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

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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!



Pope Francis: Jesus’ eternal kingdom founded on love 

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A Kingdom of Truth not Power

 Part Three: Love over political power



Pope Francis noted that the feast of Christ the King “reminds us that the life of creation does not advance by chance, but proceeds towards a final goal:

the definitive manifestation of Christ, the Lord of history and of all creation.”

He said the end goal of history will be fulfilled in Christ’s eternal kingdom.



Pope Francis’s Angelus address for the feast of ‘Christ the King’ can be read at, for instance: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-11/pope-francis-angelus-christ-the-king-love.html


Pope at Angelus: ‘Jesus’ eternal kingdom founded on love’


Ahead of the Sunday Angelus prayer on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Pope Francis says Jesus came to establish an eternal kingdom which is founded on love and gives peace, freedom, and fullness of life.


By Devin Watkins


Pope Francis prayed the Angelus on Sunday with thousands of pilgrims huddled under umbrellas in a rainy St. Peter’s Square. He even complemented their courage. “You’re brave to have come with this rain!” he said.

In his address ahead of the Angelus prayer, the Holy Father reflected on the day’s Gospel passage (Jn 18:33b-37) and the Solemnity of Christ the King. He said Jesus’ kingdom rests on the power of love, since God is love.


Christ the King


Pope Francis noted that the feast of Christ the King “reminds us that the life of creation does not advance by chance, but proceeds towards a final goal: the definitive manifestation of Christ, the Lord of history and of all creation.” He said the end goal of history will be fulfilled in Christ’s eternal kingdom.


In the day’s Gospel, Jesus has been dragged – bound and humiliated – before Pontius Pilate to be tried. The Pope said the religious authorities of Jerusalem present Jesus to the Roman governor of Judea as one who is seeking to supplant the political authority of Rome. They say he wants to become king.

So Pilate interrogates him, twice asking Jesus if he is the king of the Jews. Jesus replies that his kingdom “is not of this world”.

“It was evident all his life that Jesus had no political ambitions,” the Pope said. He noted that, after the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus’ followers had wanted to proclaim him king and to overthrow the power of Rome, in order to restore the kingdom of Israel. Jesus responded, the Pope said, by retreating to the mountain alone to pray.


Love over political power


With his responses to Pilate, Pope Francis said Jesus “wants to make it clear that above political power there is another, much greater power, which is not achieved by human means.”

Jesus, he said, “came to earth to exercise this power, which is love, to testify to the truth.”

The Holy Father said this divine truth, “which is ultimately the central message of the Gospel”, is that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8).

Pope Francis said Jesus worked to establish “his kingdom of love, justice, and peace in the world”. Jesus’ kingdom, the Pope said, will last until the end of time.


Founded on love


He contrasted this eternal kingdom with short-lived, earthly kingdoms. “History teaches that kingdoms founded on the power of arms and lies are fragile and collapse sooner or later.”

The kingdom of God, Pope Francis said, “is founded on his love and is rooted in the heart, granting peace, freedom, and fullness of life to those who accept it.”


Finally, the Holy Father said Jesus is asking us to let Him become our king. “A king who by his word, example, and life sacrificed on the cross has saved us from death and points the way to people who are lost, and gives new light to our existence that is marked by doubt, fear, and daily trials.”

But, said Pope Francis, we must not forget that Jesus’ kingdom “is not of this world.”

“He can give new meaning to our life, which is at times put to the test even by our mistakes and sins, only on the condition that we do not follow the logic of the world and its ‘kings’



The Cross of Jesus Christ – this is the “fifth essence”, the “philosopher’s stone”

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“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by people but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame’.”

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

I Peter 2:4-6


St. Louis Grignion de Montfort wrote:

I am a poorly polished stone,

Crude and without adornment,

Shape it, Lord, I beg you,

To set it in your building.

I want to suffer in patience,

Cut, shape, strike, slice,

But help my helplessness

And forgive me my sins.


The Cross of Jesus Christ is the true Alchemy, the ‘philosopher’s stone’, the ‘fifth essence’, for which the ancient sages had sought so eagerly.

It is the Science of all sciences: “Strive then to become proficient in this all-important science under your great Master, and you will understand all other sciences, for it contains them all in an eminent degree”.



