And the Light Shone in the Darkness: Liturgical Abuse as a Demonstration of … Our Lord’s Love?

J.M.J.

My dear friends,

Few things are more important to me than the proper celebration of the Mass. One of the most commonly-heard phrases about the Eucharist from the Church’s last Council, which points to how important the Blessed Sacrament is and how highly it should be regarded, is that this Sacrament is the “peak and the font” (culmen et fons) of the entire Christian life (Lumen Gentium, ch. II, 11)In similar words, now-Saint John Paul II wrote in his 2003 letter of the same name that “Ecclesia de Eucharistia vivit”—”the Church lives from the Eucharist.” In one well-known statement, the former pope, when Cardinal Ratzinger, blamed the “crisis” in the Church today on the “collapse of the liturgy.” Indeed, those who have read Ratzinger know the importance he places on the liturgy done properly, and they might be familiar with his comparison of “badly done” liturgical celebrations with the life of Israel (that is, whenever Israel worshipped God improperly, things went south). Such a view might appear pharisaical to some. A response to that objection is the topic of another posting, but suffice it to say, I very much agree with the former pope’s line of thought, and I want to make it clear that what you’re about to read is in no way going to be a dismissal of liturgical problems as something that “people shouldn’t be focused on since Jesus is present and that’s all they should really ask for.”

With that said, however, I’ve been struck more and more recently by one interesting fact with regard to liturgical abuses, whether great or small. Before I take you there, think for a moment: what if God treated man like man treats man? One would think, with all the abuses, many times quite terrible, that the Holy Eucharist has been shown, or even just because of the general irreverence, casualness, and disbelief with which so many approach the Blessed Sacrament today, that the Holy Trinity would have long ago “pulled the plug” and stopped performing the miracle of transubstantiation for those of us here below. Is this Sacrament not, after all, the true, real, substantial, and personal presence of the Divine Son, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit? Is this Sacrament not, much as it might come across as too pious or too obsessive to say it, the abiding and real presence of God? Are we, who participate in the Mass, not present to, and in as much contact with Christ as were His disciples, His immaculate Mother, and all those crowds who pressed constantly about Him? And this being the case, did not God, in the Old Testament, perform many harsh punishments for those who treated mere objects which were sacred with irreverence? How much more would we expect Him to deal still worse punishments to those who treat badly, not just some sacred thing, but His very own self? Was Christ our Lord not mocked, blasphemed, and treated with irreverence enough already in His earthly life? Why should He put up with the abominations man comes up with in the name of creativity, inclusiveness, ignorance, or disbelief?

Indeed, these are the types of questions which people who love God might reasonably ask themselves, and if God treated man on man’s own terms, these questions might have some weight. But the more I’ve considered liturgical abuses, the more deeply I’ve come to realize that even though He would be justified in “pulling the plug,” the Good Lord does not treat man like man treats man. He treats man better. He treats man selflessly. Just as He forgave the denial of Peter which He knew would occur, just as He forgave the ardent disbelief of Thomas, just as He forgave His disciples who, all except John, fled from Him during the Passion, and just as He asked the Father to forgive His executioners as nails were hammered through His already-wounded members, so His love for mankind is such that, in the words of an excellent priest who was once my theology teacher, “He set the bar so low” for the Mass to occur validly.

There’s the slightly cheesy statement that “nails did not keep Christ on the Cross: love did.” Well, such a statement could be equally applied to the Sacrifice of the Mass and the abiding presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist: it is not our own worthy treatment of this mystery which makes Jesus Christ present on the altar, or in the Tabernacle outside of Mass. It is His own love, His own fidelity to His assurance that “I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you . . . And behold, I am with you always, even until the consummation of the world” (Jn. 14:18, Mt. 28:20).

Now, as an important little side note, there is a limit to this: if a priest does not use lawful matter (bread and wine meeting the bare minimum of requirements), use the correct form (at the very least generally considered, by most theologians, to be the words “This is My Body” over the bread and “This is My Blood” over the wine), and/or have the correct intention (to consecrate the elements), then the Mass is not valid and transubstantiation does not take place. However, barring some debates as to whether or not some priests have adequate knowledge of what they’re doing (thus calling the validity of the Mass into question), I would guess that upwards of 95% of the time, the three elements are present.

To be sure, liturgical abuses are an affliction upon the Church. To be sure, liturgical abuses should not be simply ignored on the grounds that the Real Presence is the ultimate thing, and that anything else, even the most troubling acts of disregard for Our Lord in the Eucharist, are a matter of mere window dressing. But the fact that Our Blessed Lord makes Himself present with conditions as they are, and the fact that He has “set the bar so low,” should give everyone pause, and should move each person with love when he considers that the Lord lets Himself be put through so much, out of a desire to be present to His beloved.

