The Son of God pervades the Whole of Reality – St Athanasius on the Word

Saint Athanasius rightfully taught us that the Word/Son of the Father is the rational principle that holds the entire created universe together. For this reason, the Word cannot be created. He stands over creation from all eternity.

Check out this profound insight from Saint Athanasius about the relationship between the Word of the Father and the created universe:

He is God, the living and creative God of the universe, the Word of the good God, who is God in his own right. The Word is different from all created things: he is the unique Word belonging only to the good Father. This is the Word that created this whole world and enlightens it by his loving wisdom. He who is the good Word of the good Father produced the order in all creation, joining opposites together, and forming from them one harmonious sound. He is God, one and only-begotten, who proceeds in goodness from the Father as from the fountain of goodness, and gives order, direction and unity to creation. (Discourse Against the Pagans)

Consider the most complicated mathematical problems, the rate of gravity, the structure of DNA sequences, the speed of light, the chemical compounds of substances, the expanding universe, etc. All these things are designed, controlled, measured, and governed constantly by the divine Word of God.

Even before Christ entered the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He was perfectly guiding and controlling the universe like a conductor over all reality.

But the Son of God does not simply govern over. He is not merely a conductor of trillion piece orchestra. He is also intimately present in every person, instrument, note, chord, and sound. He lives and moves in all of creation as the rational binding principle of everything. Here is Saint Athanasius again:

The almighty and most holy Word of the Father pervades the whole of reality, everywhere unfolding his power and shining on all things visible and invisible. He sustains it all and binds it all together in himself. He leaves nothing devoid of his power but gives life and keeps it in being throughout all of creation and in each individual creature.

This is not “pantheism,” which is the heresy that “God is everything,” or that “my pencil is God, and my table is God, and that tree is God.”

Rather, this is the Christian mystery of Word of God as the measure, ratio, and animator of every single created element and force in the universe.

While we enjoy our lives and our salvation through the Son of God Jesus Christ, He is also tending to that black hole light years away, and perfectly spinning the 69 (known) moons of Jupiter. He delights in the presence of the Father as He builds and holds the galaxies (and the molecular structure of your lunch) together.

We Christians rightly focus on the historical Jesus Christ as the Crucified Rabbi who died and resurrected for our sins, but we should also follow the awe of Saint Athanasius in seeing Him as the personal order of everything that ever was, is now, and ever shall be.

To learn more about the Church Fathers (and especially Saint Athanasius), check out our Curriculum on Patristics.

Subordination to Joseph in the Holy Family

The modern feminist/socialist objects to the traditional Israelite structure of the family: the male father is the head of the wife and the children.

Instead, we observe the media’s depiction of the father is a comical dolt. The children laugh at him. The mother goes around his back. Sitcoms and films are replete with foolish fathers who justify the claim that there is no hierarchy in family.

Society tells all men to “man up” and marry but as soon as he does, he is presumed to become an embarrassing caricature of manhood, as someone resembling Homer Simpson or George McFly from Back to the Future:

We find the perfect familiar order (and corrective to our times) in the Holy Family, which conforms perfectly with divine law and natural law. Moreover, God in providential irony set up the Holy Family so that the most wise and meritorious members of the family submit to the less wise and meritorious.

Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Jesus Christ (Divine Logos and Son of God) submits to Mary and Joseph.
  2. Mary (Immaculate Conception and Mother of God) submits to Joseph.
  3. Joseph (neither divine person like Christ nor immaculate like Mary) is the Head of Holy Family.

If merit, grace, or dignity were the criteria for leadership and headship, clearly it would be Joseph at the bottom of the leadership chain. But not so. God honors the natural order of fathers in the family and he recognizes Joseph as the leader. Although Joseph is least gifted and least worthy, he is nonetheless submitted to and obeyed by the Divine Jesus and the Immaculate Mary.

Children often test their fathers: Is he truly a great man? Do I truly want to follow him? Wives do the same: Did I marry the right man? Is he the hero that chose me and swept me off my feet or is he George McFly?

We all question our leaders. For this reason, fathers should strive to be excellent and fulfill their mission in life. This earns respect from wives and children. It quiets their worries about whether he is the great man that they hope him to be. However, no man is perfect. Jesus and Mary were greater than Joseph, and yet they were patient with him as he understood less than they did.

