141: Monastery at Samos, Spain (Camino 5)

I continue on the Camino of Santiago.

Today we arrived at the historic Benedictine monastery at Samos. I detail the building and lament on the collapse of Christianity in Spain (and especially the collapse of monasticism). Click below to listen:

Dr Taylor Marshall

What is an Apostle? (And How it Relates to all the Boat Scenes in the Bible)

Our Lord Jesus Christ founded a New Israel with Himself as Davidic King and with Twelve Apostles initiating the new Twelve Tribes of Israel. This is the Messianic Kingdom of the Church.

As one who connects the Old Testament features to Catholic dogma (see this book: The Crucified Rabbi), I’ve always been painfully aware that the term “apostle” doesn’t have a slick connection to Old Testament kingdom language.

Pagan “Boat” Sources for the Term Apostle:

In pagan Greek sources (such as in the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus), ἀπόστολος (apostolos) refers to a political or military delegate or messenger. ἀπόστολος also refers to the commander of a naval force.

In fact, στόλος refers to a naval division or to a colony. So an ἀπόστολος is one who travels out to these naval colonies. Sometimes ἀπόστολος is used to refer to a formal naval dispatch or to an export license to/from these colonies.

So when the New Testament authors adopt this Greek term, they are not merely referring to a local rabbi or preacher. They are using a term that referred to diplomats who traveled to the farrest ends of the earth. It’s a global or catholic term.

Pauline Sources for the Term:

The term ἀπόστολος appears only once in the Greet Septuagint (Greek version of Old Testament) at 1 Kings 14:6 where ἀπόστολος is a translation of the Hebrew שָׁלוּחַ (sha-lach). The term appears 79 times in the New Testament – 68 of which are found in the writings of Paul and his disciple Luke.

It seems that originally ἀπόστολος referred to each of the original Twelve Apostles. However, Saint Paul opened the term to include himself, Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and Timothy and Silvanus (1 Thessalonians 2:7). Paul also speaks of false apostles in 2 Corinthians.

In Hebrews, Luke/Paul identify Jesus as “the apostle and high priest of our confession” (Heb 3:1). In this context, apostleship is associated with the high priesthood. This is our biggest hint into how early Christians understood the term ἀπόστολος. It was missionary and priestly. Just as an ἀπόστολος origianlly referred to naval delegates to colonies, so a high priest bridges over water as a pontifex, a bridge builder between God and man.

According to Paul, apostles surpass the various other offices within the Church of “teachers, evangelists, and prophets” (διδάσκαλος, εὐαγγελιστής, προφήτης). In the mind of Paul, an apostle is more than these three. I would argue, that for Paul an apostle is all three of these at once while also being priestly diplomats for Christ.

Are Apostles Political or Priestly?

At first glance into a Greek dictionary, the term ἀπόστολος seems political or mercantile. It’s a civil title. However, the Christians looked to King Melchizedek and King David as “priest kings” or “liturgical kings” as the prototypes for King Jesus. So the political realm collapses into the priestly liturgical realm. This is why Christ is both establishing a “kingdom” (political) and also building at “temple” (priestly). He is king and pontiff. And so also, his political ministers are both political and cultic. The ἀπόστολος is a naval delegate for foreign colonies throughout the world but he is also a sacrificial priest who offers the Gentiles to God as sacrifice and who offers the Eucharist as sacrifice.

Apostles on a Boat:

One final related topic. I couldn’t help but noticed that in Acts, the vivid scenes of Paul traveling by ship may in fact be intentionally recounted with detail to bolster Paul’s identity as ἀπόστολος. In the Greek mind, the ἀπόστολος is primarily naval and thus Paul is literally fulfilling his role as ἀπόστολος (maybe better so than the Twelve!). Also, the stories of Saint James Zebedee going to and from (posthumously) to Spain by boat ratifies James as a true apostle for Jesus. And let’s not forget all the “Jesus in a boat” scenes from the Gospels!

