Why does Holy Water have salt in it? Elisha, Jesus, and Salted Fish

Why does holy water have salt in it? In the East and the West, salt has always been added to the making of holy water.

Before 1964, the Rituale Romanum includes an exorcism of the water and the adding of exorcized salt to the making of holy water. Here is the pre-1964 exorcism of the water:

O water, creature of God, I exorcise you in the name of God the Father almighty, and in the name of Jesus Christ His Son, our Lord, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. I exorcise you so that you may put to flight all the power of the Enemy, and be able to root out and supplant that Enemy with his apostate angels: through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, we humbly implore Thee, in Thy immeasurable kindness and love, to bless + and sanctify + this salt which Thou did create and give over to the use of mankind, so that it may become a source of health for the minds and bodies of all who make use of it, and may rid whatever it touches or sprinkles of all uncleanness and protect it from every assault of evil spirits. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. R. Amen.

After 1964, the new Rituale Romanum excludes both the exorcism and the salt. (Not a fantastic development in my non-magisterial layman’s opinion.)

Providentially, Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict XVI allows all priests to use the pre-1964 formula for making holy water – and many priests quietly do this.

So why salt?

The Levitical priesthood under Moses identifies salt with “covenant”:

“Every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.” (Lev 2:13)

We find it again in Numbers:

All the holy offerings which the people of Israel present to the Lord I give to you, and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual due; it is a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord for you and for your offspring with you.” (Num 18:19)

And the Davidic Messianic Covenant is a “covenant of salt” (2 Chronicles 13:5).

Since all Catholic liturgical forms come from Israelite liturgical forms, we can expect salt to play an important role in our sacramental life.

Moreover, the waters over which the Spirit hovered in Genesis 1 were salty (Covenant of Creation). The Flood of Noah was salty (Covenant of Noah). The Red Sea was salty (Covenant of Moses).It also refers to the action of Elishah the Prophet:

19 Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.” 20 He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it, and said, “Thus says the Lord, I have made this water wholesome; henceforth neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” 22 So the water has been wholesome to this day, according to the word which Elisha spoke.

Elisha uses something sterile (salt) to make other things unsterile (women’s wombs). This is polarity miracle. We see the same with Elijah before him. Elijah pours water on a sacrifice and it burns anyway. The effect of a thing is opposite its purpose and creates a miraculous outcome.

Salt placed in the mouth of the Baptized:

The fifth canon of the Third Council of Carthage (AD 397) states that Catechumens should repeatedly consumed holy salt as they prepared for baptism. Saint Augustine refers to himself having been made a “catechumen” at birth (Patristic baby dedication) but not having been baptized:

Even as a boy I had heard of eternal life promised to us through the humility of the Lord our God condescending to our pride, and I was signed with the sign of the cross, and was seasoned with His salt even from the womb of my mother, who greatly trusted in You. Confessions 1, 14.

Prior to Vatican II, the priest placed a touch of holy salt into the mouth of all the newly baptized (including infants).

Priest: N., Receive the salt of wisdom; let it be propitiation for you unto eternal life.

Sponsor/Catechumen: Amen.

Priest: Peace be with you.

Sponsor/Catechumen: And with your spirit.

Priest: Let us pray: O God of our fathers, O God the Author of all truth, vouchsafe, we humbly beseech Thee, to look graciously down upon this Thy servant, N., and as he (she) tastes this first nutriment of salt, allow him (her) no longer to hunger for lack of heavenly food, to the end that he (she) may be always fervent in spirit, rejoicing in hope, always serving Thy name. Lead him (her), O Lord, we beseech Thee, to the laver of the new regeneration, that, together with Thy faithful, he may deserve to attain the everlasting rewards of Thy promises. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Here’s a video of one of my children being baptized with the 1962 ritual of baptism. You can see the blessing and administration of holy salt at about 0:50:

This salt is given to whet the catechumens appetite for the Eucharist. It further demonstrates that everyone in the Roman Rite received the Eucharist after baptism – including infants well into the 5th century. Saint Cyprian and Saint Augustine refer matter-of-factly to infants receiving the Eucharist. Christian parents should fight for this Apostolic practice to be returned to the Roman Rite.

Saint Cyprian and Saint Augustine refer matter-of-factly to infants receiving the Eucharist. Christian parents should fight for this Apostolic practice to be returned to the Roman Rite. Click To Tweet

If a Catholic altar is disturbed or desecrated (as this one was desecrated in Ireland), it must be reconsecrated but this time with holy salt to purify and cleanse it from the demonic.

