Location of Arimathea and the “Resurrection Tomb Mystery”

Image result for resurrection tomb mystery

Meanwhile, Richard Bauckham, who was consulted for the documentary but has drawn very different conclusions about the tomb, has detailed no less than 13 possible readings for the inscription which James Tabor reads as ‘O Divine Jehovah, raise up, raise up’.



The following blog, christianevidence, gives this rather negative view of the controversial documentary of 2012, The Resurrection Tomb Mystery:

Posted: 16 April 2012
On the Thursday before Good Friday this year, the Discovery Channel screened a documentary, The Resurrection Tomb Mystery, claiming to reveal the earliest evidence for belief in the resurrection of Jesus. The documentary was about a sealed 1st century tomb found in Talpiyot, a suburb of Jerusalem, which contains ossuaries, or bones boxes.


Working with a camera mounted on a robotic arm, the filmmakers found an image on one of the boxes which biblical historian James Tabor believes is of the great fish in the story of Jonah. The early Christians used the story of Jonah, who was swallowed by the fish but later escaped from it, as a parable for the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Another of the boxes has an inscription which, according to James Tabor, says something like: ‘O Divine Jehovah, raise up, raise up’. Tabor, who is at the University of North Carolina, says he is 95 per cent certain in linking the image and inscription with Jesus.


Simcha Jacobovici, who produced the documentary, also made The Lost Tomb of Jesus in 2007, claiming that another tomb, just 200 metres from the ‘Resurrection’ tomb, contained the bones of Jesus and some of his earliest followers, including Mary Magdalene. That tomb also contained a number of bone boxes, but the Da Vinci Code-like conclusions drawn by the documentary were ridiculed by archaeologists who were involved in excavating the tomb.

This time round, The Resurrection Tomb Mystery has generated huge debate and disagreement on academic blogs around the world. Robert Cargill, of the University of Iowa, has demonstrated that the image of the ‘great fish’ has been clumsily Photoshopped for the documentary to make it more fish-like. At the time of writing, Simcha Jacobovici and James Tabor have yet to admit that the image has been manipulated. Robert Cargill and other scholars believe the image is much more likely to be an amphora, or storage jar.


Meanwhile, Richard Bauckham, who was consulted for the documentary but has drawn very different conclusions about the tomb, has detailed no less than 13 possible readings for the inscription which James Tabor reads as ‘O Divine Jehovah, raise up, raise up’. Most of them have no resurrection theme. One of them reads, ‘Here are my bones. I, Agabus, crumble not away’.


Mark Goodacre of Duke University, North Carolina, who live blogged the screening of the documentary, said, ‘I was surprised to see… just how weak the attempts to link the tomb to Jesus appeared.’

[End of quote]


Richard Bauckham clarifies the situation in NT blog, in an article that also provides the location for the biblical town of Arimathea in connection with 1 Maccabees:




Joseph of Arimathea and Talpiyot Tomb B, by Richard Bauckham


I am delighted  to have the opportunity to blog the following guest post from Prof. Richard Bauckham.  It is also available as a PDF file here.


Joseph of Arimathea and Talpiyot Tomb B


Richard Bauckham


The “Resurrection Tomb Mystery” documentary attempts to suggest that Talpiyot Tomb B was the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Hardly any evidence for this is actually provided. The only point at which some reason for the identification is given is this:


“The two [Talpiyot] tombs were found on what had been in the first century a rich man’s estate, complete with wine press and ritual bath. And the area is dominated by two hills. Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man and his name, in Hebrew, means ‘Two Hills.’”


This comment obviously depends on the usual explanation of Arimathea as representing the Hebrew place name Ramathaim (1 Sam 1:1), and correctly notices that this is a dual form of the word ramah. The latter means ‘height’ but is scarcely used except in place-names, either alone, as Ramah (there are 4 or 5 towns so-called in the Hebrew Bible), or in compounds, such as Ramoth-Gilead. In such cases, it designates a town built on a high place. For the Arimathea/Ramathaim from which Joseph is named, there needs to be a town, not just an estate ‘dominated by two hills’.

That there was a town, or even small village, called Ramathaim, so close to Jerusalem but mentioned nowhere else in our sources, seems unlikely.


The most likely identification of Joseph’s place of origin is with the Ramathaim (textual variant: Rathamin) mentioned in 1 Macc 11:34 as the headquarters of a toparchy transferred in 145 BCE from Samaria to Judea. This Ramathaim is clearly not near Jerusalem, but near the borders of Judaea and Samaria. Eusebius’s Onomasticon places it at the village of Remphis (Israel map grid 151159), which is about 30 km north-west of Jerusalem. It should be noticed that the dual form of Ramathaim is an archaic form, which has survived unusually in this place name (otherwise only in 1 Sam 1:1, which may refer to the same place, evidently called Ramah later in the narrative of I Samuel). It is therefore very distinctive (unlike the common Ramah) and we should not multiply Ramathaims unnecessarily.


The makers of the documentary perhaps assume that, since Joseph appears in the Gospel narratives in Jerusalem and has a tomb near the city, Arimathea must be near Jerusalem. But this is a mistake. Like many aristocrats in the ancient world, Joseph had estates in the country (not necessarily at all near Jerusalem) but lived most of the time in the city. This is the most obvious way of explaining why he has a new tomb, not yet occupied, near Jerusalem. His aristocratic family would surely already have a tomb – back in Arimathea. But Joseph has decided that he would like to be buried near the holy city, rather than having his body transported back to Arimathea. We now have a nice parallel in the case of the Caiaphas family, another aristocratic Jerusalem family. They had the now well-known tomb in north Talpiyot, where the high priest Caiaphas himself was interred, together with other family members. But from the ossuary inscription that was made known to the public only last year (the ossuary of Mariam daughter of Yeshua of the Caiaphas family), we now know that there was also a family tomb elsewhere, somewhere in the vicinity of the Elah valley (where the ossuary is said to have been found), plausibly at Khirbet Qeiyafa. This will have been where the family estates were located. (See my article, ‘The Caiaphas Family,’ JSJH 10 [2012] 3-31.)


So the only shred of evidence presented in the documentary for identifying Talpiyot Tomb B as that of Joseph of Arimathea is entirely without value.



In the Pope Francis era, the Eucharist defines doctrinal tussles 


ROME – Famously, Pope Francis isn’t one for spending a lot of time thinking about doctrinal questions or disputes.
The pontiff often mocks theologians for obsessing over the fine print of things, recycling a quote from Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople to Pope Paul VI after an historic 1964 meeting: “We’ll bring about unity between us, and then we’ll put all the theologians on an island so they can think about it!”
Try as Francis might, however, he can’t make doctrinal tussles in Catholicism completely disappear, because Christianity is what’s known as a “creedal” religion, meaning one in which belief matters. In reality, each of the past three years of his papacy has been marked by a defining doctrinal debate, and 2019 may turn out to be more of the same.
The fascinating point about those debates is that each, in one way or another, has centered on the Eucharist – suggesting that in the Pope Francis era, Eucharistic theology may be the defining doctrinal divide.
Of Francis’s personal faith in the Eucharist, there can be no question.
During a general audience in November 2017, for instance, Francis referred to every celebration of the Mass as “a ray of light of the unsetting sun that is the Risen Jesus Christ.” In June 2018, on the traditional Catholic feast of Corpus Christi, Francis said that only the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the food of life, can satisfy the hunger of hearts for love.
In August last year, Francis called communion a foretaste of heaven.
“Every time that we participate in the Holy Mass, we hasten heaven on earth in a certain sense because from the Eucharistic food – the body and blood of Christ – we learn what eternal life is,” he said.
Yet despite that ardent Eucharistic emphasis, critics say that Francis has endangered traditional Catholic beliefs about the sacrament.
When the pope issued his document Amoris Laetitia in 2016, it opened a ferocious internal argument over his cautious opening to allowing Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church to receive Communion. Although that decision touched on the theology of marriage and other matters, at its core was the question of what the Eucharist is and what the proper conditions are for someone to receive it.
Francis and his advisors insisted that the decision in Amoris didn’t involve any revision at all to Church teaching, while critics lambasted it as a fairly radical repudiation of what had come before. In any event, the point is that disagreements over how to understand the Eucharist were at the heart of the Amoris debates.
In a similar fashion, 2018’s major doctrinal row was centered in Germany, where roughly a two-thirds majority of the country’s bishops favored a set of guidelines opening Communion to the Protestant spouses of baptized Catholics under at least some circumstances.
While a handful of German prelates objected, forcing a Vatican meeting on the subject, Francis essentially left the decision to the discretion of the conference and its members, with the result that there is no uniform national standard right now.
That debate, too, was about the nature of the Eucharist, in part because it raised the question of what it means to be in “communion” with the Catholic faith in especially acute form.
Although 2019 just began, it’s possible that this year’s signature doctrinal controversy could also center on the Eucharist.
Rumors are currently making the rounds that Francis may be getting ready for an ecumenical Communion service with Protestants, in particular Lutherans, the details of which have been entrusted to an informal working group. The idea is that despite whatever nuances may separate Lutheran and Catholic understandings of the Eucharist, they would be judged insufficiently serious to prevent mutual reception of the sacrament, at least under certain circumstances.
Such rumors, by the way, have circulated since Francis traveled to Sweden in October of 2016 to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and they may very well be inaccurate or exaggerated. Yet the very fact they circulate at all is revealing, in part because of what that says about people’s perceptions of this pope’s approach to Eucharistic topics.
Why has the Eucharist become the front-and-center doctrinal flashpoint of the Pope Francis era?
Part of the explanation may be that Francis inherited a series of question marks about the Eucharist and was compelled to answer them. In that sense, it may be less a matter of personal choice than the agenda any pope would have been compelled to face.
On the other hand, faith in the Eucharist as the real presence of Christ traditionally has been a cornerstone of Catholic identity, a conviction that sets Catholics apart. Under a pope who seems determined to play down such distinctions in order to emphasize commonalities, perhaps it’s no real surprise that competing visions of the Eucharist, and especially who’s eligible for it, have risen to the surface.
However much Francis may poke fun from time to time at the obtuseness or pedantry of theologians, doctrine is part of the lifeblood of the Catholic Church – and in his era, those theologians seem to have plenty to talk about, beginning with what this pope is teaching in both word and deed about the central sacrament of the faith.


