Tag Archives: protoevangelium

The Woman and the Two – 27 March 2018

There has been a lot of discussion recently about women, from the “Weinstein Effect” to #MeToo. Misogyny in our culture is on notice, and the idea of womanhood has come to the forefront. In many respects, we have never before seen a moment like this focused on the dignity of women.

Perhaps it is time the modern world should look towards an older idea of womanhood, that which permeates our Catholic faith.

From the very beginning of scripture to the very end we find ‘the woman.’ Christians often quote lines from the Old Testament and the prophets regarding the Savior to come. This is all true, but it is not the whole story. The prophetic announcements tell of two intertwined together on behalf of our salvation. In the first moments in Genesis after the fall, God declares to the wicked serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.”

There is some dispute how to best translate the next line in the passage, specifically if it should be “he” and “his” or “she” and “her.” But, St. Jerome in translating this from the ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Latin texts chose to translate it as “she” and “her” as the most accurate. The Douay-Rheims translation based on the Latin Vulgate into English renders it “she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” This was reaffirmed by other Church Fathers and in Ineffabilis Deus on the Immaculate Conception as “unmistakable evidence that she crushed the poisonous head of the serpent.”

The effect is the same. The woman through her seed shall crush the head of the serpent. That is, the Virgin Mary through Jesus Christ shall crush the head of Satan. Jesus is the divine Redeemer, and Mary the creature, but the two together crush Satan, and bring hope of eternal life. This is downplayed in our protestantized modern Christianity. The prophet Isaiah talks of the two as well, a virgin who will bear a son. The fall came at the hands of two, and in God’s beautiful symmetry, the restoration also comes at the hands of two.

The Virgin Mary is the masterpiece of God’s creation. She is conceived without sin, the sanctifying grace of her Son applied to her by way of anticipation, but to the rest of humanity by deliverance. She is unique in all of creation. Mary told St. Bernadette at Lourdes “I am the Immaculate Conception.” In the heavenly vision to St. Catherine Laboure at Rue du Bac, later forged into the miraculous medal, Mary is standing on the head of the serpent, seemingly answering the question of pronouns in the protoevangelium.

We find ‘the woman’ again at a wedding feast in Cana. The two together, Jesus and Mary, co-launch Jesus’ first miracle and his public ministry. When the wedding party ran out of wine, Mary looks knowingly at Jesus saying, “They have no wine.” In that one short sublime sentence Mary asks Jesus to perform his first open miracle, and begin his public work of salvation. This is Mary’s first act of motherly mediation too for her spiritual children. Jesus knows what she is asking but answers, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” He addresses his mother as the archetype ‘woman’ acknowledging her prophetic role. Yet, Mary continues to direct the servants to “do whatever he tells you.” Jesus is the Son of God, he is in charge, but he defers out of respect and love for his mother.

At last, at the final stroke of the salvific drama, Jesus addresses ‘the woman,’ this time from the Cross, saying “woman, behold your son,” and to John, “behold your mother.” Mary, ‘the woman,’ became, by order of grace, the spiritual mother of all the living. And, Mary is still our mother. Is it any wonder that our Lady still comes to us at Guadalupe, Lourdes, and Fatima to remind us over the centuries “do whatever he tells you”?

St. Louis de Montfort called the Incarnation the “greatest event in the whole history of the world.” It is ‘the woman’ who is central to the Annunciation, which leads to the Incarnation and the Redemption. At that critical moment, God sends the Archangel Gabriel to Mary, and he greets her with the Angelic Salutation, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” and “blessed are you among women.” In ‘the woman,’ who alone is full of grace, the inherited link of sin is broken. The serpent can only lie in wait of her heel, and only enmity remains between them.

It was not until Mary’s fiat, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord,” that God became man. God made his Incarnation dependent upon the woman. This set in motion the whole drama of the Redemption. This greatest moment in the history of the world, the Incarnation, is memorialized in the prayer of the Rosary. Every time we pray the words of the Rosary, which are the words of the Angelic Salutation, we are greeting and honoring Mary again, just as the heavenly ambassador did. We are praying over and over again the words of the Incarnation. In it, we are reliving and honoring that unique theandric event, when the Word became flesh in the woman. In short, the Rosary is the Incarnation in prayer form.