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Our Sad Decline in Priestly Vocations: Most Priests will Retire in 2015-2025

I recently learned from Deacon Greg Kandra that Our Lady of Providence Seminary of of the Diocese of Providence Rhode Island has zero new seminarians:

Over the past five years, between two and six men have entered the seminary every fall but that’s not the case this year.

“Entering the fall we don’t have any new seminarians applying for the Diocese of Providence, which is rare,” Fr. Chris Murphy, the Catholic Diocese of Providence’s assistant vocation director, said Tuesday.

“I cannot remember in recent memory when the last time was,” he added.
A look back at the numbers shows a declining trend. Five men entered the seminary in 2012 and six entered in 2013, then the numbers drop to three, two and four in the years that followed.

Over the years, whenever the “priestly shortage” comes up in conversation, someone is quick to reply with some encouragement like this: “Oh yes, but we have so many young orthodox vocations! Things will change in a few years!”

I agree with this encouraging fact: We have some great seminarians! I’ve personally taught Catholic seminarians in America and in Rome and I can confirm that there are some dynamic, orthodox, and impressive seminarians moving into the sacerdotal pipeline.

But I am also aware of a gaping problem that hardly anyone mentions. The seminarian numbers are not there. We are about to fall off a demographic cliff of priestly vocations.

  • Yes, an impressive seminarian or deacon-seminarian visits your parish during the summer and does fantastic work.
  • Yes, you see lots of faces on the “Meet our Seminarians” color poster in the narthex after Mass.
  • Yes, you’re bishop announces yet another round of ordinations this year.

Praise God! I rejoice in all of it…but still…the numbers are lacking. Let’s take a look at priestly demographics:

For priests, we need to pray for quality and quantity:

Here is table of the number of priests in the USA from 1930 to 2015:

The number of priests exploded in 1950 (partly through migration) and peaked out in 1970. After 1975, you see a slow but steady decrease in the number of priests until the decline becomes steep around 1990. 

More troubling is the fact that the tsunami of priests ordained from 1970-1980, will be reaching retirement age between the years 2015-2025 (age 25 + 45 years of service = retirement age 70).

Discovering the 1 Priest to every Catholic Ratio:

We have already begun to feel the scarcity of priests and you’ll understand why when you examine the numbers in light of the ratio of priest per Catholics. Check out these numbers:

  • In 1950, there was 1 priest to every 652 Catholics in the United States.
  • In 2010, there was 1 priest to every 1,653 Catholics in the United States.
  • In 2016, there was 1 priest to every 1,843 Catholics in the United States.

A numeric study shows that the tipping point in the USA happened around the year 1983. This is when our priest/Catholics ratio began to tank:

When it comes to priest/Catholics ratio, our priestly manpower is 33% of what it was 1950. Meanwhile there millions more lay Catholics in the pews.

And depending on the city, the ratio can be much worse. Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles have pretty discouraging ratios, but none are hurting as badly as my neighboring diocese of Dallas:

  • Diocese of Dallas: 1 priest to every 6,229 Catholics.
  • Diocese of Los Angeles: 1 priest to every 3,931 Catholics.
  • Diocese of New York: 1 priest to every 2,055 Catholics.
  • Diocese of Chicago: 1 priest to every 1,624 Catholics.

Meanwhile there are model dioceses that have wonderful ratios that beat even the 1950 national ratio:

  • Diocese of Lincoln: 1 priest to every 598 Catholics.

And the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), which offers the Latin Mass from the 1962 Missale Romanum currently has this ratio in its parishes:

  • FSSP: 1 priest to every 250 Catholics.

Vocation Decrease among the Jesuits

Compare the growth of the FSSP to that of the global membership of the Society of Jesus:

  • In 1977, the Jesuits had 28,038 members.
  • In 2016, the Jesuits had 16,378 members.

