this authority has given us dogma. How many books should be in the Bible? What is the canon for the New Testament? What is the true identity of Christ? What is justification? All these questions have been confirmed at Council by the authority of the papacy. Even the core dogmas that the Protestants hold on to were defined and declared dogma by the Pope and the Church.

However, how does the Church know that these declarations by the Pope and the Church has correct? What if the Church erred in explaining Christ’s identity as fully man and fully God? What if the Church erred in the books of the New Testament? What if one of the hundreds of doctrines the Church declared was heresy was actually God’s truth? If the Church has erred, is she not teaching heresy? Have the gates of hell – despite Christ’s promise – prevailed? By what principle do we declare our faith in the decisions of the Church are correct?

 

A Western depiction of the Pentecost, painted by Jean II Restout, 1732.
A Western depiction of the Pentecost, painted by Jean II Restout, 1732.

 

The Gift of Infallibility

 

10. What is the Soul of the Church?

The concept of infallibility is predicated upon several key biblical concepts. First, the office Christ gave to St. Peter – the role of Vicar who guides, strengthens, and shepherds – second, the promise the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, and third, Pentecost. In Pentecost we learn that the Holy Spirit is the power of the Church. Just as the soul animates the body, so too does the Holy Spirit animate the Catholic Church.17 The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church.

The primary text associated with Pentecost describes the power of the Holy Spirit falling upon Mary and the disciples.18

And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak.

With the power of the Holy Spirit upon him, St. Peter stands up and strengthens the brothers and shepherds the Church. “But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke to them…” One of the undercurrents of St. Peter’s homily is the basic biblical principles that the New Testament is foreshadowed in the Old and the Old Testament is perfected in the New. The old Pentecost celebrating the harvests and the the Covenant at Sinai is perfected in the new Pentecost of the Holy Spirit and the Church. Similarly, the old Davidic kingdom has its steward, so too does the Davidic Kingdom have its steward.

The Pentecost in Acts – in which St. Peter gives the homily – demonstrates the Holy Spirit as the power of the Church. It is the power that fell upon the Apostles, Christ’s agents or legal emissaries. The Pentecost in St. John’s Gospel more fully demonstrates the unique connection between the Apostles, the Holy Spirit, and the governance of Christ’s Church.19

And when he [Christ] had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord.

He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

St. John’s Pentecost is characterized by Christ breathing the Holy Spirit onto the Apostles. The act grants them the power – through the Holy Spirit – to forgive and retain sins, the biblical foundation for the Sacrament of Confession, inter alia. The two passages serve to demonstrate the Holy Spirit’s intimate role with the Church, and the latter passage more clearly indicates the instruments of the Holy Spirit are the Apostles. St. Peter then, stands unique among the rest, as he holds a special place among the Apostles – the Vicar of Christ.

 

11. What is the Gift of Infallibility?

The Gift of Infallibility is the belief the Holy Spirit fulfills Christ’s promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. Infallibility is first and foremost a gift to the Church; however, like the gift to forgive and retain sins, the means by which the Holy Spirit accomplishes this gift is the papacy and the magisterium of the Church. The promise that hell would not prevail was given by Christ in the same passage that he gives St. Peter the keys and renames him the Rock. The vocation of St. Peter and the promise hell will not prevail against the Church are intimately connected.

If the Pope is the Rock and he has the keys to “bind and loose,” what if the Pope was to lead the Church into error? What if the Pope at the Council of Nicaea would have submitted Christ was not fully God and fully Man? What if Pope would have allowed Gnostic books filled with errors into the biblical canon? The Pope and the Church – but never the Church without the Pope – has determined what is and is not Christianity. Many of these proclamations are still held by protestants as core undeniable tenants of the Christian faith. But by what faith do Catholics take these decisions? By what surety do Christians hold the doctrines of Christ’s Incarnation and the Trinity? Catholics take them on the faith that the Holy Spirit protects the Church and keeps her from error.

The Gift of Infallibility is a negative gift not a positive gift. It is a negative gift that prevents the pope from leading the Church into serious error. It is a gift of prevention and not of assertion. In other words, it is a gift of clarifying the faith, not creating the faith. Ultimately, it is the a gift to the Church preserving the Bride of Christ from the stain of adultery (idolatry). Call to mind the keys of the kingdom and the role of the vicar. The pope leads the King’s people according to the King’s laws and at times must clarify those laws so the people may continue to live in full adherence to the King.

 

12. How does Infallibility Work?

First, there are the councils that decided matters of faith. For example, the Council of Nicaea articulated the identity of Christ and the Council of Trent the doctrine of justification. Through the Holy Spirit working in the Church and the Chief Shepherd, the Pope, the Faithful may believe these doctrines have been defined infallibly. It is the Church and the Pope, but never the Church without the Pope.

Second, when the bishops of the world teach in unison with the Pope and the Sacred Tradition of the Church there is infallibility. A council may declare something, but then the bishops are charged with sharing that truth with their flock. When a bishop teaches the Faithful about Sacred Tradition there is infallibility. The sole belief that this doctrine has been given infallibly to the Church.

Third, there is when the Pope speaks ex cathedra or from the throne. An ex cathedra pronouncement declares a clarification of Catholic doctrine that is consistent with the faith of the Church, is universally applicable, and seriously tied enough to salvation to merit an extraordinary clarification. The Council of Vatican I (AD 1869-70) declared:

Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

Note that the Council did not invent a new papal power, but clarified an existing one.20 The papal infallibility is a Gift to the Church that is used to clarify longstanding doctrinal issues. For example, Pope Pius IX infallibly declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8, 1854.21 Similarly, the Assumption of Mary was dogmatically defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950.22 Neither of these doctrines were invented in 1854 or 1950; rather, they were longstanding debates in the Church that the Pope felt were serious enough to merit an infallibly clarification.


Further Resources on Understanding the Papacy

  1. Early Church & the Papacy: SPL has three lists of quotes in this area – The Early Church in Jerusalem Followed the Pope: 7 Quotes from HistoryConstantinople: 25 Quotes from the Eastern Fathers on the Petrine MinistryRome is the Apostolic Throne: 24 Quotes from Alexandria, Antioch, and Cyprus. []
  2. Shaliah: In cross-referencing sources, the term was also listed as shali’ah and shaliach. For example, “The first shaliaḥ mentioned in the written Torah is Eliezer, who was sent by Abraham to find a wife for Isaac.” Source. []
  3. Apostles: First, there are always question about St. Paul referring to himself as an apostle. St. Paul did meet the Risen Christ and he was personally commissioned. Second, the “power” of the apostles is articulated throughout the article, but outside all the examples of them casting out demons, etc., look to the Pentecost of St. John’s Gospel, chapter 20. There, Christ breathes on the apostles and gives them the power to forgive and retain sins. []
  4. First to be Called: St. Luke 5:1-11, quote from Cardinal Ratzinger’s Called to Communion, 54. []
  5. St. Peter Listed First: Matt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13 []
  6. Transfiguration & Mt. of Olives: Mark 9:2-8; 14:33 []
  7. Walk on Water: Mt 14:28ff, also note St. Peter asked Christ how many times we ought to forgive (Mt 18:21) and his shadow healed people (Acts 5). For a whole list on this subject, see 13 Biblical Reasons St. Peter is the Prince of the Apostles []
  8. King David’s Throne: I Chron 17:14; Ps 89:35-36; Luke1:31 []
  9. Son of David: Matt 1:1-2; 9:27-29; Mk 10:47, 48) Christ, as the Eternal King, fulfills God’s covenant with David, because Christ will “rule forever” from King David’s Throne in the New Jerusalem. During the exiles of Israel, the people wrote with hope about the New Jerusalem and the Messiah that would usher in the New Davidic Kingdom; thus, any conversation about what is and what is not properly intended by Christ, regarding his Kingdom, must be couched within the template of the Davidic Kingdom. ((David’s Kingdom: Is. 9:6-7; 11:1-3; Jer 33:14-15, 17, 19-21, 26; Ps 132:10-14, 17; Luke 1:31-33, 68-71; II Tim 2:8; Rev 5:5, 22:16; Rom 1:3 []
  10. Name Change: St. Matthew 16:13-20, D-R. []
  11. Cephas in the New Testament: cf. John 1:42; I Cor 1:12, 3:22, 9:5. []
  12. Greek Petros/Petra: For a further discussion see 10 Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy and its citations on this issue; moreover, the entire discussion of St. Peter’s vocation from the Gospel of St. Matthew is drawn from the same article. []
  13. Abraham & St. Peter: Cardinal Ratzinger stated the following in his book Called to Communion, 56, “Abraham, the father of faith, is by his faith the rock that holds back chaos, the onrushing primordial flood of destruction, and thus sustains creation. Simon, the first to confess Jesus as the Christ and the first witness of the Resurrection, now becomes by virtue of his Abrahamic faith, which is renewed in Christ, the rock that stands against the impure tide of unbelief and its destruction of man.” []
  14. Keys in the Old Testament: The verse is Isaiah 22:22-23 D-R, but the entire passage is notable for discerning the vocation of St. Peter. For instance, the passage is actually taking the keys from one steward to the next. This detail is often used to combat those Protestant circles who affirm St. Peter had a unique role, but argue the role died with he died. []
  15. Strengthen the Brothers: Gospel of St. Luke 22:29-32 []
  16. Feed my Sheep: St. John 21:15-19 []
  17. Soul of the Church: In Latin the soul is anima which English derives words like animate; thus, the Holy Spirit as the anima of the Church animates all she does. []
  18. Pentecost: Acts 2 D-R []
  19. John’s Pentecost: Gospel of John 20:20-23 []
  20. Vatican I: Papal Infallibility, Session Four, Chapter Four. []
  21. Immaculate Conception:  Pope Pius IX in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus. []
  22. Assumption of Mary: Infallibly declared in Munificentissimus Deus. []

In Dust and Ashes: 21 Images from the Book of Job

Listers, the following is the entire gallery of William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job. The gallery displayed is known as the Linell Set (AD 1821) and contains 21 watercolor pieces. There is also an earlier watercolor gallery known as the Butts set (1806). Later, Blake went on to recreate the images on engraved plates (1826), which is widely consider his greatest work in that medium.

“Therefore I reprehend myself, and do penance in dust and ashes.”

– Job 42:6

Blake never titled the pieces, so each title and respective verse was added later by scholars.1

 

 

Thus did Job continually.
Job 1:5

Job and His Family.
1. Job and His Family.

 

When the Almighty was yet with me, When my Children were about me.
Job 29:5

Satan Before the Throne of God.
2. Satan Before the Throne of God.

 

Thy Sons & thy Daughters were eating & drinking Wine in their eldest Brothers house & behold there came a great wind from the Wilderness & smote upon the four faces of the house & it fell upon the young Men & they are Dead.
Job 1:18–1:19

Job's Sons and Daughters Overwhelmed by Satan.
3. Job’s Sons and Daughters Overwhelmed by Satan.

 

And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
Job 1:15

The Messengers Tell Job of His Misfortunes.
4. The Messengers Tell Job of His Misfortunes.

 

Then went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord.
Job 2:7

Satan Going Forth from the Presence of the Lord and Job's Charity.
5. Satan Going Forth from the Presence of the Lord and Job’s Charity.

 

And smote Job with sore Boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
Job 2:7

Satan Smiting Job with Boils.
6. Satan Smiting Job with Boils.

 

And when they lifted up their eyes afar off & knew him not they lifted up their voice & wept, and rent every Man his mantle & sprinkled dust upon their heads towards heaven.
Job 2:12

Job's Comforters.
7. Job’s Comforters.

 

Let the Day perish wherin I was Born.
Job 3:3

Job's Despair.
8. Job’s Despair.

 

Then a Spirit passed before my face the hair of my flesh stood up.
Job 4:14

The Vision of Eliphaz.
9. The Vision of Eliphaz.

 

The Just Upright Man is laughed to scorn.
Job 12:4

Job Rebuked by His Friends.
10. Job Rebuked by His Friends.

 

With Dreams upon my bed thou scarest me & affrightest me with Visions.
Job 7:14

Job's Evil Dreams.
11. Job’s Evil Dreams.

 

I am Young & ye are very Old wherefore I was afraid.
Job 32:6

The Wrath of Elihu.
12. The Wrath of Elihu.

 

Then the Lord answered Job out of the Whirlwind.
Job 38:1

The Lord Answering Job out of the Whirlwind.
13. The Lord Answering Job out of the Whirlwind.

 

When the morning Stars sang together, & all the Sons of God shouted for joy.
Job 38:7

When the Morning Stars Sang Together.
14. When the Morning Stars Sang Together.

 

Behold now Behemoth which I made with thee.
Job 40:15

Behemoth and Leviathan.
15. Behemoth and Leviathan.

 

Thou hast fulfilled the Judgment of the Wicked.
Job 36:17

The Fall of Satan.
16. The Fall of Satan.

 

I have heard thee with the hearing of the Ear but now my Eye seeth thee.
Job 42:5

The Vision of Christ.
17. The Vision of Christ.

 

And my Servant Job shall pray for you.
Job 42:8

Job's Sacrifice.
18. Job’s Sacrifice.

 

Every one also gave him a piece of Money.
Job 42:11

Every one also gave him a piece of Money.
19. Every one also gave him a piece of Money.

 

There were not found Women as fair as the Daughters of Job in all the Land & their Father gave them Inheritance among their Brethren.
Job 42:15

Job and His Daughters.
20. Job and His Daughters.

 

So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning.
Job 42:12

Job and His Family Restored to Prosperity.
21. Job and His Family Restored to Prosperity.

  1. William Blake: All images and information was taken from William Blake’s Illustrations on the Book of Job. []

Islam as a Christian Heresy: 8 Quotes from St. John Damascene A.D. 749

“There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist.”

Listers in one of the earliest polemics against Islam, the “superstition of the Ishmaelites” was viewed as a heresy of Christianity. In his  work The Fount of Knowledge, St. John Damascene (c. 675 or 676 – 4 December 749) gifts the Church with one of the earliest summa theologicas. He is considered the last of the great Early Church Fathers and it would be difficult to exaggerate his influence on the Christian East. He is also esteemed in the Western Church as a forerunner to the scholastics and is considered by some as the first scholastic. St. John Damascene is best known for his fight against iconoclasm.1

 

The Fount of Knowledge is divided into three categories:

  1. “Philosophical Chapters” (Kephalaia philosophika) – “With the exception of the fifteen chapters that deal exclusively with logic, it has mostly to do with the ontology of Aristotle. It is largely a summary of the Categories of Aristotle with Porphyry’s “Isagoge” (Eisagoge eis tas kategorias). It seems to have been John Damascene’s purpose to give his readers only such philosophical knowledge as was necessary for understanding the subsequent parts of the “Fountain of Wisdom”.
  2. “Concerning Heresy” (Peri aipeseon) – “Little more than a copy of a similar work by Epiphanius, brought up to date by John Damascene. The author indeed expressly disclaims originality except in the chapters devoted to Islamism, Iconoclasm, and Aposchitae. To the list of eighty heresies that constitute the “Panarion” of Epiphanius, he added twenty heresies that had sprung up since his time. In treating of Islamism he vigorously assails the immoral practices of Mohammed and the corrupt teachings inserted in the Koran to legalize the delinquencies of the prophet.”
  3. “An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith” (Ikdosis akribes tes orthodoxou pisteos) – “The third book of the “Fountain of Wisdom”, is the most important of John Damascene’s writings and one of the most notable works of Christian antiquity. Its authority has always been great among the theologians of the East and West. Here, again, the author modestly disavows any claim of originality — any purpose to essay a new exposition of doctrinal truth. He assigns himself the less pretentious task of collecting in a single work the opinions of the ancient writers scattered through many volumes, and of systematizing and connecting them in a logical whole.2

 

In his passage on Concerning Heresies, his section on the superstition of the Ishmaelites is considerably longer than most. One reason for this attention could be his prolonged battles against iconoclasm, in which the influence of Islam was a significant factor. The following are selected sections from his passage on Islam.

 

Another depiction of Muhammad in hell for the sin of heresy. He is rendering his body as he rendered the Body of Christ. MS. Holkham misc. 48, p. 42, Bodleian Library in Oxford, England.
Another depiction of Muhammad in hell for the sin of heresy. He is rendering his body as he rendered the Body of Christ. MS. Holkham misc. 48, p. 42, Bodleian Library in Oxford, England.

 

1. Muhammed devised his own heresy

“There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist. They are descended from Ishmael, [who] was born to Abraham of Agar, and for this reason they are called both Agarenes and Ishmaelites… From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration.”

 

2. Christ’s shadow was crucified

“He says that there is one God, creator of all things, who has neither been begotten nor has begotten. He says that the Christ is the Word of God and His Spirit, but a creature and a servant, and that He was begotten, without seed, of Mary the sister of Moses and Aaron. For, he says, the Word and God and the Spirit entered into Mary and she brought forth Jesus, who was a prophet and servant of God. And he says that the Jews wanted to crucify Him in violation of the law, and that they seized His shadow and crucified this. But the Christ Himself was not crucified, he says, nor did He die, for God out of His love for Him took Him to Himself into heaven.”

 

3. Christ denied saying, “I am the Son of God and God.”

“And he says this, that when the Christ had ascended into heaven God asked Him: ‘O Jesus, didst thou say: “I am the Son of God and God”?’ And Jesus, he says, answered: ‘Be merciful to me, Lord. Thou knowest that I did not say this and that I did not scorn to be thy servant. But sinful men have written that I made this statement, and they have lied about me and have fallen into error.’ And God answered and said to Him: ‘I know that thou didst not say this word.” There are many other extraordinary and quite ridiculous things in this book which he boasts was sent down to him from God.”

 

4. Where did Scripture foretell Muhammad?

“But when we ask: ‘And who is there to testify that God gave him the book? And which of the prophets foretold that such a prophet would rise up?’—they are at a loss. And we remark that Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai, with God appearing in the sight of all the people in cloud, and fire, and darkness, and storm. And we say that all the Prophets from Moses on down foretold the coming of Christ and how Christ God (and incarnate Son of God) was to come and to be crucified and die and rise again, and how He was to be the judge of the living and dead. Then, when we say: ‘How is it that this prophet of yours did not come in the same way, with others bearing witness to him? And how is it that God did not in your presence present this man with the book to which you refer, even as He gave the Law to Moses, with the people looking on and the mountain smoking, so that you, too, might have certainty?’—they answer that God does as He pleases.”

 

5. Where are the witnesses?

“When we ask again: ‘How is it that when he enjoined us in this book of yours not to do anything or receive anything without witnesses, you did not ask him: “First do you show us by witnesses that you are a prophet and that you have come from God, and show us just what Scriptures there are that testify about you”’—they are ashamed and remain silent.”

 

6. What do the Muslims call Christians?

“Moreover, they call us Hetaeriasts, or Associators, because, they say, we introduce an associate with God by declaring Christ to the Son of God and God… And again we say to them: ‘As long as you say that Christ is the Word of God and Spirit, why do you accuse us of being Hetaeriasts? For the word, and the spirit, is inseparable from that in which it naturally has existence. Therefore, if the Word of God is in God, then it is obvious that He is God. If, however, He is outside of God, then, according to you, God is without word and without spirit. Consequently, by avoiding the introduction of an associate with God you have mutilated Him. It would be far better for you to say that He has an associate than to mutilate Him, as if you were dealing with a stone or a piece of wood or some other inanimate object. Thus, you speak untruly when you call us Hetaeriasts; we retort by calling you Mutilators of God.’”