Pope Francis warns against nationalism, xenophobia

Agence France-Presse

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis has warned politicians of the dangers of exploiting nationalism and fear of foreigners to undermine the trust essential to their task of binding societies together, not dividing them.

Trust based on an “authentic political life, grounded in law and in frank and fair relations between individuals… is never easy to achieve,” the pope said in a message released Tuesday, which will be used to mark World Peace Day on Jan. 1.

This is because “human relations are complex, especially in our own times, marked by a climate of mistrust rooted in the fear of others or of strangers, or anxiety about one’s personal security,” he said.
“Sadly, it is also seen at the political level, in attitudes of rejection or forms of nationalism that call into question the fraternity of which our globalized world has such great need.

“Today more than ever, our societies need ‘artisans of peace’.”

“Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable,” he added in the message entitled: “Good politics at the service of peace.”

Pope Francis also warned against corruption and the pursuit of personal ambition at the expense of wider society, saying that when rulers look out only for themselves, the future is compromised, especially for the younger generations, which become marginalized.


“God ignites the spark of happiness for the whole world”


Pope Francis: Rejoice! God hears your prayers
God’s loving care for his children – listening to their cares, answering their prayers and petitions – is a cause for rejoicing, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Sunday.

ROME – God’s loving care for his children – listening to their cares, answering their prayers and petitions – is a cause for rejoicing, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Sunday.
“The awareness that in difficulties we can always turn to the Lord, and that he never rejects our invocations, is a great reason for joy,” the pope said Dec. 16. “Shout with joy, rejoice, rejoice: this is the invitation of this Sunday.”
“No worries, no fear, will ever take away the serenity that does not come from human things, from human consolations, no, the serenity that comes from God, from knowing that God lovingly guides our life, and always does.”Speaking on the third Sunday of Advent, known as “Gaudete Sunday,” Francis reflected on the peace, hope, and joy Christ brought into the world at his birth.
It is at the Annunciation, he said, that “in a remote village in Galilee, in the heart of a young woman
unknown to the world, God ignites the spark of happiness for the whole world.”

The same message the Angel Gabriel gave to Mary on that day is also addressed to the entire Church, he stated: “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”
The message to the Church is, he said, to “rejoice, small Christian community, poor and humble but beautiful in my eyes because you crave my Kingdom, you are hungry and thirsty for justice, you patiently weave a fabric of peace,” you do not chase after the powerful in office, “but faithfully remain close to the poor.”
“And so, you are not afraid of anything, but your heart is joyful. If we live like this, in the presence of the Lord, our heart will always be joyful,” he said, explaining that joyfulness is not always a strong feeling; it can also be the humble everyday joy that is peace.

He said: “Peace is the smallest joy, but it is joy.”

So, Francis asked, how does one welcome the Lord’s invitation to joy? By asking, like the people who listened to the preaching of John the Baptist: “what must we do?”
“This question is the first step in the conversion that we are invited to take in this Advent time,” he said. “Each of us asks ourselves: what should I do? A small thing, but ‘what should I do?’”
As St. Paul says, make your prayers and petitions known to God, he said.

“May the Virgin Mary,” he prayed, “help us to open our hearts to the God who is coming, because he floods our whole life with joy.”

At the end of the Angelus prayer, Francis addressed the Roman children gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the annual blessing of the “bambinelli” – the baby Jesus statues and figurines that will be placed in nativity scenes on Christmas.
“Dear children, when, in your homes, you will gather in prayer in front of the nativity scene, fixing your gaze on the Child Jesus, you will feel wonder,” the pope said.

In an aside, he explained that the feeling of “wonder,” is “more than a common emotion.”
“It is to see God: Wonder for the great mystery of God made man; and the Holy Spirit will place in your heart the humility, the tenderness and the goodness of Jesus,” he said.

Francis also praised the recent approval of the “Global Compact for Safe, Ordinary and Regular Migration,” which took place in Marrakech, Morocco.
The pope said he hopes that with this compact, the international community will work “with responsibility, solidarity and compassion towards those who, for various reasons, have left their country, and I entrust this intention to your prayers.”


Pontius Pilate was a judge over Israel for many years

SON OF GOD, Greg Hicks as Pontius Pilate, 2014. ph: Casey Crafford/TM & copyright ©20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved


Damien F. Mackey


 “Procurator Felix (52-ca. 59 C.E.), as he is depicted in Josephus’ texts,

in several ways appears to bear stronger similarities to the Pilate

described in the Gospels, than Pilate himself”.

 Lena Einhorn

As professor Julius Sumner Miller would have asked:

Image result for sumner miller why is it so

Why is it that Josephus’s procurator Felix, conventionally dated to c. 50 AD, may better fit the biblical description of Pontius Pilate than does Pilate himself, conventionally at c. 30 AD?

The answer to this question comes fairly easy to a hardened revisionist such as myself.

Similarly, the question is asked – and I have answered it – why does king Nabonidus of Babylon (conventionally dated to c. 540 BC) better fit the Book of Daniel’s description of the Chaldean “King Nebuchednezzar” than does the historical Nebuchednezzar (II) (c. 600 BC, conventional dating) himself?

Simple answer: The Babylonian history has been over-extended and heavily duplicated.

King Nabonidus is very much like Daniel’s “Nebuchednezzar” because he was, in fact, Daniel’s “Nebuchednezzar” – {and Nabonidus was also the historical Nebuchednezzar II}.

And Nebuchednezzar II’s son, Belshazzar (also known as Evil-Merodach), the son-successor of “Nebuchednezzar” in the Book of Daniel’s famous chapter 5 (the ‘Writing on the Wall’), was simply the same person as Nabonidus’s well-known son, Belshazzar.

I have written by now various articles on this subject of neo-Babylonian revision, including:

“Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel


Ashurbanipal and Nabonidus


Instinctively now, therefore, I would incline to the view that Procurator Felix was so like the biblical Pilate because he was Pontius Pilate. No need, then, for any 20-year “time shift”.


A suggested procuratorial merger

  The Bible never calls him Marcus Antonius Felix,

 just “Felix”, which could well be simply a nickname.


My suggestion would be – as already strongly hinted in the first part of this article – that the Pontius Pilate of the Gospels was the same as the “Felix” of the Book of Acts.

Whether accurately or not, this Felix has come down to us variously as Marcus Antonius (Roman writers) and as Claudius (Josephus).

He, Pontius Pilate in the Gospels, is Felix in the Book of Acts.

This use of different names for the same person in different books of the Bible – or, in the same book, but recounted by different authors (or different sources), is not uncommon.

Thus we have found that the story of the abduction by “Pharaoh” of Abram’s wife, Sarai, in Ishmael’s toledôt, becomes almost like a different story at the hands (or toledôt) of Isaac, in which “Pharaoh” is newly named, “Abimelech”:

Toledôt Explains Abram’s Pharaoh


Now Lena Einhorn has well shown, in “Jesus and the Egyptian Prophet”, that the Procurator Felix of Acts fits the biblical Pontius Pilate, though without her identifying Felix as Pilate: http://lenaeinhorn.se/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Jesus-and-the-Egyptian-Prophet-12.11.25.pdf


 Changing the names of authority figures in the gospel texts, in order to detect (or disguise) parallels in the historical sources, would at the same time be a simple and a radical intervention. It would with one stroke of the pen move the narrative to a different era, but it would also likely bestow upon these authority figures characteristics and circumstances which are not in reality theirs. When comparing the gospel descriptions of various dignitaries with those from Josephus, not only does such a pattern indeed seem to emerge; in addition, there is some consistency with regard to which dignitaries would change names, and when they are active. Procurator Felix (52-ca. 59 C.E.), as he is depicted in Josephus’ texts, in several ways appears to bear stronger similarities to the Pilate described in the Gospels, than Pilate himself.

As noted above, in Josephus’ accounts of Pilate’s reign we find no descriptions of robbers, nor of crucifixions of Jews, or co-reigning high priests, or open conflict between Galileans and Samaritans. Under Felix, and under Cumanus, we do.

There are other examples. Luke 13:1 reads: “At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” This statement fits poorly with Pilate. To begin with, Pilate was not the ruler of Galilee, Herod Antipas was. Secondly, the only registered violent encounter between Pilate and the Jews occurred in Jerusalem – thus in Judea – when non-violent protests against the aqueduct prompted Pilate to instruct his soldiers “with their staves to beat those that made the clamour” (B.J. 2.175-177).

This stands in stark contrast to what occurred under Felix, in particular. Felix, unlike Pilate, was the ruler not only of Judea, but also of “Samaria, Galilee, and Peraea” (B.J. 2.247; the western part of Galilee after 54 C.E.). At this point, “the country was again filled with robbers and impostors”, a disproportionate amount of whom were Galileans,30 and Felix was exceptionally cruel in dealing with these insurgents. As Josephus writes: “But as to the number of the robbers whom he caused to be crucified, and of those who were caught among them, and whom he brought to punishment, they were a multitude not to be enumerated” (B.J. 2.253).

