Why You Don’t Genuflect After Receiving Communion

Some people are confused about whether to genuflect after receiving Holy Communion.

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When you enter or leave your pew, you genuflect (bend the right knee all the way to touching the ground) to show your adoration for the Son of God who is present in the tabernacle.

Even if the tabernacle is in another place or room, I genuflect toward the crucifix at or on the altar since the Second Council of Nicea II of AD 787 (7th Ecumenical Council) teaches that the devotion we show to sacred images passes beyond the images to their prototypes (in this case from the crucifix to Christ Himself). It is perfectly orthodox to genuflect before a cross, crucifix, or image of Christ.

There is some confusion about whether to genuflect upon returning to your pew. The general custom is not to genuflect after receiving Holy Communion for devotional purposes. By not genuflecting you are confessing that you have become a filled tabernacle. The Holy Eucharist is in you. It’s not appropriate to genuflect in any direction because the Holy Eucharist is literally in your core. The orientation of worship is now interior.

There are stories of children genuflecting before their mothers coming back from the altar after just having received Holy Communion – which is beautiful and orthodox.

There is no official teaching, rule, or law (that I know of) about not genuflecting in the aisle after receiving Holy Communion, but the custom is not to genuflect – because Jesus the Lord is now inside you. You are a walking tabernacle.

Question: What do you do after Communion? Do you genuflect. Please share your thoughts or customs after Holy Communion. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

PS: A double genuflection (both knees) is called for when the Holy Eucharist is exposed for adoration.

PPS: It’s traditional custom to genuflect on the left knee for a bishop or dignitary.

PPPS: If you have a bad knee, do whatever you can. It’s the heart that matters.

Could Adultery and Fornication be Forgiven in the Early Catholic Church?

Could adultery and fornication be forgiven in the early Catholic Church? In the 200s, Christians were deeply divided over this question of mercy and forgiveness.

A major theological controversy broke out in in the Catholic Church around the year AD 217 regarding adultery and fornication.

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In 217, Pope Saint Callixtus I of Rome issued a decree that the sins of adultery and fornication could be remitted by the Catholic Church through the office of the bishop.

Tertullian, who rejected the Pope for this reason, directly quotes and preserves Pope Callixtus’s decree:

I hear that there has even been an edict set forth, and a peremptory one too. The Pontifex Maximus, that is, the bishop of bishops, issues an edict:

“I remit, to such as have discharged the requirements of repentance, the sins both of adultery and of fornication.”

It’s notable that Tertullian refers to the Bishop of Rome as the “bishop of bishops” and “Pontifiex Maximus.” Tertullian scholars believe that he was saying this tongue in cheek, because Tertullian held the lowest esteem for Bishop of Rome and Pope Callixtus in particular.

This merciful papal decree of 217 led to general scandal because it was generally believed that certain sins could not be absolved by the visible church. According to Tertullian (a great theological enemy of Pope Callixtus), once a baptized person committed any of the seven sins on the list below, he or she could not be absolved by the visible church:

  1. murder
  2. idolatry
  3. fraud
  4. apostasy (publicly renouncing Jesus Christ)
  5. blasphemy
  6. adultery (sex with someone besides your spouse)
  7. fornication (sex outside marriage)
    (this list is found in Tertullian’s De Pudicitia*, Ch 19).

Tertullian vs. Pope Calixtus

Tertullian, citing ancient custom, claimed that a sinner could be forgiven directly by Jesus Christ for these seven sins; however, the Catholic Church on earth could not absolve these seven sins and those that committed them would and should remain excommunicated and outside the Catholic Church until death. If you were baptized and committed one of these seven sins, you could never in your life receive the Holy Eucharist. Period. End of story. Close the book.

Anti-Pope Hippolytus vs. Pope Callixtus

The Catholic Church’s first Anti-Pope (a man falsely claiming to be Pope against a valid Pope) arose in response to the 217 decree of Pope Callixtus allowing the absolution of fornication and adultery. While Tertullian was railing against Pope Callixtus’s laxity, some traditions say that a priest in Rome named Hippolytus rebelled against his Pope Callixtus and set himself up as a rival Bishop of Rome against Callixtus on the issue of absolution for adulterers and fornicators. It is unclear if Hippolytus claimed to be a full blown “Bishop of Rome” or merely a reformer set against the laxity of Callixtus. Either way we can see that even the clergy of Rome were divided over this issue.