 

7. On Women

“As has been related, this Mohammed wrote many ridiculous books, to each one of which he set a title. For example, there is the book On Woman, in which he plainly makes legal provision for taking four wives and, if it be possible, a thousand concubines—as many as one can maintain, besides the four wives. He also made it legal to put away whichever wife one might wish, and, should one so wish, to take to oneself another in the same way. Mohammed had a friend named Zeid. This man had a beautiful wife with whom Mohammed fell in love. Once, when they were sitting together, Mohammed said: ‘Oh, by the way, God has commanded me to take your wife.’ The other answered: ‘You are an apostle. Do as God has told you and take my wife.’

 

As shown by the artwork above, the Middle Ages also viewed Islam has a heresy. In Dante’s Inferno, Canto XXVIII, Muhammad is depicted as “twixt the legs, Dangling his entrails hung, the midriff lay Open to view…” Muhammad suffers the punishment of the schismatics: having his body rent from chin to anus for how he rent the Body of Christ. The great Catholic thinker Hilarie Belloc (1870-1953) is also known for his treatise on Islam as The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed.

  1. Fount of Knowledge: A digital download of Catholic University of America’s translation is available (here) and an except may be viewed online (here). Furthermore, a larger excerpt on Islam from Fount of Knowledge may be read on an Orthodox website (here). Another translation is available in its entirety online, but SPL is unfamiliar with the translation (here). []
  2. St. John Damascene Information: Biographical information and the structure of the Fountain of Wisdom is adapted from the Catholic Encyclopedia article. []

We are an Easter People: 15 Questions on the Resurrection and Ascension

The Resurrection is the greatest of Christ’s miracles because all He taught and did is confirmed by it and depends upon it. He promised to rise from the dead and without the fulfillment of that promise we could not believe in Him.

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism for teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and it simplifies even the most complex theological questions. All the lists taken from the Baltimore Catechism may be found here.

Questions on the Catholic Faith

 

Q. 405. On what day did Christ rise from the dead?

A. Christ rose from the dead, glorious and immortal, on Easter Sunday, the third day after His death.

 

Q. 406. Why is the Resurrection the greatest of Christ’s miracles?

A. The Resurrection is the greatest of Christ’s miracles because all He taught and did is confirmed by it and depends upon it. He promised to rise from the dead and without the fulfillment of that promise we could not believe in Him.

 

Q. 407. Has any one ever tried to disprove the miracle of the resurrection?

A. Unbelievers in Christ have tried to disprove the miracle of the resurrection as they have tried to disprove all His other miracles; but the explanations they give to prove Christ’s miracles false are far more unlikely and harder to believe than the miracles themselves.

 

Q. 408. What do we mean when we say Christ rose “glorious” from the dead?

A. When we say Christ rose “glorious” from the dead we mean that His body was in a glorified state; that is, gifted with the qualities of a glorified body.

 

Q. 409. What are the qualities of a glorified body?

A. The qualities of a glorified body are:
1. Brilliancy, by which it gives forth light;
2. Agility, by which it moves from place to place as rapidly as an angel;
3. Subtility, by which material things cannot shut it out;
4. Impassibility, by which it is made incapable of suffering.

 

Q. 410. Was Christ three full days in the tomb?

A. Christ was not three full days, but only parts of three days in the tomb.

 

Q. 411. How long did Christ stay on earth after His resurrection?

A. Christ stayed on earth forty days after His resurrection, to show that He was truly risen from the dead, and to instruct His apostles.

 

Q. 412. Was Christ visible to all and at all times during the forty days He remained on earth after His resurrection?

A. Christ was not visible to all nor at all times during the forty days He remained on earth after His resurrection. We know that He appeared to His apostles and others at least nine times, though He may have appeared oftener.

 

Q. 413. How did Christ show that He was truly risen from the dead?

A. Christ showed that He was truly risen from the dead by eating and conversing with His Apostles and others to whom He appeared. He showed the wounds in His hands, feet and side, and it was after His resurrection that He gave to His Apostles the power to forgive sins.

 

Q. 414. After Christ had remained forty days on earth, whither did He go?

A. After forty days Christ ascended into heaven, and the day on which be ascended into heaven is called Ascension Day.

 

Q. 415. Where did the ascension of Our Lord take place?

A. Christ ascended into heaven from Mount Olivet, the place made sacred by His agony on the night before His death.

 

Q. 416. Who were present at the ascension and who ascended with Christ?

A. From various parts of Scripture we may conclude there were about 125 persons — though traditions tell us there was a greater number — present at the Ascension. They were the Apostles, the Disciples, the pious women and others who had followed Our Blessed Lord. The souls of the just who were waiting in Limbo for the redemption ascended with Christ.

 

Q. 417. Why is the paschal candle which is lighted on Easter morning extinguished at the Mass on Ascension Day?

A. The paschal candle which is lighted on Easter morning signifies Christ’s visible presence on earth, and it is extinguished on Ascension Day to show that He, having fulfilled all the prophecies concerning Himself and having accomplished the work of redemption, has transferred the visible care of His Church to His Apostles and returned in His body to heaven.

 

Q. 418. Where is Christ in heaven?

A. In heaven Christ sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

 

Q. 419. What do you mean by saying that Christ sits at the right hand of God?

A. When I say that Christ sits at the right hand of God I mean that Christ as God is equal to His Father in all things, and that as man He is in the highest place in heaven next to God.

8 Considerations on Whether Christ had Acquired, Infused, or Beatific Knowledge

The knowledge of God’s essence, the infused intelligible species, and the acquired phantasms all flow harmoniously within the knowledge of Christ. The efficient cause of humanity’s perfection maintains his human perfection.

A Word of Caution
In his epistle to I Corinthians, St. Paul writes, “I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh.” The following Thomistic contemplation on the knowledge of Christ is meat. SPL has written extensively on St. Thomas Aquinas and the majority of our lists are written in such a way that any Catholic may pick them up and glean some wisdom from our Common Doctor. The following consideration on Christ’s knowledge is a deeply scholastic reflection that presupposes a good deal of familiarity with Aquinas. Those wanting a quality introduction to the Angelic Doctor can reference Pope Benedict XVI Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas or see our introduction to the distinction between knowledge and wisdom or read our primer on the Queen of the Sciences. That said, we begin what is really in itself a primer on the subject of Christ’s knowledge.

 

Introduction

The Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) infallibly declared that Christ was one person with two distinct natures: a human nature and a divine nature. The Tome of Pope Leo – a letter articulating Pope Leo’s position on Christology – was read at the Council. The pontiff states, “therefore in the entire and perfect nature of very man was born very God, whole in what was his, whole in what was ours.”[1] Furthermore, predicated upon the dogma of the two natures of Christ, the Third Council of Constantinople (A.D. 680) confessed, “two natural wills in Him and two natural operations.”[2] The implicit import of affirming two natural operations within Christ is that “there are in Christ two modes of knowledge, one divine (common to the three Persons of the Trinity) and the other human, in Christ’s human intellect.”[3] Without a genuine human operation and mode of knowledge, Christ’s rational soul would be ineffectual. Moreover, Christ’s role as Savior appears to necessitate true human knowledge insofar as that knowledge “is the basis for his free human decisions and consequently of his capacity to merit salvation for us.”[4] However, the divine nature in Christ necessitates a divine knowledge, which would seem to intimate that Christ held the Beatific Vision. Returning to the Tome of Pope Leo, the pontiff submits what has now been entitled the Communication of Properties or Idioms. He states, “each of the natures retains its proper character without defect; and as the form of God does not take away the form of a servant, so the form of a servant does not impair the form of God.”[5] The words of Pope Leo have become the Christological standard in understanding the properties of Christ. It stands then that the knowledge of Christ presents the theologian with a particular dilemma: how can Christ have true human knowledge and possess the Beatific Vision? Likewise, how can one person be both acquiring knowledge in a genuine human mode and truly possess the perfection of human knowledge in the Beatific Vision? Can Christ be simultaneously moving toward an end and in possession of the end? In navigating the question of Christ’s knowledge, the Catholic intellectual tradition has posited three modes of knowledge: acquired, infused, and beatific. Turning more particularly to the Thomistic tradition, in following the standard of Pope Leo, St. Thomas strives to show how Christ held all three forms of knowledge without imposing a defect on the human or divine nature.

 

1. On Acquired Knowledge

Acquired knowledge is knowledge which “a man comes to know through his own efforts.”[6] It is the natural epistemic method of human persons. In Disputed Questions on Power, St. Thomas examines in detail the mode of acquiring knowledge. He states at first there is the “thing which is understood” or rather the intelligible object.[7] Secondly, there is the “intelligible species, by which the intellect comes to be in act.”[8] The intelligible species is the form of the thing extracted from the object, “by which the intellect comes to be in act,” and is “considered as a principle of the action of the intellect.”[9] It is the “first act,” that leads to the “second act” of actually comprehending the object. The intelligible species is impressed into the mind as first act, thus the intelligible species “comes to be in act through some form” – the form extracted from the object – “which must be the principle of the action.”[10] The “second act” is that which finds its end, its term in forming a concept. The “conception of the intellect” – which is never the object itself, but always in the mind – is the conceptual form from the understanding of the object.[11] As St. Thomas explains, “the conception of the intellect is ordered to the thing understood as to an end: for the intellect forms in itself a concept of the thing that it might know the thing understood.”[12] The conception of the intellect may be seen clearly in the distinction of the interior word and the exterior word. St. Thomas states, “The conception of the intellect in us is properly called a ‘word’ for this is what is signified by an exterior word.”[13] In human speech, a word does not “signify the intellect itself” nor does it signify the “intelligible species,” but the spoken word signifies the interior or inner word – that is the conception of the intellect, “by mediation of which it is referred to the thing [the original intelligible object].”[14]

For the sake of clarity, it may advisable for us to place St. Thomas’ cognitional theory within a basic example. A person sees the tree and the intelligible species of the tree is impressed on their mind. St. Thomas considers this the first act. The second act is the person’s intellect understanding the intelligible species of the tree. The understanding of the intelligible species forms a concept of the tree in the intellect, which is the term or end of the second act. The individual then has an “inner word” of the tree, which then can be spoken as the “exterior word.” The spoken word or exterior word then mediates the understanding of the individual’s conception of the original tree to the other individual.

 

2. Agent & Possible Intellect

The Angelic Doctor’s cognitional theory brings to the surface two modes of the intellect: the agent or active intellect and the possible or passive intellect. In examining the rational soul of men, St. Thomas observes the soul “is in potentiality to knowing intelligible things,” and “it is like a tablet on which nothing is written.”[15] However, the human intellect is capable of learning and thus the possible intellect is the potency to understand. The agent or active intellect is then operation by which the possible intellect is moved to act. As St. Thomas avers, “the proper operation of the active intellect is to make intelligible species in act.”[16] Abstracting intelligible species, the agent intellect reduces the possible intellect into act, by what it sees in the phantasm or intelligible material object.[17] The extracted intelligible species from the phantasm becomes a habit informing the intellect. The habit is formed because the agent intellect also reduces the understanding into the concept and that concept is habitually called upon for understanding.

 

3. Whether there is Beatific Knowledge in Christ

With a basic understanding of St. Thomas cognitional theory natural to man, we may turn to the knowledge of Christ. In light of the fact that that which is higher orders that which is lower, the beatific knowledge of Christ must be treated prior to any of the two lower forms of knowledge. The beatific vision, the vision of the blessed, or the “science of vision” are all univocal terms that refer to the knowledge of one who has seen God in his essence. St. John refers to the beatific vision when he says that the faithful departed will see God “as he is.”[18]

The Trinity Icon
The Trinity Icon

Turning to the biblical tradition within St. John’s Gospel, Christ’s relationship with the Father appears to be in a beatific manner. Christ says, “not that anyone has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father,” and furthermore, he states “but you have not known [the Father]; I know him.”[19] Moreover, St. John records, “he who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard.”[20] These passages seem to “put it beyond doubt that the revelatory power of Christ originated not in a revelation made to him nor in his faith, but in the direct knowledge he has of the Father.”[21] If Christ did not have the beatific vision then he would need faith, but “Scripture is notably silent” about Christ’s faith.[22] In fact, Christ is “never depicted as a believer,” but is rather shown as “someone who knows God intimately and directly.”[23] St. Thomas predicates his philosophical argument upon Scripture’s affirmation of Christ’s direct knowledge of God. Referring to St. John’s Gospel, St. Thomas notes that Christ “knew God fully, even as He was man.”[24] St. Thomas observes that all men have their teleological end in God and therefore man “is in potentiality to the knowledge of blessed.”[25] It is by the “humanity of Christ” that “men are brought to this end” of Beatific Vision.[26] Here St. Thomas argues what is commonly called the principle of perfection: “hence it was necessary that the beatific knowledge” should “belong to Christ pre-eminently, since the cause ought always to be more efficacious than the effect.”[27] According to this principle, if there was a time when Christ did not possess the end or rather the beatific vision, then the end that humanity is brought to could not be derivative of Christ’s humanity. However, since humanity is brought to the end by the humanity of Christ, then it seems necessary for Christ’s humanity to have the perfection of the efficient cause. However, could it be stated that Christ’s beatific knowledge is only necessitated after the Resurrection, because “from that point onwards Christ’s humanity effectively leads men to heaven”?[28] In spite of this claim, Christ must be seen as “mediator, the one who unites men to God” could be lacking the mediation required to bring man to God at any time.[29] If there was a privation of mediation in Christ, then “he would have needed mediation,” but this cannot be as he is the “first and only mediator.”[30] According to St. Thomas, it stands then that the biblical tradition and scripturally predicated philosophical principles reveal Christ to have knowledge that is in the manner of the blessed.

 

4. On the Manner of Christ’s Beatific Knowledge

What then is Christ’s comprehension of the Divine Essence? St. Thomas posits that the soul of Christ could not fully comprehend the Divine Essence.[31] In holding to Christ as one person with two distinct natures, Christ’s soul would have limitations proper to a created soul. As St. Thomas avers, “it is impossible for any creature to comprehend the Divine Essence,” because “the infinite is not comprehended by the finite.”[32] Returning to St. Leo’s communication of idioms, is Christ’s inability to grasp the Divine Essence fully a defect between the natures? No defect is inferred to the Divine nature as all questions of Christ’s knowledge are rooted in his humanity. To argue Christ’s divine nature or the Word did not have beatific vision would be ad absurdum. Regarding the human nature, there is no defect, because Christ’s soul is perfected according to its natural capacity. Therefore, Christ’s human nature comprehends the Divine Essence according to the natural perfection of the human soul, which is the perfection needed in order for him to be the efficient cause of humanity’s reaching the beatific end.

Christ as Judge, a selection from the Sistine Chapel.
Christ as Judge, a selection from the Sistine Chapel.

What then is the knowledge that Christ comprehends? St. Thomas addresses this issue in two ways. First, Christ knows “whatsoever is, will be, or was done, said, or thought, by whomsoever and at any time.”[33] “In this way,” St. Thomas states, “it must be said that the soul of Christ knows all things in the Word.”[34] The Angelic Doctor predicates his view upon the “dignity” of Christ and his role as “Judge.”[35] As he says, “no beatified intellect fails to know in the Word whatever pertains to itself,” and thus to the position of Christ as Judge “all things to some extent belong, inasmuch as all things are subject to Him.”[36] Therefore it is necessary for one “appointed Judge of all by God” to have the knowledge of all in order to judge perfectly. However, Christ has been placed Judge over a reality in act, not over all realities in potential. In this light, St. Thomas makes his second statement: “to such things as are in potentiality, and never have been nor ever will be reduced to act,” it appears “some of these are in the divine power alone, and not all of these does the soul of Christ know in the Word.”[37] If Christ’s soul could “comprehend all that God could do,” then it would appear he would be able to comprehend the Divine Essence, simply.[38] St. Thomas states, “every power is known from the knowledge of all it can do,” but the finitude of Christ’s soul cannot comprehend the infinitude of God’s power. However, could Christ’s finite soul comprehend the finite power of creatures? St. Thomas says that Christ does comprehend the power of creatures, because in comprehending the Word “the essence of every creature” is comprehended.[39] Furthermore, to comprehend the essence is to comprehend the “power and virtue and all things that are in the power of the creature.”[40] It stands then, St. Thomas posits Christ’s beatific knowledge as necessary to his role as Judge and must know all things – including the potentialities of creatures – in order to judge perfectly.

 

5. Whether Christ had any knowledge besides the Beatific?

St. Thomas submits three reasons why Christ must have knowledge other than beatific or rather created knowledge. Firstly, predicated upon the belief  that Christ’s unadulterated human nature has a true rational soul, it is fitting for Christ to have a possible intellect. “Now what is in potentiality is imperfect unless reduced to act,” and Christ must have “a perfect human nature, since the whole race was to be brought back to perfection by its means.”[41] Again, Christ’s role as mediator and the principle of perfection necessitate Christ’s perfection in being the efficient cause of man’s perfection. All human perfections must be present within Christ’s humanity. Furthermore St. Thomas’ second point reveals if the beatific knowledge rendered Christ’s rational soul ineffectual, Christ’s human nature would suffer defect.[42]  Thirdly, “some created knowledge pertains to the nature of the human soul, viz. that whereby we naturally know first principles.”[43] It stands then that predicated upon Christ’s necessity to be perfectly human, he must have knowledge other than the beatific.

 

6. On Christ’s Infused Knowledge

Infused knowledge is not ascertained by the intelligible species being extracted from the intelligible object, but rather by the intelligible species being infused directly into the intellect by God. The cognitional mode of divine fusion appears to be demonstrated best by the biblical prophets, whose prophecies are not the product of human reason. Did Christ have this infused knowledge? St. Thomas quotes St. Paul, that in Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”[44] First however it must be shown why if Christ has beatific knowledge is not infused knowledge superfluous? St. Thomas observes that the mode of “cognition by infused species includes no opposition to beatific cognition.”[45] The opposite of the beatific vision is faith. As St. Thomas states, “the essence of faith [is] to have reference to the unseen,” whereas beatific knowledge is gleaned by one who has seen God’s Essence.[46] The prophets, while having infused knowledge, would still have to have faith, for they have not seen God; while Christ who has seen the Divine knowledge, maintains beatific and infused knowledge without the need of faith.

