Tongues of Fire and Bishops in Pointy Hats (Acts and 1 Enoch)

Why did “tongues of fire” appear on the first Pentecost? How does it relate to Heaven and the Temple? (And why do Catholic bishops wear those pointy hats? Let’s find out:

Our Catholic feast of Pentecost derives from the Jewish feast of Pentecost or Shavuot (Feast of Weeks). Pentecost (πεντηκοστή) is Greek for the “50th [day]” since Passover/Easter (7 weeks x 7 days = 49 days).

For the Israelites, Pentecost was important because:

  1. It is the day on which the rainbow appeared to Noah.
  2. It is the day on which Moses received the 613 Laws from God.
  3. It is the day on which King David was born and died.
  4. It is also the “Feast of Firstfruits,” the first harvest of the spring wheat crops.
    (Barley was harvested at Passover; Wheat was harvested at Pentecost.)

The Holy Spirit at the First Christian Pentecost

Saint Luke describes the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The Holy Spirit manifests as “tongues of fire” so as to give the Apostles the power to speak in other tongues/languages. In the Roman West, the Catholic mitre signifies the “tongue of fire” resting on the head of an Apostle. Bishops are successors of the the Pentecost Apostles and thus they wear a “tongue” on their head. You get the idea. I used our holy Bishop Fulton Sheen as a mockup:

These tongues of fire allowed the 12 Apostles to proclaim the New Law to the Church. Saint Thomas Aquinas states that the “New Law” is the Person of the Holy Spirit: “What else are the Divine laws written by God Himself on our hearts, but the very presence of His Holy Spirit?” (STh I-II, q. 106, a. 1).

Why “Tongues” of Fire? A Hint in 1 Enoch:

Why are there tongues of fire? Why not lips of fire or words of fire? Why not a fiery dove to conform to the baptism of Christ at the Jordan?

The tongues likely evoke the Hebrew concept of “tongues” praising God. As such, there is a Jewish mystical tradition that God’s heavenly temple above is surrounded by praising “tongues of fire.” Enoch is entering the Temple of Heaven and seeing God there amidst the tongues of fire:

“Behold, in the vision clouds invited me and a mist summoned me, and the course of the stars and the lightnings sped and hastened me, and the winds in 9 the vision caused me to fly and lifted me upward, and bore me into heaven. And I went in till I drew nigh to a wall which is built of crystals and surrounded by tongues of fire: and it began to affright 10 me. And I went into the tongues of fire and drew nigh to a large house which was built of crystals: and the walls of the house were like a tesselated floor (made) of crystals, and its groundwork was 11 of crystal. Its ceiling was like the path of the stars and the lightnings, and between them were 12 fiery cherubim, and their heaven was (clear as) water. A flaming fire surrounded the walls, and its 13 portals blazed with fire. And I entered into that house, and it was hot as fire and cold as ice: there 14 were no delights of life therein: fear covered me, and trembling got hold upon me. And as I quaked 15 and trembled, I fell upon my face. And I beheld a vision, And lo! there was a second house, greater 16 than the former, and the entire portal stood open before me, and it was built of flames of fire. And in every respect it so excelled in splendour and magnificence and extent that I cannot describe to 17 you its splendour and its extent. And its floor was of fire, and above it were lightnings and the path 18 of the stars, and its ceiling also was flaming fire. And I looked and saw therein a lofty throne: its appearance was as crystal, and the wheels thereof as the shining sun, and there was the vision of 19 cherubim. And from underneath the throne came streams of flaming fire so that I could not look 20 thereon. And the Great Glory sat thereon, and His raiment shone more brightly than the sun and 21 was whiter than any snow. (1 Enoch 14:8-22)

The tongues of fire surround the Temple of Heaven. In Pentecost we see the the New Temple which is the Body of Christ and the Catholic Church. The Apostles are now anointed with tongues of fire to be the foundation and walls of this heavenly Temple on earth.