Hippolytus writes that during the pontificate of Pope Callixtus, men in holy orders began taking wives and Callixtus did not censure them for sin or depose them (Refutation of All Heresies 9, 7). Hippolytus claims that clergy were even being married two to three times after ordination. Divorce and remarriage among the clergy!

Concerning Pope Callixtus, Hippolytus writes:

And in justification, [Callixtus] alleges that what has been spoken by the Apostle has been declared in reference to this person: “Who are you that judges another man’s servant?”

Hippolytus goes on to lament that Catholic women in Rome began to engage in contraception and abortion:

Whence women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird themselves round [their belly], so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time! And withal, after such audacious acts, they, lost to all shame, attempt to call themselves a Catholic Church!

And so there was great scandal in Rome concerning Pope Callixtus (who is a canonized Catholic saint).

Can Mortal Sins Be Forgiven? Callixtus says Yes

Center to the debate between Pope Calixtus and Tertullian/Hippolytus was the passage in 1 John concerning “mortal sins”:

And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. (1 Jn 5:15-16)

Both Tertullian and Hippolytus claimed that the Apostle John taught the Catholic Church that prayer should not be made for those whose sin is mortal. Saint John explicitly says: “I do not say that one is to pray for that.” So for them, there was Apostolic teaching that mortal sins should not receive the intercession of the public and visible Church. According to Tertullian and Hippolytus, if you committed apostasy or adultery or fornication, then the Church had nothing for you. No prayer. No Eucharist. Nothing. After all, didn’t Saint John teach the same thing?

Binding and Loosing in Saint Peter’s Rome

We don’t have the exegetical response of Pope Saint Callixtus but I can make a conjecture of his orthodox response: Saint John said that we are not obliged to pray for mortal sins. However, we find two truths in the Gospels that show us that the visible Catholic Church can and should absolve mortal sins (even the mortal sins on Tertullian’s list of seven):

  1. The power to bind and loose on earth as given by Christ to Peter in Matthew 16. Saint Peter and the bishops of Rome do have the power to bind and loose sins and to modify customs for the sake of Christ’s mercy and salvation for sinners. Pope Callixtus was using the power of the keys as the Successor of Saint Peter.
  2. Peter committed apostasy on Good Friday. He was reestablished visibly and publicly by Christ. Christ did not leave Peter without prayer and sacraments until death. He publicly raised Peter back to his rank with the question: “Simon do you love me” three times.

The Catholic Church, the Pope, and the Ministry of Mercy

Nowadays it seems unthinkable that the austere rigorism of Tertullian and Hippolytus was once normative in the Catholic Church of AD 217. Back then it was generally assumed that after baptism, Catholics did not commit adultery, fornication, murder, apostasy, idolatry, blasphemy, or fraud. It just wasn’t supposed to happen. Remember, this was the persecuted Catholic Church of the martyrs. If you were baptized, you were signing up for possible martyrdom!

Origen (who died in 254), it seems, was baptized as an infant, but 90% or more of Christians at this time were not baptized as children. They made a careful and prayerful decision to follow Christ and receive baptism. Most of them had friends or family who were actual martyrs for Christ. These were serious Christians and once we recognize this reality, we see how “mortal sins” were a real issue.

In the Catholic Church, we see a theological shift happening in AD 217. The reality of Romans 7 comes alive: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” For this reason, the Church as the Body of Christ can visibly execute the mercy of Christ to mortal sinners.

Many Catholics began to report that the Rigorist position against absolving sin removed forgiveness and yet did not remove sin – because even the Rigorists had scandalous sins among them.

Repentance and Mercy

Pope Callixtus and the Catholic tradition afterward was not entirely lax, and she always required the act of ecclesial repentance for sin. “Going straight to Jesus” for the forgiveness of mortal sin has never been approved. If we commit a mortal sin, we must go and confess it to a priest in confession. We believe that forgiveness is tied to the Church and her powers that she received directly from Jesus Christ.

If a sin can be absolved through the bishop and the priests he appoints, then any sin can be absolved through the bishop and the priests. This is the great mercy and comfort of being a Catholic

Godspeed,

Taylor Marshall

PS: If you are interested in these types of topics, can get all three volumes of my Origins of Catholic Christianity at amazon.com.

* Of note, Tertullian in De Pudicitia claims that Saint Barnabas wrote the Epistle of Hebrews in union with Saint Paul. I claim that Tertullian is wrong on this point and Hebrews was written by Saint Luke and give my reasons in my book The Catholic Perspective on Paul.