Tacitus, in turn, puts much of the blame for the emerging rebellion on Felix and Cumanus (Ann. 12.54).

There are other, more personal, examples: the Gospels attribute great influence to Pilate’s wife (Matt. 27:19: “While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man …’”). The Gospels also mention a feud between Pilate and the Jewish king (Luke 23:12: “That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.”)

In contrast, Josephus does not mention Pilate’s wife, and, more significantly, fails to mention any animosity between Pilate and Herod Antipas (Philo does mention one possible occasion of disagreement – when “the four sons of the king” [Herod] are asked by the people to implore Pilate to remove the guilt shields, or ensigns, from Jerusalem).31

Josephus does, however, describe a significant – and very personal – disagreement between Felix and Herod Agrippa II. The conflict concerns the procurator’s wife. Felix had fallen in love with Agrippa’s sister, princess Drusilla (A.J. 20.141-144). But Drusilla was not only married; Agrippa had forced her first husband, king Azizus, to convert to Judaism. Now Felix “endeavored to persuade her to forsake her present husband, and marry him”, which Drusilla did, thus “transgressing the laws of her forefathers” (A.J. 20.137-144; cf. Acts 24:24).

Hence, a prominent wife, and a personal disagreement with a Jewish ruler, are aspects of Felix’ life; not, as far as is known, of Pilate’s.

Yet another example: the text in Luke 23:6-7 does, if it pertains to Pilate and Herod Antipas, contain a curious tautology: “When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod …” Since Pilate ruled Judea, and Herod Antipas ruled Galilee, the words “under Herod’s jurisdiction” seem superfluous. A more logical sentence would have read: “When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was, he sent him off to Herod …”

With Felix and Herod Agrippa II, however, the sentence makes perfect sense. From 54 C.E., jurisdiction over Galilee was divided between them – with Felix ruling over western Galilee, and Herod Agrippa II ruling over the eastern parts. Thus, the information that Jesus is a Galilean would not automatically put him under Herod’s jurisdiction.

In conclusion, there are in the Gospels a number of characteristics and events ascribed to Pilate or his times which, judging by Josephus, fit better with later procurators, principally Felix, procurator in the 50s (Table 1).

[End of quote]

The “Egyptian” of Acts 21:38

‘Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led

the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?’

 Acts 21:38

My conclusion has been in this series that the reason why Procurator Felix so resembles the biblical Procurator Pontius Pilate is because he was the same person as Pilate.


The governor called “Pontius Pilate” in the Gospels is referred to instead, in Acts, simply as “Felix”.


This, I would suspect, was the Procurator’s nickname.


Admittedly, Peter and John do mention him by the name of Pontius Pilate in Acts 4:27, but this is I would take to be a direct quote from the Apostles: ‘Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed’.


My identifying Pontius Pilate with Felix (conventionally separated by some two decades) would, so I believe, account for why Lena Einhorn has arrived at her ‘time shift’ of two decades theory:


The length of governorship of Pontius Pilate would now, according to my own view, be much expanded due to the inclusion of Felix (and vice versa). That is why Paul is able to say to Felix (Acts 24:10): ‘I cheerfully make my defence, knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation’.


The Greek phrase for the words in italics (for many years) is:


Ἐκ πολλῶν ἐτῶν

Lena also claims to have found significant likenesses between the Egyptian and Jesus: http://lenaeinhorn.se/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Jesus-and-the-Egyptian-Prophet-12.11.25.pdfPerhaps the most significant aspect of Felix’s procuratorship, however, is that if the 30s are devoid of strong Jewish messianic leaders, the 50s are not.35 And the most important of them is one that Josephus describes at length, in both his major works (A.J. 20.169-172; B.J. 2.261-263; cf. Acts 21:38):


There came out of Egypt about this time to Jerusalem one that said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives, as it was called, which lay over against the city, and at the distance of five furlongs. He said further, that he would show them from hence how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down; and he promised them that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those walls, when they were fallen down. Now when Felix was informed of these things, he ordered his soldiers to take their weapons, and came against them with a great number of horsemen and footmen from Jerusalem, and attacked the Egyptian and the people that were with him. He also slew four hundred of them, and took two hundred alive. But the Egyptian himself escaped out of the fight, but did not appear any more (A.J. 20.169-172).


The description in B.J. 2.261-263 is similar, but more negative. And it adds the information that this messianic leader “got together thirty thousand men” that he “led round about from the wilderness to the mount which was called the Mount of Olives”. The ensuing battle is described in a similar way.


There are significant differences, but had the Egyptian been active in the 30s, instead of in the 50s, historians would undoubtedly have made comparisons with Jesus from Nazareth.

[End of quote]


Much of Josephus’s description of “the Egyptian”, for example the Mount of Olives aspect, does not appear at all in the brief biblical account, the location there being “the wilderness”.

Quite a difference!

Moreover, the chronology – the “recently” or “before these days” (πρὸ τούτων τῶν ἡμερῶν) – would be closer to the latter part of Paul’s life rather than to the time of the ministry of Jesus.

Josephus, writing after these events, had apparently confused the incident of the arrest of Jesus, well known as a Jew (Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:9; Luke 23:38; John 19:3), with the later revolt of the obscure “Egyptian” insurrectionist.


Jesus Christ was not a political revolutionary

Image result for washing disciples feet


Damien F. Mackey


“Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the “Christian revolution”, a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power: the revolution of love, a love that does not rely ultimately on human resources but is a gift of God which is obtained by trusting solely and unreservedly in his merciful goodness”.

Pope Benedict XVI


Anyone who reads pope Benedict XVI”s series on Jesus of Nazareth will appreciate just how pitifully weak is any argument attempting to make of Jesus Christ some sort of political revolutionary bent upon overthrowing the Romans. According to a 2011 review of his book: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/the-pope/8374056/Pope-Jesus-was-not-a-political-revolutionary.html


In a new book, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, Benedict XVI said Jesus comes to the world “with the gift of healing” and to reveal God’s power as “the power of love”.


He wrote that Jesus “does not come as a destroyer. He does not come bearing the sword of a revolutionary.”


In the biography, Benedict also says that Jesus separated religion and politics “thereby changing the world: this is what truly marks the essence of his new path.

“This separation… of politics from faith, of God’s people from politics, was ultimately possible only through the cross,” he said.


The 83-year old pontiff also speaks out against religious violence, following a wave of attacks on Christians in several parts of the Muslim world.

[End of quote]


How can one who promotes his “kingdom” as being one of “truth”, and of service – exemplified by the washing of his disciples’ feet – and who commands us to love even our enemies, be, at the same time, a sword-bearing militant?

In 2007 (18th February), pope Benedict XVI had considered this matter in an Angelus address:



Dear Brothers and Sisters,


This Sunday’s Gospel contains some of the most typical and forceful words of Jesus’ preaching: “Love your enemies” (Lk 6: 27). It is taken from Luke’s Gospel but is also found in Matthew’s (5: 44), in the context of the programmatic discourse that opens with the famous “Beatitudes”. Jesus delivered it in Galilee at the beginning of his public life: it is, as it were, a “manifesto” presented to all, in which he asks for his disciples’ adherence, proposing his model of life to them in radical terms.


But what do his words mean? Why does Jesus ask us to love precisely our enemies, that is, a love which exceeds human capacities?


Actually, Christ’s proposal is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This “more” comes from God: it is his mercy which was made flesh in Jesus and which alone can “tip the balance” of the world from evil to good, starting with that small and decisive “world” which is the human heart.


This Gospel passage is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian non-violence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil, as a false interpretation of “turning the other cheek” (cf. Lk 6: 29) claims, but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12: 17-21) and thereby breaking the chain of injustice.


One then understands that for Christians, non-violence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone.


Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the “Christian revolution”, a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power: the revolution of love, a love that does not rely ultimately on human resources but is a gift of God which is obtained by trusting solely and unreservedly in his merciful goodness. Here is the newness of the Gospel which silently changes the world! Here is the heroism of the “lowly” who believe in God’s love and spread it, even at the cost of their lives.

Dear brothers and sisters, Lent, which will begin this Wednesday with the Rite of Ashes, is the favourable season in which all Christians are asked to convert ever more deeply to Christ’s love.


Let us ask the Virgin Mary, docile disciple of the Redeemer who helps us to allow ourselves to be won over without reserve by that love, to learn to love as he loved us, to be merciful as Our Father in Heaven is merciful (cf. Lk 6: 36).


With this in mind, I must have serious reservations about writer/director Lena Einhorn’s suggestion, in her admittedly intriguing article “Jesus and the Egyptian Prophet” (http://lenaeinhorn.se/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Jesus-and-the-Egyptian-Prophet-12.11.25.pdf) that Jesus may have been involved in a battle on Mount Olivet just prior to his arrest, enabling for Lena to make an association of Jesus with Josephus’s Egyptian prophet.

This is how she introduces her article:




Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, John 18:3 and 18:12 state that Jesus on the Mount of Olives was confronted by a speira – a Roman cohort of 500 to 1,000 soldiers. This suggestion of a battle preceding Jesus’ arrest is reminiscent of an event described by Josephus in the 50s (A.J. 20.169-172; B.J. 2.261-263), involving the so called ‘Egyptian Prophet’ (or simply ‘the Egyptian’). This messianic leader – who had previously spent time “in the wilderness” – had “advised the multitude … to go along with him to the Mount of Olives”, where he “would show them from hence how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down”. Procurator Felix, however, sent a cohort of soldiers to the Mount of Olives, where they defeated ‘the Egyptian’.