Again St. Thomas appeals to the necessity of Christ’s human perfection in all things and posits that Christ must have infused knowledge perfectly. Therefore, “the Word of God imprinted upon the soul of Christ” the “intelligible species of all things to which the possible intellect is in potentiality.”[47] However, it would seem that there is now a contradiction between the beatific and infused knowledge of Christ. As matter cannot have two simultaneous forms, neither “can the soul receive a double knowledge at once” or rather simultaneously receive a perfect and imperfect intelligible form.[48] However, St. Thomas posits a distinction between the modes. The beatific knowledge is “not by a species,” because the Divine Essence is not known by an intelligible form or species.[49] The “Divine Essence is a form exceeding the capacity of any creature whatsoever,” and thus the intelligible species cannot be fully comprehended. Infused knowledge however does use intelligible species, for God imprints the intelligible species to the possible intellect. Therefore, in knowledge of the Divine Essence there is nothing competitive with the human intellect comprehending intelligible species “proportioned to its nature.”[50]

Fr. Raymond Brown has observed, “each of the four Gospels attributes to Jesus the ability to know what is in other’s minds, to know what is happening elsewhere, and to know the future.”[51] Certainly not exhausting the examples, it can be noted that Christ knew the past of the woman at the well, the details of St. Peter’s betrayal, and, of course, foretells of his own death and resurrection.[52] Returning to the concept of the perfection of Christ’s humanity, “it is very fitting that he should have grace in the highest degree.”[53] Further, the “Holy Spirit reposes in Christ with all his gifts and in all his fullness.”[54] It appears then that with the Thomistic arguments and the Scriptural evidence there “is no reason to deny that Christ has infused knowledge.”[55]

 

7. On the Acquired Knowledge of Christ

Holding to the same principle of perfection, it appears that Christ must have acquired knowledge in order to avoid defect. As adumbrated, acquired knowledge denotes an active intellect, and thus to deny Christ acquired knowledge is to render a part of Christ’s soul ineffectual. The Angelic Doctor avers “what has not its proper operation is useless” and as mentioned above the operation of the active intellect is to “to make intelligible species in act, by abstracting them from phantasms.”[56] Therefore St. Thomas claims, “it is necessary to say” that Christ has acquired knowledge via the proper operation of the active intellect.[57]

"Christ in the Temple"  by Heinrich Hofmann, a selection.
“Christ in the Temple” by Heinrich Hofmann, a selection.

In spite of this claim, it would seem that Christ acquiring any knowledge would be in direct contradiction with the beatific and infused modes of knowledge. How can it be said that Christ knew the intelligible species of all things past, present, and future and grew in knowledge? Whereas Scripture has seemingly affirmed Christ’s beatific knowledge in seeing God face to face and Christ’s infused or prophetic knowledge, it also affirms that Christ acquired knowledge. The clearest example is in St. Luke’s Gospel: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”[58] The tortuous nature of the question of Christ’s knowledge is exemplified in the “great theologians like St. Bonaventure, Scotus, Suarez, and even St. Thomas in his earlier works, denied that Christ had genuinely acquired knowledge.”[59] While these theologians generally predicated their view upon “dignity of the Word made flesh,” it appears via an ineffectual active intellect to submit a defect in the rational soul of Christ.[60] In a holding to Pope Leo’s principle, St. Thomas recants his former view and posits “it must be said that in Christ there was acquired knowledge, which is properly knowledge in a human fashion.”[61] The objection is put forward that “nothing can be added to what is full” and thus “the power of Christ’s soul was filled with intelligible species divinely infused.”[62] St. Thomas notes that neither the beatific nor infused cognitional mode utilizes phantasms in order to extract an intelligible species, thus “it behooved [Christ’s knowledge] to be also perfected with regard to phantasms.”[63] St. Thomas is illuminating the fact that without acquired knowledge Christ would lack phantasms, which Christ must have or he lacks a natural function of the rational soul.

What then is the role of an active intellect upon a possible intellect, which by infused knowledge, reveals all possible intelligible species? In other words, what does it practically mean for Christ to acquire knowledge? It is here that St. Thomas de-mythologizes Christ’s beatific knowledge. Beatific and infused knowledge “produce the whole all at once” and therefore they were immediate and perfect “in the beginning.”[64] However, acquired knowledge “does not produce the whole at once, but successfully” and therefore “by this knowledge Christ did not know everything from the beginning.”[65] Further, St. Thomas observes St. Luke’s passage records that Christ “increased in knowledge and age together.”[66] In accordance with holding to a perfect human nature, Christ’s beatific and infused knowledge could only be in proportion to the faculties of Christ’s rational soul. Christ’s acquisition of phantasms and human limitations reveal the certain “perfection appropriate to age” and “experience available.”[67] It seems St. Thomas’ theory does not offer a defect to either nature. A cup that is perfectly filled with water still only holds its given amount, albeit perfectly. In this light, Christ’s humanity growing in knowledge is predicated upon his age, i.e. the development of his intellect. If the limitation is ignored, it could be argued that Christ’s humanity would be cognizant of the beatific and infused knowledge regardless of the soul’s capacity, e.g., Christ could be cognizant in utero, which is ad absurdum. It is then that there was a proper habit of the active intellect in extracting the “intelligible species from phantasms.”[68] However, the habit of infused knowledge would “be there from the beginning” and be “perfect infused knowledge of all things.”[69] Therefore, whatever intelligible species Christ’s active intellect abstracted from the phantasm, was already found perfectly by the actualization of the infused knowledge upon the possible intellect – in accordance with the capacity of Christ’s age specificity and human limitation. St. Thomas’ theory would account for how Christ was found to wise even at a young age – e.g., in the temple – but still be able to grow in wisdom. In this, St. Thomas holds together the divine knowledge and faculties proper to human cognition without conferring a defect on either one.

 

8. Beatific, Infused, and Acquired Harmony

In accordance with Pope Leo’s communication of idioms at Chalcedon and the two distinct operations of Third Constantinople, St. Thomas holds together a genuine human mode of cognition with beatific knowledge. The knowledge of God’s essence, the infused intelligible species, and the acquired phantasms all flow harmoniously within the knowledge of Christ. The efficient cause of humanity’s perfection maintains his human perfection.

 


 

Bibliography

Books

Aquinas, St. Thomas. Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Vol. IV Summa Theologica III  (New York: Benziger Bros., 1948)

Levering, Matthew. Christ’s Fulfillment of Torah & Temple: Salvation According to Thomas Aquinas. (Notre Dame: ND Press, 2002)

Ocariz, F. L.F. Mateo Seco, & J.A. Riestra. The Mystery of Jesus Christ. (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1991)

Schaff, Philip & Henry Wallace, Eds. Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers: The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Vol. 14 (Peabody: Hendrickson Pub., Inc., 2004)

 

Handouts

St. Thomas Aquinas. Disputed Questions on Power, Q. VIII, a.1.


[1] Schaff, Philip & Henry Wallace, Eds. Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers: The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Vol. 14 (Peabody: Hendrickson Pub., Inc., 2004), 255.

[2] Aquinas, St. Thomas. Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Vol. IV Summa Theologica III  (New York: Benziger Bros., 1948), III.18.1

[3] Ocariz, F. L.F. Mateo Seco, & J.A. Riestra. The Mystery of Jesus Christ. (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1991), 149.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Schaff, 255.

[6] Ocariz, 150.

[7] St. Thomas Aquinas. Disputed Questions on Power, Q. VIII, a.1. Class Handout.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] ST III.9.1 – n.b. St. Thomas differs from John Locke’s “blank tablet” insofar as the Angelic Doctor holds to that tablet being formed by first principles.

[16] ST III.9.4

[17] Phantasm – the image in the imagination, the form of an object in the imagination; the active intellect can extract the intelligible species from both an understood material object or an imagine object, i.e., phantasm

[18] I John 3:2, RSV

[19] John 6:46; 8:55. RSV. Emphasis added.

[20] John 3:32. RSV. Emphasis added.

[21] Ocariz, 153.

[22] Ibid., 154.

[23] Ibid.

[24] III.9.2; cf. John 8:55

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.; cf. Heb. 2:10

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid., 155.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] III.10.1

[32] Ibid.

[33] III.10.2

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] III.9.1

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] III.9.3. – Col. 2:3

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] III.9.3 – the beatific being perfect and the infused being imperfect

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51]Levering, Matthew. Christ’s Fulfillment of Torah & Temple: Salvation According to Thomas Aquinas. (Notre Dame: ND Press, 2002), 32.

[52] Ocariz, 153. – Jn 4:17-18; Mk 14:18-21, 27-31, Lk 22:31-39; Mt 12:39-41, Lk 11:29-32; Other examples: Jn 1:47-49, 11:14; Mk 9:33-35; Mt 24:1ff; Mk 13:5ff

[53] Ibid.

[54] Ibid., cf. Is II:1-3

[55] Ibid.

[56] III.9.4

[57] Ibid.

[58] Luke 2:52

[59] Ocariz, 150.

[60] Ibid.

[61] III.9.4

[62] Ibid. Obj.2

[63] Ibid. Ad.2

[64] III.12.2.Ad.2

[65] Ibid.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ocariz, 152.

[68] III.12.2

[69] Ibid.

The Golden Calf & Our Catholic Mass: 3 Reasons Man Cannot Invent the Liturgy

“[Liturgy] cannot spring from imagination, our own creativity – then it would remain just a cry in the dark or mere self affirmation.” – Cardinal Ratzinger

Spirit of the LiturgyListers, “man himself cannot simply ‘make’ worship.” This is the opening line of arguably the two most powerful paragraphs in Cardinal Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy. SPL has previously promoted this seminal work in The 2 Books by Cardinal Ratzinger that Will Change Your Life. While that list focuses on the greater context in which the book is written – the Queen of the Sciences and the role of the liturgy – this list presents a small but potent pericope.

Cardinal Ratzinger reads the Golden Calf episode in Exodus 32 not as the people of Israel rebelling against God directly, but rather after losing hope in Moses, the people decided to worship God in their own way. The beginning of the chapter lays out the mindset of the Israelites, especially verses 4-5.

 

1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, “Up, make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 And Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

 

The good Cardinal uses this chapter to discuss the distinction between the liturgy given by God and the liturgy created by man. As a point of caution, it is too easy for a Catholic reader to superficially acknowledge the Cardinal’s words as a condemnation of Protestantism. While they do condemn those who fabricate their own faith, Cardinal Ratzinger’s purpose in writing the work is to show Catholics what a proper “spirit of the liturgy” should be.

The Catholic liturgy is not in danger of being hijacked by Protestants; it was and still is in danger of being made protestant by Catholics.

 

The following presents the text verbatim (pp. 21-23) with supplemented enumerated titles and  highlighted quotes.

 

"Worshipping the Golden Calf." - Fucas van Leyden, a selection.
“Worshipping the Golden Calf.” – Fucas van Leyden, a selection.

1. What Man Cannot Make

“Man himself cannot simply ‘make’ worship. If God does not reveal himself, man is clutching empty space. Moses says to Pharaoh: “[W]e do not know with what we must serve the Lord” (Ex 10:26). These words display a fundamental law of all liturgy. When God does not reveal himself, man can, from the sense of God within him, build altars ‘to the unknown god’ (cf. Acts 17:23). He can reach out toward God in his thinking and try to feel his way toward him.”

[Liturgy] cannot spring from imagination, our own creativity – then it would remain just a cry in the dark or mere self affirmation.

“But real liturgy implies that God responds and reveals how we can worship him. In any form, liturgy includes some kind of ‘institution’. It cannot spring from imagination, our own creativity – then it would remain just a cry in the dark or mere self affirmation. Liturgy implies a real relationship with Another, who reveals himself to us and gives our existence a new direction.”

 

The Golden Calf 3

2. The Golden Calf

“In the Old Testament there is a series of very impressive testimonies to the truth that the liturgy is not a matter of ‘what you please.’ Nowhere is this more dramatically evident than in the narrative of the golden calf (strictly speaking, ‘bull calf’). The cult conducted by the high priest Aaron is not meant to serve any of the false gods of the heathen. The apostasy is more subtle. There is no obvious turning away from God to the false gods. Outwardly, the people remain completely attached to the same God. They want to glorify the God who led Israel out of Egypt and believe that they may very properly represent his mysterious power in the image of a bull calf. Everything seems to be in order. Presumably even the ritual is in complete conformity to the rubrics. And yet it is a falling away from the worship of God to idolatry.”

Worship is not longer going up to God, but drawing God into one’s own world. He must be there when he is needed, and he must be the kind of God that is needed. Man is using God, and in reality, even if it is not outwardly discernible, he is placing himself above God.

“This apostasy, which outwardly is scarcely perceptible, has two causes. First there is a violation of the prohibition against images. The people cannot cope with the invisible, remote, and mysterious God. They want to bring him down into their own world, into what they can see and understand. Worship is no longer going up to God, but drawing God into one’s own world. He must be there when he is needed, and he must be the kind of God that is needed. Man is using God, and in reality, even if it is not outwardly discernible, he is placing himself above God.

 

"The Golden Calf" - Tissot
“The Golden Calf” – Tissot

3. Banal Self-Gratification

“This gives us a clue to the second point. The worship of the golden calf is a self-generated cult. When Moses stays away for too long, and God himself becomes inaccessible, the people just fetch him back. Worship becomes a feast that the community gives itself, a festival of self-affirmation. Instead of being worship of God, it becomes a circle closed in on itself: eating, drinking, and making merry. The dance around the golden calf is an imagine of this self-seeking worship. It is a kind of banal self-gratification. The narrative of the golden calf is a warning about any kind of self-initiated and self-seeking worship.”

Worship becomes a feast that the community gives itself, a festival of self-affirmation.

“Ultimately, it is no longer concerned with God but with giving oneself a nice little alternative world, manufactured from one’s own resources. Then liturgy really does become pointless, just fooling around. Or still worse, it becomes an apostasy from the living God, an apostasy in sacral disguise. All that is left in the end is frustration, a feeling of emptiness. There is no experience of that liberation which always takes place when man encounters the living God.”

In Defense of the Papacy: 9 Reasons True Christians Follow the Pope

“And I will place on his should the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house.”

Listers, glory and honor to God for giving us the grace of the papacy. The Pope is the “Advocate of Christian Memory” and he holds the King’s people to the King’s laws until our Savior returns. Each year on February 22nd the Church celebrates the Cathedra Petri – the Chair of St. Peter.

This feast brings to mind the mission of teacher and pastor conferred by Christ on Peter, and continued in an unbroken line down to the present Pope. We celebrate the unity of the Church, founded upon the Apostle, and renew our assent to the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, extended both to truths which are solemnly defined ex cathedra, and to all the acts of the ordinary Magisterium.

The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Rome has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on 18 January, in commemoration of the day when Saint Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Antioch, commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated at Rome, on 22 February. At each place a chair (cathedra) was venerated which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass. One of the chairs is referred to about 600 by an Abbot Johannes who had been commissioned by Pope Gregory the Great to collect in oil from the lamps which burned at the graves of the Roman martyrs. — New Catholic Dictionary1

To commemorate this holy feast day SPL brings you a defense of the papacy with references to Scripture, the Western Church Fathers, the Eastern Church Fathers, and of course, the Medieval Popes.

 

The article addresses the following questions:

  1. Did St. Peter hold any primacy amongst the Twelve Apostles?
  2. Did Christ charge St. Peter with the office of the papacy?
  3. Did St. Peter exercise his ministry from Rome?
  4. What about the controversy of Sts. Peter and Paul?
  5. Did the papacy continue after St. Peter and if so, to whom?
  6. Did the Early Church speak of a hierarchal Church with bishops?
  7. What of those who started their own “churches”?
  8. What did the Eastern Early Church Fathers say about the Petrine Ministry?
  9. Are all people subject to the papacy?

 

The following list is certainly not exhaustive. The Scripture studies alone could fill up volumes and a proper study of Church history is a lifetime of academic work; however, we’ve catalogued a quality sampling of sources with biblical and textual citations in order that you may be able to defend or maybe even discover for the first time the grace of the papacy.

 

Holy Scripture

1. St. Peter was Prince of the Apostles

“Prince of the Apostles” means that St. Peter held a certain primacy over the other eleven. Understanding St. Peter’s unique position among the twelve and the unique ministries he exercised lays an excellent groundwork for a discussion of Christ’s founding of the Papacy. There are three primary topics of focus for exploring the biblical articulation of the primacy of the Petrine ministry.

 

St. Peter’s Place of Primacy Among the Twelve

Sts. Peter, James, and John are a special group of disciples that are allowed to witness the Transfiguration2 and accompany Christ to the Mount of Olives.3 In each event, St. Peter, the Rock, is singled out. At the Mount of Olives, Christ finds all three asleep, but it is St. Peter he addresses. During the Transfiguration, it is St. Peter who speaks for the disciples. In St. Luke 5:1-11, Christ calls his first disciples, and the first is Simon Peter. According to Cardinal Ratzinger, the “call of Peter appears as the original pattern of apostolic vocation par excellence.”4 Every time the disciples are listed, St. Peter is listed first.5 Furthermore, when referring to the disciples, sometimes only St. Peter is mentioned by name, e.g., “And Simon and those who were with him,” and “Now Peter and those who were with him”.6 St. Peter is the only one to try to walk on the water (Mt 14:28ff) and he is the one that brings up the famous question of how many times we must forgive.7 Even St. Peter’s shadow was an instrument of healing.8

 

Significance of the Name Change

While it was common for Rabbis to give nicknames or new surnames to their disciples, e.g., the Sons of Zebedee as the “Sons of Thunder,” it was uncommon to change a disciple’s first name. Christ gives Simon the new name “Peter” or Kephas (or Cephas) meaning rock.9 In the Old Testament, God changing someone’s name denoted a special calling, a new vocation, e.g., Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, etc. St. Peter’s name change denotes that he will have a special vocation among the twelve. Obviously Christ was also referred to as the Rock, because he is the foundation of all things. However, in the rabbinical tradition, Abraham was also referred to as a rock: “Look to the rock from which you were hewn… look to Abraham your father” .10 Cardinal Ratzinger comments:11

Abraham, the father of faith, is by his faith the rock that holds back chaos, the onrushing primordial flood of destruction, and thus sustains creation. Simon, the first to confess Jesus as the Christ and the first witness of the Resurrection, now becomes by virtue of his Abrahamic faith, which is renewed in Christ, the rock that stands against the impure tide of unbelief and its destruction of man.

 

The Papal Office Given to St. Peter by Christ

After the Resurrection, Christ appears to the Twelve and has a unique conversation with St. Peter. Christ, the Shepherd, asks St. Peter three times if he loves him. St. Peter responds yes all three times – presumably this passage should reflect his three denials. Christ also tell St. Peter and Peter alone: feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep. As the Vicar of Christ, St. Peter must care for the flock.12 In Lk 22:31-34, two major Petrine themes are evident. First, Satan has taken a special interest in St. Peter. He will fail, but will repent. Second, after St. Peter has “turned again” to Christ, Jesus commissions him to “strengthen the brethren.” Another mission given only to St. Peter.

In Matthew 16:13-20, the most famous unique call is given to St. Peter: to be the foundation of the Church and to exercise the authority of keys of the kingdom. The office given to St. Peter is that of the Vicar within the Davidic Kingdom. The Vicar governs in the King’s stead, according to the King’s rules, while the King is gone.13 St. Peter is the Vicar of Christ, the Pope.

 

Concluding Thoughts and Suggested Reading

For all of this information plus a brief handling of the relationship between Sts. Peter and Paul, please reference 13 Biblical Reasons St. Peter is the Prince of the Apostles. The page citations and Scripture references for this section are taken from Cardinal Ratzinger’s Called to Communion, which was featured in The 6 Books by Pope Benedict XVI All Catholics Should Read.

A selection from “Christ’s Charge to Peter,” Raphael (1515)

2. Jesus Christ Founded the Papacy

According to Holy Scripture, the Office of the Papacy was instituted by Jesus Christ. In fact, he was the only person who had the authority to create such a position. SPL’s article 10 Biblical Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy discusses the following questions:

  1. What type of kingdom did Christ intend to bring?
  2. What role did Christ intend for Saint Peter?
  3. What is the biblical backing for St. Peter’s role in accordance with the Davidic Kingdom?
  4. What is the position and what is its purpose?
  5. What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say about St. Peter and the Papacy?
  6. But in Greek, St. Peter’s name is Petros and Christ says, “upon this petra,” so Christ was not referring to St. Peter, was he?
  7. Isn’t Christ The Rock?
  8. I am a Christian, how can I follow both Christ and the Pope?
  9. How can I have a personal relationship with Christ and have a “middle man,” the Pope?
  10. Scripturally, what would be the overall reason Christ would want a Vicar for his Church?