‘The woman’ is at Eden; she is at Cana; and she is at Golgotha. And, ‘the woman’ appears again at the very end of time, with the great unveiling of the apocalypse, the final bookend to salvation history: “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Our spiritual Mother appears as Queen of heaven, offering intercession for her children even to the last moment.

St. Pope John Paul II highlights this in Redemptoris Mater. He declares that the Virgin Mary was “not only the ‘nursing mother’ of the Son of Man but also the ‘associate of unique nobility.'” One of the great modern errors is that Mary was just a human vessel to birth Jesus. Mary did provide Jesus with his physical flesh and blood, hence the profound link between the devotions to the Virgin Mary and the Eucharist. But, Mary’s maternal mediation was much more in the order of grace. She was, and is, a collaborator with her Son in the work of salvation, as the encyclical states: “Mary’s motherhood itself underwent a singular transformation” with “‘burning charity,’ which sought to achieve, in union with Christ, the restoration of ‘supernatural life to souls.'”

In this time of women, let us remember ‘the woman.’ The Virgin Mary is the fulfillment of that original dignity in our preternatural past. She offers us the example par excellence of holiness and virtue. Mary is the Theotokos, and based on that unique grace of who she is, her intercession for us is most efficacious. Through our devotion to her, she will crush the head of Satan in our lives. She is the Queen mediating on behalf of our salvation before the throne of the King.

This is why we pray: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

0Shares

Genesis 1-11:

The Bible Overview:
The Hebrew Bible (the Torah, the prophets and the other books) is unique in the history of the world. It was the first book and religion to establish monotheism and a code of ethics around the world. It was divinely unique in a number of ways, with concepts unheard-of in the ancient world, and which transformed us into the modern world we know now and accept: (1) It proclaimed a universal God. (2) It posited an invisible, incorporeal God. (3) It declared a moral God, not capricious like the pagan gods and the deities of myth. (4) It presupposed a God outside of nature and beyond nature, unlike the pagan who worshipped nature and natural beings. (5) It suggested a God Who loves and wants to be loved, again unique from the selfish and capricious pagan gods. (6) It declared a universal human worth that all humans are “made in the image of God,” and therefore, of immense value and dignity. This was a world-changing concept never seen before in the history of the world. (7) Due to each individual human’s dignity, there are universal human rights that cannot be lawfully taken away by man.

All of the horrible atrocities and evil ideologies, such as human sacrifice, wanton disregard for human life, savage warfare, slavery, incest, idolatry, nature worship and superstition, all begin to fade away as the light of divine revelation is manifested to the world in successive revelations. God reached down from Heaven to guide us through the childhood and adolescence of human formation of conscience and morality. From the Garden to Eden, to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Moses and the Ten Commandments, to the Israelites becoming God’s Jewish nation, to the Temple, and the prophets, and then, at long last, to the revelation of the Son of God, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God came into the world to undo the destructive power of Original Sin and free mankind to become Children of God. The Bible stands alone in revelation, in law, in prophecy, in internal coherence, and truth. It is the most widely read book and the most important book in the history of the world. It forever altered the arc of human history. It introduced earth-shattering ideas into the course of human civilization, and singularly prepared the world for that most important moment ever to happen, the Incarnation of the Son of God. The world has never been the same since.

Genesis 1-11:
The Creation of Man:
The Hebrew Bible is a conversation that lasted more than a millennium.   The Bible begins with two creation accounts or myths. This time period is “prehistory.” After creating all living things, which is “good,” then Yahweh creates man, which is termed “very good.” Adam is created from the ground (“adamah”). The only living thing not created from the ground is “woman.” Only in seeing woman, is man completed and in their complementarity does he fully understands himself. The man and the woman together bear the image of God. This is manifested in the pro-creative nature of the husband and wife, creating new life in likeness of their creator. The first man and woman were naked and not ashamed. They bore a primordial innocence, and preternatural life in the Garden of Eden (the original harmony of Creation).

Jesus Declares Two Genders – Male and Female; and Heterosexual Marriage:
Jesus, when he was challenged by the Pharisees on the teaching of marriage and divorce, referenced that it “was not so from the beginning.” Jesus taught a radical indissolubility of marriage between one man and one woman: Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, made them male and female? And he said: For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh.” (Matt. 19:4-5)

The Fall:
That all changes with the Fall from innocence. The devil, mythologized as a serpent, tempts them to disobey Yahweh. Eve listens to the devil, and persuades her husband Adam to disobey as well. With that, humanity is brought into “the human condition” we know today: birthing pain, patriarchal societies, hard work toiling the land, disease and death.