Although the twenty-year time difference would seem to make all comparisons futile, there are other coinciding aspects: The preceding messianic leader named by Josephus, Theudas (A.J. 20.97-99), shares distinct characteristics with John the Baptist: Like John, Theudas gathered his followers by the river Jordan, and, like John, he was arrested by the authorities, and they “cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem”. Curiously, although the names of dignitaries may differ, comparing the New Testament accounts with Josephus’ accounts of the mid-40s to early 50s in several respects appears to be more productive than a comparison with his accounts of the 30s: It is in this later period, not the 30s, that Josephus describes the activity and crucifixion of robbers (absent between 6 and 44 C.E.), a conflict between Samaritans and Jews, two co-reigning high priests, a procurator killing Galileans, an attack on someone named Stephanos outside Jerusalem, and at least ten more seemingly parallel events. Importantly, these are parallels that, judging by Josephus, appear to be absent in the 30s. The significance of this will be discussed.

[End of quote]


In a reply to Lena Einhorn, I wrote in part:


…. As I suspected, there is much of interest to be found in your intriguing article, “Jesus and the Egyptian Prophet”.

One point that jumped to mind when reading of your discussion of the arrest of Jesus involving a battle, and a ‘speira’ of some 500-1000 soldiers, is that poor old Razis of 2 Maccabees, who wasn’t then part of a battle, had 500 soldiers sent to arrest him by Nicanor (14:39-40): “Wanting to show clearly how much he disliked the Jews, Nicanor sent more than 500 soldiers to arrest Razis, because he thought his arrest would be a crippling blow to the Jews”.

A show of force rather than a battle.

Razis is, in my historical reconstruction, the great Ezra (Ezras = Razes), a ‘Father of the Jews’, the same approximate appellation given to Razis. See my article, “Death of Ezra the Scribe”: https://www.academia.edu/36736367/Death_of_Ezra_the_Scribe

Understanding Jesus in his Levantine context

 Image result for woman wipes jesus feet


“I remember reading the words of Jesus Christ in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” These words shocked me:

the truth is a person rather than an abstract concept. I wanted to know more about

how truth can be a person and found myself drawn to the person of Christ

much more than to Christianity as a religion”.

 Rev. Nadim Nassar


Damien Mackey writes: I can heartily recommend a book that I am currently reading written by the Reverend Nadim Nassar, the first Syrian to be ordained an Anglican priest.

It is called The Culture of God. The Syrian Jesus – reading the divine mind, sailing into the divine heart (Hodder and Stoughton, 2018).

Reading about Jesus Christ and his historical environment in the Middle Eastern world written by someone (and indeed Fr. Nassar is an excellent writer) who has grown up and lived there – but who has also lived in Germany, and now in England – provides one with insights into the Scriptures that a person brought up entirely in a ‘Western’ environment would miss out on completely. Thus, a statement in one or other of the Gospels uttered by Jesus, or by someone else, that Nadim Nassar would immediately realise was ironic, and underpinned with humour, I, reading that same text at face value, would have no such appreciation of its subtleties.


Fr. Nassar’s accounts of Jesus and women (the one taken in adultery; the Samaritan woman; and the woman who washes Jesus’s feet with her tears at the house of Simon the Pharisee) are gems. Once again, whereas I would read the account of Simon the Pharisee as he being a somewhat careless host, Fr. Nassar, with his intimate understanding of Levantine hospitality, shows that Simon had set up Jesus entirely to humiliate him. And that all of the observances of Levantine hospitality that Simon had deliberately neglected in relation to Jesus, the woman who washed his feet and anointed him, entirely fulfilled.


Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, has provided this brief review of Fr. Nassar’s book:



‘So much of the reporting of the Middle East at the moment reflects war and human misery; it’s inspiring to find, in this thoughtful and engaging book, a message of hope from what Fr Nadim calls “that region of the world that God chose to live in when he took human form”‘ Edward Stourton ‘The ultimate question of this book is, why does it matter to me, a human being, to know the culture of God, and what impact should that have on my own life and existence? The culture of God is the antithesis of the culture of the Pharisees – yet again and again we fall into the trap of condemning or excluding others. Understanding the culture of God helps us to uncover God’s image within us, a shining jewel buried deep under the dirt of our selfishness and greed, and helps us to shine as God intends us to, re-forming our relationships with God and with each other in our amazingly diverse world.’ It is as we read the Bible, argues Father Nadim Nassar, that we are invited to discover what ‘the culture of God’ – the community of love that makes up the Trinity – looks like, and how it might transform our lives and our faith. But in order to do so we need to understand the culture of the Bible itself, as well as the particular culture that forms our own worldview.

Ultimately it is Jesus who has direct access to the culture of God; and so we also need to understand Jesus within his first-century Levantine context. Father Nadim Nassar is the Church of England’s only Syrian priest and an outspoken advocate for western Christians to recognise the Middle-Eastern roots of their faith. The fresh and provocative reflections in The Culture of God, his first book, are informed by his experience of growing up in Syria and living through the conflicts in the region, especially the civil wars in Lebanon and Syria. Taking us on a journey through the mystery of the incarnation, to Jesus’ role as storyteller – Al-Hakawati – his relationship with a disparate cast of people as narrated by the gospels, and finally his death and resurrection, Father Nadim unfolds for us the culture of God and what it can mean for a world that so desperately needs both freedom and a way to embrace diversity. ‘Fr Nadim’s personal experience of the painful effects of war and conflict in the Middle East is an insightful lens into the brokenness of humanity that leads to the ongoing violation of the God-given sanctity and dignity of life. At the same time, the paradox of the Crucifixion and Christianity is presented as a key to understanding the restoration of that same humanity, and the possibility of reconciliation with God and one another if the life and teachings of Christ are truly lived.


I also came across this interview with Fr. Nassar:



The Reverend Nadim Nassar, the first Syrian to be ordained an Anglican priest, is director and co-founder of the Awareness Foundation, dedicated to building understanding between East and West and sustaining Christians in the Middle East.


Radix: As a Christian growing up in Syria, did you feel that you were part of a minority group? Were you in a village where there were other Christians?


Nadim Nassar: I grew up in Lattakia, Syria’s principal port on the Mediterranean Sea. Lattakia is a diverse city, with many religions represented there. I grew up as a Christian in a Christian family. Although Christians are numerically a minority in Syria, we always lived in harmony with the Muslim majority and other minorities. There was no tension between the faiths, and we felt a part of the fabric of Syrian society.


Radix: Did you experience Christianity as something you chose, or as something you were born into?


Nassar: I was born in a Christian family, but we were in touch with other religions, especially Islam. Both Christianity and Islam are missionary faiths, so there always was an indirect invitation to become a Muslim.

This means that I couldn’t take my faith for granted; people of a minority faith are always conscious of their faith. It’s different from living in the West, where being Christian in a supposedly Christian or a secular society can be the default position.


Radix: At what point did you feel called to the priesthood? My understanding is that you are the only Syrian Anglican priest in the world. How did you choose that tradition?


Nassar: I was part of a group of three close friends who grew up with great curiosity and enthusiasm about what we used to call the “truth” when we were teenagers. I remember reading the words of Jesus Christ in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” These words shocked me: the truth is a person rather than an abstract concept. I wanted to know more about how truth can be a person and found myself drawn to the person of Christ much more than to Christianity as a religion. Finally, I decided to go even deeper in my journey toward this fascinating person who was either totally mad to say that He was the truth, or totally honest that He is the truth–and there was no other way.

I wanted to study theology, but the only school nearby was in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, a two-hour drive from my Syrian home town. At that time, I was 17 and Lebanon was in the middle of a raging civil war. To go into a war zone to study theology was a life-changing decision that was very hard for my family to accept. But when they saw how passionate I was about this journey they supported me. I moved from a warm and loving family home in Lattakia to a harsh and violent situation in Beirut. During the seven years (1981-1988) I studied at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, I faced death many times and lost dear friends in the horrible war that raged throughout Lebanon. I endured all this because of my strong desire to know Christ as the truth, which has never left me.

I grew up in Syria with a Presbyterian father and an Orthodox mother, and, when I came to London in 1997, I continued studying Protestant theology and was ordained in the United Reformed Church. I was the URC’s Senior Chaplain to the Universities and Colleges in London until 2003. In response to what I say as a growing need to study the Christian faith in the context of the 20th century world, we established The Awareness Foundation in an Anglican church in London, thanks to the support of Bishop Michael Marshall and his congregation.

Over time, I felt more and more part of the Anglican tradition; this tradition was the only one I had ever encountered that bridged the Protestant and the Orthodox in me, so I chose to ask the Bishop of London to ordain me.


Radix: The political climate in the Middle East seems to have changed, to have become less tolerant of religious and political differences. Would you say there has been a major shift in your lifetime?


Nassar: Yes, there has been a huge shift in the dynamic between religions and a dramatic change within Islam. Political Islam has gained enormous power in the Middle East and political Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaida, and ISIS have greatly influenced the societies in the region. The most devastating result is the breaking of communities along religious lines and the rise of Islamic fanaticism which has spread from the Middle East to the whole world.


Radix: I know that persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt has increased in recent years. Is the same true of Syrian Christians?


Nassar: Until the Arab Spring, we did not experience persecution. There was some discrimination, but nothing remotely like persecution. The conflict in Syria has seen the torture, kidnapping, rape, murder, and beheading of Christians just because of their faith. Christian women are now sold as slaves–even sex slaves–in special markets in areas where fanatical groups like ISIS are in control. We must also acknowledge that other minorities in the Middle East are currently experiencing persecution and cruelty. Even Muslims may find themselves persecuted if they are of a different denomination from the fanatical groups, or if they do not show support for these groups; some have been forced to fight alongside them. This has been made much worse by the influx of Islamic fanatics from around the world, including from Europe and the United States.