If any man in history were comparatively outclassed by his wife and child, it was Saint Joseph. This is an example to all families. The father of the home should be honored as the head of the wife and head of the family – even if he is less holy, less wise, less prudent, less pious than his mother and children: because that was once the case with Saint Joseph.

No doubt, the comments will be filled with testimonies such as: “My father was evil and he did XYZ.” I grant that these deep fractures exist in countless famliies. There are fathers out there that earn a score of F-.

But let’s be honest, many (most?) fathers out there are scoring As, Bs, and Cs on their report card. They work hard. The pay for Christmas. They tell bedtime stories. They play catch and teach children how to swim. They pay for insurance and health care. They fix the car. They live the faith. They take the family to church. They spend time investing in their children. They respect and love their wives. They are the oak.

So if your husband/father is scoring a B+ in your mind (and you think you’re scoring an A+), be like Mary and Joseph and honor him anyway as chosen by God to be your unworthy leader. The soul of a man is fueled by respect. I have no doubt that the soul of Joseph was rocket-boosted to highest heaven by the fuel of respect poured into him by his betters: by his wife Mary and his foster son Jesus.

Happy Feast of Holy Family. May Jesus protect all families from the Devil and from the Herods of the world,

Dr Taylor Marhall

Did Israel’s God have a Wife? “Queen of Heaven” in Jeremiah 7

Why Protestants reject Mary as Queen of Heaven

Most Protestants claim (as well as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses) that in the early 300s, the first Christian Roman Emperor Constantine co-opted Christianity for political purposes and transformed Rome’s pagan theology, imagery and titles into Christian versions:

  1. pagan Temples became Christian Churches
  2. the title “Queen of Heaven” was transferred from the Roman goddess Magna Dea to Jesus Christ’s mother Mary
  3. Pontifex Maximus was transferred as title for Bishop of Rome
  4. patron deities were modified into patron saints
  5. The first day of the week, dedicated as “Sun-Day” became the day of Christian worship rather than the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday

Other examples could be listed. I’ve argued that Constantine was truly Christian and that paganization did not occur in The Eternal City: Rome and the Origins of Catholic Christianity. Rather, I defend the (Catholic) belief that the Holy Trinity planned from creation to use the Roman Empire as the means of salvation through the Roman crucifixion of the eternal Son of God under Roman domination.

Today we address the title “Queen of Heaven” as applied to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Protestants adhere to the principle of sola scripture (only scripture). In doing so, they search the pages of Scripture for “Queen of Heaven” and they find it in the Old Testament:

The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. (Jer 7:18)

and again:

But we will do everything that we have vowed, burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out libations to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no evil. (Jer 44:7)

The prophet Jeremiah here condemns how Israelites adopted then pagan practice of offering cakes and drink offerings to “the queen of heaven.” This “queen of heaven” was the goddess Asherah who was universally worshipped in the Middle East as a consort bride to Baal or even Yahweh.

We have, in fact, found an archeological pithos sherd found at Kuntillet Ajrud be with an inscription reading: “Yahweh and his Asherah” as depicted below:

There is biblical and archeological evidence for devotion to God’s wife Asherah. But this devotion was contrary to the monotheism practiced by Abraham, Moses, and David. The Israelite prophets were constantly recalling Israel away from worship of Asherah and back to the monotheistic worship of Yahweh.

It would seem, then, to the Protestant that the Catholic practice of calling Mary “Queen of Heaven” is a return to this banned practice in Jeremiah. Epiphanius of Salamis even writes of an early female Christian heresy around AD 375, whereby women devotees in Arabia would worship Mary and offer bread-rolls (Greek κολλυρις or kollyris) to Mary as if she were a goddess. This seems to be a holdover from worship of Asherah as described by Jeremiah.

And yet the Catholic Church does NOT give worship (Greek latria) to Mary. She receives the highest form of praise for a created human (Greek hyperdulia), since she is a human and will always remain a human. However, she is the earthly mother of the King of Heaven and Earth. And by that honor, she is Queen of Heaven.

Moreover, Revelation chapter 12 depicts the mother of the Messiah as crowned with 12 stars, clothed with the sun, and standing on the moon. She is no doubt the Queen of Heaven, just as she is also the Queen of the Jews.

And we should remember that pagan kings were also called Messiah, Son of God, King of Kings, King of Heaven, etc. and yet we do not hesitate to grant these titles to our Lord Jesus Christ.

The abuse of a term by pagans (e.g. Son of God, Queen of Heaven, Pontifex Maximus) does not forfeit their proper use by God-fearing Christians in an orthodox sense.