Theology of Salt from the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Our Lord Jesus Christ also states: “For every one will be salted with fire.” (Mark 9:49) Why is this? We are all to be holocaust sacrifices to the Father through Jesus Christ. In the next verse, he states: “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another” (Mark 9:50). (Which is why the subtitle of this blog is “Stay salty my friends.”)

Christ says that all will be salted with fire. Every human will experience this salt as we pass through death. It is the judgment of Christ over our lives. Note that this means that Jesus the High Priest will treat everyone person as an animal sacrifice as in the Old Testament. Blood also is salty. Jewish texts also state that the one of the jobs of the Levites was to cast salt everywhere on the ground of the altar area so that the priests would not slip on all the sacrificial blood.

We have two models of salt and final judgment:

  • The first is that of the salt of damnation. Salt is sterile. Lot’s wife “turned back” and turned into a pillar (statue) of salt. She is grouped with the valley of Sodom and Gomorrah (sterile sexual immorality), which now lies condemned beneath the Dead Sea (a salty body of water).
  • The second is that of the salt of salvation. Salt preserves. The fisherman Apostles daily dealt in salt. There was no refrigeration and fish were always transported in salt. Fishermen needed boats, nets, and lots and lots of salt to be successful merchants.
    As Apostles (and their successors) are “fishers of men” it’s not enough to merely catch men. The fish of Jesus must be confirmed in grace and preserved by the “salt of the covenant.” Hence, salt becomes a sign against contagion and corruption. It’s a sign of orthodox preaching, teaching, and sacramental integrity within the Catholic Church.
As Apostles (and their successors) are fishers of men it's not enough to merely catch men. The fish of Jesus must be confirmed in grace and preserved by the salt of the covenant.Hence, salt becomes a sign against contagion and… Click To Tweet

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PS: If you want to discover more about Old Testament rites and their relationship to Catholic liturgy, check out this book: The Crucified Rabbi.

Plato’s Aristocracy and Why Catholics are Losing the Culture War

Whether you like it or not, we in the West have a layered class system and our inability to see it and plan accordingly has led contemporary Catholics to lose our cultural impact on the global stage. Before we get to the reasons why, let’s look at the classical Greek and Indo-European idea of society and rank and then move on to how Catholics are losing their social and political influence:

Political Society is like a Human Body:

For Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Zeno and the Stoics, the soul of the human is aristocratic and consists of estates or ranks. You will find this doctrine in Plato’s Timaeus (the book Plato holds in Raphael’s “School of Athens”) and in his Republic. You will also find it referenced or built upon in almost call classical Catholic treatments of government. See also Saint Thomas Aquinas’s De regno.

Here is how Plato puts it together:

  1. Head = Philosophers, Scholars, Astronomers, Mystics, Priests
  2. Chest = Generals, Warriors, Police (for the Greeks, nobility always is martial)
  3. Stomach and Genitals = Merchants, Farmers, Artisans, Lawyers, Corporate Owners, CEOs
  4. Arms and legs = Laborers or at the very bottom Slaves (Plato doesn’t explicitly identify them as “arms and legs” but it could be implied)

Plato’s City-Man

It’s easy to see how the cosmo-man fits together:

  1. The head thinks and plans. This is the philosopher and mystic who examines reality and plans or foretells the future and explores future contingencies for the cosmo-man (the State).
  2. The chest keeps the cosmo-man alive by pumping blood and moving air. The chest is brave and forces the body to fight and run. He fights enemies inside and outside the populace.
  3. The stomach receives food and produces capital and art through procreation.
  4. Slaves work the limbs and get things done.

Many have noted that Plato’s four strata are deeply Indo-European and map perfectly onto the Vedic system (1500 BC) of India:

  1. Brahmins (priestly scholar class)
  2. Kshatriyas (royal warrior class)
  3. Vaishyas (artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farmers)
  4. Shudras (laboring classes)

Nota bene: the Rigveda (the oldest Sanskrit text) identifies the 4 levels descending with the human body in a modified way: 1) head/mouth > 2) arms > 3) stomach/loins > 4) feet.

For Plato and the Greeks (and for Europe), people could move up and down the classes based on merit. For example, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle went from level 3 to level 1. The High Priest Aaron went from level 4 to level 1. King David went from level 3 to level 1. However, in Hindu theology, a person cannot move up and down the classes in this life (because of the false theology of reincarnation). This is a fundamental difference between Western and Eastern philosophy.

