Tag Archives: Revelation

Exodus 7- 11:

Yahweh is Greater than Nature:
The God of Israel then confronts and conquers Pharaoh and Egypt, and all the gods of nature that the Egyptians worship.  God will get Pharaoh to release Israel by smiting Egypt with ten plagues.  One of the primary purposes of Genesis and Exodus is God disassociating Himself from nature, that He is outside of nature and greater than nature.  Man is no longer to worship nature or the things of nature.  God is outside of nature.  He existed before nature and the universe.  He is the very Creator of the whole cosmos, not confined to it.  Additionally, Yahweh is judging and showing His superiority to the pantheon of Egyptian deities. Yahweh is discrediting Egyptian polytheism.

Yahweh’s Plague Judgments of Egyptian Deities:
Yahweh is revealing Himself, His name, and seeks to, in effect, destroy the competition of idolatrous so-called deities through ten plagues. Speaking of the plagues on Egypt, the Book of Numbers says, “The Lord had also executed judgments on their gods.” (Num. 33:4) Similarly, the Book of Wisdom says, “For they went far astray on the paths of error, accepting as gods those animals that even their enemies despised; they were deceived like foolish infants. Therefore, as though to children who cannot reason, you sent your judgment to mock them.” (Wis. 12:24-25) The pseudepigraphical Book of Jubilees also highlights this point: And the Lord executed a great vengeance on them for Israel’s sake, and smote them through (the plagues of) blood and frogs, lice and dog-flies, and malignant boils breaking forth in blains; and their cattle by death; and by hail-stones, thereby He destroyed everything that grew for them; and by locusts which devoured the residue which had been left by the hail, and by darkness; and of the first-born of men and animals, and on all their idols the Lord took vengeance and burned them with fire.” (Jubilees 48:5) One can imagine the consternation and disbelief of Pharaoh and the Egyptians as their gods fail them in each successive plague:

 (1) First plague of Nile water turned into blood is against Hapi, god of the Nile and flooding, and Khnum, guardian of the Nile;

(2) Second plague of frogs is against the frog goddess Heket, depicted as a frog, who represented fertility and the flooding of the Nile;

(3) Third plague of gnats (or lice) is against the earth god, Geb/Seb;

(4) Fourth plague of flies and insects is against Uatchit, the god manifested as Ichneuman fly; and Kheper, god of beetles and flies;

(5) Fifth plague of diseased cattle is against Apis, the bull god, and Hathor, the cow goddess; and Amon, god associated with bulls;

(6) Sixth plague of boils and sores is against Shekhmet, the goddess of disease control, Imhotep, god of medicine, and Serapis, god of healing;

(7) Seventh plague of hail is against Nut, the goddess of the sky, and Shu, god of the atmosphere;

(8) Eighth plague of locusts is against Senehem, the god of pest control; Seth, protector of crops, and Isis, the goddess of life;

(9) Ninth plague of darkness is against Ra, Aten, Atum, and Horace, all gods of light and the sun; and Thoth, the moon god;

(10) Tenth plague of firstborns’ deaths is against Osiris, the god of life and patron of the so-called divine Pharaoh himself.

Other Symbolism:
Moses is now 80 years old. There are traditionally three 40-year divisions of Moses’ life.  Pharaoh’s royal headpiece featured a cobra representing the serpent goddess Wadjet. When the occultist magicians throw down their staffs they become serpents, representing Egyptian power. However, Moses’ wooden staff represents a sign of the Cross.  When Aaron throws it down before Pharaoh, it too became a serpent and swallowed up the serpent-rods of Pharaoh’s sorcerers.  This anticipates the “swallowing up” later of Pharaoh and the Egyptian army that chases the Israelites into the Red Sea.  And, later symbolism is reflected in the Cross of Christ swallowing up sin and death.  After the third plague of gnats, though “the magicians tried to bring forth gnats by their magic arts, they could not do so.” This is a turning point in the plagues.  The magicians finally confess that Yahweh’s power exceeds their own dark occult powers. They declare to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” (Ex. 8:15)  This finger of God is revealed in the third plague because it is the power of the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Trinity.

Moses as Mediator: 
Moses as mediator and intercessor is a constant theme throughout Exodus.  Moses pleads to Yahweh on behalf of the Egyptians and the Hebrews throughout Exodus. After the plague of frogs, Moses “cried to the Lord” to relieve the plague of frogs on the Egyptians. Moses as a type of Christ also foreshadows Christ as mediator and intercessor for his people.  Moses is depicted throughout Exodus praying efficaciously to Yahweh on behalf of his people, “and the Lord did as Moses had asked.” Jesus is the new Moses leading the new exodus to the promised land; just as Moses’ first miracle was changing the waters to blood, so too, Christ’s first miracle at Cana was changing the water to wine.