Question: Do you honor the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Queen of Heaven You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Liturgy does NOT mean Work of the People (Against Liturgical Pelagianism)

Examples of λειτουργία from the New Testament

It became quite stylish in the liturgical reforms of the 1960s and 1970s to teach that the Greek word for liturgy is λειτουργία (leitourgia) and that this word means “work of the people.” This led to the new idea that λειτουργία or “liturgy” is something that lay people should be leading and even performing within the context of worship.

Does λειτουργία mean “work of the people”? No.

Photo: Pope John XXIII Celebrating the Eastern Divine Liturgy

Liturgy certainly does not mean “work of the people,” and I’ll show you why from examples in Sacred Scripture. But before looking at Scripture, let’s look at the actual Greek word:

The Word “Liturgy” in Greek

λειτουργία, like so many words in Greek, is a composite. The first word half of the word derives form the Greek word “laos” meaning “people.” (There is also the variation of “leos” which is the Attic Greek version of the same word for “people.”) This word “laos” (or “leos” in Attic) is where we get laity and laypeople. It’s a generic word for a collection of people. The Greek name Menelaos means “withstanding the people” and the Greek name Nikolaos means “conquering the people.”

The second part of the word derives from the Greek word “ergon” meaning “work,” as in ergonomic, energy, and synergy.

When you smash the two Greek words together to describe something you get: leitourgia or λειτουργία.

Does λειτουργία mean “work of the people” or “work for the people”?

So the term contains the two Greek words for “people” and “work,” but how do we arrange it for its meaning? On one hand, it could be “work of the people,” meaning something the people work out together. On the other hand, it could be “work for the people,” meaning something done for the benefit of the people.

Option 1: Liturgy as “Work of the People”

The kumbaya (Elvis liturgy) crowd of the 1960s and 1970s insisted that it was former – something people work out when they come together. This led to the idea that lay people should lead prayers, read the lessons, prepare the altar, handle chalices, handle the Eucharist, distribute the Eucharist, bless people in the Communion line, and cleanse the vessels. After all, if liturgy means “work of the people,” then the people ought to be up there doing active work.

Option 2: Liturgy as “Work Done for the People”:

The historical, traditional, and received definition of liturgy or λειτουργία is that it is something done by one for the sake of the people. This may come as a crushing blow to the legions of Christians who were taught that liturgy was the “work of the people,” but it’s the plain truth. In Plato and other Greek authors, λειτουργία is something done by one for the sake of the people. Consequently, the Greek term is usually a priestly or political term depending on the context. And in the Bible, it is usually a priestly term, but we will examine one passage in Romans that is expressly political:

Let’s look at Sacred Scripture to settle the debate:

In the account of the birth of John the Baptist, we discover that his father Zacharias is an Aaronic priest of the tribe of Levi. As such, he serves in the Temple as a priest when it is the time of his allotment. [I explain elsewhere how this detail leads us to know that Christ as born in late December.] The passage explains that St Zacharias goes to the Temple to minister and the original Greek word is that he goes there to do liturgy:

And when his time of service (λειτουργίας) was ended, he went to his home. (Luke 1:23)

Did Zacharias gather a bunch of people to worship the Lord? No, the passage explains that his duty was to go into the Temple and offer incense to Yahweh. He did this to ceremoniously present the prayers of the people to God. It becomes obvious that his “liturgy” was something he did as a priest for the benefit of the people, not something he did as a priest with other people present.

Let’s look at another example from Hebrews:

And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship (λειτουργίας). (Heb 9:22)

This is a description of how Moses consecrated the tabernacle and vessels for divine worship in the Old Testament. The tent/tabernacle and the vessels could only be handled and used by the Levites, as they administered them for the benefit of Israel. Once again we see that λειτουργία refers to what is done by a priestly class on behalf of the laity.

The Liturgy of Christ as for the people:

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry (λειτουργίας) which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. (Heb 8:6)

The author describes Christ as a High Priest who now administers a better New Covenant through a better λειτουργία or Liturgy. Once again, this λειτουργία is something Christ is administering on our behalf for our salvation. Notably it is His presentation of His Body and Blood to the Father for our redemption – something that is presented in every Liturgy of the Mass.