We will address the first three questions here, because they lay out a proper biblical understanding of the Office of the Papacy.

 

1. What type of kingdom did Christ intend to bring?

Jesus Christ was descended from King David and referred to as “Son of David”14. King David was promised a descendent who would not only “rule forever,” but would sit on “David’s throne” forever15; thus, any conversation of what is and what is not properly intended by Christ, regarding his Kingdom, must be couched within the template of the Davidic Kingdom16.

 

2. What role did Christ intend for Saint Peter?

In the district of Caesarea Philippi, Christ asks his disciples “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” St. Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus then says to St. Peter:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Christ’s intention for the role of St. Peter within the kingdom is twofold: Christ changed Simon Bar-jona’s name to Peter meaning rock and he will be a foundation for Christ’s kingdom on earth, the Church, and secondly, St. Peter is given the “keys of kingdom,” which come with great authority17. It is important to note this is one of the few times Christ ever mentions the “Church.”

 

3. What is the biblical backing for St. Peter’s role in accordance with the Davidic Kingdom?

If Christ is giving St. Peter a role within his Church, his kingdom of God on earth, then it must be part of the Davidic Kingdom. The symbols of authority given to St. Peter are the “keys of the kingdom.” Looking to the Old Testament, it is clear that Christ is rewording a passage from Isaiah that speaks of a position within the Davidic Kingdom:

And I will place on his should the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house.

Here a position within the Davidic Kingdom is described which has the key of authority to open and close, and is considered a position of security and authority when the King is away. Christ, who will sit on David’s throne forever, is using an Old Testament verse to elucidate a New Testament Kingdom position.

 

A section of the “Martyrdom of St. Peter” by Leonello Spada (1576–1622)

Early Church

3. St. Peter Exercised his Ministry from Rome

Bl. John Henry Newman said it best: “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” History paints an overwhelming picture of St. Peter’s apostolic ministry in Rome and this is confirmed by a multitude of different sources within the Early Church. Catholic Encyclopedia states:

“In opposition to this distinct and unanimous testimony of early Christendom, some few Protestant historians have attempted in recent times to set aside the residence and death of Peter at Rome as legendary. These attempts have resulted in complete failure.”

Protestantism as a whole seeks to divorce Christianity from history by rending Gospel message out of its historical context as captured by our Early Church Fathers. One such target of these heresies is to devalue St. Peter and to twist the authority of Rome into a historical mishap within Christianity. To wit, the belief has as its end the ultimate end of all Catholic and Protestant dialogue – who has authority in Christianity?

The article 11 Reasons the Authority of Christianity is Centered on St. Peter and Rome is a sampling of the praise of and adherence to the Petrine Ministry – The Papacy. While the list gives three quality examples of Scripture connecting St. Peter with Rome, we will look here at a few choice quotes from the Early Church.

 

Taught in the Same Place in Italy

Bishop Dionysius of Corinth, in his letter to the Roman Church in the time of Pope Soter (165-74), says:

“You have therefore by your urgent exhortation bound close together the sowing of Peter and Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both planted the seed of the Gospel also in Corinth, and together instructed us, just as they likewise taught in the same place in Italy and at the same time suffered martyrdom” (in Eusebius, Church History II.25).

 

St. Peter Announced the Word of God in Rome

In his “Hypotyposes” (Eusebius, Church History IV.14), Clement of Alexandria, teacher in the catechetical school of that city from about 190, says on the strength of the tradition of the presbyters:

“After Peter had announced the Word of God in Rome and preached the Gospel in the spirit of God, the multitude of hearers requested Mark, who had long accompanied Peter on all his journeys, to write down what the Apostles had preached to them” (see above).

 

Come to the Vatican and See for Yourself

The Roman, Caius, who lived in Rome in the time of Pope Zephyrinus (198-217), wrote in his “Dialogue with Proclus” (in Eusebius, Church History II.25) directed against the Montanists:

“But I can show the trophies of the Apostles. If you care to go to the Vatican or to the road to Ostia, thou shalt find the trophies of those who have founded this Church.”

By the trophies (tropaia) Eusebius understands the graves of the Apostles, but his view is opposed by modern investigators who believe that the place of execution is meant. For our purpose it is immaterial which opinion is correct, as the testimony retains its full value in either case. At any rate the place of execution and burial of both were close together; St. Peter, who was executed on the Vatican, received also his burial there. Eusebius also refers to “the inscription of the names of Peter and Paul, which have been preserved to the present day on the burial-places there” (i.e. at Rome).

 

Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us.

4. The Early Church on Sts. Peter and Paul

“Many modern day academics enjoy setting St. Peter and St. Paul in enmity with one another,” states SPL author Catherine, “however, the over emphasis of Galatians 2:11-14 by modern scholarship fails to acknowledge that even though they had a disagreement their mission of spreading the Gospel was the same. In this spirit, I present to you five reflections by members of the early church on the mutual impact that St. Peter and Paul had on the early church. Prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to let St. Peter and St. Paul’s example of faithfulness unto death be your focus today and everyday.” Out of Catherine’s excellent list, we will focus on one particular passage by St. Irenaeus:

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meeting; [we do this, I say] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; also [by pointing out] the faith they preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
Against Heresies 3.3.2.

Along with the above quote, the other four passages from the Early Church demonstrate the Fathers focusing on Sts. Peter and Paul as brothers in the faith and fellow martyrs – not enemies vying for power within the Church. For a more biblical focus of the relationship between Sts. Peter and Paul see the above-mentioned list on St. Peter as Prince of the Apostles.

 

Crucifixion of St. Peter – Masaccio, AD 1426

5. The First Popes of the Catholic Church

In cataloguing the first ten popes of the Catholics Church, SPL hoped to address a few misconceptions. The first would be that the office of the papacy was simply given to St. Peter and then closed upon his death. The necessity of a Vicar of Christ with the Keys of Kingdom is present until the King returns and the Keys are returned to him. Secondly, we hoped to address the pernicious error that the papacy is a historical fiction within the Early Church and it did not materialize until medieval times. For our purposes, we’ll select the two popes that followed St. Peter from The First 10 Popes of the Catholic Church.

 

Pope St. Linus (67-76)

All the ancient records of the Roman bishops which have been handed down to us by St. Irenaeus, Julius Africanus, St. Hippolytus, Eusebius, also the Liberian catalogue of 354, place the name of Linus directly after that of the Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter. These records are traced back to a list of the Roman bishops which existed in the time of Pope Eleutherus (about 174-189), when Irenaeus wrote his book “Adversus haereses”. As opposed to this testimony, we cannot accept as more reliable Tertullian’s assertion, which unquestionably places St. Clement (De praescriptione, xxii) after the Apostle Peter, as was also done later by other Latin scholars (Jerome, Illustrious Men 15). The Roman list in Irenaeus has undoubtedly greater claims to historical authority. This author claims that Pope Linus is the Linus mentioned by St. Paul in his 2 Timothy 4:21. The passage by Irenaeus (Against Heresies III.3.3) reads:

After the Holy Apostles (Peter and Paul) had founded and set the Church in order (in Rome) they gave over the exercise of the episcopal office to Linus. The same Linus is mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy. His successor was Anacletus.

We cannot be positive whether this identification of the pope as being the Linus mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21 goes back to an ancient and reliable source, or originated later on account of the similarity of the name.

 

Pope St. Anacletus (Cletus) (76-88)

The second successor of St. Peter. Whether he was the same as Cletus, who is also called Anencletus as well as Anacletus, has been the subject of endless discussion. Irenaeus, Eusebius, Augustine, Optatus, use both names indifferently as of one person. Tertullian omits him altogether. To add to the confusion, the order is different. Thus Irenaeus has Linus, Anacletus, Clement; whereas Augustine and Optatus put Clement before Anacletus. On the other hand, the “Catalogus Liberianus”, the “Carmen contra Marcionem” and the “Liber Pontificalis”, all most respectable for their antiquity, make Cletus and Anacletus distinct from each other; while the “Catalogus Felicianus” even sets the latter down as a Greek, the former as a Roman.

 

The Martyrdom of Saint Clement c. 1480

6. The Apostles Appointed Bishops

The Early Church was the Early Catholic Church. First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians is an orthodox window into the infancy of the Church (AD 97) and particularly into the structure of the Church. The Early Church is not an ambiguous or mysterious time. It is a well recorded period with a great number of writings from the Early Church Fathers. Clement lived in Rome only a stone’s throw away from the Coliseum. He is seen as a successor to St. Peter and is considered the fourth Pope of Rome, following St. Peter, St. Linus and St. Anacletus.

Chapter XLII outlines a clear theology of succession from Christ to the Apostles to the Bishops of the Church. As an early Christian, how do you know if you belonged to the true Church? Well, does your community have a bishop? Did your bishop come from the Apostles who came from Christ our Lord who came from God the Father? It should be stressed this epistle is dated AD 97.

“The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture in a certain place, I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.”

 

In Chapter XLIV, St. Clement shuts the book on any doubt that the apostles chose and declared men to lead as bishops after their death. It is apostolic succession in a clear and practical manner articulated in AD 97.

“Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that you have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour.”

It is important to note the universal authority in which Pope St. Clement I is writing. One cannot miss how early in the life of the Church this writing is and how the Church is already a hierarchal body that respects the teachings of the Bishop of Rome. Pope St. Clement I even commands the Corinthians at one point – this note and other are commented on in The Apostles Appointed Bishops: 9 Teachings from St. Clement AD 97.

 

The Schismatics of Dante’s Inferno by Gustave

7. Those Who Start Their Own Church Follow the Voice of Satan

The Pope as the Vicar of Christ and as the Advocate of Christian Memory stands as tent peg holding down the Universal Church of Christ, and no list on Church unity would be complete without the (in)famous epistle of St. Cyprian, AD 250.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is not returning to our world for a harem of “churches.” There is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and it was founded by Christ and charged by him to St. Peter and the Apostles. However, there are now and always have been those groups that attempt to rend Christ from his Church – to recreate that which God gave us, the Church. In AD 250, St. Cyprian wrote an outstanding work entitled On the Unity of the Church. The epistle focuses especially on the topic of schism and those who would set themselves up as Church leaders and/or start their own “churches.” Without question, these groups are proto-protestant groups and the saint’s arguments apply just as much to our modern schismatic and heretical groups as they did to his ancient schismatic groups.18

 

The New Way of Satan

“He [Satan] has invented heresies and schisms, whereby he might subvert the faith, might corrupt the truth, might divide the unity. Those whom he cannot keep in the darkness of the old way [paganism], he circumvents and deceives by the error of a new way [schism/heresy]. He snatches men from the Church itself; and while they seem to themselves to have already approached to the light, and to have escaped the night of the world, he pours over them again, in their unconsciousness, new darkness.”

 

Upon This Rock

“There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, “Feed my sheep.”

 

Can the Spouse of Christ Be Adulterous?

“The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”

 

Those Who Start Their Own Church Vomit Poison

“These are they who of their own accord, without any divine arrangement, set themselves to preside among the daring strangers assembled, who appoint themselves prelates without any law of ordination, who assume to themselves the name of bishop, although no one gives them the episcopate; whom the Holy Spirit points out in the Psalms as sitting in the seat of pestilence, plagues, and spots of the faith, deceiving with serpent’s tongue, and artful in corrupting the truth, vomiting forth deadly poisons from pestilential tongues; whose speech doth creep like a cancer, whose discourse forms a deadly poison in the heart and breast of every one.”

 

Priests and Sacrifice

“What sacrifices do those who are rivals of the priests think that they celebrate? Do they deem that they have Christ with them when they are collected together, who are gathered together outside the Church of Christ?”

Without a doubt this epistle of St. Cyprian is one of the most quotable letters of the Early Church Fathers. For more commentary and more unabashed Catholic quotes visit Those Who Start Their Own Church Follow the Voice of Satan: 11 Teachings from St. Cyprian AD 250.

 

St. John Chrysostom, pray for us.

8. The Eastern Fathers Supported the Petrine Ministry

Often times the papacy is misunderstood a “characteristic” of Western Christianity. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. The Catholic Church embraces the Eastern Catholic Churches along with the Roman Church and they are united in doctrine under the Holy Father, the Pope. SPL has catalogue an extensive collection of quotes from the Eastern Church Fathers supporting the Petrine Ministry.

St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (d. A.D. 638)

“Teaching us all orthodoxy and destroying all heresy and driving it away from the God-protected halls of our holy Catholic Church. And together with these inspired syllables and characters, I accept all his (the pope’s) letters and teachings as proceeding from the mouth of Peter the Coryphaeus, and I kiss them and salute them and embrace them with all my soul … I recognize the latter as definitions of Peter and the former as those of Mark, and besides, all the heaven-taught teachings of all the chosen mystagogues of our Catholic Church.” – Sophronius, Mansi, xi. 461

 

St. Theodore the Studite of Constantinople (d. 826)

Writing to Pope Leo III:

Since to great Peter Christ our Lord gave the office of Chief Shepherd after entrusting him with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, to Peter or his successor must of necessity every novelty in the Catholic Church be referred. [Therefore], save us, oh most divine Head of Heads, Chief Shepherd of the Church of Heaven. (Theodore, Bk. I. Ep. 23)

 

Sergius, Metropolitain of Cyprus (649)

Writing to Pope Theodore:

O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars of the Church been fixed. (Sergius Ep. ad Theod. lecta in Sess. ii. Concil. Lat. anno 649)

 

SPL has listed over 50 quotes of the Eastern Church Fathers: The Early Church in Jerusalem Followed the Pope: 7 Quotes from History, Constantinople: 25 Quotes from the Eastern Fathers on the Petrine Ministry, and Rome is the Apostolic Throne: 24 Quotes from Alexandria, Antioch, and Cyprus.

 

St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, Vicar of Christ, pray for us.

Medieval

9. All Human Creatures Are Subject to the Pope

The following is a short compilation of quotes taken from previous Ecumenical Pontiffs of Rome: “Outside the Church there is no hope for salvation.” These quotes show us the confidence that our previous Bishops of Rome have had in their authority given by God Himself to be the Vicar of Christ here on Earth. As St. Augustine said, “Rome has spoken, the case is closed.”

“The universal Church of the faithful is one outside of which none is saved.”
Pope Innocent III, ex cathedra, Fourth Lateran Council (1215 AD)

 

“We declare, say , define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”
Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam (1302 AD)

 

“You see, dearly beloved sons and venerable brothers, how much vigilance is needed to keep the disease of this terrible evil from infecting and killing your flocks. Do not cease to diligently defend your people against these pernicious errors. Saturate them with the doctrine of Catholic truth more accurately each day. Teach them that just as there is only one God, one Christ, one Holy Spirit, so there is also only one truth which is divinely revealed. There is only one divine faith which is the beginning of salvation for mankind and the basis of all justification, the faith by which the just person lives and without which it is impossible to please God and to come to the community of His children.[Rom 1; Heb 11; Council of Trent, session 6, chap. 8.] There is only one true, holy, Catholic church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See founded in Peter by the word of the Lord,[St. Cyprian, epistle 43.] outside of which we cannot find either true faith or eternal salvation. He who does not have the Church for a mother cannot have God for a father, and whoever abandons the See of Peter on which the Church is established trusts falsely that he is in the Church.[St. Cyprian,de unitat. Eccl.] Thus, there can be no greater crime, no more hideous stain than to stand up against Christ, than to divide the Church engendered and purchased by His blood, than to forget evangelical love and to combat with the furor of hostile discord the harmony of the people of God.[St. Cyprian, epistle 72.]”
Blessed Pope Pius IX, Singulari Quidem

Happy Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, listers. More medieval quotes on the papacy can be found at All Human Creatures Are Subject to the Pope.

  1. Introduction to the Chair of St. Peter – SOURCE []
  2. Mark 9:2-8 []
  3. Mark 14:33 []
  4. Called to Communion, by Cardinal Ratzinger, 54 []
  5. Matt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13 []
  6. Mk 1:36; Lk 9:32 []
  7. Mt 18:21 []
  8. Acts 5 []
  9. John 1:42; Mt 16 []
  10. Is 51:1-3 []
  11. 56 []
  12. John 21 []
  13. Is. 22 []
  14. Matt 1:1-2; 9:27-29; Mk 10:47, 48 []
  15. I Chron 17:14; Ps 89:35-36; Luke1:31 []
  16. cf. Is. 9:6-7; 11:1-3; Jer 33:14-15, 17, 19-21, 26; Ps 132:10-14, 17; Luke 1:31-33, 68-71; II Tim 2:8; Rev 5:5, 22:16; Rom 1:3 []
  17. Matt 16:13-20 []
  18. Novatian: Another impetus of the epistle was the first “anti-pope” who attempted to claim he was holier than the rest of the Church and claimed moral superiority, especially in not wanting to ever extend forgiveness to sins post-baptism. []

Could the Soul “Evolve” from Inferior Animals? – 16 Questions on Adam and Eve

The Garden of Paradise was a large and beautiful place prepared for man’s habitation upon earth. It was supplied with every species of plant and animal and with everything that could contribute to man’s happiness.

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism of teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and simplifies even the most complex theological questions. All the lists taken from the Baltimore Catechism may be found here.

 

Baltimore Catechism No. 3 – Lesson 5

LESSON FIFTH
On our First Parents and the Fall – Part I

 

Q. 233. Who were the first man and woman?

A. The first man and woman were Adam and Eve.

 

Q. 234. Are there any persons in the world who are not the descendants of Adam and Eve?

A. There are no persons in the world now, and there never have been any, who are not the descendants of Adam and Eve, because the whole human race had but one origin.

 

Q. 235. Do not the differences in color, figure, etc., which we find in distinct races indicate a difference in first parents?

A. The differences in color, figure, etc., which we find in distinct races do not indicate a difference in first parents, for these differences have been brought about in the lapse of time by other causes, such as climate, habits, etc.

 

Q. 236. Were Adam and Eve innocent and holy when they came from the hand of God?

A. Adam and Eve were innocent and holy when they came from the hand of God.

 

Q. 237. What do we mean by saying Adam and Eve “were innocent” when they came from the hand of God?

A. When we say Adam and Eve “were innocent” when they came from the hand of God we mean they were in the state of original justice; that is, they were gifted with every virtue and free from every sin.

 

Q. 238. How was Adam’s body formed?

A. God formed Adam’s body out of the clay of the earth and then breathed into it a living soul.

 

Q. 239. How was Eve’s body formed?

A. Eve’s body was formed from a rib taken from Adam’s side during a deep sleep which God caused to come upon him.

 

Q. 240. Why did God make Eve from one of Adam’s ribs?

A. God made Eve from one of Adam’s ribs to show the close relationship existing between husband and wife in their marriage union which God then instituted.

 

Q. 241. Could man’s body be developed from the body of an inferior animal?

A. Man’s body could be developed from the body of an inferior animal if God so willed; but science does not prove that man’s body was thus formed, while revelation teaches that it was formed directly by God from the clay of the earth.1

 

Q. 242. Could man’s soul and intelligence be formed by the development of animal life and instinct?

A. Man’s soul could not be formed by the development of animal instinct; for, being entirely spiritual, it must be created by God, and it is united to the body as soon as the body is prepared to receive it.2

 

Q. 243. Did God give any command to Adam and Eve?

A. To try their obedience, God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of a certain fruit which grew in the garden of Paradise.

