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
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
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.
Happy feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of Mexico, Empress and Patroness of the Americas! Fun fact: the treaty that ended the Mexican-American War in 1848 is known as the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo because it was signed at the high altar of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, located in Villa Hidalgo (now part of Mexico City). The treaty was signed on February 2, 1848, the feast of the Purification of Our Lady (celebrated in the Novus Ordo as the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple). I assume that the tilma (miraculous image) of Our Lady was enthroned above the high altar at the time. Thus the Hispanic Southwest (California, Nevada, Utah, Texas, most of Arizona and New Mexico, half of Colorado, and parts of Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma) passed into the hands of the Americans under Our Lady’s watchful eyes.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for Mexico and the United States!
“Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” Canticles of Canticles 6:9
The United States declared war on the Empire of Japan on December 8, 1941. It was the feast day of the Immaculate Conception, the title under which the Blessed Virgin Mary is patroness of the United States. Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945 (August 14 in the United States, on the other side of the International Date Line). August 15 is the feast day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. I have read that the Catholics of Nagasaki were praying a novena in preparation for the Assumption, offering themselves as a sacrifice for the end of the war. And it seems that God accepted their sacrifice because the atomic bombing of Nagasaki (which I do not at all condone) led directly to the end of the war. Besides leading the free world during the Cold War, the Allied victory in World War II is probably America’s greatest contribution to world history. And America’s participation in the war was framed by two feast days of the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of the United States.
Happy Martinmas! Today is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. St. Martin was a Roman soldier who saw a beggar by the roadside. Drawing his sword, he cut his cloak in two and gave half to the beggar. That night, Christ appeared to him wearing the other half of his cloak; the beggar was Christ. St. Martin later became a monk, a hermit, and the bishop of Tours, France.
His feast day, Nov. 11, was traditionally celebrated as something close to the American Thanksgiving, with goose in place of turkey. During the Third Republic, he became the de facto patron of France. In 1918, during World War I, many French Catholics regarded it as a divine sign when the Germans agreed to an armistice on the feast day of St. Martin, veteran and French patron. Continue reading
It occurred to me how paltry Old Testament archeology is. Think of all of the artifacts, people, structures, cities, dynasties covered in the books of the Old Testament, and virtually no trace. Compared to Egypt, Mesopotamia, even Phoenicia, there’s meager physical and extra-Biblical documentary evidence for Israel’s existence.
Most notably, think of the Temple: not a stone upon a stone. The Ark of the Covenant, Urim and Thummim, and some other artifacts disappeared already with the Babylonian Captivity. The brazen serpent on a pole was destroyed by King Josias (Josiah) because it had become an object of idolatry. And now “evangelical” Protestants and some Jewish sects pore over ever square inch of the Holy Land trying to turn up artifacts–any artifact–of the Old Testament. How do we explain this absence? Continue reading
Background: In the Old Rite, the Octave of Christmas (January 1) is the Feast of the Circumcision. In the Novus Ordo, it’s the Solemnity of the Mother of God. I am writing this on January 1.
A little known fact: according to the traditional reckoning, Our Lord was born on Christmas Day (December 25) in the year 1 B.C. The year 1 A.D. began only on the Octave of Christmas. As a result, the first “year of Our Lord” commences with:
1.) The first spilling of the Precious Blood of Jesus in the rite of circumcision.
2.) The application of the Holy Name of Jesus. St. Joseph gave Jesus His Name at the circumcision. Continue reading
The photo above shows the altar of St. Olaf in Rome. He is shown with his battle axe, triumphantly crushing under foot the dragon of paganism (or maybe, in the artist’s mind, Lutheran heresy?). My blog pseudonym is the Latin form of “Olaf from Wisconsin.” My family is from Wisconsin (though I wasn’t born or raised here), and I’m one-eighth Norwegian. When I was a child, my late father (who was insanely proud of his one-quarter Norwegianity—may he rest in peace) used to call me “Ole,” which is short for Olaf.
St. Olaf was the King of Norway who spearheaded the conversion of that country to the Roman Catholic Faith. For his efforts at converting the pagan Vikings, St. Olaf was martyred during the Battle of Stiklestad on July 29, 1030, which is why today is his feast day. St. Olaf is honored as the “eternal king” (Rex Perpetuus) of Norway. Unfortunately, Norway was annexed by Denmark during the Protestant Revolt, and the Danes imposed Lutheranism on the country.
When I was studying under Fr. Reginald Foster in Rome ten years ago, I visited many of the so-called National Churches in the city. These are the churches that each nation claims as “its church” in Rome. I figured that Norway, despite its official Lutheranism, must have at least a chapel somewhere. Catholics—good ones, anyway—are always trying to reclaim the lost sheep among the nations. One day by accident, I stumbled upon the Norwegian national chapel in the Basilica of San Carlo al Corso* (which is the National Church of the Lombards). That’s where I took the photo above. The Latin inscriptions on the edge of the painting read in part, “Norvegia Catholica; S. Olaus Martyr, Norvegiae Rex et Patronus.” Translated, that’s, “Catholic Norway; St. Olaf, Martyr, King and Patron of Norway.” Continue reading
I’m a day late in posting this, but yesterday (July 25) was the feast day of St. James the Greater. Along with St. John the Evangelist (St. James’ brother) and St. Peter, St. James was one of Our Lord’s inner circle, being present at the Transfiguration and during Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden. Here are some one-off notes in appreciation of St. James:
St. James’ Iconography: Apostle, Pilgrim, Moor-Killer, and Martyr
Over at the New Liturgical Movement, David Clayton has posted an article about St. James’ iconography.* One of the commenters, Thom Ryng, notes that St. James appears in art in three different ways: as Apostle, as pilgrim, and as the Moor-Killer (Santiago Matamoros).**
I’ve seen the apostle, pilgrim, and Moor-Killer (or martyr?) identities combined in iconography. Once upon a time, I used to attend Mass at St. James Parish in Trumansburg, New York. The canopy/reredos at St. James shows a bishop’s crosier and sword laid across each other. The crosier obviously shows that St. James was an Apostle, and hence a bishop. The sword likely refers to his martyrdom by beheading, but also possibly to his status as Santiago Matamoros, the scourge of the Moors during Spain’s Reconquista. I believe the canopy also shows the pilgrim’s scallop shell, which points to Santiago de Compostela and the Way of St. James. Continue reading