As I explain in The Crucified Rabbi, the temple is the incarnate Body of Christ. As I repeat over and over: “Catholicism is Third Temple Judaism. Why? Because Jesus replaced the Second Temple with His own Eucharistic Body.” Catholicism is Third Temple Judaism. Why? Because Jesus replaced the Second Temple with His own Eucharistic Body. So Catholics pray toward this new Temple. - Dr Taylor Marshall Click To Tweet

I’ve spent the last week reading 1 Enoch and comparing it to Luke-Acts and finding lots of amazing connections. So stay tuned for me. Till then check out my recent post on 1 Enoch and Jude/2 Peter.

It’s especially interesting that the solar calendar described by Enoch in 1 Enoch always places Pentecost Sunday (and Passover) on a Sunday (New Testament) and not a Saturday (Old Testament). This further informs what we know about Pentecost Sunday as always a Sunday in the New Covenant. More on that later.

I also have a podcast on the tongue of fire and how it relates to the old Latin liturgy which you can listen to here: Podcast: 1 Enoch, Tongues of Fire and Pre-Vatican II Liturgy. I’ve created a new category on this blog called “Enoch Studies” so you can follow more research on this topic. I think I’ll do a book on it shortly.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Jesus’s Holy Land only had 1 Million People and He fed 1 Percent of Them

Josephus relates that 1.1 million Jews were killed in AD 70 with the destruction of the Temple. I’ve spilled a lot of ink showing that Josephus cannot and should not be trusted with numbers or dates (and that’s why we should believe that Jesus was born on Dec 25 1 BC as I explain in this book).

Scholars suggest that about 1 million people lived in the Holy Land during the time of Jesus. For perspective, one million people is the population of the state of Rhode Island at 1 million people.

Houston Texas has about 2.2 million people. So when Jesus was walking around Galilee, Samaria, and Judea, he was engaging with a population less than half of Houston, Texas.

Here’s something else to consider about the impact of Jesus on the population:

Jesus fed 5,000 and 4,000 people on two separate occasions. Assuming that they these two groups did not overlap, that means that Jesus personally fed about 1% of the population of the Holy Land (9,000 / 1,000,000). 1 out 100 people had been fed miraculously by Jesus Christ. If you add in Christ’s travel, preaching, and teaching it’s not far off to estimate that 10% of the populace had seen or heard Jesus in person.

That’s a low estimate since we know that Jesus was preaching and teaching at least annually in Jerusalem when most people were assembled there in the city for Passover. So it could be that as much as 25-50% of people living in the Holy Land had heard or witnessed Jesus Christ. This is why Peter on Pentecost AD 33 speaks to the crowd there about “Jesus” and they know who he is talking about.

To use an analogy, how many people living in Houston know of the local preacher Joel Osteen? All of them. And this is why the High Priest and Sanhedrin wanted to kill Jesus so badly. Jesus was a big deal. Everyone knew him or knew of him.

This should change how we understand both the historicity of Jesus but also impact of Jesus ministry.

Practical question:

If Jesus Christ could touch so many lives in three years, shouldn’t we be able to touch so many now with the power of literacy, digital communication, and social media?

Question:  What is lacking in modern Christianity that makes it so easily dismissed? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

PS: To learn more about Catholic History and the birth date and death date of Jesus Christ, check out my book The Eternal City.

Did St Luke mention Christ appearing “over 500” from 1 Corinthians?

The day after Easter I wrote about the appearance of Christ to “over 500 at the same time” mentioned by Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians. Who were they? You can read it here. I provided four possible options.

Since then I’ve found a fifth option within Saint Luke’s Gospel. As I explain in my book The Catholic Perspective on Paul, I always try to interpret Saint Paul’s Epistles in light of Luke-Acts and vice versa. I do this because Saint Paul explicitly cites the Gospel of Luke as Sacred Scripture (read about it here).