The Jesuits have declined 41.5% since 1977. The average age of a Jesuit priest in 2018 is 63.4 years old. Considering that mandatory priestly retirement is age 70, this does not look good for the Jesuits. They will decline by more than 50% in the coming decade. If things don’t change, there will be less than 10,000 Jesuits on earth in the next few years.

[For reference, there are 6,058 (male and female) Dominicans on planet earth in 2018. That’s the size of three Texas high schools.]

Sad but True (plus some Hope):

It is true that we have many great young men in formation to be holy Catholic priests. I’ve spent hours talking with them after class and I know that we will have an excellent crop. The sad news is that it is small crop. A priest is only one man and if you spread him over 3 parishes, he will be less effective.

My prediction is that we will see a great Catholic migration over the next three decades. As that surge of vocations from 1970-1980 begins to retire and depart to their reward, we will see massive parish closings and consolidations. Priests will be rare. It is already obvious that bishops and dioceses like Lincoln Nebraska attract vocations to the holy priesthood. These bishops and their dioceses will thrive. Meanwhile, dioceses like Providence will shrink while they try to import priests from other parts of the world.

The solution is to pray for vocations, but also beg the question:

Why does Lincoln, Nebraska have a plethora of vocations (1 priest to every 598 Catholics!) while others are not only short on vocations but losing priests year after year?

  1. Is it liturgical?
  2. Is it ethnic or based somehow on immigration?
  3. Is it doctrinal?
  4. What leads young men to inquire about a priestly vocation?
  5. How do they organize their altar server programs?
  6. Does youth ministry play a role or not?
  7. How do pastors play a role?
  8. To which seminaries does each diocese send seminarians?
  9. How does seminarian retention rate differ from diocese to diocese?
  10. How is the bishop involved in the vocation process?

If “coffee is for closers,” Bishop Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska is drinking Roman double espressos. 1 priest to every 598 Catholics. Someone should study the vocations process in place under Bishop Conley of Lincoln.

My personal acquaintance with Bishop Conley (he helped guide me into the Catholic Church in 2006) is that he is orthodox, Thomistic, dignified, fatherly, and favors the template of Ratzinger’s “Spirit of the Liturgy.” And if I’m honest, every single impressive seminarian that I meet…is shaped from the same mold. Like begets like. Like father, like son.

And even if you aren’t on board with the template of “orthodox, Thomistic, dignified, fatherly, Spirit of the Liturgy,” the numbers don’t lie.

Pray for holy bishops, holy priests, and holy seminarians!

Question: How is your part of the world doing with priestly vocations? What makes for a good seminarian? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Angels having Relations with Humans within Jude and 2 Peter and 1 Enoch

Genesis 6 has a confusing reference to “when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them” and how this occurrence led to Yahweh flooding the earth. What does this mean?

Sometime around the 200s BC a Jewish document called “Book of Enoch” or 1 Enoch was produced. It gives all the details on how angelic beings copulated with human women and created a cosmic mess before the Flood. And here’s the interesting problem we have:

Saint Jude (Jude 1:14-15) directly quotes this non-biblical document known as “Book of Enoch” or 1 Enoch:

Jude 14–15
It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying:“Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgment on all and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
1 Enoch 1:9

Behold, he comes with ten thousand saints to execute judgment upon all, and he will destroy all the ungodly and convict all flesh of all the deeds of their ungodliness that they have ungodly committed in an ungodly way, and of all the arrogant and hard words which sinners have spoken against him.

It’s not only this direct quotation of 1 Enoch by Jude, but Jude (and 2 Peter) allude to the fantastical events of 1 Enoch, namely the sexual encounters of fallen angels with human women, which gives birth to the nephilim or “giants.” The birth of the giants, according to 1 Enoch, is the reason for the Noah’s Flood.