Trigger Warning: You maybe be triggered by the talk of classes and castes

We like to think that human society is now finally enlightened and that there are no castes or classes. Whether you call it a “caste” or a “demographic,” you’re just moving around words. The concept may become more humanitarian over time, but the idea of “political layers” transcends cultures and transcends time. Human society has different parts.

The Platonic way of understanding political levels has little to do with wealth. Bill Gates is very rich, but he still belongs to level 3 as a merchant and producer. A modern example of how the the levels can be transcended is how both Barack Obama and Donald Trump ascended from level 3 to level 1. A person at level 3 could be poor, middle class, or a billionaire.

The 4 Levels of Society in Contemporary Society:

In America we may think of ourselves as egalitarian and without castes, but we still preserve this natural human hierarchy of political layers:

  1. Head (priestly scholar class). This was the Catholic Church’s ecclesial hierarchy (from AD 600-1500). Now it is the University, the Professor, Politician, Judges, the “experts” and (since the 1960s) the TV Media and Social Media (Facebook). They are still almost impossible to circumvent. They seek to influence our daily thoughts and our children. And as always, they are usually very rich.
  2. Chest (royal warrior class). This is the military, but more and more so it is the IRS, FBI, CIA, police, ATF, TSA, game warden, et al. They have the power to imprison us and kill us. In a good political system, they are inspired by the Head to promote justice and protect the innocent. It was for fear of a corrupted “chest level” that the United States allowed its citizens to arm themselves with weapons and, notably, firearms.
  3. Stomach/Loins (artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farmers). This is your “middle class” white collar executives, and your corporate owners. They bear the load of society according to Plato, they must be controlled through “myths or noble lies” crafted by the philosophers. Civil religion is the best way to do this. It can be Roman imperial paganism with an Emperor cult (very powerful). In the same way it can be 16th century Church of England with civil obligations ordered to the king or queen who is “Head of the Church.” Or it can be a form of state-controlled Catholicism (Napoleonic Catholicism or Chinese Communistic Catholicism) or controlled Protestantism (state Protestantism/Lutheranism found in Northern European nations). In the last 30 years, the controlled state religions are being replaced with political correctness and class Socialism.
  4. Limbs (laboring class). We no longer call them “servants” but our society has people who are deeply in debt (in the Bible, debt is de facto slavery) and who work only to: pay off debt (to banks), have food, and have a roof over their heads.

How do we fix it?

Now for the first question:

Where are you in the hierarchy? The most important point in this essay is that you can ascend and descend in these layers. It has always been accomplished in every age. The common born Socrates reached level 1 (but he was killed by level 2). Popes have arisen from slave status level 4 to high priest status level 1. Many Roman Emperors began as level 2 generals and then later became level 1 emperors and even philosophers (Marcus Aurelius). In fact, it has always been quite easy for some people to ascend to level 1. Just be aware that level 1 people are often killed by level 2 people.

Now for the second question:

Isn’t it obvious that Christians are leaving or being forced out of level 1 (head) and level 2 (chest)? Christians are less welcome in Universities. Less welcome in politics. Less welcome in film, TV, and media. It’s a given. This means a revolution is under way whether we recognize it or not. The TV stations, the internet, the news media, and the social media have driven out everything Christian and are replacing it with a new state-sponsored religion of political correctness, which is really environmentalism, pansexuality, and moral tolerance. 

Now for the third question:

What is our response as Christians? There are two options for us:

  1. FIRST OPTION: We can fight to take back levels 1 and 2 through intellectual and moral excellence.
  2. SECOND OPTION: We can recreate our own parallel society/culture and seek to win the long distance race of permanence. This is sometimes called the Benedict Option (hat tip to Eastern Orthodox author Rod Dreher) since it follows Saint Benedict creating an alternative culture and intellectual climate.

Taylor Marshall’s conclusion on the matter:

My belief is that Christians currently have possess all 4 levels in action whether or not we are recognized in society (we have intellectuals, warriors, artisans, laborers).

Therefore we should be pursuing both strategies at the same time:

  1. We should be fighting to take back levels 1 and 2 (apologetics, academics, along with undermining the anti-Christian institutions).
    AND
  2. We should build parallel institutions (e.g., our own Universities, schools, Troops of Saint George, our own TV/radio stations, our own art, our own Social Media outlets, our own news stations).