Further, with things being as they are, it is important to remember that no amount of complaining, or even rational and well-thought-out denouncing, of the various abuses (or even just the general liturgical casualness) prevalent today will fix them. I know firsthand that those are the tempting routes to take, but believe me when I tell you that they, at least by themselves, will not fix the Church’s liturgical problems. Prayer will fix them, constant, unwavering prayer, even when it’s tough as a well-done steak, even when things don’t seem to improve, even when things seem to be getting even worse. Reasonable arguments against abusive liturgical practices, while necessary, will not be effective, no matter how logical, if they do not rely upon prayer. Those of us who want to see an end to liturgical abuse must pray, and keep praying, and never allow ourselves to waver. As I hope to be of service to you, my dear reader, I would request that you do the following: look for novenas that seem applicable to the problems you’re dealing with. Attach yourself to a patron saint, and pray to former (deceased) priests and parishioners from your parish who might be in Heaven. But most of all, I would suggest two practices: offer every Mass you can, those you go to and those you don’t, even the most abusive ones, for an end to said abuses, and pray the Rosary as often as you can for them. If the Rosary doesn’t move you, I would very strongly encourage that you get a copy of (or find online) a very short book by St. Louis de Montfort called The Secret of the Rosary. It’s short, it’s simple, it’s easy to read, and whether you’re attached to the Rosary right now or not, it will light a new fire within you.

But, as with responding to critics of Cardinal Ratzinger’s liturgical views, I think discussing the merits of the Rosary is a topic for another post.

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“…Then the Son Himself Will Be Subject to Him…” — Explaining 1 Corinthians 15:24-28

J.M.J.

For better or for worse, some passages of Scripture are just confusing. I’m sure you’ve all had times where you’ve mulled over the meaning of some Bible verse, wondering why in the world the Good Lord couldn’t have had the inspired author write more clearly.

One of those passages is 1 Corinthians 15:24, 25, & 28, verses which are frequently employed by those who don’t believe in the Divinity of Christ: “He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet…then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to [God the Father] … When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will be subjected to the one who put all things beneath Him, that God may be all in all” (NASB).

Does this not sound like the Son will reign for a time, and then stop reigning, give everything to the Father, and undergo voluntary subjection to the Father? Doesn’t it imply, almost, an inferiority of the Son? Well, it seems to. But there’s a lot to be unpacked here, so let’s take it piece by piece.

We’ll start with the issue of the Son “handing over the kingdom”, then go into the issue of His subjection to the Father, and finally, we’ll address the problem of Him “reigning until” He has subjected all things. In the first respect (that of Christ handing the Kingdom over to Father), it’s helpful to turn to three particular verses from the Gospel of John. Early on in there, John the Baptist says (3:35), “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” Then in John 16:15, Christ Himself says to the Apostles, “All things that the Father has are Mine”; and finally, in His prayer to the Father, He says, “All that is Yours is Mine, and all that is Mine is Yours” (17:10).

We need to bear this principle in mind: all that is the Son’s is the Father’s, and all that is the Father’s is the Son’s. What does this mean with regard to the Son “handing over the Kingdom”? It means that, although the Son gives it to the Father, the Father, having “given all things into Son’s hand” out of love for the Son, does not seize it for Himself, however much He would have a right to do so, but instead gives it back to the Son, due to the infinite and selfless love between the two. Furthermore, because “all things that the Father has” are the Son’s, then even though the Son gives the heavenly Kingdom to the Father, He does not lose it Himself, because as long as the Father has it, the Son has it in equal measure. Either way, the Son does not lose the Kingdom or cease to rule over it by giving it to the Father.

Now, let’s look at the issue of the Son “being subjected”, shall we?

There are several ways to answer this, but for the moment, we’ll stick with the most commonly-used one. Many who comment on difficult Christ-centered passages of Scripture use the following principle to interpret them. Some of you are probably familiar with it already, but it’s good to bear in mind whether you’ve heard it or not. As mentioned by St. Augustine in his work On the Trinity, “[T]he Son of God is both understood to be equal to Father according to the form of God … and less than the Father according to the form of a servant which He took” (Book II, Chapter I). Now, we do want to be careful here, so that we avoid Nestorianism. The Son is not two persons, one divine, one human. He is one divine Person, who has taken to Himself a human nature. Although He is a divine Person, however, He still has, in His human nature, all the “attributes” of humanity (except sin), attributes which include inferiority to God.

With this principle in mind, that the Son is equal to the Father as God, but less than the Father as man, let’s consider it more deeply. St. Paul writes that Christ “became obedient” in His “humbled” nature (Phil. 2:8). So one of the primary arguments you’ll find to explain the Son “subjecting Himself” is that He is subjected as man, and that’s what the passage is getting at. This might seem too simple at first glance, but with further inspection, it actually makes a lot of sense, as we’ll see, and it isn’t just a weak attempt to explain the verse. So how does this work?

St. Paul says in the context of the verse above that Christ humbled Himself and became obedient in that form He took “as a servant” (2:7). Well, we know that Christ kept His human nature, His “servant” and “obedient” nature, even after the Resurrection, and has it even now in Heaven. So  it actually makes perfect sense to say that He would still be obedient and subservient in this form, for as long as He has it (which will be forever). Yes, He is equal to God. Yes, the Father’s kingdom is going to be the Son’s, since the Father gives it to the Son as much as the Son gives it to the Father, as I hopefully demonstrated above. Thus, there should be no question for us about the inferiority of one Divine Person to another, and we shouldn’t think that one Divine Person possesses the Kingdom of Heaven while another is without it. And yet, precisely because He is permanently man, and thus permanently obedient, the Son will always be subservient as man (though not as God), and will always be “subjected” to the Father according to that subservient nature.

St Augustine had somewhat similar explanation for this issue. He said it’s possible that the passage was written this way in order to show that the Son does not give up His “subjected” nature of humanity, that it does not go away at the end of time, but that He is now, forever, man as well as God, inferior as well as equal, to the Heavenly Father (De Trinitate, Book I, Ch. 8).