Radix: I understand that, like Egypt, Syria has a long Christian history.


Nassar: Actually, Christianity started in Greater Syria–not in Egypt. Palestine at the time of Jesus Christ was a satellite of the Roman province of Syria. According to the Acts of the Apostles, the followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch, a major city in Syria, (Acts 11:26). Christianity existed in Syria since its very beginnings, and it was a Christian country for centuries before Islam even began. Don’t forget that St. Paul was in Syria, on the way to Damascus, the capital of Syria, when he was converted; his mission was to persecute the church in Syria – which was already strong and growing.


Radix: Have you had much dialogue with Muslims?


Nassar: I have spent my entire life in dialogue with Muslims, ever since I had Muslim friends as a child. Dialogue in my case has not been only theological or intellectual, but rather building bridges and relationships, which is what I do through the Awareness Foundation. Dialogue is an important, ongoing process to communicate with and understand those who are different from me.


Radix: How is ISIS different from what we’ve seen in the past and how great a threat does it pose?


Nassar: ISIS made itself distinct, especially from Al Qaida, by being more cruel and bloodthirsty; their mission is to kill and destroy everybody and everything in disagreement with their ideology and understanding of religion. ISIS is also unique because they are working to establish a caliphate, a religious Islamic state (in their terminology, “al khilafa”) with no respect for cultural or national borders and identities; they consider Iraq and the Sham countries (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine–including Israel) as one state. ISIS stands for the “Islamic State of Iraq and Sham” and they won’t stop at the borders of Syria.

The threat of ISIS has been colossal for the Middle East because it’s spreading its poison throughout the entire region, threatening the existence of all indigenous minorities. They also threaten cultural and civil values that have bonded people of different religions and denominations for millennia.


Radix: Is there any way to stop the violence, other than military intervention? Is peacemaking possible?

Nassar: I do not believe military intervention has ever stopped violence; it only adds to the destruction and death toll. I experienced that in my years in Beirut, when different armies invaded Lebanon to try to establish peace, including the U.S. Army. All they did was increase the level of violence.

Peace is always possible because God gives us the ability to live in peace if we listen to Him, free from the political manipulation and corruption of His message. The most important tool of peacemaking in our possession is dialogue. In Christianity, when God wanted to make peace with humanity, He sent a message–which was nothing less than Himself, to teach us how to live in peace. Unfortunately, when our vision is clouded by political power, we make dialogue the last resort, rather than the first and obvious one.

Peace is possible wherever there is conflict when we listen to the voice of reason and open channels of communication; dialogue is not only for friends–it is especially for enemies and those in conflict. Having said that, we need to acknowledge that since dialogue would not be fruitful with a violent terrorist organization like ISIS, the way to defeat it is to cut its resources, preventing the flow of personnel, money, and weapons to it. As long as many strong world economies are partly dependent on the manufacture and exportation of weapons, conflicts will spread and support for organizations like ISIS will continue. Fighting over resources such as oil and gas hinders peacemaking too.


Radix: How has the situation in Syria affected you and your family?


Nassar: The conflict in Syria has affected every Syrian, whether inside or outside the country. Most Syrians have close connections to their homeland. Syrian families are usually large and very close. I have hundreds of relatives in Syria. Although I live in London, I used to go to Syria several times a year to see my family or for work. As director of the Awareness Foundation, I was involved with activities in the Middle East to build bridges between East and West and raise awareness about the importance of supporting the Christian presence in the Middle East. Now, I still go to Syria because I feel that we have responsibility as a Foundation to support the Church there, and to help Christians face the huge challenges of the conflict. Sadly, the actual existence of Christianity in Syria and Iraq is under threat, and the number of Christians is dwindling day by day due to the displacement of families by the war.

My family come from Lattakia, in the area that is home to the Alawites, an Islamic sect to which the President of Syria belongs. This area is fairly safe, but like any other area in the country it suffers from extensive power outages and astronomical inflation due to the scarcity of imported and even manufactured goods; this is exacerbated by the internal displacement within Syria that has resulted in a tripling of the population of Lattakia.


Radix: What would you like Westerners to understand about the Middle East?


Nassar: Unfortunately there are many Western misconceptions about the Middle East. When the West looks at the Middle East, it mostly sees darkness, violence, and Islam. People in the West should understand that not everyone in the Middle East is a Muslim, and that most Muslims have nothing to do with fanaticism or terrorism. The Middle East is a place of great religious and cultural diversity, with tremendous historical roots that give the region the epithet “The Cradle of Civilization.”

Damascus is the oldest capital in the world, and Lattakia gave the world the first alphabet (Ugaritic) in approximately 1400 BC. The Middle East is also perceived as a big desert where people live in tents and ride camels. I remember when I first visited America in the mid-80s, my American hosts introduced me to a car, a street, and a building; they genuinely thought I had left my tent and ridden on a camel to get to the airport! Much of the region is exceptionally fertile and blessed with rich resources; before the current conflict, Syria was an exporter of cotton, fruit, vegetables, and many minerals.

One final thing that Westerners should understand is the enormous influence wielded in the Middle East by international and world powers. Because of the geographical location of the Middle East and its massive resources, the region has been, since the dawn of history, the chosen field of conflict among the world powers. After millennia of invasions and occupations, the countries of the Middle East at last gained some form of independence after the Second World War. Since then, the region has become the favorite location for proxy wars between the West and the two great powers of the East, Russia and China. These proxy wars also take place between regional and international powers including Turkey, Iran, Israel, and the Gulf States.

So we must understand that what is happening today is not just the product of the peoples of the Middle East “not getting on.” Peace in the Middle East will be possible only when there is international will to bring the conflict to an end; peace can be established when all parties to the conflict come together and when all of those parties fully implement agreements reached through dialogue.


Radix: Do you see any signs of hope?


Nassar: Christianity is a faith of hope, and without hope we cannot exist and our faith becomes in vain. I love what St. Peter said: “but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3.15, NRSV). My hope is that there are enough people who believe that faith, whatever the religion, demands peace with God and with each other, so that we put our hands together to build peace in Syria and the Middle East.

The Awareness Foundation and I work tirelessly encouraging people to be ambassadors for hope and peace. This vision is implemented in the Foundation’s work; we recently led a Leadership Training Project inside Syria for 90 young men and women who committed themselves to peacemaking in their communities.

We’re determined to put our effort, combined with all that other faithful and sincere organizations are doing, to promote the solution of conflict through dialogue and other peaceful means. I hope and pray that politicians the world over, not just in the Middle East, will see that bullets and bombs only escalate and deepen the conflict. There is hope for the Middle East as long as there are people who believe that religion is there to serve people, not to destroy them, and that God is the creator of all, and that His will is that we live together in rich diversity, peace, and love.

Pope Benedict XVI and the Jewish roots of Christian worship

“Ratzinger [Benedict XVI] notes in his Spirit of the Liturgy that in Christian sacred architecture, which both continues and transforms synagogue architecture, the Torah shrine has its equivalent in the altar at the east wall or in the apse, thus being the place where the sacrifice of Christ, the Word incarnate, becomes present in the liturgy of the Mass”.

Uwe Michael Lang


That quotation is to be found in Uwe Michael Lang’s book, Louis Bouyer and Church Architecture: Resourcing Benedict XVI’s The Spirit of the Liturgy (Vol. 19, The Institute for Sacred Architecture), written (2011) when Benedict XVI was still pope. Lang writes: http://www.sacredarchitecture.org/articles/louis_bouyer_and_church_architecture/



The present Holy Father’s thought on liturgy and church architecture was considerably influenced by Louis Bouyer (1913-2004), a convert from Lutheranism, priest of the French Oratory (a religious congregation founded by Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle in the seventeenth century and distinct from the Oratory of St. Philip Neri) and protagonist of the liturgical movement in France.

…. Bouyer has left an enormous oeuvre extending not only to the study of the sacred liturgy but to other fields of theology and spirituality. Although he taught for several years in American universities and many of his books were published in English, Bouyer’s passing away on October 22, 2004 at the age of ninety-one seemed to have gone largely unnoticed in the Anglophone world. ….


Joseph Ratzinger and Louis Bouyer were friends who held each other’s work in high esteem. Both were called to the International Theological Commission when it was instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1969. Bouyer recalls the working sessions of the Commission in his unpublished memoirs, and comments especially on Ratzinger’s clarity of vision, vast knowledge, intellectual courage, incisive judgment, and gentle sense of humour. In his remarkable book-length interview of 1979, entitled Le Métier de Théologien (The Craft of the Theologian), which has unfortunately not yet been published in English, Bouyer praises the appointment of the outstanding theologian Joseph Ratzinger as Archbishop of Munich. …. Cardinal Ratzinger, in his turn, in a contribution published originally in 2002, recalls the founding of the international theological review Communio Initiated by a group of friends, Communio including the noted theologians Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Louis Bouyer, and Jorge Medina Estévez, who later became the Cardinal-Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. ….

In The Spirit of the Liturgy, the present Pope’s debt to Bouyer is especially evident in the chapters “Sacred Places – The Significance of the Church Building” and “The Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer”, where the French theologian is cited throughout. …. In the short bibliography, Bouyer’s book Liturgy and Architecture features prominently. This work was published originally in English in 1967 by the University of Notre Dame Press; its German translation, used by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, appeared as late as 1993. The theme of orientation in liturgical prayer occupied the theologian Joseph Ratzinger as early as 1966, at the height of the post-conciliar liturgical reform … his first significant contribution to the debate dates from the late 1978 and was included in the important volume The Feast of Faith, published in German in 1981. …. However, it appears to have been the work of his friend Bouyer that led Ratzinger to a more profound approach to the subject as is reflected in The Spirit of the Liturgy.


