Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism


"Praise ye Him, O sun and moon: praise Him, all ye stars and light''


Introduction

Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars

 

 
 
  

Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch (ca. A.D. 160), wrote in "To Autolycus,"

Consider, O man, His works -- the timely rotation of the seasons, and the changes of temperature; the regular march of the stars; the well-ordered course of days and nights, and months, and years; the various beauty of seeds, and plants, and fruits; and the divers species of quadrupeds, and birds, and reptiles, and fishes, both of the rivers and of the sea; or consider the instinct implanted in these animals to beget and rear offspring, not for their own profit, but for the use of man; and the providence with which God provides nourishment for all flesh, or the subjection in which He has ordained that all things subserve mankind. Consider, too, the flowing of sweet fountains and never-failing rivers, and the seasonable supply of dews, and showers, and rains; the manifold movement of the heavenly bodies, the morning star rising and heralding the approach of the perfect luminary; and the constellation of Pleiades, and Orion, and Arcturus, and the orbit of the other stars that circle through the heavens, all of which the manifold wisdom of God has called by names of their own.

Yes, do consider these things! Consider, too, how St. Clement of Alexandria (d. ca. A.D. 215) intimated much about the wondrousness of the heavens when he posited that God made the stars so that the heathens might have some sense of His existence. St. Clement's writings can be very problematic, but he puts forth an interesting idea in Book VI of his "Stromata," when he wrote,

... even the heathen, is judged most righteously. For since God knew in virtue of His prescience that he would not believe, He nevertheless, in order that he might receive his own perfection gave him philosophy, but gave it him previous to faith. And He gave the sun, and the moon, and the stars to be worshipped; "which God," the Law says, made for the nations, that they might not become altogether atheistical, and so utterly perish...

Whether St. Clement got that right or not -- and that bit of writing is certainly not a matter of dogma or doctrine in any way --  it's obvious that the stars are awesome indeed! And in considering how beautifully these heavenly creatures reflect the glory of their Maker, make note of the following three points...


 
Point One: The stars were made, in part, for signs

Genesis 1:14 says "...Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven...and let them be for signs." A "sign," just like the signs we see around us all the time in everyday life, points to something; it reveals and gives us information.

Luke 21:25 tells us clearly that "there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars" at the end of the age; surely it is not un-Christian to see them when they happen, just as the Magi saw the the Star of Bethlehem as a sign and followed it to adore the Divine Child. As Origen (b. 185) wrote when speaking of that great and wondrous star that signalled the Nativity of Our Lord,

It has been observed that, on the occurrence of great events, and of mighty changes in terrestrial things, such stars are wont to appear, indicating either the removal of dynasties or the breaking out of wars, or the happening of such circumstances as may cause commotions upon the earth. But we have read in the Treatise an Comets by Chaeremon the Stoic, that on some occasions also, when good was to happen, comets made their appearance; and he gives an account of such instances.

If, then, at the commencement of new dynasties, or on the occasion of other important events, there arises a comet so called, or any similar celestial body, why should it be a matter of wonder that at the birth of Him Who was to introduce a new doctrine to the human race, and to make known His teaching not only to Jews, but also to Greeks, and to many of the barbarous nations besides, a star should have arisen?

 

Point two: God named the stars

Why believe that God named the stars? Because the Psalms tell us it is so:

Psalms 146:1-4 (147:1-4 in Bibles with Masoretic numbering):
Alleluia. Praise ye the Lord, because psalm is good: to our God be joyful and comely praise. The Lord buildeth up Jerusalem: He will gather together the dispersed of Israel. Who healeth the broken of heart, and bindeth up their bruises. Who telleth the number of the stars: and calleth them all by their names.

The Fathers, of course, agree. Note in particular what Theophilus wrote above:

Consider...the manifold movement of the heavenly bodies, the morning star rising and heralding the approach of the perfect luminary; and the constellation of Pleiades, and Orion, and Arcturus, and the orbit of the other stars that circle through the heavens, all of which the manifold wisdom of God has called by names of their own.