Finally, there comes the issue of what seems to be the “temporary” nature of the Son’s reign, thanks to the word “until” (“He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet”). The first thing I’d like to do is point out something that the infallible voice of God the Father says to the Son, according to St. Paul: “But to the Son, God says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice'” (Hebrews 1:8, emphasis mine). If God Himself says the Son will reign forever, that should give us pause in interpreting any verses that seem to run contrary to this idea. Something to remember here is that, many times in Scripture, the word “until” will be used in such a way that it doesn’t mean “up to a certain point, but not after that”. For example, in Genesis 28:15, God says to Jacob, “I will be with you and protect you wherever you go, and I will bring you into this land, for I will not leave you until I have done as I have said” (emphasis mine). Would anyone say in this case that God is going to depart Jacob after He has done as He promised? Or, from the New Testament, there is the statement concerning Joseph that he did not “know Mary” (i.e., engage in marital relations with her) until she gave birth to Jesus (Matt. 1:25). But this does not by any means imply that Joseph and Mary did anything of the sort after the birth of Christ. Indeed, the stance of the Catholic Church in this regard, as well as that of John Calvin and Martin Luther, has been to interpret the word “until” in such a way that it doesn’t imply that the consummation of their marriage occurred later (you can read Calvin’s commentary here, and many sources from Luther on the matter are quoted here). In any case, the use of the word “until” concerning the reign of the Son does not, by any means, imply that His reign is going to end.

With all this said, I hope I’ve been helpful in some way with regard to this passage. God bless and keep you as we approach Christmas.

 

What, Precisely, Makes Your Participation “Full, Conscious, & Active” In The Liturgy?

J.M.J.

Greetings to all of you, my good readers!

I’m going to begin with a dichotomy, one you’ve probably heard quite a bit if you’ve gone to Mass within the past 50 years. Here it is, with its mixture of truth and untruth:

Before Vatican II in the 1960s, Catholics didn’t participate in the Mass. It was in Latin, so they couldn’t even understand it, the priest was up there talking quietly toward the wall, and the people didn’t even get to say anything during Mass.

After Vatican II, the people have a much greater role in the Church’s liturgy: the Mass is in the local language, the people make the responses and read the readings and perform ministries during Mass, the priest was turned around—it’s all much more inclusive now.

Fair enough. It’s a huge oversimplification, but most people can hardly be blamed if that’s their perception, or worse yet, if that was their experience with the Mass in the Church before the Second Vatican Council. Still, an oversimplification it is, which is in desperate need of a deeper look. And so, my friends, take a deeper look we shall.

I’d like to let you all know right now that this post won’t be saying anything about the old or new Mass forms, or any of the specific practices in either one. So you can breathe easily in that respect; the controversy level will be pretty low for liturgy devotees. Instead, I want to help you unpack the meaning of a commonly thrown-around phrase from the Second Vatican Council which declared that the peoples’ participation in the Sacred Liturgy should be “fully conscious and active” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14). Most people (quite understandably) take this to mean that the people need to make the responses and perform ministries and whatnot, since the phrase was from Vatican II and since the Mass that came out of Vatican II seems to put so much stock into people doing things.

But then we get to the question: is that indeed what full, conscious, and active participation is, or is it something deeper than that?

As with most questions that run like that, you’re probably able to guess that this active participation is indeed more than just external activity. At the risk of surprising some of you, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the following: fully conscious and active participation can be accomplished whether a person makes every response devotedly or whether he never opens his mouth during Mass. In fact, fully conscious participation can be accomplished even when one does not receive Holy Communion! The quiet Irishman sitting in his pew who keeps his eyes shut and hands folded during the entirety of the Mass can technically achieve the same level of participation in Mass as the reader who reads and makes all the responses with attentiveness and devotion.

So what, then, is active participation in the Sacred Liturgy? It is when you crucify yourself along with Our Good Lord and give your life, yourself, to Him in four ways: 1) adoration; 2) contrition; 3) thanksgiving; and 4) supplication.

Those are the four ends of the Mass, the four reasons the priest stands at the altar and offers the Eucharist to God. Our participation in the Mass, therefore, is nothing more than an extension of those four things.

Firstly, Christ offers Himself (through the priest) to the Heavenly Father as an act of adoration. “To adore God is to acknowledge him as God, as the Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love” (CCC 2096). We must adore God simply because God is God, because God is the sustainer of all that is, because God has all perfection, because God is the source of good and love, the One Who creates all that is good and lovable.

Secondly, Our Blessed Lord offers Himself to the Father as an act of contrition. Not for Himself, since He is without sin, but for us, that we may obtain forgiveness for our sins. He said on the Cross concerning His killers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Douay-Rheims Bible, Luke 23:34).

Thirdly, Christ offers Himself to the Father in thanksgiving, because of the greatness of the Father’s love, His mercy shown toward sinners, and for His very self, which can only be loved when known.

And finally, Our Lord offers Himself in supplication, mediating for us to the Father, praying with His human nature for us and our needs, using His Crucified Self as a prism through which the Father looks at creation and grants all its prayers. “Holy Father, keep them in thy name . . . that they may be one, as we also are . . . I pray that thou wouldst keep them from evil and sanctify them in truth” (John 17).