Jewish origins of Christian worship


One of the characteristics of Pope Benedict’s theology of the liturgy is his emphasis on the Jewish roots of Christian worship, which he considers a manifestation of the essential unity of Old and New Testament, a subject to which he repeatedly calls attention. …. Bouyer pursues this methodology in his monograph Eucharist, where he argues that the form of the Church’s liturgy must be understood as emerging from a Jewish ritual context. ….

In Liturgy and Architecture, Bouyer explores the Jewish background to early church architecture, especially with regard to the “sacred direction” taken in divine worship. He notes that Jews in the Diaspora prayed towards Jerusalem or, more precisely, towards the presence of the transcendent God (shekinah) in the Holy of Holies of the Temple. Even after the destruction of the Temple the prevailing custom of turning towards Jerusalem for prayer was kept in the liturgy of the synagogue. Thus Jews have expressed their eschatological hope for the coming of the Messiah, the rebuilding of the Temple, and the gathering of God’s people from the Diaspora. The direction of prayer was thus inseparably bound up with the messianic expectation of Israel. ….

Bouyer observes that this direction of prayer towards the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem gave Jewish synagogue worship a quasi-sacramental quality that went beyond the mere proclamation of the word. This sacred direction was highlighted by the later development of the Torah shrine, where the scrolls of the Holy Scripture are solemnly kept. The Torah shrine thus becomes a sign of God’s presence among his people, keeping alive the memory of his ineffable presence in the Holy of Holies of the Temple. Ratzinger notes in his Spirit of the Liturgy that in Christian sacred architecture, which both continues and transforms synagogue architecture, the Torah shrine has its equivalent in the altar at the east wall or in the apse, thus being the place where the sacrifice of Christ, the Word incarnate, becomes present in the liturgy of the Mass. ….


Syrian Churches


Bouyer’s Liturgy and Architecture made available to a wider public in the 1960’s current research on early Christian sacred architecture in the Near East. ….The oldest surviving Syrian churches, dating from the fourth century onwards, mostly follow the model of the basilica, similar to contemporary synagogues, with the difference, however, that they were in general built with their apse facing towards the east. In churches where some clue remains as to the position of the altar, it appears to have been placed only a little forward from the east wall or directly before it. The orientation of church and altar thus corresponds to the universally accepted principle of facing east in prayer and expresses the eschatological hope of the early Christians for the second coming of Christ as the Sun of righteousness. The bema, a raised platform in the middle of the building, was taken over from the synagogue, where it served as the place for the reading of Holy Scripture and the recitation of prayers. The bishop would sit with his clergy on the west side of the bema in the nave facing towards the apse. The psalmody and readings that form part of the liturgy of the Word are conducted from the bema. The clergy then proceed eastward to the altar for the liturgy of the Eucharist. …. Bouyer’s theory that the “Syrian arrangement” with the bema in the nave was also the original layout of Byzantine churches has met with a very mixed reception among scholars.– What is widely agreed, however, is that the celebrant would have stood in front of the altar, facing east with the congregation for the Eucharistic liturgy.


Roman Basilicas


Early Roman churches, especially those with an oriented entrance, such as the Lateran Basilica or Saint Peter’s in the Vatican (which is unique in many ways), present questions regarding their liturgical use that are still being debated by scholars. According to Bouyer the whole assembly, the bishop or priest celebrant who stood behind the altar as well as the people in the nave would turn towards the east and hence towards the doors during the Eucharistic prayer. …. The doors may have been left open so that the light of the rising sun, the symbol of the risen Christ and his second coming in glory, flooded into the nave. The assembly would have formed a semicircle that opened to the east, with the celebrating priest as its apex. In the context of religious practice in the ancient world, this liturgical gesture does not appear as extraordinary as it might seem today. It was the general custom in antiquity to pray towards the open sky, which meant that in a closed room one would turn to an open door or an open window for prayer, a custom that is well attested by Jewish and Christian sources. …. Against this background it would seem quite possible that for the Eucharistic prayer the faithful, along with the celebrant, turned towards the eastern entrance.

The practice of priest and people facing each other arose when the profound symbolism of facing east was no longer understood and the faithful no longer turned eastward for the Eucharistic prayer. This happened especially in those basilicas where the altar was moved from the middle of the nave to the apse.


Another line of argument can be pursued if we start from the observation that facing east was accompanied by looking upwards, namely towards the eastern sky which was considered the place of Paradise and the scene of Christ’s second coming. The lifting up of hearts for the canon, in response to the admonition “Sursum corda,” included the bodily gestures of standing upright, raising one’s arms and looking heavenward. It is no mere accident that in many basilicas (only) the apse and triumphal arch were decorated with magnificent mosaics; their iconographic programmes are often related to the Eucharist that is celebrated underneath. These mosaics may well have served to direct the attention of the assembly whose eyes were raised up during the Eucharistic prayer. Even the priest at the altar prayed with outstretched, raised arms and no further ritual gestures. Where the altar was placed at the entrance of the apse or in the central nave, the celebrant standing in front of it could easily have looked up towards the apse. With splendid mosaics representing the celestial world, the apse may have indicated the “liturgical east” and hence the focus of prayer. …. This theory has the distinct advantage that it accounts better for the correlation between liturgy, art, and architecture than that of Bouyer, which must accommodate a discrepancy between the sacred rites and the space created for them. Pope Benedict alludes to this theory in the beautiful comments he made on orientation in liturgical prayer in his homily during the Easter Vigil 2008. ….

Even if we assume that priest and people were facing one another in early Christian basilicas with an eastward entrance, we can exclude any visual contact at least for the canon, since all prayed with arms raised, looking upwards. At any rate, there was not much to see at the altar, since ritual gestures, such as signs of the cross, altar kisses, genuflections, and the elevation of the Eucharistic species, were only added later. …. Bouyer is certainly correct in saying that the Mass “facing the people,” in the modern sense, was unknown to Christian antiquity, and that it would be anachronistic to see the Eucharistic liturgy in the early Roman basilicas as its prototype.

Bouyer acclaims Byzantine church architecture as a genuine development of the early Christian basilica: those elements that were not appropriate for the celebration of the liturgy were either changed or removed, so that a new type of building came into being. A major achievement was the formation of a particular iconography that stood in close connection with the sacred mysteries celebrated in the liturgy and gave them a visible artistic form. Church architecture in the West, on the other hand, was more strongly indebted to the basilican structure. Significantly, the rich decoration of the east wall and dome in Byzantine churches has its counterpart in the Ottonian and Romanesque wall-paintings and, even further developed, in the sumptuous altar compositions of the late Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Baroque, which display themes intimately related to the Eucharist and so give a foretaste of the eternal glory given to the faithful in the sacrifice of the Mass. ….


The Liturgical Movement and Mass “facing the people”


Drawing on his own experience, Bouyer relates that the pioneers of the Liturgical Movement in the twentieth century had two chief motives for promoting the celebration of Mass versus populum. First, they wanted the Word of God to be proclaimed towards the people. According to the rubrics for Low Mass, the priest had to read the Epistle and the Gospel from the book resting on the altar. Thus the only option was to celebrate the whole Mass “facing the people,” as was provided for by the Missal of St Pius V … to cover the particular arrangement of the major Roman basilicas. The instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Rites Inter Oecumenici of September 26, 1964 allowed the reading of the Epistle and Gospel from a pulpit or ambo, so that the first incentive for Mass facing the people was met. There was, however, another reason motivating many exponents of the Liturgical Movement to press for this change, namely, the intention to reclaim the perception of the Holy Eucharist as a sacred banquet, which was deemed to be eclipsed by the strong emphasis on its sacrificial character. The celebration of Mass facing the people was seen as an adequate way of recovering this loss.


Bouyer notes in retrospect a tendency to conceive of the Eucharist as a meal in contrast to a sacrifice, which he calls a fabricated dualism that has no warrant in the liturgical tradition. …. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord’s body and blood,” … and these two aspects cannot be isolated from each other. According to Bouyer, our situation today is very different from that of the first half of the twentieth century, since the meal aspect of the Eucharist has become common property, and it is its sacrificial character that needs to be recovered. ….

Pastoral experience confirms this analysis, because the understanding of the Mass as both the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Church has diminished considerably, if not faded away among the faithful….. Therefore it is a legitimate question to ask whether the stress on the meal aspect of the Eucharist that complemented the celebrant priest’s turning towards the people has been overdone and has failed to proclaim the Eucharist as “a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands).” …. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist must find an adequate expression in the actual rite. Since the third century, the Eucharist has been named “prosphora,” “anaphora,” and “oblation,” terms that articulate the idea of “bringing to,” “presenting,” and thus of a movement towards God.




Bouyer painted with a broad brush and his interpretation of historical data is sometimes questionable or even untenable. Moreover, he was inclined to express his theological positions sharply, and his taste for polemics made him at times overstate the good case he had. Like other important theologians of the years before the Second Vatican Council, he had an ambiguous relationship to post-Tridentine Catholicism and was not entirely free of an iconoclastic attitude. …. Later, he deplored some post-conciliar developments especially in the liturgy and in religious life, and again expressed this in the strongest possible terms. ….

Needless to say, Benedict XVI does not share Bouyer’s attitude, as is evident from his appreciation of sound and legitimate developments in post-Tridentine liturgy, sacred architecture, art, and music. It should also be noted that Joseph Ratzinger does not take up the later, more experimental chapters of Liturgy and Architecture, where new schematic models of church buildings are presented. Despite its limitations, however, Bouyer’s book remains an important work, and it is perhaps its greatest merit that it introduced a wider audience to the significance of early Syrian church architecture. Louis Bouyer was one of the first to raise questions that seemed deeply outmoded then, but have now become matters of intense liturgical and theological debate. ….