Some of us can push forward and fight on the front lines of layers 1 and 2 now, while some of us can retreat and construct our own parallel society (of layers 1-4).

Why Catholics are struggling at the moment to accomplish this transition:

The hardest part is that Christians (especially Catholics) are still deeply tied to all the old institutions, old universities, old political parties, and old means of communication (eg, announcements during liturgy and bulletins). This means we are having a very difficult time establishing a pivot.

Also, the Catholic hierarchy in the West still acts like it is operating at level 1 influence. Sadly, this is not the case. Secular nations have spent the last several decades figuring out ways to transform bishops from level 1 priestly spiritual leaders into level 3 producers of funds (taxation of church is the end game) and into level 3 producers of government service (grants to do government work which we saw occur in America under President Obama).

The ultimate aim here is the same as that of King Henry VIII – to make the bishops into level 3 producers and transfer their wealth, land, and production (offerings) to the State. See 16th century England, Denmark, Sweden, Norway for details on how it all goes down.

The difficulty in establishing a Christian pivot for a new era can be observed in how both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis are so deeply wedded to the European Union and traditional forms of communication (eg, Encyclicals) as means for bringing about Catholic influence. The Pope might as well be talking about feudalism and the Code of Hammurabi. It’s like carrying bows and arrows into an era of nuclear war.

The most brilliant minds in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are talking about the Benedict Option (Option 2: parallel institutions), but we need to engage both fronts. The intellectuals who are currently “fighting the culture war” while trying to win back levels 1 and 2 are either Jewish (Ben Shapiro, Mark Levin, Michael Savage) or secular in outlook (Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnis, Jordan Peterson). Some might see this “diversity” as a strength. I see it as as weakness. Here’s why:

As much as I like listening Jordan Peterson or even Ben Shapiro, I sometimes cringe when I think of how much better an equipped Christian could respond. We have a profound intellectual tradition (Thomism), but we are not using it. This is likely why God has allowed Christian influence to wane.

Where are the Christians? We need to spend the next decade prayerfully cultivating sharp and relevant Christian minds to engage the culture and social media. It’s required for the common good of society and for the moral excellence of next generation. It’s not enough to possess them only within our own parallel “Benedict Option” institutions. We need them out front in the current culture war. And in case you’re ready to sign up for this “level 1” position, be mindful of those level 1 intellectuals and prophets who came before you marked with blood: Isaiah, Socrates, Cicero, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, Boethius, Thomas Becket, and Thomas More to name a few.

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132: St Patrick in 9 Bullet Points and the “Two Patrick Theory” [Podcast]

Who was the historical Saint Patrick? In this 8 minute podcast, I give you an overview of his person, theology, and tradition based primarily on his own autobiography: St Patrick’s Confessio. Click on the triangle player below to get started:

PARENTAL WARNING: I discuss a strange episode in Patrick’s life where sailors ask him to “suck their breasts” and explain what that meant in ancient Ireland (Hint: it symbolized as oath of coming under another person’s protection.)

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Video: The Milk of Mother Church is Not Tainted or Poisoned

I’m reluctant to share this because I’m generally skeptical about anything smacking of private revelations, but after going to confession yesterday, I intuited a spiritual reality and I thought I’d share it with you. It’s certainly not a mystical vision per se, but it is a consolation.

It helped remind me of my deep love for the Catholic Church, and the great comfort we have in the preservation of sanctifying grace and doctrine within the bosom of the Catholic Church. Reminding ourselves of the Church’s identity as “mother” can bring us profound consolation during times of “ecclesial frustration.”

Here’s a 3 minute video of me explaining the purity of Mother Church’s milk and how we can only find life and nourishment in the bosom of the Church:

(Click here to watch video on Youtube.)

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129: Aquinas Why Fish and No Meat in Lent PLUS the Demonic Incubus and Sucubus! [Podcast]

Join Dr Taylor Marshall this week as he explains why Thomas Aquinas thought animal and bird flesh caused a higher human sexual libido and how it relates to our customs for fasting and abstinence during Lent. Believe it or not, what Saint Thomas says in the 1200s about diet is actually confirmed by testosterone studies in our time.

We also look Eastern Catholic Church Bible translations AND the demonic sexual apparitions of the sucubus (female version) and incubus (male version) attested to by Augustine and Aquinas.

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129: Aquinas Why Fish and No Meat in Lent PLUS the Demonic Incubus and Sucubus! [Podcast]

If the audio player does not show up in your email or browser, please click here to listen.

I’d love to read your feedback: While you listen to today’s podcast, would you please take 30 seconds to write a review? Please click here to Rate this Podcast!

Please Share Your Feedback:

  • POPULARITY: 1,448,642 downloads on iTunes as of today.
  • SHOUT OUTS: A huge “shout out” to all 520 (!) of you who wrote amazing 5-star reviews at iTunes. Please rate this podcast by clicking here. From there you can leave a review. I appreciate you for this! Thank you!

Subscribe to This Weekly Podcast:

  • Apple/Mac Users: Please subscribe via iTunes by clicking here and then clicking on “View in iTunes.”

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Medieval Lent was Harder than Islamic Ramadan

I have been told that medieval Christians would ridicule the Islamic season of fasting called Ramadan as weak, effeminate, and easy when compared to the austere Christian season of fasting during Lent or Quadragesima.

The Catholic Church has decreased the austerity of Lent over the centuries so much that Islamic Ramadan now appears as more challenging than Lent. Let’s take a look at Ramadan compared to Medieval Lent.

Rules for Islamic Ramadan:

  1. Duration? 29-30 days during the entire month of during the entire month of Ramadan.
  2. Fasting rules? Fasting completely from the break of dawn until sunset:
    1. food (zero calories and no food intake)
    2. drink (including water)
    3. sexual intercourse
    4. smoking

Rules for Medieval Quadragesima or “Lent”:

Nota bene: I’m using the standards of the Roman Church. The Eastern Churches have had various disciplines by jurisdiction. For this article, we are focusing only on the Roman rules. Perhaps we’ll study the Eastern fasting rules in a future post.

  1. Duration? 46 days. 40 Days plus 6 Sundays in the Roman Church.
  2. Fasting rules? Medieval Lenten rules (as described Saint Thomas Aquinas) were as follows:
    1. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday were black fasts: no food at all.
    2. No food from waking until 3pm (the hour when Christ died). This practice of fasting till 3pm goes back to the 5th century (see Socrates’ Church History V.22).
    3. No animal meat or fats (no lard).
    4. Fish was allowed. Click here to understand the theology of why fish was is allowed, but not meat.
    5. No eggs.
    6. No lacticinia or “dairy products”: milk, cheese, cream, and butter. However, Catholics of the British Isles before the arrival of Saint Augustine of Canterbury were still consuming dairy products and perhaps eggs during Lent. Roman influence brought this to an end.
    7. Wine and beer were allowed.
    8. Medieval Europeans during Lent subsisted on bread, vegetables, and salt.
    9. No sexual intercourse between spouses. Pagan kings were pretty pissed to learn about this after they married hot Catholic princesses.
    10. No Sundays off. All these rules apply for 46 days. The 6 Sundays in Lent were relaxed liturgically (less penitential), but the fasting and abstinence were not relaxed on Sundays.
    11. For the Good Friday black fast, many would begin fast from Maundy Thursday night till about noon on Saturday. The Easter Vigil was usually celebrated about noon on Saturday and this ended the Lenten fasting officially.
  3. Was it Changed?
    1. Breaking the no food fast before 3pm began to creep in as early as AD 800. The reason we English speakers call 12pm “noon” is because the liturgical recitation of nones (“ninth hour” or 3pm in Latin) was moved up by hungry monks more and more until nones (3pm) was celebrated as early as 12pm so that they could break fast and eat lunch!)
    2. In Germany, dispensations were given for consuming lacticinia or dairy products based on payment or performing good deeds. In honesty, wealthy people simply paid a fee to the diocese, and were allowed to serve and eat dairy in their homes during Lent. It was a popular “fundraising technique” by (German!) bishops.
    3. Dinner snacks were allowed at the time of reading Cassians book Collationes and so this snack became known as a “collation” – the term we still use today for a snack during fasting.
    4. With the advent of tea and coffee, it became allowable to have tea or coffee in the morning and this was considered as not violating the fast before nones.
    5. Over time, papal indults allowed meat on Sundays and then to other days of the week until only Friday remained “meatless.”
    6. Pope Paul VI’s 1966 Apostolic Constitution of Paenitemini changed Lenten practice to what it is today:
      1. No meat (only fish) allowed on Fridays in Lent.
      2. 1 meal and 2 collations (snacks) allowed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Ramadan vs Medieval Lent:

  1. Both have no food at all until 3pm (Catholic) or sundown (Muslim).
  2. Both have no sex allowed at all, but the Muslim is allowed at night.
  3. Only the Catholic is restricted on kinds of food (no meat, dairy, eggs), whereas the Muslim can eat steak every night.
  4. Muslims may not drink even water during the daylight, but Christians may.