My good readers, this is what you must do in Mass: offer yourself in adoration of God, with all your fears and imperfections and worries. Offer yourself in contrition, repenting of sin and asking for the Divine Mercy; offer yourself as an act of thanksgiving for all God has done for you, in good times and in bad; and offer yourself in supplication, asking the Lord to grant those prayers compatible with His will. And be mindful of that fact that you don’t do this alone, disconnected from others, but rather, you do it with Christ, placing your “little” cross next to His Cross on the altar during and after the Consecration. He said that in the Scriptures that anyone who would be His disciple must take up a cross (Mt. 19:24) and, further, that anything asked of God the Father in His name would be granted (Jn. 16:23). Our participation in the Mass takes up these two passages of Scripture and turns them into reality: we crucify ourselves with Jesus Christ, offering ourselves to God through Him, in His name, in virtue of His status as God, Man, Lord, and Redeemer.

It is not enough merely to say the responses of the Mass carefully or to focus on the text of what’s being said or to perform some special liturgical function, which are all very commendable things. Rather, in the words of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “In order to take a part in [the Mass], you have to bring little crosses” (Fulton Sheen, “The Meaning of the Mass”). The Baltimore Catechism was very insistent on this point as well, and although I don’t remember the exact words it used, it was speaking about the phrase “assist at Mass” and said something along the lines of, “One never merely attends Mass. One must consciously unite himself with the Sacrifice of Christ, and thus it is said that he assists at Mass”. That has always stuck with me. One never merely attends Mass. It’s not like a lecture where we’re passive spectators, contrary to the perceptions of many in the pre-Vatican II Church, and perhaps more importantly to be driven home is the point that it’s not just about doing things, saying things, or having a role to play. It’s about making a sacrifice of oneself so as to be united with Christ, Our Lord, the Head of His Mystical Body, whose members we are.

At this point I hope it’s evident that one can participate just as well in the pre-Vatican II liturgical form as in the one prevalent now, and that such dichotomies as commonly heard lack a certain degree of substance. Participation in the Holy Mass has always been essentially the same, the offering of the self with the offering of Jesus the Christ.

Now, because the current form of the Mass desires the vocal participation of the faithful, it is good to be an obedient son or daughter of the Church and participate vocally. But it is not essential, and it’s no skin off my back if the person two pews away never opens his mouth. For all I know, he’s more concretely focused on his ultimate liturgical mission than 90% of the congregation present. In the end, disregarding the goodness—or not—of external participation, the thing to be remembered as essential is that liturgical participation is about self-offering with the Crucified Savior. If you have that down, then you’re doing your job correctly.

On Angels: Part 3: Demonic Abilities and Limitations (Heavily Belated)

Hello, readers, and happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans!

This post is incredibly late, but I either a) had school or b) wanted to do something else with my free time. But at last, I have the time and motivation to conclude what I began months ago, and hopefully, with this out of the way, can post on this blog concerning other topics. So, when I last posted, I said that the next post would go into demonic power (and by extension, the power of all angels). Let’s do this, then!

The Power of Demons In and Of Itself

First, I want to go into the power of demons considered by itself, without any external restraints placed upon it. A primary thing you should realize is that, because demons are angels, they have all the powers God gave to angels. God did not withdraw their angelic abilities when they sinned, thinking that because they’re now evil, they don’t deserve to be powerful. No, their angelic powers remained, which means that they’re a great deal more powerful than humans. What is the extent of demonic/angelic power? It varies. But even the lowest angel is intensely more powerful, whether intellectually or otherwise, than a human person. I assume, though, that you’d like a basic list of powers possessed by all angels, regardless of rank, so here you go (and since we’re referring in this post to demons, the list will as well; just know that it applies to good angels unless otherwise noted):

  • Demons have vastly superior minds compared to humans. In Fr. Francis J. Remler’s excellent book How to Resist Temptation, he says that demons know more about the material universe and the expansive cosmos than scientists could know in a million years. In the same book, he says that although demons cannot read our minds as God can, they are nevertheless able to have a generally-correct idea of what we’re thinking at a given moment (Fr. Remler compared it to having a friend whom you know so well that you can “read him like a book”—you don’t know exactly what he’s thinking, but can guess pretty well).
  • Demons have a great deal of power over the material world and the people in it. I recommend you read Part 1 for more on that, but I do have something else to add to the stuff listed over there. In Theology For Beginners, Frank Sheed says that “…angels could, so powerful as they are, destroy our material universe if the mightier power of God did not prevent them” (Chapter Two: Spirit, pg. 15).
  • Demons, as with the good angels, have wills that are unobstructed by emotions. Because of this, they are able to think far more decisively and clearly than humans. There’s no question of how a given thing makes them feel at a particular moment; they’re not one moment happy, another moment sad. They know what they want and they act accordingly.
  • Specifically with regard to demons, the temptations they give to man would at least almost always induce him to sin if he were not given God’s grace to combat them.
  • Demons can appear as good angels, as a saint, or even as Our Lord Himself! This is why one must be very, very deliberate and careful if he claims to have seen a vision from Heaven.

Limits on Demonic Power

Notice that I said previously, “I want to go into the power of demons considered by itself, without any external restraints placed upon it”. That means that there are, in fact, limits on what demons can know and do.

For example, Matthew and Mark’s gospels are at one in agreeing that the angels do not know when the end of the world will be (Mt. 24:53, Mk. 13:32: and just for the record, when it says the Son does not know, it is another way of saying He was not sent to tell us; He and the Holy Spirit do know when it is, because They share the divine intellect that is God the Father’s).

