The Fifth Station of the Cross: A Dialectic of Diaspora and Ingathering

Mark 15:21: 21 And they forced one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and of Rufus, to take up his cross.

Some points: Simon is a Jewish name. Cyrene was a Greek colony on the north coast of Africa. So Simon was a Jew of the Diaspora. And not just the Jewish Diaspora, but the Greek colonial diaspora. His sons bore the Greek imperial name par excellence (Alexander) and a Roman name (Rufus). He was coming in from the country (symbolizing the Diaspora) to Jerusalem (the Jewish holy city), presumably for the Passover. This represents the ingathering of the Jewish people, the end of the Exile, the “new Passover.” Indeed, like the original Hebrews under Moses, Simon is coming from Africa, and likely sailed past Egypt and Sinai on his way to Jerusalem.

And yet he meets the Jewish Messiah heading out in the opposite direction, out from the Holy City, away from the Temple, rejected by His own people. And Simon ends up turning back around and following Him. With the apostasy of the high priest and Sanhedrin and the delivering up of Christ to the Gentiles, the earthly Jerusalem is no longer the living instantiation of the heavenly Jerusalem. The Christian disciple must take up his cross and turn his back on the earthly Jerusalem, now representing the City of Man.

This is the life of the Church, represented by a Diaspora Jew named Simon and his Greek and Roman sons with their Gentile names. Simon the Cyrenian represents the first Christian disciples, who were Jewish, while Alexander and Rufus represent the Greek and Latin Churches, respectively. And of course this is all recorded in the Gospel of St. Mark, the secretary of St. Peter, whose original name was Simon, a Jew from “Galilee of the Gentiles,” who forsook Jerusalem first for the Greek city of Antioch and then Rome itself.


God: “No, Israel, you don’t want a human king. Let Me be your king.”

Israel: “No.”

God: “Okay then, try it out with Saul as king . . . See, that didn’t work. <Sigh> I guess I’ll have to set up a divinely sanctioned monarchy so this man-as-king thing will work on some level. Samuel, get thee to Bethlehem.”

Adam and Christ:
God: “No, Adam, you don’t want to be God. Let Me be your God.”

Adam: “No.”

God: “Okay then, try it out with you as God . . . See, that didn’t work. <Sigh> I guess I’ll have to send My Son so this whole man-as-God thing will work out. Magi, get thee to Bethlehem.”

Please Don’t Write This Way

I enjoy reading the blog Just Thomism, though I think the author deserves criticism on some points. One is that he doesn’t allow responses to his posts, which means that he puts ideas out there without much fear of getting chewed out for them. And sometimes I think he deserves a chewing out.

I’ll give an example. In a recent post about Scriptural inerrancy (Material errors in Scripture), the author writes, “But assume Jacob was in fact Joseph’s biological father and Luke meant to speak of Joseph’s biological father, and failed. Now what?”

The problem is that there is no explanation for this assumption. Why are we assuming this? And from that assumption, the author reaches a conclusion:

“The question of why God uses material error falls under the same inquiry of how God uses any evil, making it a branch of theodicy.”

But the “question” arises from a mere assumption–the assumption that a material error occurred in the first place. And the problem is even more basic than that. How was this assumption admitted in the first place? Because the author’s starting thesis is this:

Thesis: Scriptural inerrancy demands the total absence of formal error.

The author nowhere states why his thesis is limited to formal error. Why does he introduce this limitation? Are there Church teachings to this effect?

I think the actual thought process went like this:

1.) We want to affirm that Scripture is inerrant.

2.) There sure do seem to be a bunch of factual errors in Scripture.

3.) I don’t find attempts to explain them away satisfying.

4.) How can I save Scriptural inerrancy? That’s the question.

5.) Let’s try limiting Scriptural inerrancy to formal errors, which will allow material errors. Everything I think the Bible gets right is formal and/or material, everything I think it gets wrong is merely material.

Hence, the thesis, which allows the assumption to proceed to its conclusion. If that’s the thought process, then just say that. Also, please define what “formal” and “material” even mean in this context. Thank you.

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.