And this belief is also found in the canonical book of Wisdom:

“And from the beginning also when the proud giants (γιγάντων) perished, the hope of the world fleeing to a vessel, which was governed by thy hand, left to the world seed of generation.” (Wisdom 14:6)

The author of Wisdom clearly associates the flood to a divine genocide of the race of the giants (γιγάντων) to leave the world a “seed of generation.” (Saint Paul quotes from Wisdom about 7 times – so Saint Paul also likely hold this belief.)

Let me tell you the story of Angels and Giants that 1 Enoch tells:

In 1 Enoch, Yahweh sends 200 angels to guide and instruct humanity. These 200 angels are called “Irin” in Aramaic and “Egregoroi” in Greek. Both words mean “Watchers.” These Watchers corrupt humanity by teaching them evil arts such as cosmetology (sorry ladies), sorcery, astrology, and the arts of war.

These angels also seduce human women and copulate with them. The women give birth to nephilim or giants. God causes these giants to fight and die. Then the souls of the giants turn into demons that haunt and tempt humans for the rest of time.

  • So Yahweh binds these 200 evil angelic Watchers into “Tartarus.”
  • What is Tartarus? In the Homer’s Iliad, Zeus teaches that Tartarus is “as far beneath Hades as heaven is above earth.” Tartarus is the deepest part of the underworld, far below Hades.
  • It’s noteworthy that the term “tartarus” is used by Enoch and 2 Peter. This signals the blending of Hebrew history with Greek mythology since Greek myth depict Zeus (after 10 years of battle or titanomachy) sending the older primordial deities called Titans into the deep dungeon abyss of “tartarus.”

Notably 2 Peter explicitly uses Enoch’s word “Tartarus” for the condemnation of fallen “angels.” Jude and 2 Peter use almost the same words, but 2 Peter uses “Tartarus”:

Jude 6
And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day. 
2 Peter 2:4a
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartaros and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment;

It seems that 1 Enoch (and maybe Jude and 2 Peter) have assimilated the titanomachy legend of Zeus condemning the Titans into Tartaus into a legend about Yahweh condemning the 200 angelic Watchers into the chains of Tartarus. But in the 1 Enoch legend the crime is that of angels procreating mutant giants with human women.

“And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamored of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.” (1 Enoch 7:2)

The resulting children are called nephilim in Hebrew or gigantes (giants) in Latin and Greek. In 1 Enoch, the historical Enoch goes to God and seeks to make intercession for the forgiveness of the giants. God refuses and the giants are condemned. This part of the story is referred to in Sirach:

“He was not propitiated for the ancient giants who revolted in their might.” (Sirach 16:7)

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain 10 copies (!) of the Book of Giants – a work that describes in detail the conception of giants in Genesis 6 from the union of women and angelic watchers. The giants were warriors and cannibals. This theology was an important part of the theology of Second Temple Judaism.

Church Fathers who explicitly teach that angels copulated with women and bred giants in Genesis 6:

Justin Martyr, Tatian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Commodianus, Ambrose of Milan.

In the City of God, Saint Augustine taught that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were simply human ancestors of Seth and that they bred with the evil daughters of men/Cain. This became the received tradition in the post Augustinian Christian West. It’s notable, however, that his mentor Saint Ambrose believed that the “sons of God” were in fact angels that copulated with humans.

What’s going on here in the Hebrew tradition?

The “Legend of the Watchers” in 1 Enoch was written in the Maccabean period before Christ. It’s could be a Jewish appropriation of a Greek myth but it’s likely explaining how the Hellenistic invaders are:

  1. The Gentile invaders of the Holy Land (312-63 BC)
  2. Greeks teaching and requiring Jews to follow pagan customs
  3. Greeks marrying and copulating with Jewish women
  4. The production of “hybrid” Greek/Jewish children that are considered “monstrous”
  5. The need to destroy and drive out the Greeks by means of the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC)

The titanomachy of Enoch is not historically “Zeus vs. Titans” or “Yahweh vs. Watchers,” but Judah Maccabeus vs. Greeks.