 

Q. 244. What was the Garden of Paradise?

A. The Garden of Paradise was a large and beautiful place prepared for man’s habitation upon earth. It was supplied with every species of plant and animal and with everything that could contribute to man’s happiness.

 

Q. 245. Where was the Garden of Paradise situated?

A. The exact place in which the Garden of Paradise — called also the Garden of Eden — was situated is not known, for the deluge may have so changed the surface of the earth that old landmarks were wiped out. It was probably some place in Asia, not far from the river Euphrates.

 

Q. 246. What was the tree bearing the forbidden fruit called?

A. The tree bearing the forbidden fruit was called “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

 

Q. 247. Do we know the name of any other tree in the garden?

A. We know the name of another tree in the Garden called the “tree of life.” Its fruit kept the bodies of our first parents in a state of perfect health.

 

Q. 248. Which were the chief blessings intended for Adam and Eve had they remained faithful to God?

A. The chief blessings intended for Adam and Eve, had they remained faithful to God, were a constant state of happiness in this life and everlasting glory in the next.

  1. SPL Note on Evolution: It should be remembered that the Baltimore Catechism was published in 1885 – science has made significant headway in the area of evolution since then. []
  2. SPL Note on Evolution II: Assume that evolution is an undeniable scientific fact, even with that granted the soul cannot “evolve;” thus, there would have to be a moment in time where God went from guiding evolution via nature to divinely intervening to create man with an immortal soul capable of free will – for holiness or sin. This moment in time and the story surrounding it is most certainly the Adam and Eve story. []

10 Basic Questions on Creation

“The chief creatures of God are angels and men.”

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism of teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and simplifies even the most complex theological questions. SPL has reproduced 29 Questions Explaining Indulgences, 46 Questions to Help Explain the Sacraments,and What Is Meant By the “End of Man” and 10 other Questions.

SPL also recently published four lists with questions explaining the Eucharist:
This Is My Body: 10 Questions to Help Explain the Holy Eucharist
Transubstantiation: 10 Questions on the Substance of the Holy Eucharist
Do This in Memory of Me: 7 Questions on the Eucharist 
21 Questions on Why the Eucharist Was Given to Humanity

 

Baltimore Catechism No. 3

LESSON FOUR
On Creation – Part I

 

Q. 206. What is the difference between making and creating?

A. “Making” means bringing forth or forming out of some material already existing, as workmen do. “Creating” means bringing forth out of nothing, as God alone can do.

 

Q. 207. Has everything that exists been created?

A. Everything that exists except God Himself has been created.

 

Q. 208. Who created heaven and earth, and all things?

A. God created heaven and earth, and all things.

 

Q. 209. From what do we learn that God created heaven and earth and all things?

A. We learn that God created heaven and earth and all things from the Bible or Holy Scripture, in which the account of the Creation is given.

 

Q. 210. Why did God create all things?

A. God created all things for His own glory and for their or our good.

 

Q. 211. Did God leave all things to themselves after He had created them?

A. God did not leave all things to themselves after He had created them; He continues to preserve and govern them.

 

Q. 212. What do we call the care by which God preserves and governs the world and all it contains?

A. We call the care by which God preserves and governs the world and all it contains His providence.

 

Q. 213. How did God create heaven and earth?

A. God created heaven and earth from nothing by His word only; that is, by a single act of His all-powerful will.

 

Q. 214. Which are the chief creatures of God?

A. The chief creatures of God are angels and men.

 

Q. 215. How may God’s creatures on earth be divided?

A. God’s creatures on earth may be divided into four classes:

Things that exist, as air;
Things that exist, grow and live, as plants and trees;
Things that exist, grow, live and feel, as animals;
Things that exist, grow, live, feel and understand, as man.

 

Drink coffee and cheat Satan. Click the picture to view the SPL Store.

Lust and Our Common Good: 4 Observations by St. Thomas Aquinas

The question Is lust a sin? seems absurd, but by asking these questions and answering them in thomistic fullness the Angelic Doctor is able to lead us into profound observations.

Listers, a portion of St. Thomas Aquinas’ brilliance is attributed to his ability to state that which we all already know but struggle to articulate. The question Is lust a sin? seems absurd, but by asking these questions and answering them in thomistic fullness the Angelic Doctor is able to lead us into profound observations. Similar to his treatment on the capital vice of gluttony, the beloved “Dumb Ox” echoes the seriousness in which Christ took the reality of sin and how it perverts what is good and reasonable in humanity.

St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, whose virtue warms the world.

1. What is the proper matter of lust?

The Common Doctor begins his treatment of lust by discerning its “matter” or what properly composes the vice of lust.

As Isidore says (Etym. x), “a lustful man is one who is debauched with pleasures.” Now venereal pleasures above all debauch a man’s mind. Therefore lust is especially concerned with such like pleasures.

The Angelic Doctor turns to the authority of St. Isidore of Seville (d. AD 560)1 and agrees the lustful man is “debauched with pleasures.” However, exactly what pleasures compose the matter of lust? Lust is contrary to the virtue of temperance, which holds us to right reason in the midst of that which would lure us away – yet how is it different than greed or gluttony?

Even as temperance chiefly and properly applies to pleasures of touch, yet consequently and by a kind of likeness is referred to other matters, so too, lust applies chiefly to venereal pleasures, which more than anything else work the greatest havoc in a man’s mind, yet secondarily it applies to any other matters pertaining to excess. Hence a gloss on Galatians 5:19 says “lust is any kind of surfeit.”

To wit, lust applies primarily to venereal pleasures and secondarily to other pleasures.

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony

2. Are all sexual acts lustful?

Listers, Aquinas commonly submits questions that seem strange or even absurd. Some questions seem superfluous and others seem so obvious that they need not be asked. However, the Summa Theologica is not an encyclopedia, but a pedagogical series of questions that build upon one another. This question’s official title is Whether no venereal act can be without sin? and it lays the groundwork to understand the more complex questions and answers.

A sin, in human acts, is that which is against the order of reason. Now the order of reason consists in its ordering everything to its end in a fitting manner. Wherefore it is no sin if one, by the dictate of reason, makes use of certain things in a fitting manner and order for the end to which they are adapted, provided this end be something truly good.

Virtue is a good habit or that which disposes us to good acts through the perfection of our powers. One such power is our reason and virtue perfects the power of our reason, e.g., temperance holds us to reason when faced with pleasures that would lure us from reason.2

Vices are those habits which would disorder our reason. If temperance is the virtue that holds us to right reason even in the midsts of allurement – in distinction to fortitude which holds us to reason in the midst of fear – the the vice of lust seeks to pervert that which is good and reasonable through venereal matters.3

Now just as the preservation of the bodily nature of one individual is a true good, so, too, is the preservation of the nature of the human species a very great good. And just as the use of food is directed to the preservation of life in the individual, so is the use of venereal acts directed to the preservation of the whole human race.

Hence Augustine says (De Bono Conjug. xvi): “What food is to a man’s well being, such is sexual intercourse to the welfare of the whole human race.” Wherefore just as the use of food can be without sin, if it be taken in due manner and order, as required for the welfare of the body, so also the use of venereal acts can be without sin, provided they be performed in due manner and order, in keeping with the end of human procreation.

Sex is good and serves a mighty and noble purpose within the human race. Lust however seeks to corrupt man’s reasoning toward sex and distort its goodness.

 

Lust in Dante’s Inferno by Gustave Dore

3. Why is lust a sin?

In his question Whether the lust that is about venereal acts can be a sin? the Common Doctor of the Church builds upon the foundation already laid.

The more necessary a thing is, the more it behooves one to observe the order of reason in its regard; wherefore the more sinful it becomes if the order of reason be forsaken. Now the use of venereal acts, as stated in the foregoing Article, is most necessary for the common good, namely the preservation of the human race.

Wherefore there is the greatest necessity for observing the order of reason in this matter: so that if anything be done in this connection against the dictate of reason’s ordering, it will be a sin. Now lust consists essentially in exceeding the order and mode of reason in the matter of venereal acts. Wherefore without any doubt lust is a sin.

Evil is not a thing in itself, but is rather a lack or an absence of what is good. Aquinas would say evil is the privation of the good. In that line of thinking, if right reason is a good and sin is an evil then being sinful is irrational and a strike against reason. Lust then carries a particular weightiness about it due to human sexuality’s strong connection with the common good. The seriousness imported by the corruption of lust is the basis of Aquinas’ next question.

 

Virtue perfects our reason and the vices incline humanity to the irrational and the disorder. It is humanity’s choice. Dante’s inferno – “Dante and Virgil in hell” (1850) by William Bouguereau.

4. Is lust a capital vice?

Flowing with the logical progression of St. Thomas’ previous questions, it is no surprise that Aquinas cites the authority of Pope St. Gregory the Great in naming lust a capital or “deadly” vice.

Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 45) places lust among the capital vices.

As stated above, a capital vice is one that has a very desirable end, so that through desire for that end, a man proceeds to commit many sins, all of which are said to arise from that vice as from a principal vice. Now the end of lust is venereal pleasure, which is very great. Wherefore this pleasure is very desirable as regards the sensitive appetite, both on account of the intensity of the pleasure, and because such like concupiscence is connatural to man. Therefore it is evident that lust is a capital vice.

Like virtues, vices are habits and habits are a quality that define who we are. As virtues produce in us many good works so too do vices become sordid sources of many sins. Lust is a capital vice because it manifests sins within the matter of man’s strong desire for venereal pleasures and that venereal pleasure in and of itself is a good when properly ordered to reason.

  1. Isidore: Born at Cartagena, Spain, about 560; died 4 April, 636. Isidore was the son of Severianus and Theodora. His elder brother Leander was his immediate predecessor in the Metropolitan See of Seville; whilst a younger brother St. Fulgentius presided over the Bishopric of Astigi. His sister Florentina was a nun, and is said to have ruled over forty convents and one thousand religious. Source []
  2. What is a habit? –  The Philosopher (Aristotle) “defines habit, a ‘disposition whereby someone is disposed, well or ill;’ and he says that by ‘habits we are directed well or ill in reference to the passions.’ For when a the mode is suitable to the thing’s nature, it has the aspect of good: and when it is unsuitable, it has the aspect of evil.” (I-II.49)

    A Habit or Act? –  Virtue “denotes a certain perfection of a power. Now a thing’s perfection is considered chiefly in regard to its end. But the end of power is act. Wherefore power is said to be perfect, according as it is determinate to its act.” Power (potential) finds its end in an act. Virtue perfects the power; thus, the act is perfected. Justice is not an act, but by the habit of justice one may act justly. – More on Virtue from Aquinas []

  3. Temperance v. Fortitude: In clarification by contrast, temperance would be the virtue that keeps us from adultery, masturbation, and any disordered sexual pleasure, while fortitude holds us to reason in the midst of fear, e.g., on the battlefield, when scared to do what is right and good, etc. []

7 Blogs by Traditional Catholic Priests

We continue to bring you the best Catholic minds and resources on the internet.

Listers, we continue to bring you the best Catholic minds and resources on the internet. In response to our original 12 Catholic Blogs Worth Your Time list, we received an outpouring of reader recommendations for other Catholic blogs to be noted and shared. We then released 25 Reader Recommended Catholic Blogs and published a list of the Top 10 Catholic News Sites. Now we turn to a more narrow scope: Catholic blogs written by traditional Catholic priests.1

 

1. Offerimus Tibi Domine

Operated by Fr. Simon Henry of St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Farington Leyland.

Full, conscious and actual participation does not mean people clamouring to take part in the performance of the rites, rather, they are fully to participate in the Paschal Mystery they signify.

Fr. Henry recently composed an article entitled Martini – Bitter and Stirred in which he opines the following: “Instead the Holy Spirit kept Blessed Pope John Paul on the Throne of St Peter for long enough for Cardinal Martini to be passed over by the time of the last conclave (his health was already poor by then) and for Joseph Ratzinger’s time to have come.” He complements his observation with a quote by Bl. John Paul, “I am convinced that a priest should have no fear of being “behind the times” because the human “today” of every priest is included in the “today” of Christ the Redeemer.”2

 

2. Sense of the Sacred

Operated by Fr. Jojo Zerrudo.

Do we still need sacred space, sacred time, mediating symbols? Yes, we do need them, precisely so that, through the “image,” through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven. We need them to give us the capacity to know the mystery of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy

Fr. Jojo Zerrudo has recently posted an article on the Reproductive Health debate in the Philippines entitled Unstained by the World. He concludes with an acute paragraph on dissent: “Dissenters enjoy much popular support because they say what the world says. They say what everybody says. They say what everybody wants to hear. And the bishops who uphold the clear commandments of God are labeled as narrow minded and outdated. But that is to be expected. For the thoughts of God are so different from the thoughts of man: “My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways. For I am God and not man.” (Isaiah 55:8) Let us keep our religion pure as God is pure. Let us keep ourselves unstained by the world.”

 

3. The Hermeneutic of Continuity

“This blog is written by Fr Tim Finigan, Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark, parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, visiting tutor in Sacramental Theology at St John’s Seminary Wonersh, and tutor in Dogmatic Theology at St Hugh’s Charterhouse, Parkminster. I was ordained priest in 1984.”

The Hermeneutic of Continuity is probably one of the more well-known blogs featured on this list. Fr. Finigan has recently posted an encouragement for us to remember our subjugated and suffering brothers and sisters in Pakistan and has touched on the bizarre story of Muslim groups calling for their followers to abstain from “Christian” tomatoes. In his Eating Tomatoes and the Problem of Avoiding Crosses, the good father states, “I am delighted to know that my tomato consumption now counts as an act of Christian witness.”

 

4. Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

“Father Kevin M. Cusick, from the Washington, D.C., area, writes a weekly column for The Wanderer, the oldest US Catholic weekly published in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He also authors “Meeting Christ in the Liturgy”, weekly reflections on the Scriptures of the sacred Liturgy and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, an on-line resource for over ten years with over one half million visitors, and is a long-standing contributor to Homilies.net. Cusick is a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy chaplain corps (RC) who served most recently in Iraq, before that for two years in Italy, three years on board the carrier USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, in Florida and North Carolina. He is also published in The Catholic Standard of the Archdiocese of Washington and the magazine Homiletic and Pastoral Review. His photographs have also appeared in The Wanderer. A Detroit native, Cusick attended Fordham University, from which he earned the Bachelor of Arts in English and Mount Saint Mary’s for an M.A. in sacred theology.”

“…liturgy is truly the apex of the Church’s life, the time and place of a profound relationship with God.”
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

The MCIL has a focus on Scripture Readings and most recently posted a cogent piece on abortion and justice entitled “Have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?” Covering everything from Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life DNC 2012 speech to sacramental theology, he candidly states, “Justice was violated by using the outer periphery of a woman’s body to decide that the right to life of some human beings could be denied by the whim of another human being if the victim happens to be found on the wrong side of that periphery: the preborn side.”

 

5. Fr. Blake’s Blog

The good Father Blake’s blog is one that has appeared time and time again on respected blog-rolls and suggested links. His post are characterized by brevity and acumen and come together to form an informative and well-written outlet for Catholic thought.

Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, et ubi ecclesia vita eterna

It is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate.

The good priest has several notable blog posts including a commentary on the mass  – Hope Which Is in You – in which he says, “The Mass is not about us, it always has been about Jesus and giving us glimpse of heaven, ‘and so with Angels and Saints we sing…’, it is a vision of the triumph of the Lamb, it is about our ultimate re-orientation, the end of  our earthly pilgrimage.” Other notables include a clip from a Russian film demonstrating Prayer in Adversity, a brief commentary on Germany’s judicial push against circumcision – In Praise of the Diversity and the Irrational, and in Primacy of Liturgical Law he turns to one of our favorite princes of the Church, Cardinal Burke.

 

6. Forest Murmurs

Operated by Fr. Michael Brown a parish priest in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.

Ego vero Evangelio non crederem, nisi me catholicae Ecclesiae commoveret auctoritas.

Truly, I would not believe the Gospel unless the authority of the Catholic Church impressed me.
St Augustine: Contra epistolam Manichaei 5.6

Forest Murmurs is another blog often cited on traditionalist Catholic blog-rolls and appears to be primarily categorized by news clippings of traditional interests. A good example would be the happy news of the Institute of Christ the King purchasing a historically Jesuit – and unused – Church in Ireland.

 

7. What Does the Prayer Really Say?

The seemingly ubiquitous blog of Father Z is one often shared and cited by St. Peter’s List and one found on almost every blog-roll of the aforementioned traditionalist sites. His incredibly popular WDTPRS has been featured on SPL’s 12 Catholic Blogs Worth Your Time and is most certainly ranked amongst the overall best traditionalist resources online. Brimming with liturgical wisdom intermixed with bird-feeder pictures and step-by-step historical records of gourmet meals, Father Z stands as one of the most notable and unique Catholic online personalities.

Slavishly accurate liturgical translations & frank commentary on Catholic issues – by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf o{]:¬)

This blog is rather like a fusion of the Baroque ‘salon’ with its well-tuned harpsichord around which polite society gathered for entertainment and edification and, on the other hand, a Wild West “saloon” with its out-of-tune piano and swinging doors, where everyone has a gun and something to say. Nevertheless, we try to point our discussions back to what it is to be Catholic in this increasingly difficult age, to love God, and how to get to heaven. – Fr. Z

It is not uncommon that the good Father Z will post several times in a single day, making him a timely source for news commentary, reader Q&A, and the beloved liturgical or political “rants.”

 


Listers, how’d we do?
If there are any blogs you think should be added to this list or ones you think should not have made this list let us know. Also feel free to mention any other type of internet lists you’d like to see. Thanks.

Traditionalist Websites – You Tell Us
During the course of scouring over these blogs and others, we noticed a common theme of often recommended sites within the traditionalist blogosphere – none of which were a surprise. The greatest recourse seemed to be given to Rorate Caeli, the New Liturgical Movement, and the Canterbury Tales. SPL would be in debt to any other traditionalist websites the listers would recommend.

  1. How were these blogs chosen? – The only listed blog that SPL has intimate knowledge of is Father Z’s WDTPRS. The others blogs were selected from Rorate Caeli’s blog-roll by looking at professionalism and frequency of posting; however, for content quality we openly rely on Caeli’s prudence. []
  2. Pope John Paul in his book “Gift and Mystery” []

4 of the Most Controversial Lists on St. Peter’s List

Listers, brass is mistaken for gold more easily than clay.1 It is easy to say the heathens and Hitlers of the world need Christ and His Church, but what of the Protestants? Are they saved because they worship Christ or is their Christ more a personalized term than a person? Are we prepared to critique what is brass in the world, even if the Protestants, Orthodox or secular humanitarians share or emulate our virtues? There is One God, One Christ, One Groom and One Bride. There is One Kingdom with One King, One Vicar and One Queen.

All humans are in need of Jesus Christ and the Messiah commissioned St. Peter and the Apostles to care for his sheep and guard his Church. We cannot let our modernist upbringings dull the trenchant truth of Christ nor can we let some misplaced zeal blur the evangelistic nuances necessary to reach a protestant, an Orthodox or an atheist.