Roman Emperor as Liturgizer:

And let’s not forget that Saint Paul calls the evil Emperor Nero a “liturgizer.” In Romans 13, Saint Paul explains how the Roman Emperor (at that time Nero) and all political rulers are “liturgizers””

3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant (διάκονός or diakonos) of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers (λειτουργοὶ or leitourgoi) of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

Saint Paul identifies the Emperor as διάκονός or deacon and as all rulers as λειτουργοὶ or liturgizers. Be mindful that this Emperor was Nero, and yet he receives sacerdotal titles from Paul.

In fact, the dalmatic (which is worn by deacons) is an imperial garment traditionally reserved for the Byzantine court. I cannot find the source at the moment, but I recall reading once that Constantine was allowed to read Scripture in liturgy while still unbaptized because he was considered to be a quasi-deacon by virtue of his status as Emperor. And the Emperor in Constantinople processed with the Patriarch and the clergy, often in a dalmatic.

Back to “liturgy” in Romans 13. It’s manifest that the Roman Emperor and other Roman rulers are accorded the title of λειτουργοὶ. They are not liturgists designing services. Nero isn’t leading the people in “Gather us in, the rich and the haughty.” Rather these Roman rulers are, according to Paul, appointed by God to administer justice for the people. 

Liturgy as Something Done for People

Liturgy, at least in the Old and New Testament is something priestly or political that is done for the sake of the people. It is communal only in that it is done for others.

A priest saying the Mass alone in a Russian hotel room is doing “work for the people” without anyone else gathered together with him.

Likewise, the Pope gathered at a Mass of 10,000 people is doing “work for the people,” but the people being present doesn’t make it “liturgy.” The liturgy is accomplished in persona Christi for the people. Just as Zacharias was able to do “liturgy” all alone with his thurible in the Temple.

When Christ died on the cross, He administered a new λειτουργία for the people of the world. It was a liturgical act in which nobody participated by dancing, performing, reading from a book, or carrying a vessel. The truly “active participation” was accomplished by the Mother of God, Saint Mary Magdalene, the other women, and by the Apostle John when they lifted up their hearts to the divine Crucified Rabbi on the cross. They painfully and silently received the bloody λειτουργία of Christ on their behalf.

The time has come for us to understand liturgy as sacerdotal and as something done by Christ for His people. Cardinal Sarah summed this up recently with these words:

Liturgy is about God and His work for His people. Whoever tells us that we must celebrate ourselves in the liturgy is undermining biblical liturgy. Liturgy as “work of the people” is liturgical Pelagianism – the heresy that says that man can naturally work for his salvation.

If you’d like to learn about Sacramental Theology and earn your Certificate in Catholic Theology along the way, please join us at the New Saint Thomas Institute. We have a 2 part video on the “Mystical Meanings of the Mass according to Thomas Aquinas” waiting for you:

Learn more about our online theology courses and earn up to 6 Certificates in Philosophy, Theology, and Church History at newsaintthomas.com, the largest global online Institute for theological studies.

Godspeed,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

In which year did Mary receive her Assumption into Heaven?

For Catholics, the bodily assumption of Mary is a historical event. The falling asleep of Blessed Mary and her assumption are just as historical as, say, the fact that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated or the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals won the 2006 World Series. One day Mary’s body lay in a tomb. The next day it did not. When did this happen? Which year?

Please join us in this short Catholic online lesson on the historical date of Mary’s Assumption, a free sample course from the New Saint Thomas Institute:

You can watch the video at YouTube as well by clicking here.

This lesson is part of our Curriculum in Church History and the Church Fathers:

If you are not already a Student Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute, and you’d like to begin your Certificate in Catholic Church history: we have good news! Our Fall Enrollment just opened this week. Please sign up while there is still room, and begin earning any of our 6 Certificates:

  1. Certificate in Catholic Philosophy
  2. Certificate in Catholic Theology
  3. Certificate in Catholic Apologetics
  4. Certificate in Church History: Church Fathers
  5. Certificate in Church History: Medieval
  6. Certificate in Church History: Reformation & Modern (coming 2017)

Learn more and sample more video lessons and join 3,000 students in your study of Christ, His Saints, and His deposit of Faith in the Catholic Church: Join the New Saint Thomas Institute.

ad Jesum per Mariam cum Petro,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

In the Eucharist do we receive the Body of Mary, too?