So this new “fifth option” of finding Christ appear to the 500 within Luke’s Gospel is especially attractive to me, since I believe that Saint Paul received and carried Luke’s written Gospel as his favorite Gospel:

Luke on Christ appearing to more than the Apostles “at one time”:

It is the episode after the apparition of Christ to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus on the actual afternoon of Christ’s resurrection. First, Christ appears to “the women,” and then to Peter in the morning. Then later, on the road to Emmaus Christ appears to the two, and then once again to a larger group that includes the Apostles who are gathered with an unspecified number of people:

33 And they [the two Emmaus witnesses] rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the Eleven gathered together and those who were with them [Is this the 500? We are not told how many had gathered together with the Apostles on that day, but word had gotten out already since the two on the road had already heard of it – so the followers of Jesus were already talking and likely coming together on Sunday]34 who said [to the two returning from Emmaus], “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” [So Luke records Jesus appearing to Peter here] 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. [Euchastic theology here]

36 As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them [the Apostles, the two from the Road to Emmaus and however many more – is this the 500?], “Peace to you.” 37 But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. [It doesn’t get more “resurrection of the body” than that.]

This is definitely a resurrection appearance of Christ, but I had never previously noted that the Apostles were not alone. They were with “others.” Could this be the “500 at one time” from 1 Corinthians. I’m now inclined to think so.

Luke’s Timeline for First Week after Resurrection:

I’m also wondering if Luke has telescoped the timeline here. Luke specifically says that the two disciples arrived to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection: “today is the third day since these things happened.”

But then after dark they have invite the Stranger (Jesus) to dine with them and during the dinner the Stranger “breaks bread” and they realize that is is Jesus! By now it’s likely 8pm.

It says that they rose up and returned to Jerusalem. But Jerusalem is 7 miles from Emmaus. If they ran it would take 1-2 hours. If they walked, it would take about 3 hours. By now it’s closer to midnight.

I believe that the two Emmaus disciples actually met up with the Eleven one week later. Why?

Luke says that the “eleven” were together, and that they touched and “handled” Christ. However, John tell us on the day of the Resurrection (first day of Easter), only 10 Apostles were assembled and not all 11 Apostles since Thomas was absent. It was the next Sunday that Thomas was there (all 11 Apostles) and we have the details of touching and handling Jesus Christ. This, I think, is when the 2 Emmaus disciples met with the “eleven.”

For those interested in private revelation, Blessed Anne Katherine Emmerich states that the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus were Cleopas (named in the Gospel) and…Saint Luke.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

133: Saint Joseph in 9 Points Podcast (Should You Bury His Statue?)

In today’s audio lesson podcast I cover 9 questions on Saint Joseph:

  1. What does the name “Joseph” mean?
  2. Where is he mentioned in the 4 Gospels?
  3. Was Joseph really a “carpenter” or something more?
  4. What languages would he have spoken? Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin?
  5. Was Joseph young or old when he married Mary?
  6. Was he truly married to Mary even those it was a Josephite marriage?
  7. Did Joseph ever commit sins?
  8. Why are there no relics of Joseph?
  9. Should you bury his statue to sell your home?

Listen to this brief podcast as I tackle each of these questions:

Or download the mp3 directly by clicking here.

 

The Name of Jesus Adds up to 888 (against the 666)

Here’s a short 3 minute video I recorded answer a question about the number 8 as the eternal numeral in Natural Law, Old Law, and the New Law and how the Holy Name of Jesus adds up to 888 – which is contrary the Beasts name adding up to 666. Here’s the short video:

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Viking Creation Myth vs. Jewish Creation in Genesis 1-3

I’m reading Viking Norse Cosmology. I got into it while writing Storm of Fire and Blood depicting Saint George in northern Europe, as well as Saint Christopher (and Saint Nicholas) as historical types of an authentic and Christian “Odin.”

The Norse creation myths are interesting and entertaining. Yet they is also ridiculous. Fire and ice converge to make an evil giant. Another giant spring from that giant’s left armpit sweat. His right foot breeding with his left foot and makes another giant.

Odin and the gods chop him up to create planet earth. They pulverize his bones to create sand and extract the giant’s teeth to make mountains and rocky crags.

At this point you realize the profound scientific and philosophical accuracy of Hebrew cosmology in Genesis 1-3 and John 1. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

Compare this to the recitation of the Norse Viking creation myth:

Philosophically, the Norse creation myth lacks what the Jewish creation account has: God speaking and creating through His Word (John 1). This makes the universe into a rational construct. It isn’t the recycling of a giant’s mutilated body. It is the result of the spoken word. A word goes forth from God and “bang” there is space and time.