Know the faith listers. It is in Holy Mother Church that we find the unadulterated love and person of Jesus Christ.

Click the titles to go to the list.

St Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr, pray for us.

1. Those Who Start Their Own Church Follow the Voice of Satan: 11 Teachings from St. Cyprian AD 250

The unsettling words of St. Cyprian share their effect on Protestants and Catholics alike – primarily because we are all modernists accustomed to pluralism and inclusive speech. The Early Church writer clearly states there is One Savior and One Bride, His Church and that the One Church of Christ can only be the Church entrusted to the Apostles and to their disciples, the Bishops of the Church. Those who start their own “churches”  – breaking apostolic succession – sit in the “seat of pestilence, plagues, and spots of the faith, deceiving with serpent’s tongue, and artful in corrupting the truth, vomiting forth deadly poisons from pestilential tongues.” Complimenting the words of the saint are the similar words of our fourth Pope in the list The Apostles Appointed Bishops: 9 Teachings from St. Clement AD 97.

Listers, our Lord Jesus Christ is not returning to our world for a harem of “churches.”There is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and it was founded by Christ and charged by him to St. Peter and the Apostles. However, there are now and always have been those groups that attempt to rend Christ from his Church – to recreate that which God gave us, the Church. In AD 250, St. Cyprian wrote an outstanding work entitled On the Unity of the Church. The epistle focuses especially on the topic of schism and those who would set themselves up as Church leaders and/or start their own “churches.” Without question, these groups are proto-protestant groups and the saint’s arguments apply just as much to our modern schismatic and heretical groups as they did to his ancient schismatic groups.2

“He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”

“And this unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the Church, that we may also prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by a falsehood: let no one corrupt the truth of the faith by perfidious prevarication. The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole.”

“What sacrifices do those who are rivals of the priests think that they celebrate? Do they deem that they have Christ with them when they are collected together, who are gathered together outside the Church of Christ?” – St. Cyprian, AD 250

2. All Human Creatures Are Subject to the Pope: 8 Papal Quotes On Salvation

God promised King David that a descendant of his would sit upon his throne forever. In the wake of this promise, the Old Testament prophets foretold of a “New Davidic Kingdom” and the Messiah – the Son of David – who would save God’s people. Undoubtedly, Christ is the Messiah – the Son of David – and his Kingdom is a Davidic Kingdom. In David’s Kingdom there was a Vicar who had the key of the kingdom and ruled in David’s stead whilst he was way. The Son of David is no different in his Kingdom – he gave St. Peter the keys of the Kingdom and St. Peter – the First Pope or Vicar of Christ – and his successors hold the Kingdom to the teachings of the King. The list All Human Creatures Are Subject to the Pope is built upon this biblical truth. Those looking for the scriptural evidence of the papacy may enjoy 10 Biblical Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy and the forerunner to that list: 13 Biblical Reasons St. Peter was “Prince of the Apostles.”

Listers, the following is a short compilation of quotes taken from previous Ecumenical Pontiffs of Rome: “Outside the Church there is no hope for salvation.” These quotes show us the confidence that our previous Bishops of Rome have had in their authority given by God Himself to be the Vicar of Christ here on Earth. As St. Augustine said, “Rome has spoken, the case is closed.” Cheers!

Those wishing to balance these quotes with a catechetical understanding of salvation outside the Church may turn to How Were Men Saved Before Christ and 10 Other Questions and Can Non-Catholics Be Saved and 21 Other Questions.

“The holy universal Church teaches that it is not possible to worship God truly except in Her and asserts that all who are outside of Her will not be saved.”

Pope Saint Gregory the Great (590-604)

“We declare, say , define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”
Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam (1302 AD)

3. 6 Things to Know About the “Miracle of the Holy Fire”

The “Miracle of the Holy Fire” is a longstanding event in the Orthodox Church that is often times used as proof the power of the Resurrection of Christ lies in his “true church,” the Orthodox. Of course, Catholics rebuttal that the fire is nothing more than a fraud. As one can imagine this devolves quite quickly into Catholic vs Orthodox polemics.

Listers, the following is a brief examination of the controversial “Miracle of the Holy Fire.” The Greek Orthodox Patriarch enters the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday – according to the Orthodox calendar. He proceeds into the Tomb of Christ and begins to pray. A fire is then miraculously enkindled by the Holy Spirit – supposedly the power of the resurrection – and is shared rapidly throughout the Church and all those who are waiting outside. To be clear, it is said that Pope Gregory the IX declared “Holy Fire” a fraud in AD 1238, but a primary source is needed to confirm this papal statement. Today, the miracle is not recognized by the Catholic Church, but is considered a pious tradition of certain Orthodox Churches.

Setting everything about the “holy fire” event aside, St. Peter’s List would like to remind listers that Pope Benedict XVI is building a legacy of being the “Pope of Christian Unity.” As Holy Mother Church staves off militant secularism on one side and militant Islam on the other, we should be praying for unity amongst those who call themselves followers of Christ. This is in no way a fanciful call to “just get along,” as any Orthodox/Catholic discussion on the role of the papacy, the crusades, St. Augustine and the filioque will leave blood on the floor. Regardless, pray and strive for unity.

4. 4 Sources to Understand and Even Defend the Catholic Inquisitions

Turning primarily to a video by Michael Voris and an academic article by Thomas F. Madden, St. Peter’s List wants to place the three historical inquisitions of the Church in historical context. It should be well noted that the list does not exonerate those who operated under the guise of the Catholic Church from all wrongdoing and crimes; however, what the list does do is defend what our culture has erroneously deemed indefensible by using historical facts and comparisons to whittle down the propaganda and engage in an actual conversation about the inquisitions.

Listers, most believe that the “Spanish Inquisition” was a dark and embarrassing era within the Catholic Church. The rhetoric is well known: thousands were imprisoned, non-Catholics were tortured, and a “convert-or-die” travesty swept over much of Europe. However, what if the Church’s three primary inquisitions – the Medieval, the Spanish, and the Roman – were created to harbor people from injustice, to grant the accused individuals more rights and legal representation than in secular courts, or to secure the concept of “due process,” which became a precursor to English law and eventually the American Constitution? Moreover, what if history shows that the common misperception of the Church’s Inquisitions are based on vulgar protestant propaganda wars? All these questions and more are addressed and answered in a well-documented fashion by the following sources.

Although the Spanish defeated Protestants on the battlefield, they would lose the propaganda war. These were the years when the famous “Black Legend” of Spain was forged. Innumerable books and pamphlets poured from northern presses accusing the Spanish Empire of inhuman depravity and horrible atrocities in the New World. Opulent Spain was cast as a place of darkness, ignorance, and evil. Although modern scholars have long ago discarded the Black Legend, it still remains very much alive today. Quick: Think of a good conquistador.

Like all courts in Europe, the Spanish Inquisition used torture. But it did so much less often than other courts. Modern researchers have discovered that the Spanish Inquisition applied torture in only 2 percent of its cases. Each instance of torture was limited to a maximum of 15 minutes. In only 1 percent of the cases was torture applied twice and never for a third time.

  1. Irony: The “brass is mistaken for gold more easily than clay” originates – as far as I know – with CS Lewis, whom converted to Anglicanism and not Catholicism, though it was Tolkien that led him to Christ. []
  2. Novatian: Another impetus of the epistle was the first “anti-pope” who attempted to claim he was holier than the rest of the Church and claimed moral superiority, especially in not wanting to ever extend forgiveness to sins post-baptism. []

4 Biblical Reasons Mary Is The New Ark of the Covenant

An in depth biblical approach to Mary as the “New Ark of the Convenant.”

Listers, as with all Marian doctrine, a better understanding of Mary only serves to illuminate Christ Our Lord, because every grace she received and every role she held within salvation history  is rooted in Christ. Her role as the New Ark of the Covenant serves to reveal the true nature of Jesus Christ – one person with two natures: divine and human – and illuminate the purpose of the Incarnation within salvation history. The Old Testament is perfected by the New, and Mother Mary is the perfection of the old Ark of the Covenant.

“We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek – Jesus, her Son.”
Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, #94

Credit & Notable Marian Works
Those looking for a deeper understanding of the Virgin Mary should consult the following works: for an academic but spiritual treatment within the dominican tradition SPL suggests Mother of the Saviour: And Our Interior Life by the keen mind of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., and for a seminal Marian devotional we suggest The True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin by one of the most famous proponents of mariology, St. Louis de Montfort, and finally, for a biblical and basic introduction to the Blessed Virgin – and an excellent primer for protestants – SPL suggests Hail, Holy Queen:The Mother of God in the Word of God by Scott Hahn. Overall, Hahn’s works offer Catholics and non-Catholics alike a wide-range of excellent theological primers, and his Hail, Holy Queen text greatly contributed to the last two points of this list.1

“The ark is verily the holy Virgin, gilded within and without, who received the treasure of universal sanctification. Arise, O Lord, from the Father’s bosom, to raise up again the ruined race of our first parent” (Orat. in Deip. Annunciat. Int. Opp. S. Greg. Thaumaturg) (Blessed Virgin, p. 89). St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (c. 213-c. 270)

“As Christ our priest was not chosen by hand of man, so neither was His tabernacle framed by men, but was established by the Holy Ghost; and by the power of God is that tabernacle protected, to be had in everlasting remembrance, Mary, God’s Virgin Mother” (S. Dionysius of Alexandria, Respons. ad Quoest. v. Pauli Samos) (Blessed Virgin, p. 81). St. Dionysius (died 264)

Both the Old Ark and the New Ark were “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit. “The Annunciation” – Andrea del Sarto

1. Hail, Full of Grace

The Old Ark Was the Physical Dwelling Place of the Shekinah Glory
The New Ark Was the Physical Dwelling Place of the Word Incarnate

The Ark of the Covenant was the point of contact for the presence of God within the Holy of Holies.2

And the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is upon the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.

At the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel told Mother Mary she would be the Mater Dei, the Mother of God. In her womb God’s physical presence would dwell in a way never before seen: the second person of the Trinity was to take upon human nature, and become Incarnate.

And [the Archangel Gabriel] came to [Mary] and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greetings this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

How is Mary a More Perfect Ark?
The New Testament perfects the Old, and whereas the old Ark of the Covenant had been lost, God provided a new and more perfect one – an immaculate woman. The Ark moves from being a human artifact of wood and gold, to a the highest honored and highest human creature3 The presence of God is perfected insofar as the Second Person of the Trinity becomes Incarnate, and his mission is the forgiveness and satisfaction of mankind.

Why does the Angel say “Full of Grace?”
Entire bulwarks of the Catholic tradition are built upon this phrase, but a brief sketch is necessary to understand Mary’s unique role in salvation history. Grace – as we know it – did not exist before the victory of Christ; moreover, the Old Testament sacrifices forgave sins, but they could not offer proper satisfaction for them – they left man in an infinite debt due to sin. The angel stating “full of grace” points to Mary as Immaculate, the pure vessel of Christ’s Incarnation, the virgin and sinless flesh from which Christ would draw his human nature. Mary was “full of grace” because the was born without original sin and had remained sinless in order to be the New Ark of the Covenant, the Mother of God. It is important to note that Mary’s grace is still rooted in Christ, and is orientated toward the mission of salvation. Both Mary’s biblical roles as the New Ark of the Covenant and of the New Eve articulate a need for her to be perfect in relationship to Christ, not to mention the greatest need of all – it was from her Christ drew his humanity.

Tabernacle and Sacred Vessels 1728, Gerard Hoet (1648-1733), Wikicommons

2. The Contents of the Arks

Ark Contained the Commandments, Manna, & Aaron’s Rod
New Ark Contained Christ Our Lord: Logos, Bread of Life, King/Priest

The Old Testament Ark was said to contain three things: the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments carved by the finger of God, the priestly rod of Moses’ brother Aaron, and the heavenly manna that sustained Israel in post-Egyptian wandering.

While the old Ark is acacia wood wrapped in gold, the New Ark of the Covenant is the Immaculate Woman Mary. Since being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, her womb became the dwelling place of God on Earth until the birth of Christ. As the New Testament is a perfection and fulfillment of the Old, so too is Christ’s Incarnation in the Virgin Mary a perfection of the Old Ark of the Covenant. The contents of the New Ark perfect the contents of the Old Ark insofar as Christ the Lord takes upon himself the roles of the former objects: Word of God, Bread of Life, & Eternal Priest.

Old & New Contents

The Word of God in the Stone Tablets 4
The Word of God Incarnate

And he took the [tablets of the] covenant and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark, and set the mercy seat above on the ark;

Christ’s perfection of the Tablets of the Covenant or more commonly called the Tablets of the Ten Commandments is multifaceted. The most complete perfection is the overall understanding the the primary “Word of God” is not Scripture, but Christ. Christ is the Living Word, the Logos.5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. […] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.

Moreover, the Tablets of the Covenant represented the old convenant and its laws. Christ comes and perfects those laws, most notably during his Sermon on the Mount.6 Changing the Laws requires the proper authority, and to change divine laws requires divine authority. Christ, as the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, obviously had the divine authority and he demonstrated it both as the Eternal King in the lineage of King David and as the Eternal Priest in the lineage of Melchizedek.7

 

Manna, the Life-giving bread of Heaven
Jesus Christ, the “Bread of Life”

It is fitting that the Book of Hebrews, which has at its core the goal to demonstrate the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament – especially in articulating Christ as our High Priest – would highlight the contents of the Old Ark.8

Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant.

Concerning the Old Ark and manna, Christ our Lord is the perfect “Bread of Life.” In the Gospel of John, Christ gives his famous “Eucharistic Discourse.” The entire latter half of the chapter is an in depth discussion on the Eucharist and Christ’s body and blood as the life giving sacrament.9

I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. […] So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

Christ’s “Eucharistic Discourse” paves the way for the Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. In speaking to his disciples, Christ says the following:10

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

Biblically, it is very clear that the manna of the OT is perfected by the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, which is for us today the source and summit of the Catholic life, the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

 

Aaron’s Rod, the Sign of the Ancestral Priesthood
Christ, the Eternal Priest in the Order of Melchizedek

As in the aforesaid Hebrew’s verse, Aaron’s rod was placed within the Ark of the Covenant. The rod of Aaron was a sign of the priesthood. The book of Hebrews takes up as a main focus the eternal priesthood of Christ Jesus.11

So also Christ did no exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

You are my Son, today I have begotten you;
As he says also in another place,

“You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”

The subject of Christ as the Eternal Priest is exhausted by the book of Hebrews, and it speaks directly to the argument of how Christ’s priesthood could have perfected the ancestral lineage of the Old Testament priesthood – especially since Christ was not born into that lineage. The author highlights the High Priest Melchizedek, and the legitimacy of Christ’s eternal priesthood being rooted in the Order of Melchizedek.

King David plays the Harp before the Ark of the Covenant, source unknown.

3. Joy Before the Ark

King David & the Ark
Elizabeth & the New Ark

One intriguing aspect of Hebrew literature is the fact it does not give unnecessary details. Understanding this facet can illuminate certain passages, especially when one notes that the Hebrews were not concerned with many of the attributes the modern western mind expects of stories and history. Along this note, the Catholic tradition observes several OT passages and NT passages that utilize the same details and phrases. The Early Church fathers were quick to extract many of these comparisons, especially in the more broad sense of parallel ideas, e.g., St. Augustine seeing the Creation in Genesis allegorically as the new birth of a Christian soul from “formless and void” to the abundant earth. Other comparisons are more nuanced and exist on noticing exact repetitions of words or phrases within similar circumstances. One such detailed pericope contains the story of when King David received the Ark of the Covenant.12

And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Ba’ale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim.

The passage then recounts the unfortunate story of Uzzah, the man who amongst the merriment put his hand on the Ark after an oxen stumbled. Uzzah was smitten by God, and David became afraid. However, Scripture records the detail of how much time David spent waiting after the death of Uzzah, and that time was three months.

And David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” So David was not willing to take the ark of the LORD into the city of David; but David took it aside to the house of O’bed-e’dom the Gittite. […] So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of O’bed-e’dom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the horn. As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.

In the Gospel of Luke, the evangelist records the story of when Mary went to visit Elizabeth. The passage utilizes some of the exact phrasing from the pericope in I Samuel, and even replaces the term “ark” with “mother of my Lord” when Elizabeth asks why Mary has come to her, as David did with the Ark.13 The similar language in both selections have been emboldened.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechari’ah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.

After Mary delivers her famous Magnificat, the passage ends telling the reader how much time has elapsed.

And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.

The similarities between these two passages demand attention. Both begin with the same phrase “arose and went,” both dwelt in the hill country of Judah, David speaks of his unworthiness before the Old Ark as Elizabeth does before the New Ark (even replacing the work ark with “mother of my Lord”), David dances and leaps before the presence of the Lord and John the Baptist leaps in joy within Elizabeth’s womb (often seen as Christ’s presence anointing John to be a prophet), and both remain the same amount of time: three months.14 While comments on Mary as the New Ark abound in Early Church literature, the following quote by Ambrose is especially insightful.

“The prophet David danced before the Ark.  Now what else should we say the Ark was but holy Mary?  The Ark bore within it the tables of the Testament, but Mary bore the Heir of the same Testament itself.  The former contained in it the Law, the latter the Gospel.  The one had the voice of God, the other His Word.  The Ark, indeed, was radiant within and without with the glitter of gold, but holy Mary shone within and without with the splendor of virginity.  The one was adorned with earthly gold, the other with heavenly” (Serm. xlii. 6, Int. Opp., S. Ambrosii) (Blessed Virgin, p. 77). St. Ambrose (c. 339-397)

“Our Lady of the Sign-Ark of Mercy” offers no middle ground between protestant and Catholic theology. St. Stanislaus, Chicago.

4. The Apocalypse of St. John

The Old Was Lost
The New Ark is Found

Many are under the false impression that the Ark of the Covenant was in the Temple during the time of Christ. Commenting on this misunderstanding, biblical scholar and popular writer Scott Hahn states, “around 587 B.C., the prophet Jeremiah concealed the ark in order to preserve it from defilement when Babylonian invaders came to destroy the temple.15

And Jeremiah came and found a cave, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense, and he sealed up the entrance. Some of those who followed him came up to mark the way, but could not find it. When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: “The place shall be unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. And then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses, and as Solomon asked that the place should be specially consecrated.”

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of the Ark within Old Testament Judaism. Given its central role in worship and the fact it was lost, any mention of the Ark of the Covenant during the time it was lost was sure to be noteworthy. In St. John’s Revelation, he mentions the ark at the end of chapter eleven.16

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

Scott Hahn delivers several astute observations regarding the mentioning of the Ark and the Jewish historical context in which St. John was writing. He says, “imagine you are a first -century reader, raised as a Jew. You have never seen the ark, but all your religious and cultural upbringing has taught you to long for its restoration in the temple… the dramatic tension [in John’s writing] becomes nearly unbearable. The reader wants to see the ark, as John sees it.”17 However as Hahn notes, St. John does not then go on to speak of the OT Ark (the switch in chapter from 11 to 12 should not import any concern, considering the original texts had no such distinctions). What John does begin to describe is a woman:

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.

As with all Marian doctrine, Christ is the center and he is the key to understanding Revelation 12. Christ is the child born unto the woman.

She brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,

The child is brought to God and his throne, which must be Christ. Moreover, the child rules with a “rod of iron,” which is a reference to King David, and Christ is the “Son of David” that will sit upon the Davidic throne forever.