A reader named Rey asks:

Dr. Marshall, regarding the Body and Blood of our Lord, is it correct to say that in a way that when we receive the Eucharist that we receive the body and blood of Jesus and Mary, considering that Jesus (as second person) assumed human nature through Mary? In other words, just as Eve’s body was taken from Adam, in the same way, the Second Adam (Jesus) was taken from the body and blood of Mary being His mother? Thus, when we receive communion, it is also in a way receiving the body and blood of Mary through her Son?

My reply:

No, it would be heretical to state that we receive the Body of Mary in the Holy Eucharist. We do not receive the Body of Mary in the Eucharist. This should be entirely rejected.

The Body of Christ is genetically different than the body of Mary and is vivified by a distinct soul in Christ that is not the soul of Mary. A human body relies on the form of the distinct soul animating it. Moreover, the substantial form and matter of Christ’s human body is not that of the Blessed Virgin Mary – even though the Body of Christ is derived from the body of Mary.

This also creates a corporeal regress. If we were to claim that we receive Mary’s body in the Eucharist (because she is his mother), then we could then say that when we eat the Eucharist we are eating the body of Saint Anne (Mary’s mother) and the body of King David and the body of Ruth, et al. – since they are genetic ancestors of Christ. All of this is heretical.

The Body of Christ is the Body of Christ. We don’t receive simply a body in the Eucharist, we receive a Person in the Eucharist – the Divine Second Person of the Trinity along with the human nature that He assumed in the womb of Mary: His body, blood, and soul.

It is, however, perfectly orthodox to say that Mary participated in the Incarnation and that she provided a human body to Christ. We can also state as orthodox the scientific fact that the blood of a mother mixes with the blood of her baby. So we can say that the Precious Blood Christ mixed with the blood of Mary in utero, providing yet another profound sanctification in her beyond that of her sublime Immaculate Conception.

But we should not say that we receive the blood of Mary or the body of Mary in the Eucharist.

ad Jesum per Mariam cum Petro,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

PS: There was an ancient heretical sect in pre-Islamic Arabia that celebrated a liturgical rite in which they claimed to be eating the Body of Mary in a quasi-Eucharist. They were called Collyridians. (Click here to learn more about Marian Heresies.) This may be why Muhammad and the Quran wrongly asserts that Christians believe that Mary is the Third Person of the Trinity. See Quran 5:73-75 and Quran 5:116.

MALTA: Matrimony, Adultery, Luminous Mysteries, and St George Preca

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Father Donald Calloway {listen to the our Champions of the Rosary interview} on the history of the Rosary and he taught me something that I did not know:

The 5 Luminous Mysteries do not find their origin with Saint John Paul II in 2002 with is Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, but rather with Saint George Preca in the 1950s.

In 1950s, Saint George Preca prayerfully discerned that the Church needed to focus on the public and sacramental ministry of Christ within the context of the Holy Rosary. He began praying a set of 5 new mysteries in the context of the Rosary, which he called “Mysteries of Light.” These were published by him in a leaflet in 1973.

saint george preca

St George Preca of Malta

Saint George Preca was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on June 3, 2007.

There’s a historical twist to this story. Saint George Preca was a priest of the island of Malta!

You may have heard that the two bishops of the island of Malta have ruled that the divorced and remarried that have not received annulments and continue to live in a sexual relationship can receive the Holy Eucharist after a period of discernment and following their conscience in the pursuit of peace. The debate centers of baptism, matrimony, the teaching of Christ, and the Eucharist (4 of the 5 Luminous Mysteries). There has also been some confusion about the Knights of Malta with regard to the distribution of contraceptive devices. Why Malta?

Could it be that Jesus and Mary’s Luminous Mysteries AND the presence at the “Wedding at Cana” was especially planted on the island of Malta by Christ through his sainted priest George Preca?

All the Luminous Mysteries speak to our time and our personal difficulties:

  1. Jesus’ Baptism in the River Jordan
  2. His manifestation at the wedding at Cana
  3. His proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion
  4. His transfiguration before the Apostles on Mount Tabor
  5. His institution of the Eucharist

These are profound meditations for our current vocation within the Catholic Church to become saints:

  1. Baptism: Our baptismal dignity and call to be holy as He is holy.
  2. Matrimony: Our call to transform water into wine: to transform the natural creation ordinance of matrimony into a supernatural grace-filled union of sanctity. And to sanctify family life in the context of matrimony.
  3. The perfect teaching of Christ: Evangelizing our hearts and inviting others by turning the Truth of Christ as preserved by His Catholic Church.
  4. Transfiguration: Stress on the Divinity of Christ and His power in our lives to transform us.
  5. Eucharist: The sacrosanct nature of the Eucharist, because the Eucharist is Christ Himself.