 

Why Did Jesus Wash the Feet of the Apostles? Pope Francis, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine

Recently the Catholic Church has been wrestling with the significance of foot washing – the liturgical reenactment of Christ washing the feet of His Apostles on the night before He was betrayed.

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The Council of Elvira (Spain, AD 305) prohibited the washing of feet because heretical ideas were being associated with it: “The feet of the newly baptized are not to be washed by the priests or clerics” (Elvira 48). Saint Ambrose of Milan, against this rulings of the Council, considered foot washing to be “sacrament” of great importance. In Milan and other places, “foot washing” was a prelude to sacramental baptism.

The Albigensian heretics held foot washing in high esteem and assigned to it a theological importance without parallel in the orthodox Catholic Church. Up until the last century, Popes, Abbots, and Kings would wash the feet of the poor as a sign of humility and servant leadership. More on that later.

Foot Washing Enters the Mass in 1955

Up until 60 years ago, the custom of foot washing did not appear in the Roman Eucharistic liturgy. Until 1955, the Roman Missal included a rite of foot washing detached from the Mass. Pope Pius XII was the first Pope to have foot washing included in the Mass and it was stipulated that it would be the feet of men, presumably as a sign of the male-only priesthood.

Hence, foot washing is relatively new liturgical rite. 

In 2013, Pope Francis washed the feet of two women and non-Christians (Muslims) at a juvenile detention center in Rome 2013. Pope Francis revised the direction of the Roman Missal in 2016 to include men and women as a sign of inclusion.

Theology of Foot Washing? Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine:

I wrote a well-known book on Judaism and Catholicism that covers the liturgical and sacramental connections between the Old Testament and Catholic Christianity called The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity. It’s a popular text now in Catholic schools and seminaries. You can read reviews of it on amazon here.Crucified Rabbi Look InsideUnfortunately, I did not include a section on foot washing. So here goes:

Saint Jerome in his Epistle to Pope Damasus states that Christ washed His Apostles’ feet to prepare them for the preaching of the gospel, in fulfillment to the prophecy of Isaiah:

“How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, of them that bring good tidings.” (Isa. 52:7)

The Apostles were ordained as sacerdotal priests at the Last Supper and so the foot washing is to prepare them to carry the Gospel to foreign lands. It’s a commissioning rite to “preach the Gospel of peace.”

Saint Ambrose associates the foot washing to original sin and the Protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15 since it is with “the heel” that the Messiah and His followers will crush Satan’s head:

“Because Adam was tripped up by the devil and the venom was poured out over thy feet, therefore dost thou wash thy feet that in that part where the serpent ensnared thee there may be added the more abundant aid of sanctification, so that he be not able to trip thee up hereafter.” Saint Ambrose De Sacramentis3, 1)

Saint Augustine and Cyprian associate the washing of feet with the removal of venial sins. This is why Christ says: “He that has been washed needs not but to wash his feet, but is clean throughout.” The Apostles were already baptized. Peter asks for a second baptism (his head) but Christ refuses. The Apostles had already been baptized and their sins removed, however, the lower sins that trip us up also have to be remitted before receiving the Holy Eucharist. Hence, the foot washing was a liturgical penitential rite prior to the First Communion of the Apostles.

Is Right to Allow Women?

Prior to Francis, the men chosen to receive foot washing symbolized the 12 Apostles. As described above, foot washing seems to be a priestly rite preparing the Apostles to have the “beautiful feet” foretold by Isaiah. Since men alone can be Catholic priests, only men were chosen for the washing of feet.

One might argue, however, that Christ calls all men and women to proclaim the Gospel with beautiful feet. Proclaiming or sharing the Good News is not exclusively a sacerdotal action. Moreover, Saint Paul states that all Christians are called to crush Satan under their (beautiful) feet (Rom 16:19). The Coptic liturgy includes the act of the priest washing the feet of the entire congregation! So there is liturgical precedent for including women in the washing of the feet.

Is it Right to Allow Non-Christians?

What I cannot reconcile theologically is the act of washing the feet of non-baptized members of other religions, namely adherents of Islam, within the Eucharistic liturgy. Peter’s words and Christ’s response presume that the recipients are “washed already,” that is, baptized. Foot washing is an intra-baptized experience.

There is precedent for foot washing as a pre-baptismal rite (in the catechetical context of Easter baptisms), but it’s not clear that the Muslims receiving papal foot washing are preparing for baptism.