It is remarkable how well our scientific knowledge about the expanding universe maps on to the account in Genesis. Even the progressive creation of the vegetable and animal species lacks the fantastical accounts.

The Norse myths are fun but I don’t see how a modern man could honestly assent to them – even in an extremely allegorical way. Meanwhile the account in Genesis, with man formed from the earth, is quite on point.

Godspeed,

Dr Taylor Marshall

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Holy Innocents: Why does God allow so many babies to die?

How do Christians account for child martyrdom, child death, original sin and the fact that the majority of Homo sapiens have died before birth?

The feast of the Holy Innocents marks the martyrdom of an unnumbered group of boys aged 2 and under during the reign of King Herod and fulfills the prophecy of St Jeremias:

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.’ (Jer 31:15)

How can children become martyrs if they cannot speak or affirm faith?

These holy innocents are martyrs because they were murdered in odium fidei (in hatred of the Faith). If someone kills a child on accident or even through malice, that child is not a martyr. However, if the murderer kills the child out of hatred for Christ or the Christian faith, then the child is a martyr. Same goes for adults. If a robber shoots a father in his home, he is not a martyr. If an Islamic State terrorists shoots because a man because he won’t renounce Christ, then that victim is a martyr.

Children can become martyrs for the same reason that children are baptized. Other persons can effect persecution (or sacramental grace) upon them. Babies have personal relationships. My babies had “personal relationships” with their mother at the breast immediately (and even before birth). It’s a unique non-verbal relationship. And if that “personal relationship” between mother and baby exists, then a “personal relationship” can exist between a baby and our Triune God.

Parents usher their babies into the eternal life and energy of the Holy Trinity at the baptismal font and so also did Herod’s soldiers baptize the Holy Innocents with their own blood.

Our family asks for the intercession of the boy Holy Innocents every evening and their presence in Scripture and the Catholic Calendar remind us that children die. But why?

Why do children die?

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 202) explained how the sin of Adam and Eve passed down to all generations and deprived even infants of the supernatural blessing of Eden.

The Eastern Fathers such as Saint Gregory Nazianzus noted the theological problem of children dying. Children are not guilty of personal sins. Why would God allow them to die. And when they die, where do they go? Heaven? Hell? Perhaps a special place reserved for them?

Saint Gregory and others noted that children die not through their own fault, but on account of being born outside Eden – that is being born under the sin of Adam and Eve. The Eastern Churched calls this προπατορικὸν ἁμάρτημα (propatorikon harmatema) or “ancestral sin.”

The Western Church calls it peccatum originale or “original sin.” Without getting into Eastern vs. Western distinctions, all Christians agree that the penalty of death has spread to all human persons, even children. And we all agree (even the Jansenist or Calvinist) that children die not on account of their own personal misdeeds.

Why do they die? We don’t know, but we trust that their eternal life is better than any life they had here. Whether it is postulated as natural paradise, limbo, or a hope for supernatural Heaven itself, their life is one of peace, rest, happiness, and beatitude.

Do most humans die in infancy?

It’s patently obvious that more than 51+% of members of the race of homo sapiens died before the age of 7. We might even dare to say that 51+% of every homo sapiens died before being born. This is a starting fact to consider from a theological perspective. Most humans in God’s image died prior breathing.

Why is this?

There are a few optional explanations:

  1. Predestination Option: God predestines most humans to die in utero or in infancy because he likes the idea of Heaven (or limbo) being populated with people who have never committed a personal sin against him or another – despite them having been conceived without habitual grace. This theory would posit that every human child receives habitual or sacramental grace prior to death to Heaven OR that they don’t receive habitual grace and so end up in perfect natural (but not supernatural) paradise. And this natural paradise is often known off the cuff as limbo. (Pun intended. The Latin limbus means “cuff”.)