[End of quote]

According to the following post: https://ldsguy2catholic.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/jesus-and-the-jewish-roots-of-the-eucharist/ “It is clear to me, and many others, that Catholic and Orthodox churches, cathedrals, basilicas, etc not only carry on architecture and practices related to the Jewish synagogue, but also architecture and rites associated with the temple”.


Here follows a part of that post:


… when I read the works of … scholar Margaret Barker … I actually became more convinced of the ancient Israelite temple origins and connections of the Catholic and Orthodox liturgical rites and church architecture.  For more on that from Barker, I highly suggest reading her Temple Themes in Christian Worship.  Her website also has various papers she’s written on related matters.



Catholic and Orthodox readers may be interested in: Our Great High Priest: The Church as the New Temple, Temple and Liturgy, The Holy Anointing Oil, Belonging in the Temple, and Temple Roots of the Liturgy, if you don’t read all of the articles (there are a lot!).  It is clear to me, and many others, that Catholic and Orthodox churches, cathedrals, basilicas, etc not only carry on architecture and practices related to the Jewish synagogue, but also architecture and rites associated with the temple.  Eastern Catholics and Orthodox even refer to their churches as “temples”.


One practice that relates to the temple quite explicitly is the Eucharist, the consecrated bread and wine. Catholics and Orthodox believe that their church buildings are sacred ground. Each church is regarded as a literal House of God, where His presence literally dwells. This is typified in the Eucharist, which is reserved in a tabernacle. Catholics and Orthodox believe that during the liturgical rites of the church, we join with the Heavenly angels, as well as the deceased saints, in worshipping God.

They worship God in the Heavenly liturgy (as we see in Revelation. For more on that, please see Dr. Scott Hahn’s popular book The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth). In the church, Heaven and Earth join together, and we are in the presence of God, clearly tying to the Old Testament temples.


One book that is relevant to this topic, and which I highly recommend, is Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper, by Dr. Brant Pitre (Professor of Sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary, PhD in New Testament and Ancient Judaism from University of Notre Dame). Quite often, Evangelical Protestants, as well as Mormons, who do not share the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist with the most ancient Christian churches (i.e. Catholic, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, etc), attempt to demonstrate that it is not only contra-Biblical, but is not found anciently, and goes against the Jewish context that Christianity developed in. Dr. Pitre not only demonstrates that this is false (and countless Catholic/Orthodox apologists and scholars have demonstrated not only its ancient origins, but how it comports with the Biblical record as well, for centuries), but connects the Eucharist to three ancient Jewish practices:


  1. The Passover
  2. The Manna
  3. The Bread of the Presence in the Temple


I highly recommend this book to all Catholics, Orthodox, and LDS [Latter Day Saints] readers interested in understanding how the belief in the Real Presence not only is Biblical, but is tied quite significantly to ancient Jewish beliefs and practices, including temple practices, and that it was not invented centuries after Christ, after corruption by Greek philosophy, as some LDS and Evangelical apologists would have us believe.

Here is some information about the book:



In recent years, Christians everywhere are rediscovering the Jewish roots of their faith. Every year at Easter time, many believers now celebrate Passover meals (known as Seders) seeking to understand exactly what happened at Jesus’ final Passover, the night before he was crucified.

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist shines fresh light on the Last Supper by looking at it through Jewish eyes.


Using his in-depth knowledge of the Bible and ancient Judaism, Dr. Brant Pitre answers questions such as:

What was the Passover like at the time of Jesus? What were the Jewish hopes for the Messiah? What was Jesus’ purpose in instituting the Eucharist during the feast of Passover? And, most important of all, what did Jesus mean when he said, “This is my body… This is my blood”?


To answer these questions, Pitre explores ancient Jewish beliefs about the Passover of the Messiah, the miraculous Manna from heaven, and the mysterious Bread of the Presence. As he shows, these three keys—the Passover, the Manna, and the Bread of the Presence—have the power to unlock the original meaning of the Eucharistic words of Jesus. Along the way, Pitre also explains how Jesus united the Last Supper to his death on Good Friday and his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.



Inspiring and informative, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist is a groundbreaking work that is sure to illuminate one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith: the mystery of Jesus’ presence in “the breaking of the bread.”



Pope Francis: Advent demands conversion, recognizing our mistakes

Image result for advent

Advent is a time of waiting and expectation, Pope Francis said Sunday, but this season also requires a “journey of conversion.”

“To prepare the way for the Lord who comes, it is necessary to take into account the demands of conversion,” Francis said in his Angelus address Dec. 9.

Conversion requires changing your attitude, Francis explained. “It leads to humbly recognizing our mistakes, our infidelities, and defaults.”

The pope focused on the invitation of St. John the Baptist, who proclaimed a baptism of repentance as a voice of one crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
“The Baptist invited the people of his time to conversion with force, vigor, and severity,” Francis said. “Yet he knew how to listen, he knew how to perform gestures of tenderness, gestures of forgiveness towards the multitude of men and women who came to him to confess their sins and be baptized.”
“Even today, the disciples of Jesus are called to be his humble, but courageous witnesses to rekindle hope,” the pope said.

The pope suggested that each person asks, “How can I change something in my attitude to prepare the way for the Lord?”
One necessary step is “making concrete gestures of reconciliation with our brothers, asking for forgiveness of our faults,” he explained. “The Lord helps us in this, if we have good will.”

Christians are called to help people understand that “despite everything, the kingdom of God continues to be built day by day with the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

“May the Virgin Mary help us to prepare the way of the Lord day by day, beginning with ourselves,” Francis prayed.


Immaculate Conception and “the vertex of love”


Today, 8th December 2018, is the feast-day of the Immaculate Conception

“In the union of the Holy Spirit with her, not only does love bind these two beings, but the first of them

[the Holy Spirit] is all the love of the Most Holy Trinity, while the second [the Blessed Virgin Mary]

is all the love of creation, and thus in that union heaven is joined to earth, the whole heaven with

the whole earth, the whole of Uncreated Love with the whole of created love: this is the vertex of love”.

St. Maximilian Kolbe

Cheryl Dickow writes on:



Our Jewish Roots: The Immaculate Conception

From the time of Abraham’s response to God’s call to leave the country of his kinsmen, God began the process of preparing the way for the Messiah.  Abraham, after all, introduced to his pagan neighbors the objective truth of the one God: Creator of all that is, was and ever shall be.  He was being set aside for this intention.  Along with his wife, Sarah, Abraham is credited throughout Jewish teaching for converting pagan neighbors to the monotheistic faith of Judaism.  Abraham, being set aside for that purpose, was able to remain a vessel for God’s plan.

Not only was Abraham a vessel for God, Abraham acted as an intercessor as well.  Consider his dialogue with God, in which God is prepared to pour out His wrath and punishment upon Sodom and Gomorrah.  Abraham beseeches God to withhold punishment if Abraham is able to find but a small handful of citizens who have not succumbed to the moral decay of their neighbors.  God enters into this dialogue because of Abraham’s faithfulness and the faith in which Abraham has lived his own life, following God.


The evolution of God’s plan, which began in earnest with Abraham’s visible commitment to monotheism, continued throughout salvation history.  People, and even items, were often set aside, to be used in this plan for man’s deliverance.  Qadosh is the Hebrew word that means set aside, or separated, for a purpose.  Throughout the Old Testament, people and things had often been set aside for specific purposes. When God called upon Israel to be a people like no other and to be a kingdom of priests, those priests were “set aside” for specific duties.  Utensils, vessels, and garb that were meant for service at the altar of the temple were “set apart” and would not be used elsewhere, lest they be defiled.  So this “setting aside” was a common understanding of the Jewish people.  Abraham was “set aside” when he was asked to leave his homeland and the evolution of being set aside was underway.


When Mary is called the “Immaculate Conception” she is simply reflecting two thousand years of Jewish practice in which something meant for God’s use, for His salvific plan, is set aside.  It is not a new teaching but, rather, rests upon Jewish laws that are thousands of years old.  Objects used in worship were set aside from ordinary use.  Persons were set aside from their ordinary occupations to be devoted to the Lord’s service.  And finally Mary was set aside from the ordinary effects of original sin in order for her human body to be the vessel for Christ: thus the “Immaculate Conception.”  Additionally, just as these things — whether people or items — acted as intercessors between God and His people, so Mary acts as intercessor as well.  This is the culmination of thousands of years of preparation for the Messiah that began with Abraham’s being called from his homeland.

[End of quote]


The great Marian saint, Maximilian Kolbe, martyr of love at Auschwitz, wrote in a most inspired fashion on the Immaculate Conception.

The Polish saint asked the question:

“Who Are You, O Immaculate Conception?”


And that is the very title of this article by Jonathan Fleischmann:



“Who are you, O Immaculate Conception?” asks St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe. The Knight of the Immaculata goes on:


Not God, for God has no beginning. Not Adam, made from the dust of the earth. Not Eve, drawn from Adam’s body. Nor is she the Incarnate Word who already existed from all eternity and who was conceived, but is not really a “conception.” Prior to their conception the children of Eve do not exist, hence they can more properly be called “conceptions”; and yet you, O Mary, differ from them too, because they are conceptions contaminated by original sin, whereas you are the one and only Immaculate Conception. ….