Taken from Friends of the Cross,

by St. Louis Grignion de Montfort

The mystery of the Cross is a mystery unknown to the Gentiles, rejected by the Jews, and despised by heretics and bad Catholics. But it is the great mystery you must learn to practice in the school of Christ, and which can only be learnt from him. You will look in vain in all the schools of ancient times for a philosopher who taught it; in vain you will appeal to the senses or to reason to throw some light on it. It is only Jesus, through his all-powerful grace, who can teach you this mystery and give you the ability to appreciate it.


Strive then to become proficient in this all-important science under your great Master, and you will understand all other sciences, for it contains them all in an eminent degree. It is our natural and supernatural philosophy, our divine and mystic theology, our philosopher’s stone, which by patience transforms the basest metals into precious ones, the bitterest pains into delight, poverty into riches, the most profound humiliations into glory. The one among you who knows best how to carry his cross, even though in other things he does not know A from B, is the most learned of all.


The great St. Paul returned from the third heaven, where he learned mysteries hidden even from the angels, and he proclaimed that he did not know, nor did he want to know anything but Christ crucified. Rejoice, then, you ordinary Christian, man or woman, without any schooling or intellectual abilities, for if you know how to suffer cheerfully, you know more than a doctor of Sorbonne University who does not know how to suffer as you do. ….


Philippians 3:8-11


I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his Resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.



Pope wants rosary prayed to protect Church from devil’s ‘turbulence’

To protect the Church during a period of “spiritual turbulence,” Pope Francis has asked Catholics around the world to pray the rosary every day during the month of October.

ROME – In a move suggesting Pope Francis believes the Church is in a moment of “spiritual turbulence,” the pontiff is asking Catholics around the world to pray the rosary every day during the month of October for protection of the Church from the devil.

The daily praying of the rosary during the “Marian month of October,” a Vatican statement Saturday said, will unite the faithful “in communion and penance, as a people of God, in asking the Holy Mother of God and St. Michael the Archangel to protect the Church from the devil, who always aims to divide us from God and among us.”
The statement also says that, as the pope noted during his daily homily on Sept. 11, prayer is the weapon against “the Great accuser who ‘travels around the world looking for accusations’.”

RELATED: Pope Francis: Don’t use logic of the ‘Great Accuser’ who doesn’t know ‘mercy’

Beyond daily praying of the rosary, the pope is also requesting that the faithful add two prayers: An ancient invocation Sub Tuum Praesidium and a prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel “who protects and helps fight against evil,” according to the Book of Revelations.

The Vatican statement also said that the pope has tasked Jesuit Father Fréderic Fornos, who heads the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, to spread this appeal. The Spanish priest heads the network once known as the Apostleship of Prayer, responsible for the pope’s monthly prayer videos. October’s intention, planned a year in advance, is supposed to be “The Mission of Religious.”
“Only prayer can defeat [the devil],” said the statement. “The Russian mystics and the great saints of all traditions advised, in moments of spiritual turbulence, to protect themselves under the mantle of the Holy Mother of God by pronouncing the invocation Sub Tuum Praesidium.”

The Marian prayer also known in English as “Beneath Thy Protection” is the oldest hymn dedicated to the Virgin and is well known among many Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox countries, and is often a favorite song used along with Salve Regina.

With the request announced on Saturday, the pope is “asking the faithful of the whole world to pray so that the Mother of God puts the Church under her protective mantle to preserve her from the attacks of the evil one, the great accuser, and to make [the Church] all the more conscious of the faults, the mistakes, the abuses made in the present and in the past, and more committed to fighting without any hesitation for evil not to prevail.”

The prayer to St. Michael the Archangel was written by Pope Leon XIII and incorporated into the rubrics of the Low Mass of the Church from 1886 to its suppression in 1964, which became effective a year later, after the Second Vatican Council. It was originally destined as a prayer for the independence of the Holy See and the pope’s temporal sovereignty.
After the signing of the Lateran Treaties in 1929 that led to the creation of the Vatican City State, the prayer remained in the Missal but was instead offered “to permit tranquility and freedom to profess the faith to be restored to the afflicted people of Russia.”