    [NOTE: I should add here that the heretic John Calvin used this argument above (that all deceased babies go to Heaven) in favor of unconditional election. He noted that so many babies die before and after birth (including his own dead children), and so this confirms the fact that God chooses them for Heaven without any faith or merit.]

  2. Pre-Existence Option: The Church Father (but not saint) Origen posited that every human pre-existed in a celestial realm prior to conception in a mother’s womb. Each of these minds erred or sinned in this celestial realm and thus were consigned to a carnal life on earth suiting the measure of their rebellion. So a pre-existent mind that rebelled greatly against the Trinity would be given a very tedious life on earth so that they could merit salvation through Christ. However, a pre-existent mind that only slightly rebelled against the Trinity would be given a very brief life on earth by which they would turn back to God. And these, then, are the little children that die before and after birth. They are the ones who sinned in a lesser degree before being conceived on earth.

    [NOTE: This opinion of Origen is not held by many today – except in a corrupted form by Mormons.]

  3. We don’t really know. I think this is the theological position of most Christians. There is no easily packaged explanation for a pair of parents standing over their child’s tiny grave. There is no easy answer for a woman after miscarriage. It’s never been the position of Christians to dogmatically describe the afterlife for children other than saying: “they do not suffer and they are at peace.” We don’t know much because the Bible says nothing about it. We can only rest on the conviction that God desires all men to be saved and that He is fully aware that 51+% die before attaining the age of reason or before professing faith.

PS: If you’re interested in reading more of my posts on the topic of infant death, limbo, St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas etc., check out this series of posts: Unbaptized babies that die: 5 Theories.

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

Ascension of Christ as Davidic Cloud Monarch

Son of Man with the Clouds of Heaven

Many of us begin with an incorrect (even heretical) understanding of the Ascension of Christ. I’ve heard it said that Christ eventually “gave up” the use His body, as if he parked it in a garage with the idea of perhaps using His body again at the end of time to judge the living and dead.

Today we will discover the importance in Catholic orthodoxy of the presence of “the cloud” at the Ascension of Christ:

The ascension of Christ is described in Luke’s Gospel and referred to frequently in John. Christ gathers the 11 Apostles at the Mount of Olives where He commands them to remain in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit:

And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.

We receive more details in Luke’s Acts 1:8-11:

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Perhaps the most important detail here is the description of a “cloud” taking Him out of sight.

Christ did not float up into the sky like a balloon let loose by a child until it disappeared as a dot in the sky too far way to see. Rather, the Body of Christ was taken by a cloud.

Saint Peter perceives the Davidic importance of this event in Acts 2:32-36 when he cites the royal Davidic “Lord said to my Lord” Psalm 110:

The Lord says to my lord:
Sit at my right hand,
till I make your enemies your footstool.”
2 The Lord sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your foes!
3 Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day you lead your host
upon the holy mountains.
From the womb of the morning
like dew your youth will come to you.
4 The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest for ever
after the order of Melchizedek.”
5 The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6 He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
7 He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

This is a Psalm declaring that David will “ascend” to his God-appointed throne at God’s right hand and begin to rule. We find that the Davidic king is at least quasi-divine. He is:

  • “my Lord”
  • “priest”
  • “for ever”
  • “will scatter kings…corpses…over the wide earth”

This is a cosmic king. A divine Messiah. Something David could never be and this is why Christ asks how David could ever say: “The Lord says to my Lord.”

This is Trinitarian theology. We find one Divine Person (Lord) speaking to another Divine Person (Lord). For an interesting study of two distinct “Lords” in Hebrew Scripture, I highly recommend The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God by Margaret Barker.

We see the conversation between the “two Lords” in Daniel 7 with the “Ancient of Days” (first Lord) interacting with the Son of Man (second Lord). In Daniel 7:13, the Son of Man comes up to the Father. I’m not making this up or grasping at straws. Christ Himself quotes these passages as references to Himself in the future at Matthew 24:30; 26:64 and Mark 13:26; 14:62 and Luke 21:27:

13 I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a Son of Man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

It’s obvious how this passage in Daniel 7 echoes Psalm 110 with a divine-like King gaining universal dominion over all kings and kingdoms. But notice the “clouds.”