Another limitation placed on demons is that they cannot force us to sin. They can tempt us, and indeed they can tempt us very greatly, but they cannot make us sin. That’s ultimately up to us. Further, demons are prevented by God from tempting us beyond what we can handle. That’s not to say that temptations sent our way won’t be intense, but simply that, with God’s aid, we will be able to handle whatever temptations we encounter, no matter how bad they are.

Yet another limitation on demons is that they are bound to obey a direct command made by God. Note that whenever Christ tells a demon to leave a possessed soul in the Gospels, it listens to Him. This makes sense, since He created all the demons, but it’s still worth noting. I say the demons are bound to obey a direct command for this reason: you might say, well, they didn’t obey God when He gave them the choice between Heaven and Hell. The key difference is that when God offered the demons eternal life, He did not say, “You MUST love Me”, but rather, gave them the chance to do so or not, at their own peril. In the case of the demons, He definitely ordered them to get out, and they did, despite whatever protests and blasphemies they made first. Further, I say they’re bound to obey a direct command from God (as opposed to others) because the Scriptures record instances where men were unable to do cast out demons (Mt. 17:19-20). I’ll admit that on this last point, I may be oversimplifying the situation. It could be that demons must obey anyone who possesses the authority of Christ, but I honestly am not sure. I’d gladly accept pointers here.

There are two final limitations on demonic ability or knowledge that I can think of. The first was one placed on Satan by God in Job 1:12, where the former was not permitted to harm Job. The last and more interesting one appears within the Gospels. It would seem to some degree that Satan was unaware that Jesus Christ was the Only-Begotten Son of God and Redeemer of the world. During Satan’s temptation of Christ before His public ministry in Matthew 4, Satan kept saying, “If you are the Son of God, do yadda yadda yadda…”, going so far as to ask Our Lord to worship him. Now the question is, if Satan did know Who Christ was, wouldn’t he know that asking such a thing was not only pointless but even impossible, considering that God is incapable of sin? The only reason I can think of that he would even bother with the series of temptations is that he was honestly unsure about Our Lord’s identity. This is St. Thomas Aquinas’ take on it as well, who said that demons “can be misled with regard to supernatural matters; for example, on seeing a dead man, they may suppose that he will not rise again, or, on beholding Christ, they may judge Him not to be God” (Summa Theologica I:58:5).

In conclusion, it’s all very intriguing, isn’t it? Perhaps we’ll know more in the next life. In the meantime, I hope these posts have not been too shallow regarding their treatment of these issues, but if you have anything else you’d like me to write about, let me know. Once again, my apologies for taking so awfully long with this.

Happy Thanksgiving and God bless you and yours,

—Michael

On Angels: Part 2: Reason for Angels and the Fall Thereof

The Reason They Exist

A question worth asking is, “Why do angels exist at all?” I mean, we know why humans exist–so that God’s goodness could be demonstrated and so that we could share in God’s happiness, both in this life and in heaven. We know why animals exist–to provide companionship for mankind and (after the Flood) to provide food for man.

But why do angels exist?

I can think of a few explanations, but I’ll save the best one for last. For starters, it could be the same reason that humans exist: to be happy in a life with God, the source of all beatitude. Or it could be that God, using “foresight”, if you will, and knowing that man would fail the temptation and commit sin, decided to create a higher order of rational creatures in advance, to serve as helpers whenever humans need them. Or perhaps it could simply be God’s way of showing His power. But really, all except the first of these explanations fall short to some degree.

If I had to guess, I would give the following explanation:

There are two “orders” in creation, the spiritual and the physical. This is obvious. There are purely spiritual entities (angels and God), purely physical entities (the earth, non-rational animals), and entities comprised of both the spiritual and the physical (humans). Does there not seem to be some structure here? Look at the order of things:

  • First God creates the spiritual (angels)
  • Then God creates the physical (the earth and the animals)
  • Then, finally, God makes a creature having properties of both (man)

So could it be that, with those two “orders”, it is most logical that there be each one alone and then the two joined together? The Incarnation of Our Lord mirrors this same concept: first there is God, then there is man, and then with the Incarnation those two things are joined: God becomes man and man is given the chance to become (to an extent) like God. I wonder if that’s an order God works in purposefully: first the greater, then the lesser, then both joined. But of course, the very first explanation I gave also works: in creating the angels, God knew they would be happy living with Him.

The Angels Who Sinned

This is perhaps the most interesting part of angelic study. I must begin by making sure two points are clear: first, the angels who sinned (“demons”) are just as much angels as those who did not; second, demons are not red guys with tails, horns, and pitchforks. That second statement might seem like a joke, and it is, mostly, but it’s worth pointing out. The depiction of demons you commonly see is not what they’re like at all.

The Sin and the Motive

Now, we know that the fallen angels, as creatures of God, were created “good”. We know that they were tempted and sinned. So, what motivated them to sin? The answer is not a very clear one. We know only that it was a sin of pride, of “rejection of God and His reign” (CCC 392). It’s commonly theorized that the angels who sinned–Satan especially–desired to be like God. This is implied in Isaiah 14:12-14 (Douay-Rheims translation), speaking of Satan before his fall:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? How art thou fallen to the earth, that did wound the nations? And thou saidst in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.

It would make a lot of sense that this was the angelic sin, because look at what Satan says to Eve when he gives temptation to her: “You will be as God” (Gen. 3:5). It’s quite likely that he had said that to himself first.

