Catholicism, Catholic, Traditional Catholicism, Catholic Church


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Last Sunday
after Pentecost

 
 
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.

Apocalypse 21:1-5, 22:1-5
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 true...

...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.

 
Reading

from Dom Gueranger's "The Liturgical Year"

...Our readers 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 Israel.

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!

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