Protoevangelium:
Yahweh then offers the first prophecy of a future Savior and “the woman” who will crush the head of the serpent. Eve fell to the serpent, but the second Eve will crush the serpent’s head. “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” (Gen. 3:15) It is through the Virgin Mary that Jesus Christ is born, God becomes man. With the Virgin Mary and her Immaculate Conception, the stain of sin and the line of inherited corruption is broken. She alone is the Ark worthy of bearing God. In the woman, God the Son becomes flesh to take away the sins of the world.

Enoch:
In the generations from Adam to Noah, was Enoch. Genesis 5:12 reads: “Then Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him.” The implication, much like what happens later with the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 2:11), Enoch does not die, but is taken alive to heaven. Enoch and Elijah are perhaps the two great prophets sent back at the End of the World to confront the Antichrist. (Revelation 11)

Noah and The Flood:
Chapter 6 of Genesis also deals with the origin of the Nephilim (ie, the Giants). It says: “the sons of heaven saw how beautiful the daughters of man were, and so they took for their wives as many of them as they chose. . . At that time the Nephilim appeared on earth (as well as later), after the sons of heaven had intercourse with the daughters of man, who bore them sons. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown.” This episode directly precedes the flood. The wickedness of man also leads Yahweh to limit man’s lifespan to 120 years (as opposed the hundreds of years lifespans previously, such as Adam who lived to 930 years old). Yahweh warns Noah that He is about to destroy the world because of its “corruption” and “lawlessness.” The Biblical account of the flood is similar to other flood stories from Mesopotamia, such as The Epic of Gilgamesh. Yet, the Biblical account is strikingly different in the way in which God preserves Noah, as opposed to the opposition of the deities in the Mesopotamian traditions.

Rainbow:
After God destroys most of the known world in the flood, he gives a sign of his promise never to do so again, the rainbow. The rainbow is the “sign of the everlasting covenant” God establishes between himself and all mortal creatures. Those who misuse the sign of the rainbow today again mock God with brazen disregard for his laws.

Sacramental View:
The waters of the Flood are analogous to the waters of Baptism. Just as the waters of Baptism wash away Original sin, so too did the waters of the Flood wash away the sinful world. Universal humanity (i.e., the world) seems to follow the path of Christian initiation. Just as the infant world is baptized in water, the later adolescent world is baptized in fire. At the End, the world is consumed and transformed by fire (2 Pt. 3:7), just as the fire of the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and all believers at Pentecost and Confirmation (Acts 2:3) making them a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). This final conflagration ushers in a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1).

Carnivores:
Another interesting note is that after the flood Yahweh tells Noah, “Every creature that is alive shall be yours to eat; I give them all to you as I did the green plants.” (Gen. 9:3) The Antediluvian world is depicted as strict vegetarians. It is only after the flood, that animals, including man, become carnivorous. God grants a concession to humanity in its propensity towards violence, so that they are now allowed to eat meat (but must observe certain restrictions regarding the handling of animal blood. Gen.9: 2-4; Lev. 17:11)

The Tower of Babel:
The last story in this section is the Tower of Babel. “The whole world spoke the same language, using the same words.” (Gen. 11:1) This story highlights human arrogance attempting to trespass into the realm of God. They do this by trying to build a tower that reaches up to God. In Babylonian times, this probably refers to the Babylonian ziggurats, a sort-of original skyscraper. It was then that the Lord came down to see what they built and decided to “go down and there confuse their language” and then he, “scattered them from there all over the earth.” (Gen 11:8-9)

The 100 Years War: The Church and Communism – October 16, 2017

The past 100 years from 1917 to 2017 have been an encapsulation of the protoevangelium, when God told the serpent “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” This 100-years-war has signified a most pronounced phase in the enmity. It began in 1917 with both (what are the odds?) the revelation of Our Lady of Fatima and the Russian Revolution to atheistic Communism. For the past 100 years the mystical body of antichrist has undoubtedly taken its most grotesque form in atheistic materialism, embodied in Socialist and Communist governments around the world. The serpent became the Leviathan. Before the “October Revolution,” Mary warned in Fatima in July 1917 of Russia, saying “she will scatter her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecution of the Church.” The rest, as we know, is history.

