Today we've almost
completed the liturgical cycle, which starts over again with Advent next
Sunday. Our focus now is on the Second Coming of Christ (the "Parousia"),
the Last Judgment, and the Heavenly Jerusalem. Today's Mass readings will
include the frightening "Olivet Discourse" (Matthew 24:15-35).
What does the Church teach about the Parousia? That Jesus will come in glory
and unexpectedly and that no man knows when this will be. That when He comes,
the bodies of the dead -- who've already been judged in what is called the
"particular judgment" that takes place just after death -- will be raised
and united with their souls. That all who have ever lived will be judged
in what is called the "Last Judgment" which will happen in such a manner
that everyone will know Who Christ is and that His judgments are just.
This world will be destroyed, and a new world will take its place. Christ
will reign forever and ever with His saints.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first
earth was gone, and the sea is now no more. And I John saw the holy city,
the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride
adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying:
Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and He will dwell with them. And they
shall be His people; and God Himself with them shall be their God. And God
shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor
mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things
are passed away. And he that sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make all
things new. And He said to me: Write, for these words are most faithful and
...And He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding
from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street thereof,
and on both sides of the river, was the tree of life, bearing twelve fruits,
yielding its fruits every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the
healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more; but the throne
of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him.
And they shall see His Face: and His Name shall be on their foreheads. And
night shall be no more: and they shall not need the light of the lamp, nor
the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall enlighten them, and they
shall reign for ever and ever.
It is interesting
that the readings from Matthew for today's Mass are almost duplicated in
next week's Mass's readings from Luke 21:25-33. On the first Sunday of Advent,
we hear again of the destruction of Jerusalem, but this time with an eye
toward His Second Coming -- even as we ready ourselves to remember His
First Coming at the Feast of the Nativity. The first and last Sundays of
the year meet and together remind us to prepare.
from Dom Gueranger's
"The Liturgical Year"
will remember that, in the time of St. Gregory, Advent was longer than we
now have it; and that, in those days, its weeks commenced in that part of
the cycle which is now occupied by the last Sundays after Pentecost. This
is one of the reasons for the lack of liturgical riches in the composition
of the dominical Masses which follow the twenty-third.
Even on this one, the Church, without losing sight of the last day, used
to lend a thought to the new season which was fast approaching, the season,
that is, of preparation for the great feast of Christmas. There was read,
as Epistle, the following passage from Jeremias, which was afterwards, in
several Churches, inserted in the Mass of the first Sunday of Advent: 'Behold!
the days come, saith the Lord, and I will raise up to David a just branch:
and a King shall reign, and shall be wise: and shall execute judgment and
justice in the earth. In those days, shall Juda be saved, and Israel shall
dwell confidently: and this is the name that they shall call Him: The Lord
our Just One. Therefore, behold the days come, saith the Lord, and they shall
say no more: The Lord liveth, who brought up the children of Israel out of
the land of Egypt! But: The Lord liveth, who hath brought out, and brought
hither, the seed of the house of Israel, from the land of the north, and
out of all the lands, to which I had cast them forth! And they shall dwell
in their own land.'
As is evident, this passage is equally applicable to the conversion of the
Jews and the restoration of Israel, which are to take place at the end of
the world. This was the view taken by the chief liturgists of the middle
ages, in order to explain thoroughly the Mass of the twenty-third Sunday
alter Pentecost. Bearing in mind that, originally, the Gospel of this Sunday
was that of the multiplication of the five loaves, let us listen to the profound
and learned Abbot Rupert, who, better than anyone, will teach us the mysteries
of this day, which brings to a close the grand and varied Gregorian melodies.
'Holy Church,' he says, 'is so intent on paying her debt of supplication,
and prayer, and thanksgiving, for all men, as the apostle demands, that we
find her giving thanks also for the salvation of the children of Israel,
who, she knows, are one day to be united with her. And, as their remnants
are to be saved at the end of the world, so, on this last Sunday of the year,
she delights in them, as though they were already her members. In the Introit,
calling to mind the prophecies concerning them, she thus sings every year:
My thoughts are thoughts of peace, and not of affliction. Verily, His thoughts
are those of peace, for He promises to admit to the banquet of His grace
the Jews, who are His brethren according to the flesh; thus realizing what
had been prefigured in the history of the patriarch Joseph. The brethren
of Joseph, having sold him, came to him when they were tormented by hunger;
for then he ruled over the whole land of Egypt. He recognized them; he received
them; and made, together with them, a great feast. So, too, our Lord, who
is now reigning over the whole earth, and is giving the bread of life, in
abundance, to the Egyptians (that is, to the Gentiles), will see coming to
Him the remnants of the children of Israel. He, whom they had denied and
put to death, will admit them to His favour, will give them a place at His
table, and the true Joseph will feast delightedly with His brethren.
'The benefit of this divine Table is signified, in the Office of this Sunday;
by the Gospel, which tells us of our Lord's feeding the multitude with five
loaves. For it will be then that Jesus will open to the Jews the five Books
of Moses, which are now being carried whole, and not yet broken; yea, carried
by a child, that is to say, this people itself, who, up to that time, will
have been cramped up in the narrowness of a childish spirit.