The question, however, is not only “What tempted the angels to sin?”, but also, “What could have possibly made them go through with it?” As I said previously, they don’t have emotions to cloud their vision and they knew entirely what they were doing, knowing as well that forgiveness would be unattainable.

St. Thomas Aquinas posits something interesting regarding the motives of Satan’s sin, which, despite not answering the question of what the motive was, gives some form of direction. Lucifer was the highest of the angels, such that Pope Gregory I said he “wore all the angels as a garment, transcending all in glory and knowledge” (qtd. in What About God?, G. Creighton Bradshaw). Now, this being the case, Thomas Aquinas says that “the motive for sinning existed more in the higher angels than in the lower. For, as has been said, the demon’s sin was pride: and the motive of pride is excellence, which is greater in the higher spirits” (Summa Theologica, Prima Pars, Quaestio LXIII, Articulus VII, Corpus). Then, going on to the fall of the other demons, he says, “The sin of the highest angel was the cause of the others sinning: not as [forcing] them, but as inducing them by a kind of exhortation, [which appears from the fact that] all the demons are subjects of that highest one” (Quaestio LXIII, Articulus VIII, Corpus).

Unfortunately, insightful as that may be, it doesn’t answer what the motive was very clearly. If you’ve read the revelations to St. Bridget of Sweden, which may or may not be officially approved by the Church, there was one interesting part I remember reading, which may provide an answer (though of course, I would caution you not to dogmatize this; we really just don’t know). Anyway, at one point in these revelations St. Bridget received, Satan was speaking to Our Lord and said the reason he sinned was this: he knew that if he sinned, God would suffer and die (i.e., the cross). That actually makes sense, but the problem I have with that is, did Satan not realize that the death of God would be his [Satan’s] undoing? Seems very counter-intuitive. But then, sin isn’t rational, is it? I suppose if Satan truly hates God, then His death would be the best victory Satan could achieve.

Still others have said that perhaps the angels were shown the fact that God the Son would become man, thus taking a nature lower in dignity than theirs, and having to adore God incarnate wounded their pride. Finally, others have said the angels were shown the Blessed Mother and the fact that she, a mere human, would be the greatest creature, and this fact supposedly was an occasion of pride. But in the end, we can only speculate. Each position has its talking points.

And so Part 2 is concluded. Part 3 (yes, I know this keeps being extended…) will go into demonic ability.

May the Incarnate Second Person of the Trinity keep you in His graces. Thanks for reading.

Oh, the Priest is Being Rude!

Yes, that is the war-cry of some who insist that Mass ad orientem is a terrible thing, and it makes the congregation excluded, and it feels like a show, and it kills the spiritual life with its detachment, and…

Excuse me?

File:Missa tridentina 002.jpg
Rude? It’s Beautiful! – by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, available from http://fssp.org

If you think it’s rude, well, first of all, the current Holy Father would disagree (I suggest you read his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy; it really is something). The Pope’s opinion cast aside, however, I’d like to call your attention to a statement made early on in the Mass: “Brethren, let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries“. That last little phrase is very telling, and it’s worth observing in isolation:

Sacred Mysteries…

Definition of a mystery: something which can not be completely understood or known. Sacred is synonymous with “holy”. Thus, in the phrase “Sacred Mysteries” we have “holy things which can not be completely understood or known”. What could such a thing be? I’ll offer my view: the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is certainly sacred and certainly a mystery, since what appear to be mundane bread and wine are the flesh and blood of the Lord.

Mass wherein the priest is not looking toward the congregation, but toward God, better conveys the idea of the Mass as a “Sacred Mystery”. It brings with it a sense that the priest is not here to simply mingle with church-goers, but to do something great, magnanimous, and indeed, sacred. It also takes the focus of the Mass off the congregation, which should not be the focal point anyway. Christ on the altar should be the focal point, and when everyone, priest and congregation alike, faces Him, it is far more God-glorifying and God-centered.

Furthermore, it can’t be said that the priest ad orientem makes the congregation excluded. They’re facing the same direction, with the priest leading the congregation in this great mystery that is Mass.

Think about it.

God bless,
Michael

Vi Verborum and the Real Presence

Credit for this argument goes to Fr. Robert Barron.

Those who say that Christ’s Eucharistic presence is merely symbolic rather than true and substantial miss something very important. This crucial point would be the power of His speech. Allow me to elaborate.

When we observe the very beginning of John’s Gospel, we see that the pre-incarnate Jesus is called the Word. He is the reason all creation is as it as, and He can change it as He pleases, being the Word responsible for all things. He is the definitive Word, the ultimate Word, the all-powerful Word and what He says goes.

Our Lord’s ability to affect reality by means of speech is seen time and time again throughout His public ministry. He says, “My son, your sins are forgiven” to the paralytic in Matthew 9 and from then on, the man’s sins are indeed forgiven. He says to the deceased Lazarus, “Come out!” (John 11:43) and sure enough, Lazarus comes out. He declares the centurion’s servant to be healed and sure enough, the servant is healed. He says that Jairus’ daughter isn’t dead; sure enough, she’s not dead. He tells the disciples that they’ll find fish by casting their nets as He directs, and sure enough, they find fish.

I’m sure by now you get the idea. Jesus can vi verborum, by the power of His words, affect the nature of things. If He says it to be so, then it is so.