The “Our Lady of the Sign-Ark of Mercy” is the largest Monstrance in the World.

Could the Woman be Israel?
While there could be certain traits – even beneficial ones – to understanding the woman as Israel, the Marian readings harmonizes best with the text and would still remain the primary reading. The latter half of St. John’s Revelation chapter reveals more about the woman.

And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. […] Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.

Revelation 12 is an exhaustive Marian text, because Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant, the New Eve, and the New Queen of the Davidic Kingdom – and all three of those roles are demonstrated within the chapter as a whole. Within the given pericope, a special enmity is seen between the woman and the dragon, which recalls the reader’s mind to God’s words in Genesis regarding the enmity between Eve and the serpent. A “Israel” reading becomes confusing; Israel could be seen as the mother of Christ – though Mary has historically held the role of Mater Dei, Theotokos, the Mother of God without question – but it is a stretch to see Israel as the mother of Christians. If it is the “New Israel,” the Church, that could present an option, but again, the Church has never been referred to as the Mother of God – she is the Bride of Christ. Biblically speaking, Mother Mary fits the roles within Revelation 12, and for our purposes here, shows herself to be the New Ark of the Covenant.

“Be mindful of us, most holy virgin, who after childbirth didst remain virgin; and grant to us for these small words great gifts from the riches of they graces, O thou full of grace. Accept them as though they were true and adequate praises in they honor; and if there is in them any virtue and any praise, we offer them as a hymn from ourselves and from all creatures to thee, full of grace, Lady, Queen, Mistress, Mother of God, and Ark of sanctification” (Orat. In Deip. Annuntiat, nn. 13, 14. Int. Opp. S. Athanasii) (Blessed Virgin, p. 80). St. Athanasius (c. 296-373)

Mother Mary, New Ark of the Covenant, pray for us.
HHAmbrose

  1. Early Church Quotes on Mary as the New Ark of the Covenent: SOURCE []
  2. The Old Ark: Lev 16:2, RSV; Ex 25:10-22 – dimensions, look of the ark []
  3. Mary as the Highest Created Human: Often times protestants will errnoneously reject this claim based on Christ as the highest created human – this view is a heresy. The personhood of Christ already existed as the Second Person of the Trinity, and he took upon himself human nature; moreover, Christ’s personhood was not created. []
  4. Ex 40:20 []
  5. John 1:1, 14a []
  6. Matthew 5, 6, 7 []
  7. Christ as “Son of David” – Matt 1:1-2; 9:27-29; Mk 10:47, 48; Promise to King David –  I Chron 17:14; Ps 89:35-36; Luke1:31; Christ in the order of Melchizedek – Heb 4:14-5:10; 7; The ability, as the new Priest, to change the law: Heb 7:12 []
  8. The Contents of the Ark: Hebrews 9:4 (Tablets, Aaron’s Rod, Manna), however, I Kings 8:9 says only the tablets were inside the Ark. Contradiction theories aside, the discrepancy is easily explained by the fact I Kings was written early in the history of the People of Israel, and the rod and manna were simply added later. []
  9. Eucharistic Discourse: John 6:22-71 – There are protestant objections to this passage, which primarily try to state why Christ was not being literal. Outside the irony that this is one of the only passages the protestant tradition does not advocate a literal reading, the insistence of Christ and his disciples’ reaction to it is clear enough for a literal reading. Every time the disciples misunderstood a teaching, Christ scolded them, but he did not let them leave confused. At the end of this passage, many disciples leave Christ, and Christ not only lets them leave unhindered, but further presses the issue on his disciples. []
  10. Matthew 26:26 []
  11. Christ the High Priest: Hebrews 5:5,6 – 7:1-28 []
  12. King David and the Ark: II Sam 6:2-16 []
  13. Mary Visits Elizabeth: Gospel of Luke 1:39-56 []
  14. Comparison Credit: the comparison between II Sam 6 and Luke 1 is described in Scott Hahn’s work Hail Holy Queen (p.63-64), which is an excellent introduction to understanding the biblical roles of Mary, especially for those of the protestant ecclesial communities. []
  15. The Ark is Hidden: 2 Mac 2:5-8 []
  16. The Ark & Mary as the New Ark in Revelation: Revelation 11:19 – 12:17 []
  17. Hahn, 54 []

Those Who Start Their Own Church Follow the Voice of Satan: 11 Teachings from St. Cyprian AD 250

“He [Satan] has invented heresies and schisms, whereby he might subvert the faith, might corrupt the truth, might divide the unity.”

Listers, our Lord Jesus Christ is not returning to our world for a harem of “churches.” There is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and it was founded by Christ and charged by him to St. Peter and the Apostles. However, there are now and always have been those groups that attempt to rend Christ from his Church – to recreate that which God gave us, the Church. In AD 250, St. Cyprian wrote an outstanding work entitled On the Unity of the Church. The epistle focuses especially on the topic of schism and those who would set themselves up as Church leaders and/or start their own “churches.” Without question, these groups are proto-protestant groups and the saint’s arguments apply just as much to our modern schismatic and heretical groups as they did to his ancient schismatic groups.1

Dear Protestant Readers
I ask you to consider the following a call to dialogue. St. Cyprian’s text is not a Catholic apologetic tract or a work from the Counter-Reformation, but an epistle from the Early Church. Growing up protestant there are simply certain questions that are never asked concerning the Christian faith, because those questions are outside the deeply rooted assumptions that support protestantism. Amongst those questions are ones concerning Christ and his Church. Protestants wonder how does one discern whether they are called to start a church? but rarely ask by what biblical authority does one start a church? Again, a distinction can be seen in asking what kind of church should we start? and the Catholic question of what type of Church did Christ intend to start? Asking biblical questions regarding Christ and his intention for his Spouse, the Church is the beginning of wisdom in discerning how God intended his charity and his salvation to be communicated to the world.

West, Expulsion of Adam & Eve from Paradise 1791

1. The New Voice of Satan

Pulling from Chapter III of St. Cyprian’s text, the saint teaches that those who call themselves “Christians” but leave the Catholic Church for a Christian sect are following the voice of Satan. Paganism was crumbling under the growth of the Church; thus, Satan started a “new way” to deceive.

The New Way of Satan
“He [Satan] has invented heresies and schisms, whereby he might subvert the faith, might corrupt the truth, might divide the unity. Those whom he cannot keep in the darkness of the old way2, he circumvents and deceives by the error of a new way3. He snatches men from the Church itself; and while they seem to themselves to have already approached to the light, and to have escaped the night of the world, he pours over them again, in their unconsciousness, new darkness.”

Still Call Themselves Christian
“So that, although they do not stand firm with the Gospel of Christ, and with the observation and law of Christ, they still call themselves Christians, and, walking in darkness, they think that they have the light, while the adversary is flattering and deceiving, who, according to the apostle’s word, transforms himself into an angel of light, and equips his ministers as if they were the ministers of righteousness, who maintain night instead of day, death for salvation, despair under the offer of hope, perfidy under the pretext of faith, antichrist under the name of Christ; so that, while they feign things like the truth, they make void the truth by their subtlety. This happens, beloved brethren, so long as we do not return to the source of truth, as we do not seek the head nor keep the teaching of the heavenly Master.”

This “new way” of Satan is the modus operandi that extends back to the garden. Satan does not tempt Adam and Eve with rebellion, but with being “like God.” Satan’s “new way” is to sell an incomplete and heretical faith to those seeking God.

St. Peter is the first Vicar of Christ and was given the keys of the Kingdom by Christ.

2. Founded upon the Apostles

In Chapter IV the saint moves to speaking of the “easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth.” He rests this proof upon Christ’s charge to St. Peter and the Apostles. Here a watershed issue enters between Catholic and Protestant thought. For protestantism to consider itself legitimate – not a schismatic heresy – it must interpret all these apostolic charges as general proclamations from to Christ to any believer at any time; therefore, any person who so deems could start a new “church” just as the Apostles founded the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

It should be sufficient to point out that Christianity believed in no such thing until the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s; thus, the concept is and was little more than rewriting biblical doctrine to serve and legitimate rebellious actions. Along with the biblical evidence and historical confirmation of Christ founding a structured apostolic Church, the protestant view hinges upon the idea that perfect faith and love can exist in disunity and dissent. Again, trying to navigate the incompatibility of love and faith with disunity, protestantism has – through centuries of in-fighting, splintering groups and cultural conformity – both boiled down the Christian faith to a fraction of apostolic and biblical existence and adopted the quasi-platonic stance that although all physical “ecclesiastical groups”4 exist in both hierarchical and doctrinal chaos they are unified by “Christ” in a mystical manner. In this scenario, Christ stops being a historical and divine person and become a malleable concept and/or term.

Upon This Rock
“There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, “Feed my sheep.”

Apostolic Authority
“And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins ye retain, they shall be retained;” yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity.”

For St. Cyprian, the presence of St. Peter among the twelve provides a mark of ecclesial unity that safeguards the entire unity of the Church – where there is Peter, there is the Church. What schismatic groups fail to comprehend is that Christ founded a living breath physical Church. A study of Christ of the Son of David, the Old Testament motif of awaiting the New Davidic Kingdom, the Vicar role in the Kingdom of David and the Vicar of Christ as seen in St. Peter and other biblical realities help form the very core of understanding the Holy Catholic Church as the fulfillment of the Old Testament and the will of Christ Jesus.

Christ Founded the Church Upon St. Peter
10 Biblical Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy
13 Biblical Reasons St. Peter Was the “Prince of the Apostles”

 

St Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr, pray for us.

3. Bishops Protect the Church

Chapter V grants the reader both a practical and an analogous insight. The saint exhorts bishops of the Church to hold together the unity of the Church, and while this may not seem profound, it is a thwart to those who would try and state that the hierarchy of bishops did not exist in this time. The second insight is a well written analogy of the Sun and the Church.

Bishops
“And this unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the Church, that we may also prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by a falsehood: let no one corrupt the truth of the faith by perfidious prevarication. The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole.”

The Analogy of the Sun
“The Church also is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light; and many branches of a tree, but one strength based in its tenacious root; and since from one spring flow many streams, although the multiplicity seems diffused in the liberality of an overflowing abundance, yet the unity is still preserved in the source. Separate a ray of the sun from its body of light, its unity does not allow a division of light; break a branch from a tree,—when broken, it will not be able to bud; cut off the stream from its fountain, and that which is cut off dries up. Thus also the Church, shone over with the light of the Lord, sheds forth her rays over the whole world, yet it is one light which is everywhere diffused, nor is the unity of the body separated. Her fruitful abundance spreads her branches over the whole world. She broadly expands her rivers, liberally flowing, yet her head is one, her source one; and she is one mother, plentiful in the results of fruitfulness: from her womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, by her spirit we are animated.”

 

There can be only one Church as we have only one God.

4. Church as Mother

In Chapter VI, the saint discusses the Church herself and delivers one of his most famous lines:

“He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”

Can the Spouse of Christ Be Adulterous?
“The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”

The Holy Catholic Church cannot be reduced to a simple hierarchy that can historically trace its lineage to Christ, but it is centered and held together by a sacramental unity and the Holy Spirit. The Sacraments and the Holy Spirit further the truth that charity and faith cannot exist in disunity.

 

Michelangelo's "Moses," who yes, does have horns.

5. The People of God Always Had Unity

Chapter VII gives us the example of the undivided Church and Christ’s undivided garment. Chapter VIII can be characterized by a movement into Eucharistic Unity. The saint utilizes biblical examples from the New and Old Testament to demonstrate that God has always held his people to unity.

No Eucharist Outside the Church
“Also, the sacrament of the passover contains nothing else in the law of the Exodus than that the lamb which is slain in the figure of Christ should be eaten in one house. God speaks, saying, “In one house shall ye eat it; ye shall not send its flesh abroad from the house.”

St. Cyprian pulls from St. John, St. Paul, Exodus and Joshua to show that never before in the history of the People of God as there ever been a time where God did not hold the people to both a spiritual and physical unity. From Moses to St. Peter, the People of God have never been allowed to separate doctrinal unity from structural unity.

 

The Schismatics of Dante's Inferno by Gustave

6. Schism Creeps Like Cancer

Chapter X pulls no punches. After laying a foundation for understanding the true hierarchical and sacramental unity of the Church, the saint speaks candidly about those who decide – for any reason, even the infamous “God told me…” – to appoint themselves a pastor and/or start their own church.

Those Who Start Their Own Church Vomit Poison
“These are they who of their own accord, without any divine arrangement, set themselves to preside among the daring strangers assembled, who appoint themselves prelates without any law of ordination, who assume to themselves the name of bishop, although no one gives them the episcopate; whom the Holy Spirit points out in the Psalms as sitting in the seat of pestilence, plagues, and spots of the faith, deceiving with serpent’s tongue, and artful in corrupting the truth, vomiting forth deadly poisons from pestilential tongues; whose speech doth creep like a cancer, whose discourse forms a deadly poison in the heart and breast of every one.”

 

The Catholic Church is founded upon the person of Christ, the true Word of God.

7. The Person of Christ

Chapter XII address a mainstay argument of both ancient and modern schismatic groups: Isn’t the Church where two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ?

Gathered to One Christ
“For wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them;” showing that most is given, not to the multitude, but to the unanimity of those that pray. “If,” He says, “two of you shall agree on earth:” He placed agreement first; He has made the concord of peace a prerequisite; He taught that we should agree firmly and faithfully. But how can he agree with any one who does not agree with the body of the Church itself, and with the universal brotherhood? How can two or three be assembled together in Christ’s name, who, it is evident, are separated from Christ and from His Gospel? For we have not withdrawn from them, but they from us; and since heresies and schisms have risen subsequently, from their establishment for themselves of diverse places of worship, they have forsaken the Head and Source of the truth.”

Heretical and schismatic groups – which include protestantism – cannot be gathered together to the true Christ, because their doctrines, beliefs and actions all point to a pantheon of “Christs.” To wit, protestantism is gathered around the term “Jesus Christ,” not the person.5 The same theme can be seen in Chapter XII:

Priests and Sacrifice6
“What sacrifices do those who are rivals of the priests think that they celebrate? Do they deem that they have Christ with them when they are collected together, who are gathered together outside the Church of Christ?”

 

A section of the "Martyrdom of St. Peter" by Leonello Spada (1576–1622)

8. Non-Catholics Are Not Martyrs

Chapter XIV addresses a topic that our “modern sensibilities” find unsettling. The question at hand is whether or not schismatic or heretical individuals who die in the name of Christ are martyrs. Since we’ve seen that Christ is not amongst them because they gather around a term not a person, the answer of martyrdom will inevitably be no. The saint explains:

Blood Does Not Wash the Stain of Schism
“Even if such men were slain in confession of the Name, that stain is not even washed away by blood: the inexpiable and grave fault of discord is not even purged by suffering. He cannot be a martyr who is not in the Church; he cannot attain unto the kingdom who forsakes that which shall reign there.”

They Can Be Killed, Not Crowned
“They cannot dwell with God who would not be of one mind in God’s Church. Although they burn, given up to flames and fires, or lay down their lives, thrown to the wild beasts, that will not be the crown of faith, but the punishment of perfidy; nor will it be the glorious ending of religious valour, but the destruction of despair. Such a one may be slain; crowned he cannot be. He professes himself to be a Christian in such a way as the devil often feigns himself to be Christ, as the Lord Himself forewarns us, and says, “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many.” As he is not Christ, although he deceives in respect of the name; so neither can he appear as a Christian who does not abide in the truth of His Gospel and of faith.”

 

"Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding." - Martin Luther

9. Rebels Against Christ’s Sacrifice

Chapter XVII makes clear that there is no unity in Christ without unity with the Church. Again, notice that he speaks of priests in this paragraph and spoke of bishops, apostles and St. Peter previously. Any notion that the Catholic Church was a medieval invention or developed later in history is simply historically false.

Enemies of the Altar
“Does he think that he has Christ, who acts in opposition to Christ’s priests, who separates himself from the company of His clergy and people? He bears arms against the Church, he contends against God’s appointment. An enemy of the altar, a rebel against Christ’s sacrifice, for the faith faithless, for religion profane, a disobedient servant, an impious son, a hostile brother, despising the bishops, and forsaking God’s priests, he dares to set up another altar, to make another prayer with unauthorized words, to profane the truth of the Lord’s offering by false sacrifices, and not to know that he who strives against the appointment of God, is punished on account of the daring of his temerity by divine visitation.”

 

The Pope is the "Advocate of Christian Memory."

10. The Spouse of Christ Cannot be Torn

Chapter XXIII returns to the reality of the Church as Body of Christ, the Spouse of Christ and the Mother of All Who Live in Christ; therefore, how could this Sacred Body be torn apart via schism and heresy?

The Church is One
“God is one, and Christ is one, and His Church is one, and the faith is one, and the people is joined into a substantial unity of body by the cement of concord. Unity cannot be severed; nor can one body be separated by a division of its structure, nor torn into pieces, with its entrails wrenched asunder by laceration. Whatever has proceeded from the womb cannot live and breathe in its detached condition, but loses the substance of health.”

 

"The Last Judgment" - Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564)

11. Christ Comes Back for the Church

Chapter XXVII concludes the saints work On the Unity of the Church by asking: How will Christ know who to come back for? St. Cyprian’s answer is that He will come for his Bride, the Church.

Let Our Faith Be on Watch
“Let our light shine in good works, and glow in such wise as to lead us from the night of this world to the daylight of eternal brightness. Let us always with solicitude and caution wait for the sudden coming of the Lord, that when He shall knock, our faith may be on the watch, and receive from the Lord the reward of our vigilance. If these commands be observed, if these warnings and precepts be kept, we cannot be overtaken in slumber by the deceit of the devil; but we shall reign with Christ in His kingdom as servants that watch.”

  1. Novatian: Another impetus of the epistle was the first “anti-pope” who attempted to claim he was holier than the rest of the Church and claimed moral superiority, especially in not wanting to ever extend forgiveness to sins post-baptism. []
  2. Paganism []
  3. Christian Heresy and Schism []
  4. Are Protestant groups churches? As taught by tradition and Vatican II, protestant groups are not referred to as “churches” but “ecclesial communities.” []
  5. When Cyprian Was Wrong: Chapter XI – St. Cyprian’s faltered on the issue of whether or not people should be “re-baptized,” e.g., if a heretic baptized someone in the name of the Trinity, he advocated re-baptism. This was later seen as wrong – but was a legitimate point in the argument since doctrine had not been clarified yet – and the Pope issued that all Trinitarian baptisms are valid, but if done is schismatic groups, etc. then they must later reclaim their baptism via penance. []
  6. Reformation & Priests: The term Priest denotes Sacrifice. It is for this reason Catholic clergy are foremost referred to as priests above other titles, e.g., pastor, reverend, etc. However, since the schismatics and heretics of the Reformation denied the true presence of the Eucharist and as such stopped calling their clergy priests. []

6 Biblical Reasons Mary Is the “New Eve”

“The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.” – Bishop Irenaeus. Lyon, France. 2nd Century

Listers, Mother Mary is the New Eve. Through St. Paul, Holy Scripture tells us that Christ is the New Adam, and where all died in Adam, all may be made alive in Christ. The comparison between Adam and Christ revealed a parallel in salvation history between the story of humanity’s first parents and the story of humanity’s salvation. Within this parallel, the Virgin Mary plays a role that rightfully entitles her the New Eve.

