Transubstantiation and Justification: A Post for Corpus Christi

Today (Thursday, June 11) is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi–the Body of Christ. This feast celebrates the Eucharist. It occurred to me that the Catholic dogma of transubstantiation parallels Catholic dogma on justification. Per Catholic dogma, justification entails the regeneration of the inner man. A soul that was sinful is reborn pure and holy in the grace of God. Continue reading

The Crucifixion Re-Considered in Light of Aristotle’s Four Causes

Christians understand the Crucifixion of Christ primarily as a salvific act of self-offering on behalf of sinful mankind. As such, it’s easy to understand it primarily as a Sacrifice in which Christ is both Priest and Victim. But that interpretation isn’t comprehensive. Christ was condemned to death as an outlaw and revolutionary. But the charges were false, and Christ was innocent. When asked whether He was a king, Christ answered, “For this was I born and for this did I come into the world: to bear witness to the truth.”

So He was a victim of injustice on account of His message. The connection between salvific self-sacrifice with strong ritual overtones on the one hand and the judicial murder of a truth-teller on the other isn’t obvious. People often liken the death of Socrates to the death of Christ, but Christianity revolves around the Cross in a way post-Socratic philosophy would regard as perverse.

I will attempt to distinguish and correlate the different aspects of the Crucifixion. It’s an incomplete account, but it’s a start. I use the Aristotelian concepts of material, formal, efficient, and final causes: Continue reading

Easter and the Power of the Holy Name of Mary

14 And when she had thus said, she [Mary Magdalen] turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
I6 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

~John 20:14-16

St. Mary Magdalen recognized the Risen Lord only when He called her by her name, Mary. Just saying the name Mary snaps her out of her anxiety and restores her ability to see Christ. I think there’s a mystery here. Catholics honor the Holy Name of Mary (after the Holy Name of Jesus, obviously); we even celebrate a feast day in honor of it (Sept. 12). It seems that almost all of the women who followed Christ were named Mary; there are at least three of them, and it’s hard to keep track of which is which.

Continue reading

“Weep Not Over Me”: A Prophecy of the Fall of Jerusalem

27 And there followed Him a great multitude of people and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him.
28 But Jesus turning to them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me; but weep for yourselves and for your children.
29 For behold, the days shall come, wherein they will say: Blessed are the barren and the wombs that have not borne and the paps that have not given suck.
30 Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: Fall upon us. And to the hills: Cover us.
31 For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?

~St. Luke 23: 27-30

Apocalyptic. Prophetic. Christ says this during the feast of Passover, as He is being led out of Jerusalem to be crucified by Roman soldiers before the city walls. Just 37 years later, in the year 70, the Roman emperor Titus destroyed Jerusalem. The Jewish historian Josephus reports that the city had a huge number of pilgrims trapped in it because the Roman siege began at Passover. As the siege progressed, many of the inhabitants would try to break out of the city walls to find food. The Romans caught as many as 500 a day and crucified them in front of the city walls so the people inside could see them. Continue reading

(Good) Friday I’m in Love (My Apologies to The Cure)

In the 130s A.D., the Roman emperor Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city named Aelia Capitolina. On the site of the Temple Mount, he built a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus, and on the site of Calvary and the Holy Sepulcher he built a temple to Venus, the goddess of love. What I find interesting is that Friday is the day of Venus. In most Romance languages, the word for Friday is literally “Venus’ day” (Venerdì, Viernes, Vendredi). The English “Friday” is from “Frige’s day” or “Freya’s Day,” Frige and Freya being Germanic equivalents of Venus. Continue reading

Was the Last Supper Celebrated Before the Passover Sacrifice?

The timelines of the Passion narrative are kind of confusing. On the one hand, the Last Supper certainly seems to be a Seder meal, which means the Passover lamb was slaughtered on Holy Thursday. On the other hand, there are indications that Christ died on the Cross on the same day and at the same time as the Passover lambs, which means the Last Supper was celebrated a day early.

Some have proposed that Christ and the Apostles observed a different calendar where the Passover fell a few days earlier than at the Temple, but then the Last Supper would not literally have been Christ’s “last supper.” Continue reading

Twelve Legions of Angels

From the Gospel reading on Palm Sunday:

“53 Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and He will give me presently more than twelve legions of angels?

54 How then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that so it must be done?”

–St. Matt. 26:53-54

Twelve legions must have seemed like an absurd number. At one point, the Roman Empire had a total of 36 legions, so 12 legions would have amounted to one-third of the entire Roman army. The historical irony is that that’s how many legions the Roman emperor Hadrian sent to Judea to crush the revolt of the false messiah Bar Kokhba in the 130s.

Lent and Easter as a Week of Weeks and Summary of Human History

St. Augustine compared human history to a week with seven (or eight) days/ages:

–Day/Age 1: Adam to Noah
–Day/Age 2: Noah to Abraham
–Day/Age 3: Abraham to David
–Day/Age 4: David to the Exile
–Day/Age 5: the Exile to the First Coming of Christ
–Day/Age 6: the First Coming of Christ to His Second Coming
–Day/Age 7: the Second Coming and General Resurrection, merging into the eighth day/age of eternity

So, the sixth age–the Friday of the week of human history–marks the First Coming and Passion of Christ. Continue reading

Jeremiah on Our Lady’s Sorrows

For several hundred years, the Friday before Good Friday was the feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“21 For the affliction of the daughter of my people I am afflicted, and made sorrowful, astonishment hath taken hold on me.
22 Is there no balm in Galaad? or is no physician there? Why then is not the wound of the daughter of my people closed?”

~Jeremiah 8:21-22

“17 And thou shalt speak this word to them: Let my eyes shed down tears night and day, and let them not cease, because the virgin daughter of my people is afflicted with a great affliction, with an exceeding grievous evil.”

~Jeremiah 14:17

Mutatis Mutandis: Some Thoughts for Traditionalists

When the Church introduced the Elevation at Mass, I’m sure some traditionalist said, “As a layman, I am unworthy even to look upon Our Lord. I close my eyes during that part to avoid sacrilege. I miss the Old Mass when only the priest saw the Sacred Species. Watch, soon they’ll put the Host under glass for all and sundry to look at–even sinners and infidels–and then we’ll be communicating outside of Eastertide. It’s just awful.”