In this month and year of the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution, it is a good time to recall the “satanic scourge” (as Pius XI called it) unleashed on the world through the wicked wiles of socialism and communism. This is particularly important as Western cultural elites and sympathizers, have long sought to minimize the evils of Marxism, as The New York Times seems to have been doing recently, as The Federalist described, with “a series of fond, nostalgic recollections about the good old days of twentieth-century communism.” Perhaps it is time to review again all the fun had in the “red century” with some relaxing bedtime reading like The Black Book of Communism or Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. Or, maybe enjoy some uplifting reads about Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” and “Cultural Revolution?” Yay! Or, perhaps, just eat some popcorn and watch a little light entertainment like The Killing Fields.

Some may say, what about “twenty-first century Socialism?” Well, one need only take a quick scan of headlines on Venezuela. Not long ago Venezuela was a prosperous, oil-rich country, a Socialist miracle! Now, after 18 years of Chavez-Maduro Marxism, it is a Socialist hellhole. Many in the country have been reduced to starvation (a Communist specialty) and descended into stealing and eating zoo animals, with apparently a particular delicacy for collared peccaries and buffalo. This, sadly, is not an aberration in Socialist experiments, but the norm. It is probably more palatable, however, than the grass and bark diet in the prison-state of North Korea. The hard facts of history reveal that Communist demagogues killed up to 140 million people (as Dr. Paul Kengor cites in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism) from Lenin to Stalin to Mao to Pol Pot to Kim Jong-un to Chavez to Che and Fidel. The list goes on and on. Lenin did say, after all, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet; 140 million broken eggs, now that is a big omelet!

The Church, on the other hand, was never fooled by the cons of socialism and communism. From the beginning, encyclical after encyclical railed against the false ideology of Marx and Hegel. In fact, it is right there in the Catechism: “The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with ‘communism’ or ‘socialism.’” (CCC 2425) Whereas the Catechism is brief, the papal encyclicals are rich in detail and sweeping in condemnation.

In 1846, Pope Pius IX promulgated Qui Pluribus (On Faith and Religion), beating Marx to the punch, who published The Communist Manifesto in 1848. Pius IX wrote about the “unspeakable doctrine of communism,” which is “a doctrine most opposed to the very natural law. For if this doctrine were accepted, the complete destruction of everyone’s laws, government, property, and even human society itself would follow.” He warned about “the most dark designs of men in the clothing of sheep, while inwardly ravening wolves.”

In 1878, Pope Leo XIII wrote about the evils of socialism in Quod Apostolici Muneris. He began his encyclical about “the deadly plague that is creeping into the very fibers of human society and leading it on to the verge of destruction.” Pope Leo then singled out “that sect of men who, under various and almost barbarous names, are called socialists, communists, or nihilists, and who, spread over all the world, and bound together by the closest ties in a wicked confederacy, no longer seek the shelter of secret meetings, but, openly and boldly marching forth in the light of day, strive to bring to a head what they have long been planning—the overthrow of all civil society whatsoever.”

The encyclical also warned that Socialists sought to destroy marriage and the family. For Socialists, there can be no higher allegiance to God or family, but only to the almighty State. Pope Leo asserted that the “foundation of this society rests first of all in the indissoluble union of man and wife according to the necessity of natural law.” Yet, the “doctrines of socialism strive almost completely to dissolve this union.”

Thirteen years later in 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued another encyclical on labor and capital and the working class in Rerum Novarum, the foundational text for Catholic social teaching in the modern age. Wrote Leo: “To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man’s envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property…” This, the Church declared, is “emphatically unjust,” and the “remedy they propose is manifestly against justice. For, every man has by nature the right to possess private property as his own.”

Socialism is built upon the notion of coveting, a violation of the ninth and tenth Commandments. Rerum Novarum pointed this out: “The authority of the divine law adds its sanction, forbidding us in severest terms even to covet that which is another’s.” Socialism is also built upon the false idea of class warfare. Here too, Pope Leo dismissed their error: “the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict. So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth.”

As in earlier encyclicals, Pope Leo again defended the institutions of the family and marriage against the attacks of socialism: “the family … has rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State.” “The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error.”

In 1931, Pope Pius XI released Quadragesimo Anno on the 40th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, which it called the “Magna Carta” of Catholic social teaching. Pope Pius stated bluntly: “We make this pronouncement: Whether considered as a doctrine, or an historical fact, or a movement, socialism … is utterly foreign to Christian truth.” Pius went further stating: “If socialism, like all errors, contains some truth, it is based nevertheless on a theory of human society peculiar to itself and irreconcilable with true Christianity. Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.”