Pope Francis is not the first pope to ask the faithful to recite this prayer since 1964. John Paul II did so in 1994, saying that “although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”


Many of the Church Fathers held firm to the belief that Mary was a perpetual virgin

Our Lady Ever-Virgin


“[T]he Word himself, coming into the Blessed Virgin herself, assumed for himself his own temple from the substance of the Virgin and came forth from her a man in all that could be externally discerned, while interiorly he was true God. Therefore he kept his Mother a virgin even after her childbearing”.

 Cyril of Alexandria


A list of various of the Church Fathers who believed that Mary remained a virgin can be found e.g. in the article, “Mary: Ever Virgin”, at: https://www.catholic.com/tract/mary-ever-virgin


The perpetual virginity of Mary has always been reconciled with the biblical references to Christ’s brethren through a proper understanding of the meaning of the term “brethren.” The understanding that the brethren of the Lord were Jesus’ stepbrothers (children of Joseph) rather than half-brothers (children of Mary) was the most common one until the time of Jerome (fourth century). It was Jerome who introduced the possibility that Christ’s brethren were actually his cousins, since in Jewish idiom cousins were also referred to as “brethren.” The Catholic Church allows the faithful to hold either view, since both are compatible with the reality of Mary’s perpetual virginity.


Today most Protestants are unaware of these early beliefs regarding Mary’s virginity and the proper interpretation of “the brethren of the Lord.” And yet, the Protestant Reformers themselves—Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli—honored the perpetual virginity of Mary and recognized it as the teaching of the Bible, as have other, more modern Protestants.


The Protoevangelium of James

“And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by [St. Anne], saying, ‘Anne! Anne! The Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive and shall bring forth, and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.’ And Anne said, ‘As the Lord my God lives, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God, and it shall minister to him in the holy things all the days of its life.’ . . . And [from the time she was three] Mary was in the temple of the Lord as if she were a dove that dwelt there” (Protoevangelium of James 4, 7 [A.D. 120]).

“And when she was twelve years old there was held a council of priests, saying, ‘Behold, Mary has reached the age of twelve years in the temple of the Lord. What then shall we do with her, lest perchance she defile the sanctuary of the Lord?’ And they said to the high priest, ‘You stand by the altar of the Lord; go in and pray concerning her, and whatever the Lord shall manifest to you, that also will we do.’ . . . [A]nd he prayed concerning her, and behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him saying, ‘Zechariah! Zechariah! Go out and assemble the widowers of the people and let them bring each his rod, and to whomsoever the Lord shall show a sign, his wife shall she be. . . . And Joseph [was chosen]. . . . And the priest said to Joseph, ‘You have been chosen by lot to take into your keeping the Virgin of the Lord.’ But Joseph refused, saying, ‘I have children, and I am an old man, and she is a young girl’” (ibid., 8–9).

“And Annas the scribe came to him [Joseph] . . . and saw that Mary was with child. And he ran away to the priest and said to him, ‘Joseph, whom you did vouch for, has committed a grievous crime.’ And the priest said, ‘How so?’ And he said, ‘He has defiled the virgin whom he received out of the temple of the Lord and has married her by stealth’” (ibid., 15).

“And the priest said, ‘Mary, why have you done this? And why have you brought your soul low and forgotten the Lord your God?’ . . . And she wept bitterly saying, ‘As the Lord my God lives, I am pure before him, and know not man’” (ibid.).



“The Book [the Protoevangelium] of James [records] that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end, so that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word . . . might not know intercourse with a man after the Holy Spirit came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the firstfruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and Mary was among women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the firstfruit of virginity” (Commentary on Matthew 2:17 [A.D. 248]).


Hilary of Poitiers

“If they [the brethren of the Lord] had been Mary’s sons and not those taken from Joseph’s former marriage, she would never have been given over in the moment of the passion [crucifixion] to the apostle John as his mother, the Lord saying to each, ‘Woman, behold your son,’ and to John, ‘Behold your mother’ [John 19:26–27), as he bequeathed filial love to a disciple as a consolation to the one desolate” (Commentary on Matthew 1:4 [A.D. 354]).



“Let those, therefore, who deny that the Son is by nature from the Father and proper to his essence deny also that he took true human flesh from the ever-virgin Mary” (Discourses Against the Arians 2:70 [A.D. 360]).