At the Last Supper He said, “This is My body” and “This is the cup of My blood”. There was nothing in His speech to signify something other than literalness, just as there was nothing other than literalness in regard to His other miracles which changed reality. When the Lord performed the other miracles such as raising from the dead, everything He said was true at its face value. Why would that be different here? And you know that He does indeed have the power to change the reality of bread and wine into His own flesh and blood, so if He declares it, and He’s able, how could you deny that the Real Presence is true? As I said, His speech brought about  changes in other things. Is it likely that this is different?

The literalness of His declaration is made especially clear when He affects the change of the wine. He says not only, “This is the cup of My blood” but rather, He equates it in no uncertain terms with His very blood by saying “…which is poured out for many”. This is something which can only be said of the true, real, actual blood of Christ.

If the only argument that can be made against the Real Presence is “It’s gross” or “shocking” then I invite you to take a look at everything Jesus did. Sure, you could say, “No one in his right mind would want people to eat him”, but no one in his right mind would claim to be God, either. The Jews accused Jesus of blasphemy for claiming to be God, an outlandish thing, and yet we know that He is God indeed. They took Him literally about that, and He took Himself literally. They took Him literally when He said in John 6 that eating His flesh and drinking His blood is necessary for eternal life, and He was opposed to those who said, “Gross!”…just like He was opposed to those who denied His divinity.

Is Jesus God, or isn’t He? Can He or can’t He?

Think about it.

His blessings to you,

Mike

On Revelation – Part 1: Jesus is Our God, Unmistakably

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your eyes! I’m going to make at least two posts about the Book of Revelation (also called the Apocalypse of St. John), the first of which–this one here–will show that this book makes Christ God in no uncertain terms. The next post, Christ willing, will attempt to answer the question of “Who is the woman?”. Then the third, if there is one, will have to do with the Mass and other Catholic-isms shown in the book.

The vision St. John received is nothing short of amazing.

I’ll show that the Son, Jesus Christ, is the one, true God. Starting with chapter 1…

“‘I am Alpha and Omega,’ says the Lord God, Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).

It is rather unclear whether the speaker here is Jesus or the Father. The argument to say that this is not referring to Jesus goes like this: “Just earlier, the statement of ‘Who is, and was, and is to come’ was applied to the Father specifically (verse 4), so this must refer to Him specifically, too”. But I say, look at the phrase “Who is to come”. We are told in the previous verse that Jesus will be seen “coming in the clouds”. Coincidence? I think not. Even if this is not referring to Christ, but to the Father, it is still certain evidence for Christ’s divinity. Why? Because Christ does directly call Himself “Alpha and Omega” later on in Rev. 22:13. Alpha and Omega = Lord God and Almighty according to verse 8, so if Christ, too, is the Alpha and Omega, then He, too, is “Lord God” and “Almighty”!

“Alpha & Omega” is a title due to Almighty God alone

Moving down a little farther, three striking things occur when John sees Jesus: 1) John describes Jesus as having a voice “like the sound of many waters” (1:15), 2) John “falls at His feet, as though dead” (1:17), and 3) Jesus calls Himself “the First and the Last” (also 1:17). Let’s look at each of these.

Jesus having a voice “like the sound of many waters” looks like a reference to Ezekiel 43:2: “I saw the glory of God coming from the east, and His voice like the sound of many waters”.

John “falling at His feet as though dead” was a reaction which probably arose from the belief that the one who looked upon God would die.

“First and Last” is synonymous with “Alpha and Omega”, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and also references Isaiah 44:6: “This is what the Lord says, Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and the last. Apart from Me there is no God”.

Pretty blatant, huh? Jesus is directly claiming to be the one God! Moving on…

The Lamb has things said of Him which can only be said of God.

In chapter 4, verse 11, those surrounding God’s throne say, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive honor and glory and power“. Twice in chapter 5, a similar thing is said to or about the Lamb, i.e., Jesus. Firstly, in verse 9, the Lamb is told, “You are worthy, O Lord, to take the book and to open the seals thereof” and secondly, in verse 12, it is said that “The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power and divinity and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and benediction“. The second statement is strikingly similar to what was said to the Father above. Coincidence? Again, I think not.

But wait! There’s more! Chapter 5, verse 13, says that “to Him that sits on the throne (the Father) and to the Lamb be benediction and honor and glory for ever and ever”! There is no way that Jesus could just be a man or an angel or some “subordinate deity” when He is the object of perpetual worship along with the Father. No way at all.

Twice in Revelation, Christ is called “the Lord of lords”, in chapter 19, verse 16, and chapter 17, verse 14. This is a reference to Deuteronomy 10:17: “For the Lord your God is the God of gods, and the Lord of lords”. For a third time, coincidence? I think not.

He is “over all things, God, blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5)
Despite what modern Arians want you to think, it is absolutely senseless to call Christ our Lord “a god”.

Arius clearly hadn’t read this stuff, I guess.