The Vertex of Love


In the return of all created things to God the Father (cf. Jn 1:1; 16:28), “the equal and contrary reaction,” says St. Maximilian Kolbe, “proceeds inversely from that of creation.” In creation, the Saint goes on to say, the action of God “proceeds from the Father through the Son and the Spirit, while in the return, by means of the Spirit, the Son becomes incarnate in [the Blessed Virgin Mary’s] womb and through Him love returns to the Father.” …. The Saint of Auschwitz goes on:


In the union of the Holy Spirit with her, not only does love bind these two beings, but the first of them [the Holy Spirit] is all the love of the Most Holy Trinity, while the second [the Blessed Virgin Mary] is all the love of creation, and thus in that union heaven is joined to earth, the whole heaven with the whole earth, the whole of Uncreated Love with the whole of created love: this is the vertex of love. ….


The image St. Maximilian employs here of action and equal-and-opposite reaction is taken from Newtonian mechanics … specifically the proposition known as Newton’s third law: “For every action force there is an equal-and-opposite reaction force.” Thus, we may visualize the image being employed by St. Maximilian Kolbe as two “bodies” in equilibrium, which meet at a single point of contact at the “center” of salvation history. The two contacting bodies represent heaven and earth; the uncreated and created orders; God and his creation. The contact point is the Immaculate Conception: the Vertex of Love. ….


It may seem very wrong to use an image of “force equilibrium” to represent the state of affairs between heaven and earth, because how can this state between God and his creation be in equilibrium? Isn’t God’s act of love so much greater than the return of his creation that no “equilibrium” would be possible? This would certainly be the case if it were not for Emmanuel, that is, God with us. Jesus, Who is truly man and truly God, belongs to both the created and uncreated orders simultaneously. In His person, Jesus is both the Son of Mary, fully human and like us in all ways except sin, and the Eternal Son of God the Father, infinite and equal in all ways to the Triune God.


The Created Immaculate Conception


It is clear that the love of Jesus, the Word made flesh Who is God, is by itself enough to “balance” the love of God. However, there is even more in the equation of love’s equilibrium than the love of the Son, infinite and sufficient in itself though it is. According to St. Maximilian, the perfect love of the Trinity meets an adequate response in the perfect love of the Immaculate, which is the name St. Maximilian gives to the Blessed Virgin Mary. How is it possible that Divine Love can find an adequate response in the love of a creature? It is possible precisely because of the name that the Virgin Mary can claim for herself. In 1854, the Blessed Virgin Mary proclaimed to St. Bernadette Soubirous: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” In the words of St. Maximilian, the Blessed Virgin is the Created Immaculate Conception, as the Holy Spirit is the Uncreated Immaculate Conception. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, Mary is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. …. St. Maximilian Kolbe, a true son of St. Francis, explains:

What kind of union is this? It is above all interior; it is the union of her very being with the being of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells in her, lives in her, from the first instant of her existence, and he will do so always, throughout eternity… This uncreated Immaculate Conception conceives divine life immaculately in the soul of Mary, his Immaculate Conception. The virginal womb of her body, too, is reserved for him who conceives there in time—everything material comes about according to time—the divine life of the God-Man. ….


The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as the perfect and infinite Love between the Father and the Son in the Eternal interior life of the Blessed Trinity. Thus, the Holy Spirit is truly all the love of the Most Holy Trinity. “Hence the Holy Spirit is an uncreated conception, an eternal one; he is the prototype of every sort of human conception in the universe… [He] is a most holy conception, infinitely holy, immaculate.” …. The Holy Spirit is also called the Complement of the Blessed Trinity, because He is the completion of the Trinity, not in “number” (quantitatively), but in essence (qualitatively).

When Mary, by the design of God before the creation of angels or the universe, and before the existence of sin or evil, was predestined in one and the same decree with Jesus Christ … she was predestined to be the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and so was predestined to hold within herself all the love of creation. Thus, St. Maximilian says that the Blessed Virgin Mary, “inserted into the love of the Most Holy Trinity becomes, from the very first moment of her existence, always, forever, the Complement of the Most Holy Trinity.” …. We may paraphrase the thoughts of St. Maximilian Kolbe on the spousal relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary in the words of Fr. Peter Damian M. Fehlner:


In virtue of this spousal union formally denoted by the title Complement, Mary is able to enter as no other into the order of the hypostatic union, her soul being wholly divinized, because by the grace of the Immaculate Conception it has been ‘transubstantiated’ into the Holy Spirit. ….


Now that we have balanced the equation of love’s equilibrium twice over, we could certainly stop. However, there is good reason to continue. The order of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reflects the order of God’s loving act of creation: initiated by the zeal of the Father, designed by the wisdom of the Son, and effected by the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the order referred to by St. Maximilian when he says “the equal and contrary reaction [i.e., the return of all creation to God] proceeds inversely from that of creation.”

Thus, in the response of creation to God the Father, we first have Mary, who is the perfect similitude (St. Bonaventure), transparent icon—or even quasi-incarnationof the Holy Spirit (St. Maximilian Kolbe) … but who is still a created person, with a created human nature. We have Jesus, Who is the Word Incarnate, the same Person as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, but Who is still in possession of a created human nature. St. Maximilian stops here, but must we stop here? I would dare to say that the analogy we have carried out so far on the inspiration of St. Maximilian Kolbe suggests an obvious completion. We have the completion of the earthly trinity in St. Joseph, who has been called the perfect icon of God the Father (St. Theresa of Avila, St. Bernadette Soubirous, St. Peter Julian Eymard). ….


The Icons of Love


In the return of all created things to God the Father, first in the order of time we find Mary, who is like the Holy Spirit quasi-incarnate. …. The Holy Spirit’s role in the Blessed Trinity is that of action, because all of God’s actions are acts of Love, and the Holy Spirit is the Love of God. According to St. Maximilian, the dual role of Mary is that of instrument, or Ancilla (handmaid). In every action of God in the order of Grace, Mary acts as an active instrument in her role as Mediatrix. She is also active in our Redemption—both the objective and subjective Redemption—in her role as Coredemptrix with Christ, again as an instrument of God. The word that Mary speaks to God is Fiat: let it be done to me according to thy Will.

Second in the order of time in creation’s return to God, we find Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus is the Sun of Justice, as we know from the Liturgy. He took on human nature, suffered, and died on the cross so that God’s justice could be satisfied. Thus, Jesus Christ has the dual role of God’s justice and man’s satisfaction of God’s justice.

He is God’s justice as the Eternal Word, the Son of God the Father in eternity. He is the satisfaction of God’s justice as the Son of man, the Son of Mary and Joseph, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In the words of Father Joachin Ferrer Arellano:


Although Sacred Scripture does not make use of the term satisfaction adopted by St. Anselm … to refer to the death of Christ, it employs equivalent concepts or those that imply and aptly express this classic and venerable theological category taken up by the Magisterium, not without sapiential inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Thus, e.g., for Jesus to die on behalf of the impious and sinners, means that it is in the death of Christ where the reconciliation of sinners with God is effected, in such a manner that, for this reason, the Death of Christ becomes the ransom, the propitiation and expiation for our sins. The Son of man has not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28). ….


Last in the order of time in creation’s return to God, we find St. Joseph, who is the icon of the Father. God the Father is the initiator of all things, both in the uncreated and the created order. As initiator, his role in the Blessed Trinity is especially that of holy zeal. The response of St. Joseph to the zeal of God the Father is obedience. Holy obedience is the only fitting return that a creature can make to God’s zeal. Moreover, far from being merely “passive,” it is only in this perfect, holy obedience that a true reflection of God’s zeal can be found in a creature. We know this, because we know that St. Joseph is the perfect icon of God the Father; and the Gospel tells us that every one of St. Joseph’s actions were the fruit of his perfect, holy obedience. In the words of St. Peter Julian Eymard:


When God sends an angel to charge him with the care of Mary in spite of the mystery which surrounds her maternity and troubles his humility, he obeys; when he is told to flee into Egypt under painful circumstances well calculated to fill him with worry and anxiety, he obeys without the slightest word of objection. On his return he has no idea where to go; naturally he heads for Bethlehem since the Child had been born there and God had not revealed otherwise. Not until he has reached the very gates of Judea does God advise him in a dream to return to Nazareth. Surely God could have warned him in advance, but it pleases Him to see these sacrifices accepted out of obedience. In every situation Joseph’s obedience is as simple as his faith, as humble as his heart, as prompt as his love; it neglects nothing; it is universal. ….


The Strategy


In the return of all created things to God the Father, it is under the leadership of St. Joseph, our Patriarch, and in imitation of him, that the individual members of the Church must, by the merits gained for us through the Redemptive Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, be transubstantiated into Mary … who is the Virgo Ecclesia Facta (the Virgin-Made-Church). ….
It is only in this way, being transubstantiated into Mary, the Created Immaculate Conception, that we can be united to God as she is uniquely united to God, being transubstantiated with her into the Uncreated Immaculate Conception, who is the Holy Spirit. In virtue of this transubstantiation, we are possessed by the Immaculate, and we are thereby formed into a single community or Church sharing her personality. In the unsurpassable words of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, Martyr of Charity:


She is God’s. She belongs to God in a perfect way to the extent that she is as if a part of the most Holy Trinity, although she is a finite creature. Moreover she is not only a “handmaid,” a “daughter,” a “property,” a “possession,” etc., but also the Mother of God! Here one is seized with giddiness… she is almost above God, as a mother is above her sons who must respect her. The Immaculate is a Spouse of the Holy Spirit in an unspeakable way… She has the same Son as the heavenly Father has. What an ineffable family! We belong to her, to the Immaculate. We are hers without limits, most perfectly hers; we are, as it were, her. Through our mediation she loves the good God. With our poor heart she loves her divine Son. We become the mediators through whom the Immaculate loves Jesus. And Jesus, considering us her property and, as it were, a part of his beloved Mother, loves her in us and through us. What a lovely mystery!