 

Point three: St. Paul, quoting David, says something absolutely fascinating

From Scripture, it is clear that God not only created and has complete control over the stars, but named them and gave them not only for seasons, days and years, but, as said, "for signs."

Job 38:31-33
Shalt thou be able to join together the shining stars the Pleiades, or canst thou stop the turning about of Arcturus? 1 Canst thou bring forth the day star in its time, and make the evening star to rise upon the children of the earth? Dost thou know the order of heaven, and canst thou set down the reason thereof on the earth?

King David, in his 18th Psalm (or the 19th in Bibles with Masoretic numbering), asserts that the Heavens "shew forth," "declare," and "uttereth" -- that their "voices" go unto the ends of the earth and can be "heard" by all men:

Psalm 18:2-5
The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands. Day to day uttereth speech, and night to night sheweth knowledge. There are no speeches nor languages, where their voices are not heard. Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth: and their words unto the ends of the world.

And here is the most fascinating thing: according to St. Paul, it seems that King David wasn't merely being poetic; when speaking about the potential for salvation of those who have never heard the Gospel from the Church, he says, in Romans 10:11-18:

For the Scripture saith: Whosoever believeth in Him shall not be confounded. For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is Lord over all, rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.

How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be sent, as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things? But all do not obey the gospel. For Isaias saith: Lord, who hath believed our report? Faith then cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of Christ.

But I say: Have they not heard? Yes, verily: Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth: and their words unto the ends of the whole world.

Who is the "they" whose sound has gone forth into all the earth, and words unto the ends of the whole world, said words being the same as having heard word of Christ? It seems to be the "they" of the Psalm which St. Paul was quoting very precisely: "they" are the stars of Psalm 18:2-5, which I urge you to read again since St. Paul uses those exact words:

The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands. Day to day uttereth speech, and night to night sheweth knowledge. There are no speeches nor languages, where their voices are not heard. Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth: and their words unto the ends of the world.

Could St. Paul possibly have meant to say that all one has to do is look to the stars to see not just the glory of God's creation, but the Gospel message itself? Could the original names of these stars, given by God to Adam in Eden, have been designed to tell a story?

I believe, though it is certainly not explicit doctrine of the Church, that the answer to those questions is "absolutely."

Could the names God assigned to the stars have been passed down through the millennia and preserved, in terms of their meanings, by the great civilizations -- i.e., are the Hebrew and Babylonian names for the Zodiacal constellations the same names given by God?

This is where things get tricky. Books have been written about this possibility -- the scholarship of which I find highly suspect, whose linguistic translations are often entirely bogus, whose assertions of fact I've been unable to verify, and whose interpretations of some of those assertions I often see as too "convenient." And none of the books I've seen of this nature limit themselves to those stars whose "sound hath gone forth into all the earth" (the stars of the Zodiac, which are visible in all populated areas because their course is along the ecliptic), but also include the stars more toward the North Pole.

In the end, though our present-day names for the Zodiacal constellations are extremely ancient, their original names given to them by God simply can't be proved.

But it is a fascinating idea, and even without such proof, we can most certainly at least look poetically at the Zodiacal constellations, keeping in mind the possibility that our imaging of the twelve great constellations has been consistent since Eden.

At least we can see the Zodiacal constellations as great Christian symbols and use them to tell the story of Christ in the same manner that St. Patrick used a shamrock in his attempt to describe the Most Holy Trinity.

And at the very least, reading this section can help people learn about God's beautiful Zodiac and will perhaps inspire them to have a new appreciation for the jewels that adorn our night skies.


Table of Contents

The Zodiac
Introduction

A Tour of the Heavens

Envisioning the Celestial Sphere

The Constellations of the Zodiac

Virgo

Libra

Scorpius

Sagittarius

Capricornus

Aquarius

Pisces

Aries

Taurus

Gemini

Cancer

Leo

Summary and a Few Odds and Ends

The Traditional Catholic View of Astrology

  
  
Footnotes:
1 "Arcturus" refers to "Ursa Major," the constellation that includes the Big Dipper asterism (or the Plough, to Englishmen). This likely applies, too, in Amos 5:8 -- a verse in which "Orion" is sometimes translated as "Bootes."


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