Epiphanius of Salamis

“We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of all things, both visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God . . . who for us men and for our salvation came down and took flesh, that is, was born perfectly of the holy ever-virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit” (The Man Well-Anchored 120 [A.D. 374]).

“And to holy Mary, [the title] ‘Virgin’ is invariably added, for that holy woman remains undefiled” (Medicine Chest Against All Heresies 78:6 [A.D. 375]).



“[Helvidius] produces Tertullian as a witness [to his view] and quotes Victorinus, bishop of Petavium. Of Tertullian, I say no more than that he did not belong to the Church. But as regards Victorinus, I assert what has already been proven from the gospel—that he [Victorinus] spoke of the brethren of the Lord not as being sons of Mary but brethren in the sense I have explained, that is to say, brethren in point of kinship, not by nature. [By discussing such things we] are . . . following the tiny streams of opinion. Might I not array against you the whole series of ancient writers? Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and many other apostolic and eloquent men, who against [the heretics] Ebion, Theodotus of Byzantium, and Valentinus, held these same views and wrote volumes replete with wisdom. If you had ever read what they wrote, you would be a wiser man” (Against Helvidius: The Perpetual Virginity of Mary 19 [A.D. 383]).

“We believe that God was born of a virgin, because we read it. We do not believe that Mary was married after she brought forth her Son, because we do not read it. . . . You [Helvidius] say that Mary did not remain a virgin. As for myself, I claim that Joseph himself was a virgin, through Mary, so that a virgin Son might be born of a virginal wedlock” (ibid., 21).


Didymus the Blind

“It helps us to understand the terms ‘first-born’ and ‘only-begotten’ when the Evangelist tells that Mary remained a virgin ‘until she brought forth her first-born son’ [Matt. 1:25]; for neither did Mary, who is to be honored and praised above all others, marry anyone else, nor did she ever become the Mother of anyone else, but even after childbirth she remained always and forever an immaculate virgin” (The Trinity 3:4 [A.D. 386]).


Ambrose of Milan

“Imitate her [Mary], holy mothers, who in her only dearly beloved Son set forth so great an example of material virtue; for neither have you sweeter children [than Jesus], nor did the Virgin seek the consolation of being able to bear another son” (Letters 63:111 [A.D. 388]).


Pope Siricius I

“You had good reason to be horrified at the thought that another birth might issue from the same virginal womb from which Christ was born according to the flesh. For the Lord Jesus would never have chosen to be born of a virgin if he had ever judged that she would be so incontinent as to contaminate with the seed of human intercourse the birthplace of the Lord’s body, that court of the eternal king” (Letter to Bishop Anysius [A.D. 392]).



“In being born of a Virgin who chose to remain a Virgin even before she knew who was to be born of her, Christ wanted to approve virginity rather than to impose it. And he wanted virginity to be of free choice even in that woman in whom he took upon himself the form of a slave” (Holy Virginity 4:4 [A.D. 401]).

“It was not the visible sun, but its invisible Creator who consecrated this day for us, when the Virgin Mother, fertile of womb and integral in her virginity, brought him forth, made visible for us, by whom, when he was invisible, she too was created. A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this, O man?” (Sermons 186:1 [A.D. 411]).

“Heretics called Antidicomarites are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband” (Heresies 56 [A.D. 428]).



“We confess, therefore, that our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, born of the Father before the ages, and in times most recent, made man of the Holy Spirit and the ever-virgin Mary” (Document of Amendment 3 [A.D. 426]).


Cyril of Alexandria

“[T]he Word himself, coming into the Blessed Virgin herself, assumed for himself his own temple from the substance of the Virgin and came forth from her a man in all that could be externally discerned, while interiorly he was true God. Therefore he kept his Mother a virgin even after her childbearing” (Against Those Who Do Not Wish to Confess That the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God 4 [A.D. 430]).


Pope Leo I

“His [Christ’s] origin is different, but his [human] nature is the same. Human usage and custom were lacking, but by divine power a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and Virgin she remained” (Sermons 22:2 [A.D. 450]).