Conclusion: Medieval Christians were Tough

For the Medieval Christian, he would have seen the chief difference between Lent and Ramadan as the Muslims having a “reset” every single night with refreshment with food and sex every 24 hours. Whereas the Christian had to wait until Easter. The Muslim had daily sprints. The Medieval Christian had a marathon that ended on Easter.

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So could you do it? No sex, butter, or bacon for 46 days? No food daily till 3pm? Leave a comment and tell me what you think about this old Lenten rules. Is it good or bad that changed them?

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Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

Don’t miss my Catholic Webinar on Mohammad and Islam (and the Crusades):

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  • the real story behind Muhammad and the Quran
  • how Muhammad’s wife had heretical Christian connections
  • how Islam spread by the sword
  • the defensive reason for the Catholic Crusades
  • how “the Crusades” are used by liberals to malign Christianity
  • PLUS: Book recommendations
  • EVERYONE THAT ATTENDS WILL RECEIVE A pdf Handout on Muhammad. Please register below.

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How I Failed as a Father on Valentine’s Day: Stickers on the Theotokos

Sometimes a father’s zeal is too zealous.

My adorable four year old daughter took Valentine’s Day stickers and went through our home sticking them on all of our religious art.

I (regretfully) became angry with her. For example, I was pretty upset to see a cheap sticker on this authentic egg-tempera painted icon of the Holy Theotokos and Christ Child:

Here is another “epic” example:

I scolded her and told her that she should not place stickers on holy things. We should revere holy images and not treat them disrespectfully.

I watched her eyes well up with tears and she turned her face away from me in shame. My sweet wife Joy said, “Honey, I think she was doing something else.” And then it hit me. Maybe it was my Guardian Angel slapping me upside the back of my head.

I asked her, “Were you placing all these stickers on Jesus, Mary, and the Saints because you love them and want to show your Valentines love for your friends?”

She nodded her head “yes” with teary eyes. I gave her a hug and told her what a good girl she was. I felt bad. She was innocently showing childlike “dulia” for these holy images in full accord with the Seventh Ecumenical Council (podcast here).

And the silly stickers came off no problem and damaged nothing.

It reminded me of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to Christian fathers:

 

“And you, fathers, provoke not your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and correction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

Fathers, be slow to correct and consider the motivations of the little ones. We don’t want to drive away their innocent devotion to that which is good.

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Happy Valentines Day and Happy Ash Wednesday,
Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: I’m sealed for death and resurrection in Christ!

Saint Agatha in 7 Points (Patroness of Breast Cancer Patients)

In our sexually obsessed culture, the virgin martyrs are our “cloud of witnesses” for sexual purity and chastity. Today is the feast of Saint Agatha who is famous for her iconographical depiction of her breasts – sometimes euphemistically referred to as “Saint Agatha’s Bells.”

I’ve assembled her life and story (along with the legendary significance of her breasts) below in seven points:

  1. Dates. Saint Agatha (not be be confused with the virgin martyr Saint Agnes) was murdered as a consecrated virgin during the persecution of Decius (250–253) in Catania, Sicily.
  2. Her Passion and Martyrdom. According to legend, Agatha was the daughter of a rich and noble family. She consecrated her virginity to our Lord Jesus at age 15. The Roman prefect Quintianus sought to either rape her or marry her and she refused his advances. In retaliation, he sent Agatha to a whorehouse under a madame named Aphrodisia. Agatha refused to serve as a prostitute and was sent back to Quintianus who had both of her breasts cut off (the so-called “bells of Agatha”) and sentenced her to be burned at the stake. An earthquake prevented this fate. Saint Peter appeared to her and healed her breasts. She died in at peace in prison.
    Painting: St Peter healing the breasts of Saint Agatha.
  3. An Early Legend featuring Saint Peter. The legend is ancient because by AD 325, male bishops would not touch Christian females – so that deaconesses were employed for the baptism by immersion of females. This legend describes Saint Peter not only touching Agatha’s body, but touching her breasts to heal her – something quite scandalous by the fourth century. The story also reveals that Christians in the 200s had a deep understanding of the Communion of the Saints and believed that saints can and did intervene miraculously in the lives of Christians.
  4. Her Relics. Agatha’s body is buried at the Badia di Sant’Agata in Catania, Sicily.
  5. Agatha’s Church in Rome. Church of Saint Agnes of the Goths. The Church of Sant’Agata dei Goti (of the Goths) adapted to Arian Church of the Goths, hence its name “Saint Agatha of Goths.” It was re-consecrated as a Catholic Church by Saint Gregory the Great.
  6. Agatha’s Iconography. Agatha is almost always depicted carrying her breasts on a tray as in the painting by Zurbarán (below). It is difficult to find a traditional image, statue, or icon that does not depict her breasts. The removal of her breasts is a sign of consecrated virginity. For centuries, this depiction of Agatha visibly depicted how Agatha sacrificed the ability to nurse children. The breasts are a sign of motherhood.
    Saint Agatha by Zurbarán
  7. Her Patronage for Breast Cancer Patients. She is the first recorded woman to experience a full and radical mastectomy, and she naturally became the patroness of breast cancer patients. Traditionally, she is also the patroness of Sicily, wet nurses, bell-founders, bakers, earthquakes, and eruptions of Mount Etna.