My personal belief is that foot washings should be returned to their pre-1955 status. Popes, Abbots, Kings, Presidents, parents, et al. can wash the feet of anyone they like as a sign of humility outside the Eucharistic liturgical rites of the Church.

If a Pope or King washes the feet of another outside of the liturgy, then it is simply a sign of humility. When it’s placed inside the context of Eucharistic liturgy, then we strain to attach a theological meaning to it…and that’s where we run into trouble.

If we want to show outward acts of “inclusion” to the non-baptized, we could give give them blessed bread or other gifts. Or we could wash their feet in contexts that aren’t sacramental. 

Question: I would love to hear your thoughts on foot washing. Please keep the comments respectful. No bashing of the Vicar of Christ on earth. He is our Holy Father. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Your 5 Challenges for Holy Week

We have entered the final lap of Lent. As we prepare to party, feast, and celebrate the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, here are some final challenges for Holy Week:

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1) Read the entire Gospel of Saint John. John is the Holy Week Gospel par excellence. Read it from beginning to end. It’s only 25 pages long. Read it.

2) Attend two of the three major liturgies this week: Maundy on Thursday evening, Good Friday, or Paschal Vigil on Saturday night.

3) Bring a non-Catholic friend to one of these liturgies. These are powerful liturgies…in the Year of Mercy. Be prepared for conversions.

4) On Good Friday, perform a complete

There are Guitars in the Bible

I like the Latin Mass. I don’t like the guitar Mass. However, there are “guitars” in the Bible, and even in the Heavenly Liturgy.

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A medieval Praise and Worship Band

The Greek word kithara appears 4 times in the New Testament – 3 times in the Book of Revelation.

{Here’s my audio Catholic commentary on the book of Revelation: click here.}

And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and twenty four presbyters fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them kitharan, and golden vials full of incense, which are the prayers of saints. (Rev 5:8)

And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the kitharas of God. (Rev 15:2)

In English, it is sometimes translated as “harp,” but chordophone or “guitar” is actually a better translation.

The Greek word kithara comes into Latin as cithara and from Latin into Spanish as guitarra. The biblical guitar is a chordophones of 4-18 strings. 

The saints in Heaven are playing the kithara. Why? It’s the instrument that King David played. In fact, the word psalm means in Greek means “to pluck [a string].”

The problem is that the guitar is associated with rock n roll and rock n roll is not suitable for divine liturgy. The guitar or chordophone might find liturgical use, but in the meantime, let’s keep it out of the liturgy.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Your 40 Ideas for Lent:

Here are 40 ideas to help you keep a holy Lent this year. You don’t have to do them all, but pick several:

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  1. Invite 40 people to church. Invite Catholics and non-Catholics to: Mass, Confession, Penance services, parish missions, a retreat, a recollection, a Catholic conference or pilgrimage later in the year. 40 different people. Make a list and do it. 7 people each week.
  2. Pray Divine Mercy chaplet daily.
  3. Increase your weekly giving by $40 to your parish, ministry, or the poor.
  4. Give up alcohol, including Sundays.
  5. Eat Paleo (no grains, no sugar, no dairy, no alcohol) for Lent.
  6. Pick up the check for friends during the rest of Lent.
  7. Attend a recollection or mission once during Lent.
  8. Attend the Stations of the Cross once during Lent.
  9. Pray the Rosary daily.
  10. Attend daily Mass.
  11. Invite someone to your home for a meal every week in Lent.
  12. Write a kind letter to a priest you and know and thank him for his ministry.
  13. Write a kind text or email to a mother that you know who needs encouragement.
  14. Write a kind text or email to a parent or grandparent.
  15. Pray the Angelus daily at 11:55am.
  16. Say 3 Hail Mary’s every day for graces against sexual sins and temptations.
  17. Set up a domestic altar in your home with a crucifix, candle, and holy cards (and incense if you want to go all out).
  18. Stop at a church on the way home from work for 5 minutes every day. Make a visit to Jesus in the tabernacle.
  19. Read all 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) during Lent.
  20. Wake up at a set time in the morning during Lent (even on Saturdays and Sundays).
  21. Attend an earlier Sunday Mass as a Penance.
  22. Give up adding salt and pepper at all meals in Lent.
  23. Give up using butter on bread during Lent.
  24. Give up milk and sugar in coffee for Lent.
  25. Give up coffee for Lent.
  26. Give up smoking for Lent.
  27. Give up cussing for Lent.
  28. Give up one meal per day for Lent.
  29. Write a Thank You note every day (email and texts work great for this).
  30. Create a list of all the things going great in your life (and read it every day during Lent).
  31. Sign up for a pilgrimage.
  32. Purchase a beautiful image of Our Lady, have it blessed, and place it in a prominent place in your home.
  33. Thank God for priests by making a seminary donation. Here’s my seminary donation recommendation and why: click here.
  34. Plan an blow out Easter Party and send out invitations to family and friends for Easter Sunday after Mass.
  35. Say the Saint Michael prayer daily.
  36. Pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be for the Pope daily.
  37. Read one Papal Encyclical on a topic that interests you.
  38. Attend all or some of the Triduum liturgies (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday).
  39. Make a nightly examination of conscience and pray an act of contrition before bed each night.
  40. Go to confession weekly.