4 Teachings: The Immaculate Conception
Rejoice Ye Angels: 19 More Rosary Quotes
All SPL Lists on Mother Mary

An SPL Introduction: The Necessity of a New Adam & New Eve

The New Adam and the New Eve are not poetic titles given to express a certain biblical view. They are necessary roles in salvation history that speak to the recreation of mankind and offering of salvation to all men.

Why did the sin of the First Parents affect humanity?
Many often ask why the seemingly simple sin of eating of a tree has condemned humanity to suffering in a fallen world. The truth is that humanity is one body, and Adam is the head of that body – and as the head goes, the body must follow. In being one body, all humans share the same human nature, and that human nature has been suffering a privation ushered in by the First Parents. Sin is nothing more than a privation of the good: it is a corruption, a lacking, a malformation of God’s good creation – and since the First Parents’ betrayal, humanity has had to deal with this privation in all human nature, this Original Sin.

What is recapitulation?
Here we arrive at St. Anselm’s Dilema: humanity is responsible to repay and satisfy the debt of sin, however, only God, as the Creator, has the power to pay the debt. In this light, the Incarnation of God as fully man and fully God was the perfect answer: Christ as a man was a valid sacrifice for the sin debt owed, and Christ as God granted him the perfection, power, and authority to do so. Still, the Incarnation of God did not immediately solve everything. What humanity needed was a “new head” or a recapitulation. Humanity needed to be brought out from under the original sin of Adam and placed under a new head with a new body. Here we see the “body of Christ” and Christ as the “New Adam.” Christ’s death offers forgiveness to humanity, satisfies the debt owed, allows humanity to become “new creatures,” baptism removes the stain/guilt of Original Sin, and the Church becomes the Body of Christ.

A simple comparison of Adam and Christ is incomplete. What is needed is a holistic comparison between the original creation and the recreation: Adam to Christ, Eve to Mary, Fall to Salvation, and Tree to Cross. The following list explores the role of Eve in the Fall to the role of Mother Mary – the New Eve – in the Salvation of the World.

The Creation of Eve – Michelangelo, The Sistine Chapel

1. An Intimate Relationship

Eve From Adam
New Adam from New Eve

In the story of Creation, Eve is pulled from the flesh of Adam.1

“So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”

In the story of the Recreation, the New Adam comes from the New Eve.2

“And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Why is the order reversed? 
The most logical answer is that it follows the natural progenitorial method of human reproduction. However, it is also noted that in the Jewish tradition women were often mistrusted due to the belief that Eve had sinned first and had tempted Adam to sin as well. Allowing Mary to come first and be the virgin vessel of God’s Incarnation removes that traditional mistrust. The Early Church thinker Tertullian (c. 160) comments on how Eve – a female – sinned and brought about the Fall; thus, there is a certain justice in God’s providence allowing someone of the same sex – Mary – usher in the salvation of humanity. In his own words:

Into a virgin’s soul, in like manner, must be introduced that Word of God which was to raise the fabric of life; so that what had been reduced to ruin by this sex might be the selfsame sex be recovered to salvation.

Moreover, Mother Mary did not simply undo the sin of Eve. In a full understanding of her biblical roles in salvation history – the New Eve, the New Ark of the Covenant, and the Queen of the Eternal Davidic Kingdom – Mary is seen as the highest created being. She was the pure and perfect vessel for Christ’s Incarnation, i.e., the Theotokos, the Mother of God. No other created human being will ever have such an elevated role.3

Why the difference in relations?
Another notable difference beside the progenitorial order is the difference in relation between Adam and Eve and Christ and Mary. A quick answer would be that Adam and Eve’s romantic/sexual relationship had nothing to do with the Fall. Most all Early Church commentators hold that sexual relations occurred after the Fall, and the biblical tradition – at least as far as bearing children – supports this claim; thus, the need for a recapitulation focuses the roles played in the overall context of the Fall and Recreation.

“The Annunciation” by Henry Ossawa Tanner, an early African American Artist, 1898

2. Recipients of Supernatural Messengers

A Virgin Listens to the Serpent
A Virgin Listen to the Angel

Leading up to the Fall of Mankind, Eve listens to the sordid words of the serpent.4

“But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.”

Paving the way for the Recreation and Salvation of Mankind, the New Eve is visited by the Angel Gabriel.5

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greetings this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”

Mary Untied the Knot of Eve’s Disobedience:
The Early Church Father and Bishop of Lyon, France, Irenaeus (d. 202) wrote the following famous phrase:

The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. The knot of which the virgin Eve tied by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary opened by her belief.

The Virgin Mary is the Advocate of the Virgin Eve:
It was Bishop Irenaeus who more fully developed St. Paul’s concept of recapitulation. He goes on to say:

If the former [Eve] disobeyed God, the latter [Mary] was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin.

An Edifice of Death, An Edifice of Believing:
Further exploring the Early Church, the western thinker of North Africa, Tertullian (c. 160)  states:

For it was while Eve was yet a virgin that the ensnaring word had crept into her ear which was to build the edifice of death. Into a virgin’s soul, in like manner, must be introduced that Word of God which was to raise the fabric of life; so that what had been reduced to ruin by this sex might be the selfsame sex be recovered to salvation. As Eve believed the serpent, so Mary believed the angel. The delinquency which the one occasioned by believing, the other effaced by believing.

“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” – Gabriel, the Archangel

3. Bearers of Universal Change

Eve Gives Birth to Sin & Death
New Eve Gives Birth to Grace & Salvation

Eve listens the words of the serpent and sins against God: sin and death enter the world. It should be noted here that Eve’s sin did not immediately cause the Fall, but rather she was able to find Adam – who had presumably not been standing there the entire time – and offer him the fruit as well.

Mother Mary, the New Eve, literally gives birth to the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, who is the grace and salvation of humanity. Again, the point of interest here is that Christ’s Incarnation did not immediately resolve the problem of a fallen humanity. Humanity was under the sinful head of Adam, and a recapitulation was needed to usher in grace and the New Creation.

The Words of a Serpent & of an Angel:
In AD 135, the Early Church Father Justin Martyr said the following in a diloague with a rabbi in Ephesus.6

For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the world of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God.

Expulsion from the Garden. Milton’s Paradise Lost

4. Together They Change Creation

Eve & Adam Together Cause the Fall
New Eve and New Adam Together Cause Salvation

Creation does not fall until both Adam and Eve have taken of the fruit. Here, under the shadow of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Creation falls.7

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they know that they were naked.”

The Recreation of the world, the recapitulation of mankind, also did not happen immediately, but rather happened when the New Eve, the New Adam, and the Tree – the Cross – were together. Though all the disciples eventually abandoned Christ, the New Eve did not. She remained at his side as he offered forgiveness and satisfaction for humanity. Christ, being the New Adam, became the head of a new humanity of a redeemed and recreated world.

Was Mary necessary? 
Still, Mary’s partnership in salvation goes beyond simply remaining by Christ’s side. As shown by Anselm’s dilema, the Savior of Mankind needed to be fully human and fully divine. Christ being born of a woman was a necessary step in his Incarnation and validity in being the Savior; thus, Mary, as the New Eve, as the Theotokos, the Mother of God, the Mater Dei, was the necessary perfect and pure vessel of Christ’s Incarnation. Just as the Ark of the Covenant was where God came down in the Old Testament to speak to his people, so too was Mother Mary the Ark of the New Convenant where God came down to his people.

The Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

5. Universal Maternity

Eve Becomes the “Mother of All the Living”
New Eve Becomes the “Mother of All Who Live in Christ”

Before the Fall, Adam simply referred to Eve as Woman. However, after the Fall, Adam names his wife Eve, because she is the “mother of all living.”8

It follows that if Mary is the New Eve, then she would be the “Mother of All Who Live in Christ,” or the “Mother of All Who Truly Live.” There are however several biblical traits to support this logical assumption. The first is that like Adam, Christ does not refer to Mary as “Mary” or even “Mother,” but refers to her as “Woman.”9 The most important circumstance in which this title “Woman” was used was when Christ was on the Cross.

When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold you son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

It is extremely important to observe that when Christ refers to his relationship with Mary he says “Woman,” which invokes Adam’s pre-Fall title for Eve, but when he refers to the disciple’s relationship with Mary he uses the title “Mother.” Tradition tells us that St. John took Mother Mary into his home in Ephesus and cared for her until the Assumption. Christ called the disciples “brothers,” he told them that God was their “Father,” and he gave Mary to them as their “Mother.” Though popular, it is absurd to believe that Christ gave us a Father, gave himself as the Son or our Brother, and completely left out any maternal figure.10

Mary is often depicted with the Serpent under her right foot.

6. Enmity

Enmity Between Eve & the Serpent
Enmity between the New Eve and Satan

After the Fall, the first messianic promise is given to humanity:11

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The latter part of the verse is certainly referring to the penultimate bruising of Christ upon the cross, and then the ultimate bruising of Satan and his roaming spirits by the Harrowing of Hell and the Resurrection. As the New Eve, Mary gains enmity between her and the serpent even more so than Eve, because she is the very vessel by which the victorious “seed” becomes Incarnate. While the enmity between Mary and Satan is certainly not an outrageous claim, it should be noted that Scripture is much clearer about the enmity between her “seed” and Satan. However in St. John’s book of Revelation12, a certain pericope grasps speaks to this special:

The Woman Bears a Son:

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

Traditionally the “ark of the covenant” and the “woman” are considered the same portent. During Christ’s time on the earth, the Ark of the Covenant was not in the Temple; in fact, it had been missing for a few hundred years. As aforementioned, Mary was seen as the New Ark of the Covenant, because like the old ark, she was the vessel wherein heaven and earth met. The “woman” is obviously Mary, as she gives birth to the “male child” that is hostile to the “red dragon,” and that child “is to rule all nations with a rod of iron” – which is a allusion to King David who ruled with a “rod of iron.” At the end of this passage, the woman, Mary, is safeguarded from the dragon by God.13

Enmity Between the Woman and the Dragon:
The next passage describes a war in heaven between the Archangel Michael and the Dragon.14 The passage invokes the notion of Satan being thrown from heaven. However, it is the following passage that returns to the aforesaid woman:

And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

After failing to conquer her son, the dragon then turns to the woman, Mary. The specifics of the hostility between Mary and Satan have always been a point of intrigue for biblical scholars, but it is clear the woman is protected by God. Foiled by God’s protection of Mary, the dragon then turns to her “offspring,” i.e., Christians.

Mother to All Christians: Why Mary Is Important to All Believers in Christ

Every single unique grace and role given to Mother Mary is anchored in Jesus Christ. All her honor and due veneration rests on understanding Jesus Christ as the Savior of Mankind. Due to this connection, the Marian doctrines of the Church help articulate the truths of Christ, e.g., the Theotokos or Mater Dei shows Christ to be God and Man, the New Eve shows Christ to be the New Adam, the New Ark of the Covenant proclaims Christ’s divinity, the Queen of Heaven title calls to mind Christ as the Son of David and his eternal Davidic throne, and much more. As the scholar and popular author Scott Hahn has intimates, Mary, like all good mothers, continually points to her Son.

  1. Gen 2:21, 22 []
  2. Luke 2:6, 7 []
  3. Christ not the “highest created being”? – Christ’s human nature was created, but Christ the person, the second person of the Trinity, certainly existed before the creation of his human nature; thus, his mother, Mary, the Mater Dei, is considered the highest created being. []
  4. Gen 3:4-6a []
  5. Luke 1:28-31 []
  6. Dialogue with Trypho; For further reading on this document, Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn, 40. []
  7. Gen 3:7a []
  8. Gen 3:20 []
  9. Mary as Woman: cf. the Wedding at Cana & Christ on the Cross, St. John 2:1, 19:26, 27 []
  10. Protestant Error on “Woman” – The fact that Christ calls his own mother “woman” is not common. In fact, it can be considered rude. However, it is beyond comprehension that Christ would dishonor his own mother while telling others to honor theirs. Protestant scholarship has attempt to use the title “woman” as a way of Christ belittling his own mother and thus belittling her role. Again, to assert Christ would diminish his own mother’s role in salvation history by criticizing her is absurd. In the greater context, the term “woman” is referring to her role as the “New Eve” in salvation history. []
  11. Gen 3:15 []
  12. Rev 11:19; 12 []
  13. The Woman as Israel: Interpreting the “woman” as a generic Israel is not necessarily wrong, but it is a more ambiguous interpretation that does not itself exclude a more specific reading of the woman as Mary; especially considering the dragon then goes after “her children” which are not the Jews, but the followers of her child, Christ. []
  14. The War of the Child and the Dragon: Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” []

3 Basic Biblical Questions About the Sacrament of Confirmation

The Sacrament of Confirmation confers a Messianic maturity on the individual, a particular maturation that is not present in the baptized individual.

 

Sacrament of Confirmation

 

1. What is the biblical basis of Confirmation?

All Seven Sacrament of the Catholic Church can be seen in Holy Scripture, but often times the biblical origin of the the Sacrament of Confirmation is missed. The scriptural event from which Confirmation is drawn is Pentecost.

In Acts 2, St. Luke records, “this is what is spoke by the prophet Joel… pour out my Spirit upon all flesh…” Pentecost is the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. St. Peter’s point is that the pouring out of the Holy Ghost is the definitive sign that the Messianic Age had arrived – everything that was promised has been fulfilled in the coming of the Holy Ghost, the ability for the Church to live fully in the Messianic Age.

St. Peter regarded the Spirit who had come down upon the apostles as the gift of the Messianic Age.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. […]

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: `And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day. And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
The Acts of the Apostles 2:1-4,  15-21 

SPL's own Carlos Urbina receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.

2. What is the effect of Confirmation?

The Sacrament of Confirmation confers a Messianic maturity on the individual, a particular maturation that is not present in the baptized individual. The Baltimore Catechism says, “Confirmation is a Sacrament through which we receive the Holy Ghost to make us strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.”1 The Sacrament of confirmation perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.

Baptism accomplishes all it is ordered to do; however it is not all that ought be done – baptism points to a further maturity in forming ourselves according to Our Lord, and the ability to do so are found in the gifts and grace of the Holy Spirit bestowed at Confirmation.

To wit, the effects of Confirmation are “an increase of sanctifying grace, the strengthening of our faith, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.”2

"In Confirmation, the extending of the bishop's hands over us signifies the descent of the Holy Ghost upon us and the special protection of God through the grace of Confirmation."

3. What is the basis for chrism oil being used?

The biblical event of Pentecost did not include the matter of oil; thus, it is fair to ask from where that tradition comes? St. Thomas Aquinas uses Dionysius as an authoritative source for chrism oils, but it is unclear exactly who he think Dionysius is. He appears to view him as an apostolic authority, as a first hand account of the works of the apostles.3 The Baltimore Catechism states, “The exact time at which Confirmation was instituted is not known. But as this Sacrament was administered by the Apostles and numbered with the other Sacraments instituted by Our Lord, it is certain that He instituted this Sacrament also and instructed His Apostles in its use, at some time before His ascension into heaven.”4

The chrism oil or Holy Chrism is “a mixture of olive-oil and balm, consecrated by the bishop,” and “the oil signifies strength, and the balm signifies the freedom from corruption and the sweetness which virtue must give to our lives.”5

What is the best argument for chrism oils? – Apostolic tradition. It is dangerous to ask for biblical “proof texts,” because Catholic theologians look to both Scripture and Tradition. For the Catholic theologian to fall into the “proof text” argument is for him to fall from his Catholic epistemology and into protestant/heretical methods.

Holy Chrism also stands in the place of the bishop, for if the bishop cannot be there, the bishop will bless the chrism oil the priest will perform the sacrament of Confirmation.

The Old Testament sets a precedent for Holy Chrism and the biblical logic dictating the use of Holy Chrism; because, the anointing oils were used by the prophets throughout Holy Scripture.

  1. BC Q670 []
  2. BC Q698 []
  3. ST III 72.2.ad1 []
  4. BC Q671 []
  5. BC Q679-680 []

4 Reasons God Gave Us Scripture by Aquinas

Divine Law responds to a certain lack in and transcends the limits of man’s knowledge and naturally given end and capacity.

Listers, St. Thomas Aquinas asks the question Whether there was any need for a Divine Law? in his Summa Theologica I-II.91.4. The article is part of the Angelic Doctor’s treatment of law and more specifically the four laws that govern existence: Eternal, Divine, Natural and Human. In essence, the reason there was a need for the Divine Law – a law revealed by God – is because  Divine Law responds to a certain lack in and transcends the limits of man’s knowledge and naturally given end and capacity.

1. Eternal Happiness & Natural Capacity

“First, because it is by law that man is directed how to perform his proper acts in view of his last end. And indeed if man were ordained to no other end than that which is proportionate to his natural faculty, there would be no need for man to have any further direction of the part of his reason, besides the natural law and human law which is derived from it. But since man is ordained to an end of eternal happiness which is inproportionate to man’s natural faculty, as stated above (Question 5, Article 5), therefore it was necessary that, besides the natural and the human law, man should be directed to his end by a law given by God.”1

2. Human Judgement Leads to Flawed Laws

“Secondly, because, on account of the uncertainty of human judgment, especially on contingent and particular matters, different people form different judgments on human acts; whence also different and contrary laws result. In order, therefore, that man may know without any doubt what he ought to do and what he ought to avoid, it was necessary for man to be directed in his proper acts by a law given by God, for it is certain that such a law cannot err.”

3. Man Cannot Judge the Heart

“Thirdly, because man can make laws in those matters of which he is competent to judge. But man is not competent to judge of interior movements, that are hidden, but only of exterior acts which appear: and yet for the perfection of virtue it is necessary for man to conduct himself aright in both kinds of acts. Consequently human law could not sufficiently curb and direct interior acts; and it was necessary for this purpose that a Divine law should supervene.”2

4. For the Perfection of Justice

“Fourthly, because, as Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5,6), human law cannot punish or forbid all evil deeds: since while aiming at doing away with all evils, it would do away with many good things, and would hinder the advance of the common good, which is necessary for human intercourse.3 In order, therefore, that no evil might remain unforbidden and unpunished, it was necessary for the Divine law to supervene, whereby all sins are forbidden.”4

  1. Grace: A common misunderstanding of grace is that it exist as an exemption from the law or allows us to bypass law – however, in actuality grace elevates the individual in order that he or she might live according to the law. []
  2. Interior Acts:  Divine law is capable of doing what natural/human law cannot do – it is capable of judging and guiding interior acts; “human law could not sufficiently curb and direct interior acts; and it was necessary for this purpose that a Divine law should supervene.” While man can judge man’s actions by natural and human law, divine law brings in an infallible judge – even in interior actions. []
  3. Imperfect Justice: “Human law cannot punish or forbid all evil deeds,” thus that “no evil might remain unforbidden and unpunished, it was necessary for the Divine Law to supervene, whereby all sins are forbidden.” E.G. – look at the history of prohibition: an over zealous moral law led to the rise of the American Mafia. Divine Law – unlike Human Law – is capable of punishing evil without the exclusion of any goods. []
  4. Aquinas’ Summary of the Four Laws: “And these four causes are touched upon in Psalm 118:8, where it is said: ‘The law of the Lord is unspotted,’ i.e. allowing no foulness of sin; ‘converting souls,’ because it directs not only exterior, but also interior acts; ‘the testimony of the Lord is faithful,’ because of the certainty of what is true and right; ‘giving wisdom to little ones,’ by directing man to an end supernatural and Divine.” []