Three Cycles of the Plagues:
The plagues are grouped into three cycles of occurrences (ie, 1-3, 4-6, 7-9), with the tenth plague (10) as the climax.  In the first cycle of each plague (1, 4, 7th or blood, insects, and hail), Moses is instructed by God to go to Pharaoh “early in the morning” and wait for him, then issue the warning.  God is giving Pharaoh time to convert.  Before the second cycle of each plague (2, 5, 8th or frogs, pestilence, and locusts), God tells Moses to “go to Pharaoh” directly in his palace and forcefully confront him there.  In the third cycle of each plague (3, 6, 9th or gnats/lice, boils, and darkness), these are inflicted without any forewarning from God or Moses.  So, there are three cycles of plagues that go from a warning to confrontation to punishment without warning.  The three cycles also increase in severity and intensity from one cycle to the next. The three cycles of plagues climaxes with the worst plague of all, which is the 10th plague, the killing of all the first-borns.  The plagues also represent a reversal of the order of creation of life found Genesis 1: The Lord makes darkness prevail over light; waters become foul and unable to support life; He destroys plants, trees and fruits; He brings death to fish, frogs and cattle; and ultimately kills some human lives.  There is a play on words here too for Pharaoh to choose.  God tells Pharaoh to “send” His people, or He will “send” another plague upon him.

Apocalyptic Nature of the Plagues:
The apocalyptic prophet Joel wrote that, “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” (Joel 2:31) These are events depicting the end of the world.  However, the plagues of the Exodus foreshadow these events. The first plague is the Nile turning to blood, and the ninth plague is the three days of the sun turning to darkness.

The Three Days of Darkness:
The three days of darkness has long been in the apocalyptic mind.  Yahweh set a plague of three days of darkness over Egypt in order to set Israel free.  Jesus remained in the tomb for three days; as the light of the world died, the world remained in darkness for three days from Good Friday to Holy Saturday till the morning of Easter Sunday.  In the Book of Revelation, darkness also overtakes the sinful world of the antichrist, although three days is not specifically mentioned.  After the fourth trumpet, “a third of the sun, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them became dark.  The day lost its light for a third of the time, as did the night.” (Rev. 8:12) Similarly, after the fifth bowl is poured out on the antichrist’s kingdom, “Its kingdom was plunged into darkness.” (Rev. 16: 10)  Various mystics through the centuries have also prophesied about a three days of darkness shortly before the end of the world.

The Ten Plagues of Exodus and the Plagues of the End of the World:
There seem to be a lot of overlap and comparisons in the plagues against Pharaoh and the Egyptians in the Exodus and the plagues against the Antichrist and his kingdom, referred to as the trumpet blasts and bowls in the Book of Revelation. The judgment upon Pharaoh and the kingdom of Egypt is a type and forerunner to the judgment and punishment leveled against the antichrist and his followers.  The dramatic intervention in Exodus by God with miracles and wonders and judgment to extricate the chosen people from slavery under a tyrannical antichrist figure and bring them to the promised land is but an echo and foreshadowing of the dramatic events of the end of the world.  Here are the plague similarities between Exodus and the Book of Revelation:

1st Exodus plague, Nile’s Water turn to Blood:
Revelation 2nd Trumpet: “something like a large burning mountain was hurled into the sea.”  “A third of the sea turned to blood, a third of the creatures living in the sea died.” (Rev. 8:8-9)
Revelation 3rd Trumpet: “a large star burning like a torch fell from the sky.” “It fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.”  And, “a third of all the water turned to wormwood.”(Rev. 8:10-11)
Revelation 2nd Bowl: “The sea turned to blood. . . every creature living in the sea died.” (Rev. 16:3)
Revelation 3rd Bowl: “on the rivers and springs of water.  These also turned to blood.” (Rev. 16:4)

2nd Exodus plague, Frog Infestation:
Revelation 6th Bowl: “I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet. These were demonic spirits who performed signs.” (Rev. 16:13)  Just as Yahweh sent a plague upon Egypt of a frog infestation, so too, at the end of the world will the demonic frog spirits come forth from the Beast, antichrist and false prophet.  God condemns them just as He did the demonic frog deity Heket of Egypt, whose magicians also performed false “signs.”

3rd Exodus plague, Gnats/Lice: 
Revelation 1st Trumpet: “A third of the land was burned up, along with a third of the trees and all the grass.” (Rev. 8:7) The land is burned up in Revelation, similar to how Yahweh had Aaron “strike the dust of the earth” in order to turn it into gnats/lice.  In both plagues, the land of the earth and its inhabitants are stricken.

4th Exodus plague, Flies:
Revelation 5th Trumpet: “The sun and the air were darkened by the smoke from the passage.  Locusts came out of the smoke onto the land, and they were given the same power as scorpions of the earth.” (Rev. 9:2-3)  This does not equate exactly to “flies” but the idea of a swarm of flies darkening the air and other insects like locusts and scorpions are analogized.

5th Exodus plague, Death of Livestock:
1st Trumpet, again the land of the earth is struck killing lots of plants and animals.  This is the only equivalence to this plague.

6th Exodus plague, Festering Boils and Sores:
1st Bowl “Festering and ugly sores broke out on those who had the mark of the beast or worshiped its image.” (Rev. 16:2)
4th Bowl: the sun “was given power to burn people with fire.  People were burned by the scorching heat.” (Rev. 16:8)

7th Exodus plague, Fiery Hailstorm:
1st Trumpet, “there came hail and fire mixed with blood, which was hurled down to the earth.” (Rev. 8:7)
7th Bowl: “Large hailstones like huge weights came down from the sky on people, and they blasphemed God for the plague of hail because this plague was so severe.” (Rev. 16:21)

8th Exodus plague, Locusts:
5th Trumpet: “Locusts came out of the smoke onto the land, and they were given the same power as scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or any tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” (Rev. 9:3-4) Just like the locusts of Exodus only affected the Egyptians and Pharaoh, and not the Hebrews, so too, the locust-demons of Revelation will only torment those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads (i.e., Christians) and follow the antichrist.

9th Exodus plague, Three Days of Darkness:
4th Trumpet: “a third of the sun, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them became dark. The day lost its light for a third of the time, as did the night.” (Rev. 8:12)
5th Bowl: the Beast’s “kingdom was plunged into darkness, and the people bit their tongues in pain.” (Rev. 16:10)

10th Exodus plague, Death of Firstborns:
6th Trumpet: “a third of the human race was killed” by fire, smoke and sulfur. (Rev. 9:18)  “The rest of the human race, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, to give up the worship of demons and idols made from gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk.” (Rev. 9:20)  There is not an exact match for the killing of the firstborns, but a general plague killing a third of the human race.

Exodus and Revelation’s Parallels:
It is interesting too that Revelation calls “‘Egypt’ where indeed their Lord was crucified” referring to end-times Jerusalem. (Rev. 11:8) The parallels from Exodus’ plagues to Revelation’s end-of-the-world plagues are unmistakable: from the waters turning into blood and the life forms in them dying; to the infestation of demonic “frog” spirits; to the striking of the land and its creatures; to infestation of flies and demonic locusts; to festering boils and sores; to fierce fire and hail storms; to the three days of darkness; and to the mass killing of human life.  The plagues of Exodus are a sign and foreshadowing to the plagues of the end-of-the-world.  Just as the Hebrews were separated and singled out by Yahweh for special protection, so too, those Christians sealed with the Holy Spirit on their foreheads will be saved by God in the end.

The Seventh Trumpet:
The 7th Trumpet is never revealed, but St. John is told to “seal it up” till the proper time when the “mysterious plan of God” is revealed.  In the end, amid lightning, and rumbles of thunder, and earthquakes that will lay waste the entire earth, on the last day, as sin and suffering and death are, at last, vanquished and our eternal existence begins, God will say, in the same final words of Jesus on the Cross, “It is done.” (Rev.16:17)

Sacrifice, Idolatry and Abomination:
At one point after the plague of flies, Pharaoh agrees to permit Moses to go “in this land” to offer sacrifice to Yahweh. But Moses protests saying, “It is not right to do so, for the sacrifices we offer to the Lord, our God, are an abomination to the Egyptians.  If before their very eyes we offer sacrifices which are an abomination to them, will not the Egyptians stone us?” (Ex. 8:22)  Slaughtering flocks and herds of these animals was unthinkable to the Egyptians, who worshipped these animals’ representations as their gods, such as Apis and Mnevis the bull gods; Hathor the cow goddess, and Amun and Khnum the ram gods.  The Hebrews sacrifice the Egyptian gods as an offering to the one true and eternal God, Yahweh.  Hence, Moses insisted on offering the sacrifices to Yahweh at a three days journey into the wilderness.  Yahweh probably ordained the sacrifice as a means to disassociate the Hebrews from the idolatrous animal gods of the Egyptians.  For the Hebrews had been enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years and had become undoubtedly attached and tainted in some manner and form to the Egyptian idol worship.

Silver and Gold:
In fact, before the 10th plague, when the Lord knows Pharaoh will finally capitulate and release the Israelites, He tells Moses, “Instruct your people that every man is to ask his neighbor, and every woman her neighbor, for silver and gold articles and for clothing.” (Ex. 11:2) The Egyptians, after the ten plagues, were undoubtedly well disposed, to get rid of the Israelites with anything they sought.  Yahweh tells them they will be very agreeable to give them whatever they want at that point. The Israelites then leave Egypt finally, not as slaves poor and sullen, but as a conquering army, filled with “gold and silver” from their oppressors.  Unfortunately, that idolatrous religion from Egypt persisted with the Israelites.  Some time later, in the desert wilderness for 40 years, it will probably be this same “gold and silver” from the Egyptians that Aaron and the Israelites will meltdown into the “golden calf” to worship at the base of Mount Sinai. (Ex. 32:2-4)

The 10th Plague and the Killing of the Firstborn Sons:
Yahweh tells Moses that: “Every firstborn in this land shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh on the throne to the firstborn of the slave-girl at the handmill, as well as all the firstborn animals.” (Ex. 11:5)  This is probably an answer in-part to the bloodthirsty call by Pharaoh earlier to, “Throw into the river every boy that is born to the Hebrews.” (Ex. 1:22)  Just as the Hebrew slaves had been unable to protect their children, now the powerful Egyptians could do nothing to protect their children.  This echoes Yahweh’s earlier call to Moses and warning to Pharaoh: “Thus says the Lord: Israel is my son, my first-born. Hence I tell you: Let My son go, that he may serve me. If you refuse to let him go, I warn you, I will kill your son, your first-born.” (Ex. 4:22-23)  Israel is, in fact, the chosen nation and people that Yahweh will reveal Himself and His laws to the world.  Israel is Yahweh’s firstborn nation, and Jesus Christ born of the Jews will be God’s firstborn Son.  Again, the type and foreshadowing hold true; just as the Egyptians tried to kill the sons of the Hebrews and Moses, so too later, Herod will try to kill all the firstborn Jewish sons of Bethlehem and the baby Jesus.

The Power of Silence Amidst the Noise of the World – September 12, 2017

Saint John tells us in the Book of Revelation “when the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” (Rev. 8:1) The silence of heaven rests above the great din of the world. Before the immensity of the Infinite, there are no words, only wonder, adoration, and silence. We have a foretaste of this eternal silence in the Divine Liturgy, which is the liturgy of the Church. Rivers of living water and sanctifying grace flow not only about the heavenly Throne, but also into the sacramental confines of hearts and flesh. Yet, as Cardinal Sarah says in his book The Power of Silence, if we, who are made in the image of God, are to approach him, “the great Silent One,” we must first quiet ourselves and enter into his silence.

But, the world today is raging against the silence of eternity. “Modern society,” Cardinal Sarah tells us, “can no longer do without the dictatorship of noise.” Postmodern man engages with hellish noise in “an ongoing offense and aggression against the divine silence.” Humanity has lost its sense of sin, and no longer tolerates the silence of God. He poignantly describes the current sad state of man: “He gets drunk on all sorts of noises so as to forget who he is. Postmodern man seeks to anesthetize his own atheism.” Even within the Church there is a noisy undercurrent of idolatrous activism. In this wonderfully written book with so many striking passages, the African Cardinal seeks to re-proselytize the increasingly secularized and debased West; the new evangelization rises from south to north.

Why silence? Silence is the chief means that enables a spirit of prayer. “Developing a taste for prayer,” he confides, “is probably the first and foremost battle of our age.” In modern techno-parlance, if our “interior cell phone” is always busy, how can God “call us”? Without silence, there is no prayer; and without prayer, there is no supernatural life in God.

Silence is not necessarily not speaking, but rather, it is an interior condition of the soul. “God is a reality,” he tells us, “that is profoundly interior to man.” God resides within the heart of man. The path to God is a path of interiority. At the Carthusian monastery of La Grande Chartreux in the French Alps, where they observe the vow of silence, interiority is a way of life. But, as wonderful and as holy as an exterior vow of silence is, it is not really an option for most people. Most lay people live amidst of the noise of the world. Cardinal Sarah understands this, and recommends a solution: “each person ought to create and build for himself an interior cloister, a ‘wall and bulwark’, a private desert, so as to meet God there in solitude and silence.” Man must learn to live in an interior silence, ‘an interior cloister,’ which we can bring with us wherever we go.

This silent interiority lends itself to a sacramental vision of the world. The silent and invisible Spirit of God dwells within the physicality of our bodies. We are a temple of God. Cardinal Sarah tells us that God gave us three mysteries to sanctify and grow our interior life with Jesus, namely: the Cross, the Host, and the Virgin. We are to contemplate these continually in silence. They are incarnational and sacramental by nature, where the heavenly is mingled with the mundane, and the divine lies hidden within the ordinary. So it is with our interior cloister, where the divine comes to rest silently in our human nature. In this sacramental vision of reality we participate directly in the mystery of God and impart it to the world.

Our primary focus should always return to the silence of Jesus. The divine silence entered the world as the “all-powerful word leaped from heaven”(Wis. 18:14-16) to be conceived and born of a woman, the Virgin. Mary is nearly silent in scripture, though she echoes over the ages “Do whatever he tells you.” Few words are recorded from the Holy Family, including not one word from St. Joseph, his silence reflecting his saintliness. Divine silence and humility came first as a baby in Bethlehem. Cardinal Sarah reminds us of this first scandal, “God hid himself behind the face of a little infant.” No stage of human life is deemed unworthy of Christ.

Then, for thirty years Jesus lived a hidden and silent life in Nazareth. So much so that his neighbors question at the beginning of his public ministry “where did this man get all this?” His divinity was veiled in everyday life, even though his mission of redemption had already begun from the ordinary woodworking in the carpenter’s shop to the mundane sweeping of its floors. Our interior silence is of upmost importance because it allows us to imitate the Son of God’s thirty years of silence in Nazareth. Jesus recapitulated within his “holy and sanctifying humanity” all the ordinariness of our human natures and vocations. By doing so, “the hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life.” (CCC 533) Our interior cloister should be animated with the knowledge that, no matter where we are or what we are doing, Christ is there with us in the silence of Nazareth.

In the Cross, Cardinal Sarah reminds us that “the mystery of evil, the mystery of suffering, and the mystery of silence are intimately connected.” This trinity of mysteries is summed up in Jesus’ cry from the Cross quoting Psalm 22, “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?” Modern man likes to see the silence of God in the face of horrible, tragic events as proof of his non-existence: “if evil and suffering exist, there can be no God.” Yet, as Cardinal Sarah points out, the infinite and absolute love of God does not impose itself on anyone: “his respect and his tact disconcert us. Precisely because he is present everywhere, he hides himself all the more carefully so as not to impose himself.” In creating man and the world, God had to, in effect, “withdrawal into himself so that man can exist.” In allowing for human freedom and freewill, God would necessarily appear silent.

Man’s freedom, and ultimately sin, would leave God disappointed in man, and make God himself vulnerable to suffering, as a Father suffers for his child. The suffering of man leads to the suffering of God. God is with us in our suffering. The mystery of suffering and God’s silence will never be fully understood in this life, but must be viewed from the lens of eternity. God’s time is not like our own where “a thousand years are like one day.” Our brief sufferings on earth disappear forever like drops of water into the immense ocean of eternity. Even now, the person who prays often can “grasp the silent signs of affection that God sends him” as noticeable only by those who are lovers. Jesus has revealed, however, that bearing our crosses and silent sufferings can be redemptive and sanctifying. We can complete what is “lacking in Christ’s afflictions” for the sake of the Church. Our interior cloister should be united with the redemptive sufferings of Christ in his Passion and Crucifixion.

Jesus remains with us now, most silent and most humble and most small in the Eucharist. As the bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, “the miracle of transubstantiation comes about imperceptibly, like all the greatest works of God.” There is no extravagant burst of light and power at each Eucharistic consecration, only silence before the Real Presence of God in the Host and the Mass. Cardinal Sarah laments the lack of silence and adoration today in much of the modern liturgy, declaring bluntly “The liturgy is sick.” He continues: “The liturgy today exhibits a sort of secularization that aims to ban the liturgical sign par excellence: silence.” Rather, reception of Holy Communion should be a moment of intimacy with the Lord, when we “receive the Lord of the Universe in the depths of our hearts!” Our interior cloister should be continually fortified by the words of Jesus: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (Jn. 6:56)

In every manner in every mode of everyday life, silence is necessary. Silence is necessary because it predisposes us to a life of prayer, a life of interiority and a sacramental vision of reality. Through the seven sacraments, the channels of dispensation of the divine grace of Jesus Christ to the world, we are recapitulated within Christ – a holy priesthood making spiritual sacrifices. We are spiritualized and divinized, made into children of God. Jesus adjures us not to leave the way of the sacramental life, for “apart from me you can do nothing.” Our prayers and sacrifices are “like the fragrance of incense that ascends to God’s Throne.” Each of us can become, as Saint John Paul called, a “contemplative in action.” Our practice in the virtues of silence and prayer are “an apprenticeship in what the citizens of heaven will experience eternally.”

Silence is needed most urgently now, even for those in the Church who would subsume social activism ahead of the worship of God. Cardinal Sarah proposes “a spiritual pedagogy” as illustrated by Mary and Martha in the gospel. Jesus does not rebuke Martha for being busy in the kitchen, but rather for “her inattentive interior attitude” towards Christ, as shown in her complaint about the “silence” of Mary. Mary remained at the feet of Jesus in silent contemplation and adoration. Cardinal Sarah warns, “All activity must be preceded by an intense life of prayer, contemplation, seeking and listening to God’s will.” We should be Mary before becoming Martha. Man can encounter God only in interior silence. The active life must be harmonized with the contemplative life. Silence must precede activity.

Silence is a form of resistance to the noise of the world. There is a danger today of being lost in “unbridled activism,” where our interior attitudes are diverted from Jesus towards social justice and politics. In the field hospital of the Church, the social aspect does have its place, but as Cardinal Sarah says, “the salvation of souls is more important than any other work.” This vital effort entails evangelization, prayer, faith, repentance, mortification and embracing the sacramental life, in short, living a liturgical existence. Before venturing out into the noise of the world, Cardinal Sarah’s The Power of Silence encourages us to remain firmly grounded in our interior cloister, adoring God in silence.

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The Only Thing that Matters – September 11, 2017

Life is fleetingly short. The minutes and seconds of our earthly lives are trickling down inexorably like grains of sand falling through the hourglass. Christ on his judgment seat holds the hourglass for each of our lives, watching, and waiting for that moment when we shall, at last, appear before him. Only he knows how many grains of sand of time are left for us. We must be ready at any moment. That is why Christ declares “behold, now is the day of salvation.” In a world where “all is vanity,” we must cut through the fog of sin and meaninglessness, and seize the weightiest of matters, in fact, the only thing that matters – the salvation of our souls.

Jesus said what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his life? Our goal is not this world or this life. Our goal is eternal life in the world to come. Jesus spoke of this often, comparing it to a wedding feast. In the great revelation given to St. John, he was caught up into heaven and beheld the joy of the saints at the wedding feast of Christ. An angel spoke to him “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Rev. 19:9) St. John wrote about these blessed ones of the Church as the Bride of Christ, saying she “has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure.” (Rev. 19:8) The saints are ready because of the way they are “clothed.” But, what is this clothing and why is it “fine linen, bright and pure?” Simply put, this is the divine, sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ.

We must be covered and clothed with the supernatural grace of Christ. Those with the proper “wedding garments” are saved, and those without them are condemned. Jesus himself alluded to this in a disturbing aspect of the wedding banquet parable:

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ (Mt. 22:11-13)

Time is short to be ready for the eternal wedding feast. The only thing that matters is that at the moment of death we are clothed with sanctifying grace.

The opposite of being clothed is being naked. We find nakedness in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, Original Sin, their eyes were opened “and they knew that they were naked.” (Gen. 3:7) They were exposed and ashamed before God. There is a curious scene too, in another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, the night Jesus was betrayed and seized by the Roman soldiers. As all this happened, scripture says, “And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body; and they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” (Mk. 14:51-52) Sin has left us all naked and exposed to damnation. St. Paul spoke of this too, saying “Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked.” (2 Cor. 5:2-3) Yet, it matters not what sins we may have committed in the past. Nothing is beyond the mercy of God, as long as we sincerely seek his forgiveness through the repentance of our sins.

So, we must be clothed from on high by the Holy Spirit, but how?

Sanctifying grace is conferred onto us through faith in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of the Church, which are necessary for our salvation. (CCC 1129) The seven sacraments of the Church are, of course: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. These are the means by which we put on our wedding garments of fine linen, bright and pure.

All of the sacraments are eminently efficacious and necessary for the life of the Church. However, I would like to focus here on just three sacraments, which are so necessary for the world today, and for our individual souls, and yet, are so sorely neglected. Jesus’ prayer from the Cross is apt “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Or, in our case, we know not what we squander.

As far as we know, St. John was the only Apostle to hear these words from the Lord as he was crucified. He remained at the foot of the Cross, and did not flee like the other Apostles. He was the disciple whom the Lord loved. He was entrusted with the care of Mary the mother of God after Jesus died. He rested his head close to Jesus’ Sacred Heart at the Last Supper. He was the only Apostle not martyred, and so, lived to a wise old age, reflecting deeply for his whole life on the words of Christ. This deep meditation poured forth in the pages of his gospel when he wrote about the sacraments, especially Baptism, the Eucharist, and Confession.

In the third chapter of John’s gospel he writes about Baptism and being “born again.” The conversation, of course, is between Jesus and Nicodemus. Jesus tells him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Jn. 3:5) Baptism is the basis for the whole Christian life and “the gateway to life in the Spirit.”

Three chapters later John writes about the Eucharist in the Bread of Life discourse. In it, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (Jn. 6:53-54) The Eucharist is our food of immortality.

Later in his gospel he writes about Confession and the power to forgive sins. He says about the Resurrected Jesus: “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (Jn. 20:22-23) This sacrament of divine mercy renders us into a state of grace. Baptism, the Eucharist and Confession are so vital, so necessary in the everyday life of a soul. These are the channels of sanctifying grace by which we put on the wedding garments of Christ. To neglect these is to neglect the state of our souls, and to jeopardize our place of eternal life in heaven.

This is the only thing that matters: When we die, will we be clothed in the wedding garments of Christ, or not? This requires us to earnestly pursue the weightiest of matters: repentance, conversion, sanctity, holiness, and saintliness. We are men and women of God, called to strive to enter through the narrow gate, to pray ceaselessly, to cling to the truth always, and to serve one another. The way of the disciple is to renounce the vanities of this world and to embrace the Cross of Christ.

St. John quotes Christ in the Book of Revelation about keeping our garments white and clean: “He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” (Rev. 3:5-6) And again, concerning our garments and Christ’s Second Coming: “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments that he may not go naked and be seen exposed!” (Rev. 16:15) It is up to us to keep our wedding garments of fine linen, bright and pure. We do this by taking refuge in the sacraments of the Church; and going to Confession frequently, and receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist often.

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Mary and The Great American Solar Eclipse – August 16, 2017

Darkness is coming over America. For the first time in nearly 100 years a total solar eclipse will be visible from coast to coast across the United States. Monday August 21st will be “The Great American Eclipse.” It will be an American-centric event. Millions of people are travelling to see the totality of the eclipse, in what one astronomer is saying will be “the most photographed, most shared, most tweeted event in human history.”

It should be a truly spectacular spectacle. In terms of pure celestial mechanics, the moon will be aligned between the earth and the sun, casting its shadow perfectly over the sun, for those along the path of totality. It is pure science, not supernatural.

Yet, the Great American Solar Eclipse is causing many to worry and speculate that it is a harbinger of the apocalypse. They fear God is casting judgment upon America, and this judgment will be reflected in nature by a blotting out of the sun. Many Christian blogs and books have been written on the eclipse, and blood moons, and other astronomical curiosities. These are not hard to find.

But, what to make of it?

Certainly, the United States has been going through a period of relative social and political unease. The social norms of the country are in flux and moving away from divine truths as promulgated by the Church. One need only look at judicial rulings on abortion, euthanasia, same-sex ‘marriage,’ and transgenderism to see the shift away from traditional Christian values. Sin ultimately does provoke judgment. But, does this mean we are now living in the apocalypse? Well, no. Does this mean we are living in deadly serious times? Yes, it does.

Jesus himself did warn us to observe signs in nature before his Second Coming saying, “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.” (Lk. 21:25) This echoes the prophecy of Joel: “The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.” (Joel 3:15) These will be cataclysmic happenings and worldwide events. Does the Great American Solar Eclipse rise to this level? No, it does not.

That is not to say that the spiritual things are not reflected in the temporal world. Clearly they can be. God does give us signs in creation. At the exact time of Jesus’ Crucifixion, the sun did not give off its light. As scripture says, “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” (Mk. 15:33) So, there was darkness at the Crucifixion and there will be darkness at the Second Coming of Christ. And yes, there will be a brief darkness over the United States during the total solar eclipse on August 21st. Is this a sign from God specifically for America? Perhaps. Perhaps in the spiritual sense, that God does occasionally give us signs through nature. Perhaps God is trying to get our attention, and is calling us to repentance. Certainly sin has increased, and by way of analogy, the light of God is dimming in our society. Holiness is being eclipsed in America.

The last time a full coast-to-coast eclipse happened across the U.S. was June 8, 1918. This was not long after the last apparition of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal in 1917, and in the midst of the tragedy of World War I. Mary also warned that when you see “a night illumined by an unknown light” that God was about to punish the world for its sins. Most believe this was fulfilled on January 25, 1938 with a great aurora over much of Europe just before the start of World War II. This year is the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, which some attach special significance to its centenary. It was at the last apparition on October 13, 1917 that tens of thousands of people witnessed another solar event, in that case, the dramatic “Miracle of the Sun.”

It was Pope Pius XII who also witnessed the Miracle of the Sun phenomenon. In fact, he supposedly witnessed it four times, in the year 1950 when he was going to proclaim the dogma of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. He says he observed it on October 30th while walking in the Vatican gardens. He then witnessed it again on “the 31st of October and Nov. 1, the day of the definition of the dogma of the Assumption, and then again Nov. 8, and after that, no more.” On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of Mary dogma in Munificentissimus Deus: “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” The Miracle of the Sun phenomenon seemed to confirm the dogma. So, on August 15th of the liturgical calendar we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. The Great American Solar Eclipse falls within the octave of the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. This feast culminates eight days later on August 22nd with the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.

On October 11, 1954, Pope Pius XII released the encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam declaring the Mary the Queen of Heaven and instituting the liturgical Feast of the Queenship of Mary. It quotes among others St. John Damascene that “When she became Mother of the Creator, she truly became Queen of every creature.” Pope Paul VI later moved the feast day to the octave of the Assumption in order to emphasize the close bond between the glorification of her body and soul and her Queenship in Heaven next to her son, Jesus Christ. Lumen Gentium makes this explicit saying, “Mary was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son.” (LG, 59) Thus, from August 15th to August 22nd we celebrate the Assumption of Mary into Heaven and her being crowned Queen of Heaven. Some see significance in the fact that the eclipse falls within the octave of the Feast of the Assumption and on the eve of the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.

Besides these two feasts of Mary, August 21st also falls on the Feast day of Our Lady of Knock. Our Lady of Knock was an apparition of the Virgin Mary that happened on August 21, 1879 in the County Mayo village of Knock, Ireland. There are some interesting aspects to this apparition in comparison to other Church approved apparitions. For one, this apparition was completely silent. Mary spoke no words to the fifteen witnesses. The apparition lasted for about three hours. Along with the Virgin Mary, who was in deep prayer with her eyes raised towards heaven, were St. Joseph, and an altar with Jesus – as the Lamb of God – on it. St. John the Evangelist was also in the vision. This is somewhat unusual and unique in Marian apparitions.

Our Lady of Knock did not speak any words. There was only silent symbolism. Jesus is pictured as the Lamb of God on an altar – clearly depicting the paschal mystery. In the four gospels, the word lamb is mentioned just four times total. In contrast, in St. John’s book of Revelation, Jesus is referred to as “the Lamb” 28 times. In the apparition at Knock, St. John was seen holding a book, which some have surmised was the Book of Revelation. In it, St. John wrote about The Lamb that takes away the sins of the world, and when the Lamb “opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” (Rev. 8:1) St. John also wrote about another great sign, Mary as the Queen of Heaven: “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.” (Rev. 12:1)

Is there a deeper spiritual meaning to the eclipse? That remains uncertain. As with all things in life, we must live in the present moment and seek to amend our lives the best that we can. Perhaps, if the metaphor holds true, that sin is darkening our souls, then God is telling us to retreat to Mary the Mother of God in pursuit of sanctity. As a fairly remarkable astronomical event, we should appreciate the eclipse on Monday, and enjoy it safely (with the proper NASA-approved eclipse glasses, of course!) But, we should also be mindful to the dimming of our moral lives and the coarsening of our culture. In this time of devotions to Mary, perhaps we can rededicate ourselves to the message of Fatima, which is always the message of Mary and Jesus: prayer, sacrifice, conversion, and the sacraments.

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