God bless,

Mike

Beautiful Interchangeableness

In Scripture, you’ll often find that Jesus and the Father are interchangeable.
  •  Christ speaks, for example, of how the one who has seen Him has seen the Father (John 14:9), and how He is in the Father, and the Father in Him (14:10).
  •  Or Christ tells that disciples that if we ask Him something in His own name, He will do it (14:14), and that if we ask the Father in His [Jesus’] name, the Father, too, will do it (15:16)
  •  Or Jesus tells us that He will send the Paraclete [the Holy Spirit] (15:26), and that the Father will (14:26).
  •  Jesus is the Creator of all things (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16-17), and the Father is the Creator of all things (Hebrews 1:2).
  •  St. Paul switches several times between “Jesus our Savior” and “God our Savior” in his letter to Titus.
  •  To Christ be glory forever and ever (2 Peter 3:18). To God the Father be glory forever and ever (Philippians 4:20).
  •  St. Paul begins most of his epistles wishing for “grace and peace” from both the Father and Christ.
  •  The Book of Revelation makes both Christ and the Father the “Alpha and Omega”.
  •  Christ is the Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:16, Revelation 19:16) and the Father is the Lord of lords (Deuteronomy 10:17).
  •  Christ is the true God (1 John 5:20) and the Father is the true God (John 17:3).
  •  St. Paul requests that the grace of Christ be with those to whom he writes (1 Thessalonians 5:28), and requests that the grace of God be with the Hebrews (Hebrews 13:25).
  •  Christ is “I Am” (John 8:58) and God is (Exodus 3:14).
  •  The Church belongs to Christ (Matthew 16:18, Romans 16:16) and the Church belongs to God (1 Timothy 3:15).
  •  Similarly, the gospel is Christ’s (Mark 1:1) and the gospel is God’s (2 Corinthians 11:7).
  •  Christ is light, which darkness is absolutely absent from (John 1:5, 9) and God is light, which darkness is absolutely absent from (1 John 1:5).
  •  Jesus saved the Israelites from captivity in Egypt (Jude 1:5) and God did (Micah 6:4).
  •  Christ asks the Father to forgive His killers (Luke 23:34) and Stephen asks Christ the same thing in the case of his killers (Acts 7:60).
“The Father & I are one’ – Jesus Christ, John 10:30

Isn’t that neat? I simply cannot believe those who say Jesus isn’t God with the Father. It’s plainly evident in so many ways.

I’ll finish by quoting Paul:

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ,

Michael

Pars Secunda: Why Avoid It?

If you happened to read the first post (https://quicumquevult.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/pars-prima-a-historical-windshield-wiper/), you saw that the scope of allowance for Communion in the hand involved a lot of precautions. Precautions which, it seems, are largely unknown in the hand-receiving public. And there are more as well, but I think I’ve sufficiently made the point that care is to be taken.

So then, the Church allows it in limited cases. But, generally, why should it be avoided? That, my friends, is the topic of this post.

First of all, the Council of Trent, Session 13, Chapter 4, stated the following: “a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood”. The whole substance of the bread. That means that any particle of the consecrated bread is Christ, whole and entire. God. The Almighty. Your Creator.

And contrary to what many advocates of Communion in the hand want to think, fragments of the host–which, now, is God–do end up falling or getting attached to things. I saw a video on YouTube which was actually a test of this very thing. A guy took a bunch of unconsecrated hosts and set them on various objects, including his hand–and yes, when he picked them up, there were crumbs. That means that wherever those crumbs are left, God is left. So if someone receives Communion in the hand, and then picks his nose, he ends up covering God in nose funk, or wiping Him on his jeans, or something.

This whole fragments-falling-issue is why, if you go to a more traditional parish, it’ll probably use a Communion Paten. This goes under the chin (or hands if he receives in the hand) of the communicant so that during the transfer of Christ’s body from the hand of the priest to the person’s mouth, no fragments–which are Christ, no matter how minute–will fall to the floor. Oh, and as a side note, Vatican II never got rid of the Paten, either. In fact, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said in 2004 that “the Communion-plate (or paten) for the Communion of the faithful should be retained, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling” (Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum). Makes me wonder, why is the paten so scarcely seen these days?

OK, so that’s one danger of Eucharistic reception by hand: fragments being unnecessarily disrespected. And let me ask, do you wash your hands before receiving? You’ve been touching grimy things constantly, and now you’re gonna touch the Second Person of the Trinity, without washing your hands? The priest has to wash his. And he’s the ordained one who is, as per his ordination, eligible to touch Our Lord’s body without any special precautions. Yet if he needs to purify his hands, why don’t you?

Another point, if the Eucharist is received on the tongue and the communicant isn’t allowed to touch It, there’s a heightened sense of the solemnity of the act of reception. Whereas if Our Lord is received in the hand, the magnanimity of the act is downplayed.

I don’t remember who said this, but it was really awesome: “Communion on the tongue is Jesus feeding you, Communion in the hand is you feeding yourself”. Let’s think about this: it is the nature of gifts that they be given by someone, not taken by the recipient. The Holy Eucharist is the Highest Gift, so why should we desire to take It for ourselves rather than be given It?

As I said in part 1, the pope prefers Communion on the tongue. And no matter how many Vatican documents you read through, it is inevitably the case that Communion in the hand is the exception while Communion on the tongue is the preference.

To recap:

1. Communion in the hand involves a greater risk of fragments–which are Christ–falling, being walked on, being wiped on things, etc.

2. Communion on the tongue brings with it a greater since of the majesty of God than does Communion in the hand

3. If you receive on the tongue you don’t need to wash your hands painstakingly

4. Communion on the tongue better expresses the Eucharist’s nature as a gift

5. Communion in the hand is far and wide the exception, while Communion on the tongue must always be respected

6. The pope prefers Communion on the tongue.

In the end, why not just receive on the tongue?

May Our Lord in the Eucharist bless you, may His mother give you her prayers, and please, if you don’t mind, follow this blog,

Michael