I have no doubt that Our Lady desires for us to come to Jesus Christ by meditating on these Mysteries of Light. As Father Calloway says, new battles require us to renew our weapons. The Rosary has been modified over time (listen to the interview to learn more) and it seems that two saints for our time: Pope Saint John Paul II and the Maltese Saint George Preca may have been guided by Heaven to guide our prayers during this time of Darkness with Mysteries of Light.

Post tenebras lux,

Taylor Marshall, PhD

PS: On the island of Malta, a viper bit Saint Paul. But he remained uninjured as by a miracle. The fangs of the serpent did the Apostle no harm:

After we had escaped, we then learned that the island was called Malta. And the natives showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, when a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They waited, expecting him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead; but when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. (Acts 28)

Share this post on Facebook by clicking here.

facebook-share-button

What is the Sword That Pierced Mary’s Soul?

In Luke 2:35, Saint Simeon prophesied to Mary “a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

What is this sword?

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 2.46.18 PM

The Greek word is ῥομφαία {rhomphaia} and it means sword or javelin. Here’s the full definition:

ῤομφαία, ῤομφαίας, ἡ, a large sword; properly, a long Thracian javelin (cf. Rich, Dict. of Antiq. under the word Rhompaea); also a kind of long sword usually worn on the right shoulder (Hesychius ῤομφαία. Θρακιον ἀμυντηριον, μάχαιρα, ξίφος ἤ ἀκόντιον μακρόν; (Suidas 3223 c. (cf. ῥεμβω to revolve, vibrate)); cf. Plutarch, Aemil. 18); (A. V. sword): Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:12, 16; Revelation 6:8; Revelation 19:15, 21; σου δέ αὐτῆς τήν ψυχήν διελεύσεται ῤομφαία, a figure for ‘extreme anguish shall fill (pierce, as it were) thy soul’, Luke 2:35, where cf. Kuinoel. (Josephus, Antiquities 6, 12, 4; 7, 12, 1; in Ev. Nicod. 26 the archangel Michael, keeper of Paradise, is called ἡ φλογινη ῤομφαία. Very often in the Sept. for חֶרֶב; often also in the O. T. Apocrypha.)

Swords are violent weapons that are formed not to hunt animals, but to kill men. In the Jewish mind, the sword is a physical weapon but it is very frequently used as a metaphor for the tongue. The tongue sends out lethal words that strike men down. Even Christ in Revelation is depicted with a sword coming from his mouth to slay His enemies (listen to my podcast on Christ’s mouth-sword here: Revelation 19: Eucharist and Mouth Sword mp3).

Mary’s soul is slain in two ways:

  1. Sword as Tongue: The evil words spoken against Christ during His ministry and up to His death rip open the soul of Mary who perfectly knows that He is the innocent and immaculate Lamb of God who only loves mankind and seeks to save it. Every hostile word toward Christ, thrusts a sword through her soul.
  2. Sword as Piercing of Christ her Son: Ultimately, when her eyes see Christ’s pure flesh pierced with nails and His dead chest pierced with the lance, her own soul is pierced with love for Christ and for those whom He died for: every single human person.

Simeon says that this piercing of Mary is a “sign of contradiction.” I think this refers to Isaiah 7:14 where a sign is given a “a virgin shall bear a son.” This is a sign of “contradiction” because virgins are not mothers.

The manifest love of the Son for his Virgin Mother is at the cross when He proclaims, “Behold your mother.” Her love is also most manifest at the cross. And for each human person, our love should be most manifest at the foot of the cross.

and a sword will pierce through your own soul also,
that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.

Notice how the piercing of Mary’s soul reveals the “thoughts of the many hearts.” It’s my personal conviction (not teaching of the Church) that the way a person speaks of the Blessed Virgin as a quiet mother and co-sufferer with Christ reveals their heart.

  • Show me someone who has a very gentle and respectful appreciation for Mary’s suffering, I’ll show you a very holy person “that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”
  • Show me someone who denigrates Mary and says, “Yeah, but she ain’t special or anything,” and I’ll show you a bitter and lost person “that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”

Today, place your mind’s eye on Jesus pierced on the cross and ask for the gift to feel part of what His Mother felt as she looked upon Him making the perfect sacrifice for the entire human race.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why was Mary purified at the Temple? And did she receive Sacraments?