[End of quotes]


Despite all of this, we read that as late as February of 2017 (by Ronald L. Conte Jr.):



A Nun publicly denied Mary’s Virginity



In a recent news story, Sister Lucia Caram, a Roman Catholic nun in Spain, publicly denied the dogma of the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The nun said: “I think Mary was in love with Joseph and that they were a normal couple – and having sex is a normal thing….”


This claim by Caram is abject heresy because it directly denies a dogma of the Roman Catholic Magisterium, Mary’s perpetual virginity (CCC 499 to 510; Denzinger 13, Nicene Creed; Councils of Ephesus, Constantinople II, and Florence). So any Catholic who rejects this teaching is guilty of heresy. And when one commits heresy knowingly, that is to say, in the knowledge that the heretical idea is contrary to the definitive teaching of the Church, the sin is formal heresy.


Now, based on the quotes from her in the press, we might say that instead of an obstinate denial of dogma, she is obstinately doubting the same. For she uses expressions such as “I wanted to say that it wouldn’t shock me if she had had a normal couple’s relationship with Joseph, her husband.” Even so, formal heresy is defined in Canon Law as obstinate denial or obstinate doubt.


“Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith….”


Every infallible teaching of the Magisterium is to be believed with “divine and Catholic faith”, which is the full assent of faith (theological assent).


But it is the grave sin of heresy to obstinately doubt or to obstinately deny. For example, suppose that someone says, “Jesus was just a man, and not the Son of God.”

That claim is heresy. But if he changes the wording to: “Perhaps Jesus was just a man, or perhaps he was the Son of God.” That doubt, if it is obstinate, is still heretical. For faith in the teaching that Jesus is God made man is destroyed by either: the denial or the doubt. You do not have faith in Jesus if you say “maybe he is God, and maybe not”.


Which types of denial or doubt are obstinate? Denial or doubt, which one does not struggle against, and which is chosen resolutely, that is, steadfastly. By contrast, if a Catholics has passing doubts, from time to time, about any dogma, the doubt is not obstinate. Or if a Catholic has difficulty accepting a dogma, but continues to trust in the teaching of the Church, the doubt is not obstinate.


{9:22} But Jesus said to him, “If you are able to believe: all things are possible to one who believes.”
{9:23} And immediately the father of the boy, crying out with tears, said: “I do believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.”


In the case of Sister Lucia Caram, her public expressions indicate clear obstinacy. I am not judging her soul. I am simply believing her own words about her own beliefs. She has publicly clearly emphatically stated her considered belief that perhaps Mary was not a virgin, and that perhaps she had marital relations with Joseph. Sister Lucia Caram is guilty of public formal heresy, and she should not be permitted to receive holy Communion.


And yet we hear very little from Church leaders in response to this story.


“The remarks were denounced by the Bishop of Vic in Spain, who issued a reminder that Mary’s virginity was not in question and that statements to the contrary ‘do not conform’ to the faith of the Catholic church. The statement also apologized for any confusion Caram’s statements may have caused.”


The Bishop’s statement points out that Mary’s virginity is a dogma taught by the Second Council of Constantinople. But, as far as we know, he has not taken any formal action against the nun, nor has her Order. He should have publicly stated her excommunication, which is automatic under Canon Law for the sin of formal heresy (or formal schism). And other Bishops should also have spoken against her. Then her Order should expel her, if she remains unrepentant.


The Church today is facing a crisis of belief. Heretical ideas are widespread among the faithful, and it has reached the point where heretics openly proclaim their rejection of dogma, with little response from the Bishops and other Church leaders.


[End of quote]


At a higher level (namely, Archbishop), Gerhard Ludwig Müller – appointed head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2012, is believed to have denied the perpetual virginity of Mary amongst other doctrines. But he denied this:




“The task of this congregation is not only to defend the Catholic faith but to promote it, to give the positive aspects and possibilities of the whole richness of the Catholic faith,” Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller told EWTN News in a July 20 interview.


“We must speak about God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and also about Holy Scripture, the great Tradition of the Church, our Creed and our belief. In this way our hearts will be more open and our thinking more profound,” he said. …


Archbishop Muller’s latest appointment, however, has been met with a degree of criticism from some who allege he holds unorthodox views on a range of issues – from the perpetual virginity of Our Lady, to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, to the relationship of non-Catholic Christians to the Church.