Please share this with you friends on this feast of Saint Agatha on Facebook by clicking here. May she pray for us and inspire to prefer chastity and love for Christ above all the temptations of this life.

Saint Agatha, pray for us,
Dr Taylor Marshall

Pope Saint Callixtus I – Laxity, Contraception, Abortion in AD 217

What happens when you have canonized Catholic saints criticizing and resisting a canonic Catholic pope? That’s exactly what happened with Pope Saint Callixtus I, who died in AD 223.

Tertullian and Origen spoke against Pope Callixtus for his laxity. And Saint Hippolytus became the Catholic Church’s first antipope in resistance to Pope Callixtus who he saw as promoting and allowing: contraception, abortion, heresy, and easy-penance.

Why the conflict?

Before we get started I want to stress that all this happened 100 years before Constantine legalized Catholicism. Some wrongly assume that before Constantine the Church of Rome was a happy assembly of saints without church politics. Not quite. The Church of Rome has been plagued with conflict and controversy from the very beginning (as detailed in this book).

The document Philosophumena (attributed to Saint Hippolytus of Rome) recounts how Pope Callixtus had once been a Roman slave belonging to a Christian master named Carpophorus. Carpophorus placed his slave Callixtus (the future pope) in charge of funds that he had collected from other Christians for the care of orphans, widows, and the poor.

Callixtus the slave who lost all the money. He fled Rome but was discovered boarding a ship near Portus, the harbor city of Rome. Callixtus jumped overboard to avoid capture but was arrested nonetheless and taken back to his Christian master Carpophorus.

In an attempt to recover the money, Callixtus the slave physically assaulted Jews inside a Roman synagogue in attempt to either get a loan from the Jews or to collect debts from Jews. He was re-arrested. At this time, he was denounced as a Christian (probably by the Roman Jews) and sent as a prisoner to the mines of Sardinia.

Enter the Emperor Commodus. Commodus was the son of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. You likely remember him from the film Gladiator:

The Emperor Commodus had a “Christian” mistress named Marcia (you might be surprised to learn that Rome one hundred years later had a collection of so-called “Christian prostitutes” that were regulated by Constantine’s son). The “Christian mistress” Marcia was served by a eunuch named Hyacinth who was also an ordained presbyter. (100 years later, eunuchs were banned from ordination at the Council of Nicea).

Marcia and Hyacinth appealed to the Roman Emperor Commodus for the release of Christian prisoners from the mines of Sardinia. This imperial intervention effected the release of Callixtus and other Christians in the mines. Life in the mines was rough and they had suffered there as witnesses to our Lord Jesus Christ. These Christians were honored by Christians back in Rome as quasi-martyrs.

Callixtus’s Rise to the Papacy:

  • Pope Victor I as Bishop of Rome honored Callixtus with a monthly pension from the Catholic Church, supposedly to honor him as a living confessor (one who suffered for Christ, but did not die).
  • Pope Zephyrinus (successor of Victor I) honored Callixtus in AD 199 by ordaining him as one of the prestigious “seven deacons of Rome,” and appointed him as guardian of the catacombs along the Appian Way. To this day, these catacombs are named after Callixtus as the “Catacombs of Saint Callixtus.” From his time until the time of Constantine, this catacomb became the ceremonial burial place for nine bishops of Rome. (Origen visited Rome during the reign of Pope Zephyrinus.)
  • Deacon Callixtus became the chief advisor of Pope Zephyrinus in Rome.
  • In AD 217, Pope Zephyrinus received the crown of martyrdom and the Deacon Callixtus was the obvious choice for Bishop of Rome.
  • Callixtus became Pope in AD 217 and established Santa Maria in Trastevere as his principle “cathedral” in Rome (this was before the Lateran basilica was given to the Church by Constantine and before the construction of the basilica at the Vatican).