Question: What are you doing for Lent? Any more ideas? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Is Catholic Advent the Forgotten Liturgical Season?

Last Sunday our priest said: “Advent has become the forgotten and lost liturgical season of the Catholic Church. Nobody knows what it means. Nobody remembers how to celebrate it. It’s really sad.”

I think Father is right. Advent has become the forgotten or lost liturgical season. But it should be a season as important and powerful as Lent.

If we understand the “History and Catholic Theology of Advent,” then this season could become the most fertile time of year for spiritual recollection and the New Evangelization (despite the secular commercialization of Christmas).

Join us for a Live Catholic Event on “Catholic Advent”:

So to help you answer the question: “What is Advent and how do I celebrate it?” I’m inviting you to a live, free, online 30 minute Webinar this Thursday evening Dec 3 2015 on: “The History and Theology of Advent (Plus Tips for Catholic Families)”:

  1. Did you know that Catholics used to celebrate 5 (not just 4) Sundays of Advent?
  2. Did you know that there is an ancient theological and “40 day” connection between Advent and Lent?
  3. Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 12.27.01 PMDid you know that the Advent Wreath may have started with Lutherans?
  4. Did you know that Taylor will be sharing personal Advent recommendations based on how his family and children celebrate Advent?
  5. Taylor will give advice on how to share the Catholic faith over the holidays with non-Catholic family and friends.
  6. Did you know that everyone who attends this webinar will get a free ebook copy of my book God’s Birthday: The Evidence for Christ’s Birth on December 25:

What are you waiting for? Let’s learn about Catholic Advent! Please register (it’s free) below:

Sign up for the Live Advent Webinar Event this Thursday. Register by clicking here:

[if you already registered for tonight’s Advent webinar, ignore this message]

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If you don’t see the sign up button in your email or feed, click here to register.

Where are the Skulls of Saints Peter and Paul?

In the video below I give a brief history and tour of one of my favorite places in Rome: the Pope’s Cathedral and Basilica of Saint John Lateran.

Although many people have forgotten, the heads of Peter and Paul are situated in the baldacchino which you can see in this video (click here to watch):

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Catholic Mass Lectionary Omits Anti-Homosexualism Verses from Romans 1

Why do Catholics in America support homosexuality proportionately more than the general population?

Two reasons: lack of authentic Catholic teaching regarding homosexuality…and the Church omitted one of the clearest Bible verses on homosexuality from the lectionary:

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One of the very unfortunate results of the New Lectionary is that verses that might be deemed offensive have been omitted from our liturgical celebrations. (I’ve written about how three “offensive” Psalms were removed from the Liturgy of the Hours after 1971 here.)

Verses against Homosexuality Omitted from Current Lectionary

An example of the silence of offensive passages is from the readings of last week, where the reading of Saint Paul against homosexuality (including female lesbianism) in Romans 1:26-32 is notably omitted from the cycle. Below are the readings for the 28th Week in Ordinary Time (Lectionary 468 and 469):

Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 468
Reading 1 ROM 1:16-25

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 469
Reading 1 ROM 2:1-11

So what’s missing? Romans 1:26-32 is clipped out. Yet this passage at the end of Romans 1 is the locus classicus for Paul’s theology against homosexual behavior and it also forms the cited passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church for its teaching:

CCC Para. 2357. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law.”

In the footnotes in the CCC for this passage, you’ll find the citation for Romans 1:26-32. So if this passage is important for the Saint John Paul II’s Catechism, why is it skipped over in the Lectionary?