“These are not criticisms, they are provocations. And not very intelligent provocations at that,” he said. “Either they have not read what I have written or they have not understood it.”


“Our Catholic faith is very clear,” he explained, “that at the consecration during Mass a change occurs so that the whole substance of the bread and wine is changed into the whole substance body and blood of Jesus Christ, and that this change is rightly called transubstantiation. And we have refused to accept all the other interpretations, consubstantiation, transignification, transfinalisation and so on.”


The Church is also equally clear on the “virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus, mother of God, before, during and after the birth of Christ,” Archbishop Muller stated.

[End of quote]


Last year (2017) he, now Cardinal Müller, was sacked by the pope Francis as reported by Michael Sean Winters in his article, “Cardinal Muller departs the CDF: What does it mean?”:



My colleague Josh McElwee reports this morning on the decision by Pope Francis not to reconfirm Cardinal Gerhard Muller for a second five-year term as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Holy Father has selected the longtime #2 at the congregation, Archbishop Luis Francisco Ledaria Ferrer, S.J. to move up to the top spot.


The fact that Cardinal Muller was sacked should not come as a surprise. Conservatives within the curia and more progressive types beyond have both long complained that the man, though very gifted intellectually, could not organize a one man parade. He couldn’t run the office. This had become increasingly apparent in the CDF’s continued wrong notes on the subject of clergy sex abuse. Those who see this as an ideological purge on account of Muller’s increasingly confused position on Amoris Laetitia haven’t been paying attention. And, it is more than a little ironic that the same arch-conservatives who are floating the narrative that Muller has been sacked because he stood athwart Francis’ supposedly heterodox agenda were the same people griping about Muller when he was appointed. ….Then, the objection was that Muller was too sympathetic with liberation theology. Now he is the paragon of orthodoxy. These lay faithful who think they embody the papal magisterium are not exactly consistent.


The second principal takeaway is that Pope Francis is completely unafraid to do what is best for the Church. Earlier this week, the Australian authorities brought charges against another high ranking Vatican official, Cardinal George Pell, who was put on a temporary leave of absence to return to his native country and have his day in court. The official statement from the Vatican was deeply ambivalent. Some leaders might think twice before removing a second high ranking official, worried that it would suggest a chaotic situation. Not Francis. He is not someone who cares how things appear so much as how things are. Indeed, this may be the most challenging part of the reform of the curia, getting an organization designed to promote those who work there to remember that its job it to help the pope govern the universal church. Concern with how things look is characteristic of the courtier mentality of years past, not the missionary mentality to which the Second Vatican Council and ALL subsequent popes have called the Church.


Third, by hiring from within, Pope Francis has shown he is not declaring war on the congregation and its staff. If he had wanted to do that, he could have brought in someone from outside, such as Argentine Archbishop Victor Fernandez. Or, he could have selected someone who worked at the CDF, but a long time ago, like Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, now the Archbishop of Vienna. I thought he might tap former CDF official and now Archbishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna. By promoting Archbishop Ladaria, Francis is indicating that he needs a change in management not a change in overall structure or constitution.


I have not been able to confirm Andrea Tornielli’s report that Pope Francis offered Muller a different curial post and that Muller declined, saying such a post was “beneath his dignity.” If this is true, it is outrageous. Curial officials serve at the pleasure of the pope. Their entire job is to help him. Cardinals take a special vow of obedience to the Holy Father. They pledge to support Jesus and His vicar even to the shedding of their blood, hence their red robes. Does Muller think his blood is less costly than his pride? I know this: If Pope Francis called Cardinal Sean O’Malley and told him he wanted him to go back to being the Bishop of the Virgin Islands or director of the Centro Catolico in Washington, O’Malley would be thrilled. I hope Cardinal Muller finds a job in which he can learn to cultivate the virtue of humility. ….