If Mary was immaculate and without sin, why was she “purified” in Luke 2? Also, would she have been Baptized, Confirmed, and have received Extreme Unction? Read on for answers:

February 2 marks the 40th day from Christmas, and as Saint Luke tells us, Mary and Joseph presented Our Infant Lord at the Temple on the 40th day after his birth.

Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 4.54.04 PM

There are 2 things happening here:

  1. Leviticus 12 states that when an Israelite woman gives birth she becomes ritually unclean:
    1. if child is a boy, she is unclean 7 days after birth and that her uncleanness endures for an additional 33 days due to the flow of her post-partum blood flow. So after 40 days, she is presented herself at the Temple to be purified and readmitted to the liturgical life of Israel.
    2. if child is a girl, she is unclean 14 days after birth and that her uncleanness endures for an additional 66 days due to the flow of her post-partum blood flow. So after 80 days, she is presented herself at the Temple to be purified and readmitted to the liturgical life of Israel.
    3. Jesus is male and so the timeline is 40 days. Dec 25 + 40 days = Feb 2.
  2. The woman is to bring a sacrifice to the Temple to dedicate the son or daughter:
    1. Ideally, she brings a lamb.
    2. However, “if she cannot lay her hand on a lamb fit to be offered, she must bring two turtle-doves or two young pigeons, one as a burnt-sacrifice and one by way of amends.”
    3. Mary, being poor, brought two doves – but in reality she brought THE Lamb of God.

There are two theological conundrums here:

  1. Jesus is the Son of God. Why would he need sacrifice offered for Him?
  2. How could Jesus, the Pure One, make Mary impure through birthAnd isn’t Mary immaculate and entirely pure?

The answer is found in the Baptism of Christ. Christ submitted to Baptism not because he needed grace or the remission of Original Sin, but because He wanted to unite himself to sinners while at the same time instituting the Sacrament of Baptism.

Christ indeed submitted to every law of Moses so as to fulfill the Old Law perfectly (hence, we Christians do not need to submit the ceremonial and judicial precepts of Moses – like not eating pork).

Mary and the Rites of the Old Law and New Law

The same is true of Mary – both for the Old Law and the New Law. She submitted to the entire Old Law even though she knew that her Son fulfilled the Law and stood above the Law as God. She beautifully conformed to His pattern and example. Same goes for Joseph.

It is Catholic tradition that Mary was full of grace and that she did not need the sacraments, but that she submitted to the rites and sacraments of the New Law – namely that she was baptized, confirmed, and fervently received the Eucharist – even though all the graces were already present within her.

There is a tradition that Christ only baptized two persons by His own hand: Peter and Mary. Peter then baptized the other 11 Apostles and then the 12 Apostles baptized the multitudes.

Catholic commentator Cornelius Lapide even speculates that Mary received Extreme Unction from the hand of an Apostle before her Dormition, even though she didn’t need it since corruption could not touch her. Lapide is clear that she would have never gone to confession, however. Confession requires the matter of actual sins committed in order for the form of absolution to be proclaimed. Mary had nothing at all to confess.

Question: Are you humbled that Jesus and Mary submitted to rules and rites that she did not need? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

PS: Joy and I were once able to attend Mass with Pope Benedict XVI (when we were not yet Catholics) on February 2 for the feast of the Presentation of Christ. It was a moment of conversion for us to Catholicism – since I in that moment came to know that I was not in communion with the Successor of Saint Peter.

Catholic Webinar: History and Theology of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Did you know that devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to a small statue in Spain that was once owned by the Church Father and Pope Saint Gregory the Great?

Please join us for this week’s Catholic Webinar:

6 Historical and Theological Facts about Our Lady of Guadalupe

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 9.16.36 AM

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  1. How the devotion to an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe began with Saint Luke.
  2. How the original image was acquired by St Gregory the Great.
  3. Christopher Columbus’ devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
  4. About the Apparition of Our Lady to St Juan Diego.
  5. How Our Lady of Guadalupe can help you in our secular society!
  6. How she can help you bring family and friends back to the Catholic Church:

The Webinar is free but you must register to claim your spot and have access to the Webinar. You can do so by clicking here:

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 11.32.55 AM

We hosted 980 live attendees in last week’s Webinar on Catholic Advent. We are hoping to have over 1,000 attendees in this week’s Guadalupe Webinar. Join us for the global Catholic seminar about Our Lady!

You can leave a comment by clicking here.