But, what about Socialism-lite? Pius dismissed this too rather succinctly: “We have also summoned communism and socialism again to judgment and have found all their forms, even the most modified, to wander far from the precepts of the Gospel.” Pope John XXIII also would later reiterate this point in his 1961 encyclical Mater et Magistra saying “Pope Pius XI further emphasized the fundamental opposition between communism and Christianity, and made it clear that no Catholic could subscribe even to moderate socialism.”

To be fair, Pius did take extreme “individualism” and capitalism to task to respect the human dignity of the worker, who “cannot be bought and sold like a commodity.” He pointed out what is needed is not an excessive reaction, like the Socialists propose, to destroy the whole free market system, but rather, the “first and most necessary remedy is a reform of morals.” The Church’s stance has always been a measured approach, protecting the rights of both the employer and the employee through a return to Christian charity and concern for one’s neighbor.

Pope Pius left his harshest criticism for the “Communist plague.” He skewered it with such lines and paraphrases as: “Unrelenting class warfare and absolute extermination of private ownership”; “employing every and all means, even the most violent”; “its cruelty and inhumanity”; “The horrible slaughter and destruction”; “openly hostile it is to Holy Church and to God Himself”; “impious and iniquitous character of communism”; “seeks by violence and slaughter to destroy society altogether”; “pave the way for the overthrow and destruction of society.”

Pope Pius XI was not done. In 1937, he issued another encyclical, Divini Redemptoris, on atheistic communism. Pius did not mince words again. He exhorted that “the Faithful do not allow themselves to be deceived! Communism is intrinsically wrong, and no one who would save Christian civilization may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever.” “It is a system full of errors and sophisms.” The encyclical was aimed directly at the “imminent danger” posed by “bolshevistic and atheistic communism, which aims at upsetting the social order and at undermining the very foundations of Christian civilization.”

Communism is particularly insidious as it “robs human personality of all its dignity.” “There is no recognition of any right of the individual in his relations to the collectivity.” In the collective, “all forms of private property must be eradicated.” The collectivity also rules over marriage and the family. “There exists no matrimonial bond … that is not subject to the whim of the individual or of the collectivity.” Think “postcard divorces.” The spread of communism has been aided by a “diabolical” propaganda of the “sons of darkness,” and a “conspiracy of silence” by the non-Catholic press, due in part “by various occult forces which for a long time have been working for the overthrow of the Christian Social Order.” Sounds familiar.

In 1991 Pope John Paul II issued Centesimus Annus for the 100th year anniversary of Rerum Novarum. It re-stated the Catholic teaching that the root problem of modern totalitarianism is its denial of the transcendental dignity of the human person. “Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism.” Militarism and Marxist class struggle are derived from the “same root, namely, atheism and contempt for the human person, which place the principle of force above that of reason and law.” As Bishop Fulton Sheen wisely observed, “communism tries to establish the impossible: a brotherhood of man without a fatherhood of God.”

George Orwell knew well this Socialist deception, adapting the mantra in Animal Farm, “All animals are equal.” Yet, as the pigs declare later in the story “some animals are more equal than others.” Their true colors eventually come out. This is the Orwellian doublethink of the Party. How eerily reminiscent are crimethink and the thought police of 1984 to the current environment of political correctness on American campuses and in European governments. The Berlin Wall may have come down and the U.S.S.R. been dissolved but cultural Marxism is as strong as ever. The progressive vanguards of the Left continue on as the ideological heirs of the twentieth century Socialists and Communists. They carry on the revolution by embracing the “errors of Russia” and attacking private property, free markets, individual liberty and free speech, traditional marriage and the family, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. There may not be at this moment an “Evil Empire,” a singular totalitarian state, but there is a totalitarian state of mind present; the imperious impulse in the media and our educational, governmental, and judicial systems. Big Brother is still lurking.

Still, we have hope. The Church did triumph over Soviet communism. And, Christ has given us the blessed assurance that the gates of hell will not prevail over the Church. In the dreary days of 1917, amidst World War I, and the unleashing of the evils of atheistic communism, the Virgin Mary promised, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” Yes, Leviathan continues to lash out and rage, but its head has already been crushed.

1Shares