'Then will be fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremias, which is so aptly placed
before this Gospel: ``They shall say no more: The Lord liveth, who brought
up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt! But, the Lord liveth,
who hath brought out the seed of Israel from the land of the north, and from
all the lands into which they had been cast.''
'Thus delivered from the spiritual bondage which still holds them, they will
sing with all their heart the words of thanksgiving as we have them in the
Gradual: "Thou hast saved us, O Lord, from them that afflict us!"
'The words we use in the Offertory: "From the depths I have cried to thee,
O Lord," clearly allude to the same events; for, on that day, His brethren
will say to the great and true Joseph: "We beseech thee to forget the wickedness
of thy brethren!" The Communion: "Amen, I say to you, all things whatsoever
ye ask, when ye pray," etc., is the answer made by that same Joseph, as it
was by the first: "Fear not! Ye thought evil against me: but God turned it
into good, that He might exalt me, as at present ye see, and might save many
people. Fear not, therefore, I will feed you, and your children."'
Although the choice of this Gospel for the twenty-third Sunday is not of
great antiquity, yet is it in most perfect keeping with the post-pentecostal
liturgy, and confirms what we have stated relative to the character of this
portion of the Church's year. St. Jerome tells us, in the homily selected
for the day, that the hemorrhoissa, healed by our Lord, is a type of the
Gentile world; whilst the Jewish people is represented by the daughter of
the ruler of the Synagogue. This latter is not to be restored to life until
the former has been cured; and this is precisely the mystery we are so
continually commemorating during these closing weeks of the liturgical year,
viz., the fullness of the Gentiles recognizing and welcoming the divine
Physician, and the blindness of Israel at last giving way to the light.
The liturgy at this close of the year continually alludes to the end of the
world. The earth seems to be sinking away, down into some deep abyss; but
it is only that it may shake off the wicked from its surface, and then it
will come up again blooming in light and love. After the divine realities
of this year of grace, we ought to be capable of feeling a thrill of admiration
at the mysterious, yet, at the same time, the strong and sweet ways of eternal
Wisdom. At the beginning, when man was first created, sin soon followed,
breaking up the harmony of God's beautiful world, and throwing man off the
divine path where his Creator had placed him. Wickedness went on increasing,
until God's mercy fell upon one family. The light which beamed on that privileged
favourite only showed more plainly the thick darkness in which the rest of
mankind were enveloped. The Gentiles, abandoned to their misery, all the
more terrible because they had caused it and loved it, saw God's favours
all bestowed on Israel, whilst they themselves were disregarded, and wished
to be so. Even when the time came for original sin to be remedied, it seemed
to be the very time for the final reprobation of the Gentiles; for the salvation
that came down from heaven in the person of the Man-God was seen to be
exclusively directed towards the Jews and the lost sheep of the house of
But the people that had been treated with so much predilection, and whose
fathers and first rulers had so ardently prayed for the coming of the Messias,
was no longer in the position to which it had been raised by the holy patriarchs
and prophets. Its beautiful religion, founded on desire and hope, was then
nothing but a sterile expectancy, which kept it motionless and unable to
advance a single step towards its Redeemer. As to its Law, Israel then minded
nothing but the letter, and, at last, turned it into a mummy of sectarian
formalism. Now, whilst in spite of all this sinful apathy it was mad with
jealousy, pretending that no one else had any right to heaven's favours,
the Gentile, whose ever-increasing misery urged him to go in search of some
deliverer, found one, and recognized him in Jesus the Saviour of the world.
He was confident that this Jesus could cure him; so he took the bold initiative,
went up to Him, and had the merit of being the first to be healed. True,
our Lord had treated him with an apparent disdain; but that had only had
the effect of intensifying his humility, and humility has a power of making
way anywhere, even into heaven itself.
Israel, therefore, was now made to wait. One of the Psalms he sang ran thus:
'Ethiopia shall be the first to stretch out her hands to God.' It is now
the turn for Israel to recover, by the pangs of a long abandonment, the humility
which had won the divine promises for his fathers, the humility which alone
could merit his seeing those promises fulfilled.
By this time, however, the word of salvation has made itself heard throughout
all the nations, healing and saving all who desired the blessing. Jesus,
who has been delayed on the road, comes at last to the house towards which
He first purposed to direct His sacred steps; He reaches, at last, the house
of Juda, where the daughter of Sion is in a deep sleep. His almighty compassion
drives away from the poor abandoned one the crowd of false teachers and lying
prophets, who had sent her into that mortal sleep, by all the noise of their
vain babbling: He casts forth for ever from her house those insulters of
Himself, who are quite resolved to keep the dead one dead. Taking the poor
daughter by the hand, He restores her to life, and to all the charm of her
first youth; proving thus, that her apparent death had been but a sleep,
and that the long delay of dreary ages could never belie the word of God,
which He had given to Abraham, His servant.
Now therefore, let this world hold itself in readiness for its final
transformation; for the tidings of the restoration of the daughter of Sion
puts the last seal to the accomplishment of the prophecies. It remains now
but for the graves to give back their dead. The valley of Josaphat is preparing
for the great meeting of the nations; Mount Olivet is once more to have Jesus
standing upon it, but this time as Lord and Judge!