The Missing Romans 1:26-32

Here is the skipped passage in full:

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural [Paul calls lesbianism is “unnatural”], 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men [male homosexual acts are “shameless acts”] and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. [homosexual acts are an “error” with “due penalty”]

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. 29 They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

32 Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve those who practice them. [those that approve of homosexual acts and any of the sins above deserve to die according to “God’s decree”]

This passage is inspired by the Holy Spirit – by the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. This is not a politically correct passage of the Bible, but it’s just as true as John 3:16. We may not read it at Mass, but we need to accept it as “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).

Why is it omitted from the cycle of Romans for the Catholic Mass?

Is there a bishop out there who will ask the Holy Father to have this verse included in the Mass readings of Roman Rite? In this time of crisis, we need a Saint John the Baptist who defends God’s teaching on human sexuality against the Herod’s that compromise God’s loving law.

Godspeed,
Taylor Marshall, PhD

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Question: Should the Catholic Church revise the Lectionary and include Romans 1:26-32 in the readings for Holy Mass? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Sample New Saint Thomas Institute Video from Dr. Taylor Marshall on “How to Explain Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality”:

4 Constellations in the Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation makes references (structures itself) to a pattern of constellations. I’ve been discussing the role of constellations in my audio commentary on the Book of Revelation.

The books of Ezekiel and Revelation both describe cherubim guarding God’s throne. They have the attributes of:

  1. Pasted_Image_9_1_15__10_42_AMMan’s face
  2. Bull
  3. Lion
  4. Eagle

Saint Irenaeus associated these four creatures with the four Evangelists in his book Against Heresies:

  1. Man = Matthew
  2. Mark = Lion
  3. Luke = Bull
  4. Eagle = John
WARNING: I’m about to talk about constellations, but I am not endorsing the mortal sin of astrology (Deut. 18:9-13; 2 Kings 23:3-5; Isa. 8:19-20; 44:24-25; 47:8-15). Constellations and their cycle through the year are natural occurrences set up by God at creation. The Bible often refers to constellations.

Very few are aware, however, that these four celestial cherubim are references to the four constellations at the change of each season:

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  1. Man = Aquarius (the human water carrier)
  2. Bull = Taurus
  3. Lion = Leo
  4. Eagle = Scorpio (Babylonians considered Scorpio to be an Eagle constellation)
For a Catholic exposition on the zodiac, see Saint John Damascene On the Orthodox Faith, Book 2. The “zodiac” are the 12 constellations through which the sun moves over our 12 month cycle of a year. God placed them there but they don’t have power over us.

These twelve constellations correspond to the way that the 12 tribes were arranged around the Tabernacle in the Old Testament (Numbers 2), because the 12 tribes were like the cherubim guarding the tabernacle of God’s presence. Each tribe corresponded to one of the 12 constellations surrounding the earth. The four principle directions were given to the following:

  1. Reuben (Aquarius)
  2. Ephraim (Taurus)
  3. Dan (Scorpio)
  4. Judah (Leo) – “Lion of Judah”

As you know there, are 12 constellations in the zodiac and these four are the “four corners” of the 12 constellations:

  1. *Aquarius – human water carrier
  2. Pisces – fish
  3. Aries – ram
  4. *Taurus – bull
  5. Gemini – twins
  6. Cancer – crab
  7. *Leo – lion
  8. Virgo – virgin
  9. Libra – scales
  10. *Scorpio – scorpion (eagle for Babylonians)
  11. Sagittarius – archer
  12. Capricorn – mountain goat

Saint John in Revelation gives the four constellations in reverse order because he is viewing them not from earth but from above in Heaven. Saint John mentions these four living creatures and the Revelation of Christ to Saint John seems to be based on a series of constellations:

  • Revelation Chs. 2-3: Seven Stars of the Pleiades (the seven stars of Pleiades in inside Taurus)
  • Revelation 5: Lion of Judah (Leo)
  • Revelation 8: Eagle flying in midheaven (Scropio)
  • Revelations 9: Scorpion warriors (Scorpio)
  • Revelation 12: Virgin Mother (Virgo)
  • Revelation 15: Pouring out Chalices (Aquarius)
  • Revelation 22: River of Life (Aquarius)

The interplay of constellations in the structure of Revelation shows us that this is a heavenly vision. Saint John is above the heavens and seeing celestial mysteries as they are revealed by Christ. Moreover, the pattern from Taurus to Aquarius is God taking us through a heavenly liturgical year as we watch the destruction of the Great City (Jerusalem in AD 70) and the consecration of the New Jerusalem (the Catholic Church – from then until now).

If you’re interested in learning more, please begin the free audio commentary of the Book of Revelation by clicking here.

 

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