Mary points to Christ’s mercy, Pope Francis tells Fatima pilgrims

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at the Chapel of the Apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, May 12, 2017. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at the Chapel of the Apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, May 12, 2017. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
.- Pope Francis asked pilgrims in Fatima on Friday evening to think about the qualities the Virgin Mary possesses, being careful not to make her into something she is not – especially elevating her mercifulness above that of her Son.
“Pilgrims with Mary … but which Mary? A teacher of the spiritual life, the first to follow Jesus on the ‘narrow way’ of the cross by giving us an example, or a Lady ‘unapproachable’ and impossible to imitate?”
“The Virgin Mary of the Gospel, venerated by the Church at prayer, or a Mary of our own making: one who restrains the arm of a vengeful God; one sweeter than Jesus the ruthless judge; one more merciful than the Lamb slain for us?” Pope Francis asked May 12.
It is through Mary’s cooperation and participation in salvation that she also became a channel of God’s mercy, he explained, praying that with Mary, we might “each of us become a sign and sacrament of the mercy of God, who pardons always and pardons everything.”

Pope Francis greeted pilgrims before leading the rosary at the Chapel of the Apparitions on the first night of his two-day pilgrimage to Fatima May 12-13 to celebrate the centenary of Mary’s appearance to three shepherd children in 1917.
During the visit to Fatima, the Pope will also say Mass, presiding over the canonization of two of the Fatima visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta Marto.
In his greeting, Francis said that we do a great injustice to God and his grace if we speak of his justice without speaking also of his mercy. “Obviously, God’s mercy does not deny justice, for Jesus took upon himself the consequences of our sin, together with its due punishment,” he said.
Because Christ redeemed our sin upon the cross, “we put aside all fear and dread, as unbefitting those who are loved,” he explained.
Speaking of the rosary he would pray shortly, he said that in the recitation of the prayer’s mysteries we can contemplate the moments of Mary’s life: the joyful, the luminous, the sorrowful, and the glorious, as they happen, the Pope said.
“Each time we recite the rosary, in this holy place or anywhere else, the Gospel enters anew into the life of individuals, families, peoples and the entire world.”
Quoting from his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis said that in looking at Mary we are able to believe again “in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness.”

“Thank you for your welcome and for joining me on this pilgrimage of hope and peace,” he said, assuring those united with him, either physically or spiritually, that they have a special place in his heart.
He said that he felt Christ had entrusted them all to him, especially those most in need, as Our Lady of Fatima taught in one of her apparitions to the shepherd children.
“May she, the loving and solicitous Mother of the needy, obtain for them the Lord’s blessing!”
Ending his message with a prayer, Francis prayed that “under the watchful gaze” of the Virgin Mary they may all come to sing about the mercy of God with joy and gladness, crying out that the God would show to him and to each of them the mercy he has shown his saints.
“Out of the pride of my heart, I went astray, following my own ambitions and interests, without gaining any crown of glory!” he prayed. “My one hope of glory, Lord, is this: that your Mother will take me in her arms, shelter me beneath her mantle, and set me close to your heart. Amen.”


A Theology Of Women? What Did Pope Francis Mean?

Our Lady of Siluva thumbDuring his now-famous impromptu interview while returning to Rome from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis declared the ordination of women a question settled definitively by Blessed Pope John Paul II, but suggested that women’s gifts might be used in other ways. His suggestion that a deeper “theology of women” might have to be developed in order to discern such service should not be misconstrued to mean the church has no theology of the feminine.  The pope’s use of the prepositional phrase – “in the church” – limited the scope of his comments.