How does Catholic Christianity understand the “angels and tartarus” sections?

Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas (both had not read 1 Enoch) interpretted the passages in Jude and 2 Peter in this way:

  1. Before the flood, the “sons of God” were the righteous humans and the “daughters of men” were the female daughters of evil humans from Cain. These women were evil and and they seduced the noble and righteous sons of Seth.
  2. They interbred and this lead to the moral corruption of humanity.
  3. God sent a flood to kill everyone since they were all now a mixture of sons of Seth and daughters of Cain.

The solution here is to read “sons of God” not as “angelic beings” but as holy humans. It’s plausible and it has become the accepted tradition in Catholicism. However, ever since the Flood, good people have been interbreeding with evil people. And we know that the child of a holy mother and an evil father can turn out either good or bad. There are not “evil genetics.”

We can see here that the problem of intermarrying between the righteous and the wicked didn’t suddenly stop because water covered the land.

So it seems that Genesis describes a “water genocide” of a corrupted angel-human species. And certainly 1 Enoch is following the idea. If Jude (and 2 Peter) considered 1 Enoch as theological true, this would mean that at least one (or two) Apostle(s) believed the Enochic legend of the Watcher angels being sent to “Tartarus” because they had deceived humans and copulated with them.

The Enochic Legend as a theological device in Jude and 2 Peter:

Regardless of whether Jude and 2 Peter believed the Enochic “Watcher-Angel legend,” we know for a fact that they applied it as a teaching paradigm for their contemporary Apostolic Church:

  1. There are false heretical teachers that were once part of the Apostolic Church
  2. These have fallen away from Christ and are teaching Christians false doctrine and sin
  3. These heretics are having illicit sex with Christians (their lust here and in Revelation is highlighted)
  4. These heretics will be judged in the same way as the Watchers: they will be locked up in the dark tartarus forever.

If Jude and 2 Peter did not quote and/or reference 1 Enoch, we could cast off 1 Enoch forever as a Jewish oddity. But since there is a theological reference of 1 Enoch within Jude and 2 Peter, it provides a challenge.

I’m curious, how do you read the canonical passages of Genesis 6, Jude, 2 Peter (as well as Wisdom, Sirach and several Dead Sea Scrolls that promote the idea of giants as children of human women and demonic angels) in light of 1 Enoch? Secondly, do you think Jude and 2 Peter take the Enochic Watcher-Legend literally or are they simply using it to make an contemporary application against lustful heretics?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: I recorded a podcast on the role of 1 Enoch in the Noah film that came out a few years ago starring Russell Crowe as Noah. You can listen to it by clicking here: Podcast on Noah (2014 Film) and 1 Enoch.

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.

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.

 

Concerning the Death of Unbaptized Infants by St Gregory Nazianzus

Two of the most rewarding practices for a Christian are 1) reading the Bible from beginning to end, and 2) reading the sermons of the Church Fathers. One of the greatest theologians and orators of the Church Fathers is Saint Gregory Nazianzus. He is simply called Saint Gregory “the Theologian” in the East because of his precise and excellent presentation of theology.

Since the Apostles and Church Fathers universally recognized that baptism was the instrumental means by which Jesus Christ removes sin and infuses grace, they also received the pastoral question of what happens to unbaptized babies. Before we look St Gregory the Theologian, let that sink in. The presumption is that infants should be baptized.

Not only that, but we know from the Eastern Fathers and from Western Fathers like Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine that baptized infants were confirmed and received the Holy Eucharist. We Roman Catholics would do well to request that the Apostolic and Patristic practice of paedo-communion (infant communion) be rightfully restored to our children.

Here is Saint Gregory “the Theologian” Nazianzus on the death of unbaptized children:

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

Why Protestants reject Mary as Queen of Heaven

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

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

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

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

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

and again:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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Godspeed,
Dr. Taylor Marshall