Pope Callixtus as a “Lax Pope”:

Callixtus’s “pre-mining” life had been one of financial controversy, and yet he had proved himself faithful to Christ in the mines and worthy of respect and office in the Church of Rome. Perhaps it was his controversial past that lead to his position of laxity for the Church in Rome.

In AD 217 (the first year of his Pontificate), Pope Callixtus issued the “Decree of 217” which scandalized many, especially Tertullian who documents the episode. The Decree of 217 stated that penance and absolution would be enough to re-admit Christians to the Eucharist for the seven sins previously restricted. These seven sins were:

  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).

Pope Callixtus also allowed:

  • not requiring public penance from heretics entering the Catholic Church.
  • clergy t0 marry before and after ordination.
  • noble women to contract Christian marriages with plebs and slaves (forbidden by Roman law).

The Christians at the time were divided on this lax approach to sinners.

  • Tertullian openly wrote and taught against the lax novelties of Pope Callixtus.
  • The Greek-speaking Roman priest Hippolytus was elected as a rival Bishop of Rome and became the Church’s first Anti-Pope.
  • Origen relates how when he was in Rome he heard the famous Hippolytus preach – showing that Origen was sympathetic with Hippolytus’ theology. It seems however that Origen greatly respected the Bishop of Rome and that he heard Hippolytus preach before Hippolytus presumed to become a rival Bishop in Rome. Nevertheless, Origen’s strictness would seem to make him more sympathetic with the ancient practice of making sacramental absolution rare.

In general, opponents of Pope Callixtus alleged that his policies would lead to a lower of morals among Christians, and this proved to the case with regard to contraception and abortion.

The Problem of Abortion and Contraception among Christians during the time of Pope Callixtus:

Hippolytus laments that Catholic women in Rome began to engage in contraception and abortion during the lax reign of Pope Callixtus:

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.

For Hippolytus, this rise in contraception and abortion among Roman Christian women was a sign that the laxity of Pope Callixtus was bearing evil fruit.

Five or six years later, Pope Callixtus received the crown of martyrdom in AD 222 or 223 and was enrolled in the number of the saints. His feast day is October 14.

Conclusion:

Do grace and mercy lead to laxity. It’s a common question: If God forgives me no matter what, why not just keep sinning? Why change my life at all?

This precise question is tackled by Saint Paul in his epistle to the Romans 6:

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried[a] therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

It was and will be a perennial question for Christians in every age. If a Christian can just “pray the prayer” (as Evangelicals say), just be baptized, just go to confession, or just get an indulgence, why live like a saint?

Problems also with Rigorism:

But there is an opposite error. If the forgiveness of sin is rigorous (as it was before AD 217), two results follow:

  1. First, is simply despair. If forgiveness if far off, why even try?
  2. There is a second result that I would like to suggest that I rarely see in Patristic studies. I believe that the popularity of Gnosticism and Gnostic sects the exploded in the 100s was partly due to the lack of access to sacramental absolution. Gnostics promised that there were secret ways (not depending on morality or absolution) that allowed access to God. If a Christian had fallen into apostasy, murder, or adultery and could not find forgiveness and communion within the Catholic Church, there would be extreme pressure to join a Gnostic cult where immediate salvation and access to God was assured.

All Catholics today (even the SSPX) would grant that Pope Callixtus made the correct move, by allowing for “easy” absolution of grave sins before the time of death. (Easy, by the way, still entailed periods of public penance.) Did this new laxity come with a price? Yes. Did Catholic women try to “get away” with contraception and abortion? Yes. Does that still happen today? Yes.

Is the solution to this form of laxity to make the conditions for sacramental absolution more strict? No. I don’t think so. People can and will take advantage of grace in every age. There is no way to prevent that. However, we must always be in a position to recognize the forgiveness and mercy of Christ who was ready to immediately forgive the repentant Peter, Thomas, Paul, et al.

Question: I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic of lax vs. rigorous absolution. 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