Pope Francis did not say that the church does not have a theology of women, only that we did not have a deep theology of women in the church. His explanation focused on a central theological and Mariological tenet — the honorable status of Mary in the life of the Church — and from there he generalized about women in liturgical or leadership roles within the church.
“A church without women would be like the apostolic college without Mary. The Madonna is more important than the apostles, and the church herself is feminine, the spouse of Christ and a mother.”
“The role of women doesn’t end just with being a mother and with housework …we don’t yet have a truly deep theology of women in the church. We talk about whether they can do this or that, can they be altar boys, can they be lectors, about a woman as president of Caritas, but we don’t have a deep theology of women in the church.”
Francis implied that we need a deeper transmission of these ideas. His commentary echoed his statements published previous to his pontificate. In “On Heaven and Earth,” a book originally published in 2010, the would-be-pope Jorge Bergoglio expressed similar sentiments in conversation with Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka.
[Bergoglio, on women:] In the theologically grounded tradition the priesthood passes through man. The woman has another function in Christianity, reflected in the figure of Mary. It is the figure that embraces society, the figure that contains it, the mother of the community. The woman has the gift of maternity, of tenderness; if all these riches are not integrated, a religious community not only transforms into a chauvinist society, but also one that is austere, hard, and hardly sacred. The fact that a woman cannot exercise the priesthood does not make her less than the male.
Moreover, in our understanding, the Virgin Mary is greater than the apostles. According to a monk from the second century, there are three feminine dimensions among Christians: Mary as Mother of the Lord, the church and the soul. The feminine presence in the church has not been emphasized much, because the temptation of chauvinism has not allowed for the place that belongs to the women of the community to be made very visible.
Based on his replies we can surmise that women becoming members of an ordained hierarchy is will not be debated by the Vatican. Yet, in Francis’ conversation with journalists, we perceive a call for more. What might that be?
In my recent book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood, I introduced some of the church’s message to and about women. Reflecting on what Blessed John Paul II described as the “feminine genius”, I introduce readers to what the church says to women in terms of their blessed dignity, beautiful gifts, and bodacious mission. From where I stand, the Catholic Church has a theology of womanhood that can be gleaned from a variety of sources.
As Francis points out, church teaching already embraces the ultimate icon of femininity.
We have centuries of theological exposition on The Woman, that is, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every discussion of womanhood must be filtered through the lens, or hermeneutic, of Mary’s unique and exquisite fiat and of her being the Theotokos, the God-bearer, of the Christ. We see this already in Francis’ words and in his example of beginning his pontificate by expressing his relationship and dependence on the Mother of God, the woman John Paul II called “the mirror and measure of femininity.” Mary, the epitome of the feminine genius, must be the cornerstone of any theology of womanhood.
For a deeper theology of womenhood, theological precision must also be based upon sound anthropology. Again, the work of John Paul II on the theology of the body, the common phrase for his corpus of written and preached ideas about the nature of man and woman, their relationship to God and each other, is certainly is a place to deepen our awareness of the feminine genius.
John Paul II’s pontificate also brought apostolic letters on women such as Mulieris Dignitatum, (“On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”, 1989); and The Letter to Women, written in advance of the United Nations’ 1995 Conference on Women in Beijing. Women were also challenged within his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, (“The Gospel of Life,” 1995) to create “a new feminism” that speaks to the modern culture.
Finally, we cannot fail to mention that the Catholic Church has a powerful social doctrine whereby the dignity of the human person reigns supreme, and the dignity and vocation of women is attendant to that. It is perhaps here that we may find hints of Pope Francis’ future contribution.
A theology of womanhood can be gleaned from these many sources, if people only have time (and the inclination) to do the gleaning.
Is perhaps what we really need is a deeper reception of our existing theology of womanhood, and work toward making its claims more universal? The whole purpose of my book was to introduce these basic theological musings about women.
“The enemy of human nature — Satan — hits hardest where there is more salvation, more transmission of life, and the woman — as an existential place — has proven to be the most attacked in history. She has been the object of use, of profit and slavery, and was relegated to the background… (From On Heaven and Earth, p. 102.)”
True enough: women around the world still do not enjoy the freedoms that their human dignity entitles them. From the book of Genesis, from the fall till now, the woman has been targeted by evil. Yet, through the womanhood of Mary, comes a savior who saves and inspires us to see and do the more he wishes to accomplish.
In the name of Jesus, and with the heart of Mary who stands at the foot of the cross, the church must not only look within, but look without. It must not only stand with women who suffer, but alleviate their need.
Women, themselves, too, must embrace a deeper call. Never before in world history have there been so many women who have been given so much materially. Yet one of woman’s greatest feminine gifts has nothing to do with material advancement, it is the gift of maternity — both the physical kind and the spiritual maternity that embraces society, contains it, and brings new life to it.
Somewhere, within Francis’ words on the plane the other day, I heard echoes of Paul VI at the close of Vatican II extolling women to come to the aid of humanity for love’s sake.
But the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which the woman acquires and influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment…. Women impregnated with the spirit of Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.
We, indeed, have a sure foundation for a theology of women.
Francis, let women assist you in rebuilding the church, and bringing new life to the world!

Pat Gohn is a writer, speaker and the creator and host of Among Women podcasts. She is a columnist at Patheos.com and her book, “Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood,” is published through Ave Maria Press