See this post for more: The Davidic Identity of Daniel

Christ purposefully includes “the clouds” in His own citation of this passage during His trial. Ultimately, it’s Christ’s quotation of this passage and “the clouds” that offends the High Priest leads Him to be “convicted” and crucified.

The cloud theme continues in Revelation as I detail in this free Catholic podcast on the Book of Revelation Chapter 14. Jesus Christ rides in “on a cloud” holding a sickle and ready to slay his enemies as described in Ps 110 and Dan 7.

Then I looked, and lo, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.

The Ascension of Christ with the cloud is important and it shows that He is still operating through His assumed human nature. This is good news for Catholics. If Christ has “parked His body” as if to be finished with it, then we would not have the perennial presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in our churches.

Happy Ascension,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

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PS: King David was Eucharistic. 2 Sam 6:17-19 records that when King David ascended as king in Jerusalem, he gave every Israelite a wheat cake, wine, and a cake of grapes. A type of the wheat and grapes of the Eucharist of the Davidic Messiah.

PPS: Here’s a line by line Catholic commentary on the Book of Revelation.

If you’d like to study with me orthodox Christology (study of Christ) and Mariology (study of Mary) study of Mary, please join the New Saint Thomas Institute.

Is Our Salvation Based on the Concepts of Debt and Law?

I just happened upon your blog so I admit that I have not read your books or very much of your blog. However, it concerned me that in this article, you suggest that our salvation was accomplished by payment of a debt.

I am a Catholic and that is not what I believe. The concept of “debt” implies that sin is a sort of legal problem rather than an ontological one. However, I will hold off (for now!) on sharing any further thoughts because quite possibly I have misunderstood you.

Thank you Mary. I love how you hold off on judgment and ask for clarity. So often in the Catholic theological community, people start casting stones. I appreciate your moderation, prudence, and charity. Let’s look more deeply on this topic of debt and law.

“Ontological” = referring to being:

For new readers, by “ontological,” Mary means “having to do with our being or nature” (from Greek ὄν (gen. ὄντος) meaning being. Ontology is the study of being.

If you’d like to get a dictionary or lexicon of all these philosophical words used in Catholic theology, please download my book (for free), Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages (top right corner of taylormarshall.com).

Ontological or Debt/Law?

Salvation is ontological (the elevation of our human nature) and entails Christ transforming us “in Him” into “new creations.” We partake of the divine nature of Christ through His humanity. The hypostatic union becomes the bridge by which we partake of the divine nature. We are deified and in the Beatific Vision, Thomas Aquinas teaches that we will become “deiform” while remaining human and creatures.

So yes, ontological all the way. Catholics (like the Eastern Orthodox) teach that salvation is chiefly a transformation and elevation of human nature.

However, Scripture is replete of examples also discussing salvation in terms of both law and debt/remission.

It’s true Protestants focus almost solely on legal/forensic categories and hence Catholics tend to move away from them. This is a mistake on the Catholic’s part.

We are “freed from the law”. We are “justified” (legal term). Our debts are paid. The jubilee remission of debts is inaugurated by Christ.

Our terms “remission” and “redemption” (to buy back) are financial terms.

The Greek word for “redemption” is strongly legal and financial: ἀπολύτρωσις. It literally means “buying back from, re-purchasing, winning back what was previously forfeited.”

Saint Paul repeatedly refers to how the baptized have been “purchased” by the blood of Christ: “you were bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:20).

Christ Himself uses money examples as an analogy of sin remission: “And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt” (Matthew 18:27). “So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’” (Luke 16:5). “And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

It’s not either ontological or legal/debt. It’s all. It’s both/and.

Thomism on Nature and Law

As a Thomist, I would go on to say that all true law (lex) must necessarily based on being (esse). In fact, if a law does not conform to being (natural law), according to Thomas it is not a law at all.

This is why Thomas divides history and covenants into three epochs: Natural Law (Adam to Moses), Old Law (Moses to Christ), and New Law (Christ till Parousia).

For him “New Law” is just another way of saying “New Creation.” Law and ontology are parallel.

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Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall