The Divine Lamp

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Archive for the ‘Biblical miscellany’ Category

How We Should Serve God on the Lord’s Day: A Meditation For Quinquagesima Sunday From St Thomas Aquinas

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 5, 2011

The following is excerpted from St Thomas Aquinas’ lectures ON THE DECALOGUE.

HOW WE SHOULD SERVE GOD ON THE LORD’S DAY
Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath Day Ex 20:8.

Man is bound to keep feast days holy. Now a thing is said to be holy in one of two ways, either because the thing is itself unspotted or because it is consecrated to God. We must say something then of the kind of works from which we should abstain on such days and also of the kind with which we should occupy ourselves.

1. Sacrifices. In Sacred Scripture (Num 28:3) it is related how God commanded that every day, in the morning and again in the evening, a
lamb should be offered up, but that on the sabbath this offering should be doubled. This teaches us that we too ought on the sabbath to offer a
sacrifice, a sacrifice taken from all that we possess.

A.  We ought to make an offering of our soul, lamenting our sins and giving thanks for the benefits we have received. Let my prayer, Lord, be directed as incense in thy sight (Ps 141:2). Feast days are instituted to give us spiritual joy, and the means to this is prayer. Whence on such days we should multiply our prayers.

B.  We should offer our body. I beseech you therefore brethren, says St. Paul, by the mercy of God, that you offer your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God (Rom 12:1). And we should give praise to God. The psalm says, The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me (Ps 50:23). Wherefore on feast days hymns should be numerous.

C.  We should offer our goods, and this by giving alms by giving on feast days a double amount, for these are times of universal rejoicing.

2.  Study of the word of God. This indeed was the practice of the Jews, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (13:27). The voices of the prophets, which are read every sabbath. Christians therefore, whose spiritual state should be more perfect than that of the Jews, ought on such days to meet together for sermons and for the Church’s office. And likewise for profitable conversation. Here are two things truly profitable for the soul of the sinner, sure means
to his amendment. For the word of God instructs the ignorant and stirs up those that are lukewarm.

3. Direct occupation with the things of God. This do those who are perfect. In the psalms (e.g., 34:9) we read, Taste and see that the Lord is
sweet, and this because He gives rest to the soul. For just as the body worn out with toil craves for rest, so too does the soul. Now the soul’s place is God. Be thou unto me a God, a protector and a place of refuge, is written in the Psalms (Ps 31:3). And St. Paul, too, says, There remaineth therefore a day of restfor the people of God; for he that is entered into his rest, the same also hath rested from his works, as God aid from his (Heb 4:9, 10). Again in
the book of Wisdom ((Wis 8:16), When I go into my house, that is, my conscience, I shall repose with her, that is, with Wisdom.

But before the soul can attain to this peace, it must already have found peace in three other ways.

It must have peace from the uneasiness of sin.  The heart of the wicked man is like a raging sea, which cannot rest (Isa 57:20).

It must have peace from the attractions of bodily desires. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh (Gal 5:17).

It must have peace from the cares of everyday life. Martha, Martha, thou art careful and art troubled about many things (Luke 10:41).

But after these are attained the soul shall truly rest in God. If thou call the sabbath delightful… then shalt thou be delighted in the Lord (Isa 58:14).
It is for this that the saints have left all things, for this is that treasure which a man having found, hid it, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he
hath, and buyeth (Matt 13:44). For this is the peace of eternal life and of the joy that shall last for ever, This is my rest for ever and ever: here
I will  dwell, for I have chosen it (Ps 132:14).

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Posted in Aquinas morality, Bible, Biblical miscellany, Catechetical Resources, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, Meditations, St Thomas Aquinas | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Feb 23: St Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2011

The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians.
Polycarp, and the presbyters with him, to the Church of God sojourning at Philippi: Mercy to you, and peace from God Almighty, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, be multiplied.

Chap. I. — Praise of the Philippians.
I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, because ye have followed the example of true love [as displayed by God], and have accompanied, as became you, those who were bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and which are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God and our Lord; and because the strong root of your faith, spoken of in days (Phil 1:5) long gone by, endureth even until now, and bringeth forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sins suffered even unto death, [but] “whom God raised froth the dead, having loosed the bands of the grave.” “In whom, though now ye see Him not, ye believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory;” (1 Pet 1:8) into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that “by grace ye are saved, not of works,” (Eph 2:8-9) but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

Chap. II. — An Exhortation to Virtue.
“Wherefore, girding up your loins,” (Comp. 1 Pet 1:13-14) “serve the Lord in fear” (Ps 2:11) and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude, and “believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory,” (1 Pet 1:21) and a throne at His right hand. To Him all things (Comp. 1 Pet 3:22; Phil 2:10) in heaven and on earth are subject. Him every spirit serves. He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead. (Comp. Acts 17:31) His blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him.  But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise (Comp 1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14; Rom 8:11) up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; “not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing,” (1 Pet 3:9) or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching: “Judge not, that ye be not judged; (Matt 7:1) forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you; (Matt 6:12, Matt 6:14; Luke 6:37) be merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; (Luke 6:36) with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again; (Matt 7:2; Luke 6:38) and once more, “Blessed are the poor, and those that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” (Matt 5:3, Matt 5:10; Luke 6:20)

Chap. III. — Expressions of Personal Unworthiness.
These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything upon myself, but because ye have invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom (Comp. 2 Pet 3:15) of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and stedfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, “is the mother of us all.” (Comp. Gal 4:26) For if any one be inwardly possessed of these graces, he hath fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that hath love is far from all sin.

Chap. IV. — Various Exhortations.
“But the love of money is the root of all evils.” (1 Tim 6:10) Knowing, therefore, that “as we brought nothing into the world, so we can carry nothing out,” (1 Tim6:7) let us arm ourselves with the armour of righteousness; (Comp. Eph 6:11) and let us teach, first of all, ourselves to walk in the commandments of the Lord. Next, [teach] your wives [to walk] in the faith given to them, and in love and purity tenderly loving their own husbands in all truth, and loving all [others] equally in all chastity; and to train up their children in the knowledge and fear of God. Teach the widows to be discreet as respects the faith of the Lord, praying continually (Comp. 1 Thess 5:17) for all, being far from all slandering, evil-speaking, false-witnessing, love of money, and every kind of evil; knowing that they are the altar  of God, that He clearly perceives all things, and that nothing is hid from Him, neither reasonings, nor reflections, nor any one of the secret things of the heart.

Chap. V. — The Duties of Deacons, Youths, and Virgins.
Knowing, then, that “God is not mocked,” (Gal 6:7) we ought to walk worthy of His commandment and glory. In like manner should the deacons be blameless before the face of His righteousness, as being the servants of God and Christ, and not of men. They must not be slanderers, double-tongued, (Comp. 1 Tim 3:8) or lovers of money, but temperate in all things, compassionate, industrious, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who was the servant (Comp. Matt 20:28) of all. If we please Him in this present world, we shall receive also the future world, according as He has promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead, and that if we live worthily of Him, “we shall also reign together with Him,” (2 Tim 2:12) provided only we believe. In like manner, let the young men also be blameless in all things, being especially careful to preserve purity, and keeping themselves in, as with a bridle, from every kind of evil. For it is well that they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, since “every lust warreth against the spirit;” (1 Pet 2:11) and “neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God,” (1 Cor 6:9-10) nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming. Wherefore, it is needful to abstain from all these things, being subject to the presbyters and deacons, as unto God and Christ. The virgins also must walk in a blameless and pure conscience.

Chap. VI. — The Duties of Presbyters and Others.
And let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those that wander, visiting all the sick, and not neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor, but always “providing for that which is becoming in the sight of God and man;” (Rom 12:17; 2 Cor 8:21) abstaining from all wrath, respect of persons, and unjust judgment; keeping far off from all covetousness, not quickly crediting [an evil report] against any one, not severe in judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of sin. If then we entreat the Lord to forgive us, we ought also ourselves to forgive; (Matt 6:12-14) for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God, and “we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself.” (Rom 14:10-12; 2 Cor5:10) Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached the Gospel unto us, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us]. Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offence, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error.

Chap. VII. — Avoid the Docetae, and Persevere in Fasting and Prayer.
“For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist;” (1 John 4:3) and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from (Comp. Jude 1:3) the beginning; “watching unto prayer,” (1 Pet 4:7) and persevering in fasting; beseeching in our supplications the all-seeing God “not to lead us into temptation,” (Matt 6:13; Mat_ t 26:41) as the Lord has said: “The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41; Mark 14:38)

Chap. VIII. — Persevere in Hope and Patience.
Let us then continually persevere in our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, “who bore our sins in His own body on the tree,” (1 Pet 2:24) “who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth,” (1 Pet 2:22) but endured all things for us, that we might live in Him. (Comp. 1 John 4:9) Let us then be imitators of His patience; and if we suffer (Comp. Acts 5:41; 1 Pet 4:16) for His name’s sake, let us glorify Him. For He has set us this example (Comp. 1 Pet 2:21) in Himself, and we have believed that such is the case.

Chap. IX. — Patience Inculcated.
I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as ye have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. [This do] in the assurance that all these have not run (Comp. Phil 2:16; Gal 2:2) in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and that they are [now] in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered. For they loved not this present world, but Him who died for us, and for our sakes was raised again by God from the dead.

Chap. X. — Exhortation to the Practice of Virtue.
Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith, loving the brotherhood, (Comp. 1 Pet 2:17) and being attached to one another, joined together in the truth, exhibiting the meekness of the Lord in your intercourse with one another, and despising no one. When you can do good, defer it not, because “alms delivers from death.” (Tobit 4:10, 12:9) Be all of you subject one to another, (Comp. 1 Pet 5:5) having your conduct blameless among the Gentiles,” (1 Pet 2:12) that ye may both receive praise for your good works, and the Lord may not be blasphemed through you. But woe to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed! (Isa 52:5) Teach, therefore, sobriety to all, and manifest it also in your own conduct.

Chap. XI. — Expression of Grief on Account of Valens.
I am greatly grieved for Valens, who was once a presbyter among you, because he so little understands the place that was given him [in the Church]. I exhort you, therefore, that ye abstain from covetousness, and that ye be chaste and truthful. “Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thess 5:22) For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others? If a man does not keep himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen. But who of us are ignorant of the judgment of the Lord? “Do we not know that the saints shall judge the world?” (1 Cor 6:2) as Paul teaches. But I have neither seen nor heard of any such thing among you, in the midst of whom the blessed Paul laboured, and who are commended in the beginning of his Epistle. For he boasts of you in all those Churches which alone then knew the Lord; but we [of Smyrna] had not yet known Him. I am deeply grieved, therefore, brethren, for him (Valens) and his wife; to whom may the Lord grant true repentance! And be ye then moderate in regard to this matter, and “do not count such as enemies,” (2 Thess 3:15) but call them back as suffering and straying members, that ye may save your whole body. For by so acting ye shall edify yourselves. (Comp. 1 Cor 12:26)

Chap. XII. — Exhortation to Various Graces.
For I trust that ye are well versed in the Sacred Scriptures, and that nothing is hid from you; but to me this privilege is not yet granted. It is declared then in these Scriptures, “Be ye angry, and sin not,” (Ps 4:5) and, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” (Eph 4:26) Happy is he who remembers this, which I believe to be the case with you. But may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Son of God, and our everlasting High Priest, build you up in faith and truth, and in all meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, forbearance, and purity; and may He bestow on you a lot and portion among His saints, and on us with you, and on all that are under heaven, who shall believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in His Father, who “raised Him from the dead. (Gal 1:1) Pray for all the saints. Pray also for kings, (Comp. 1 Tim 2:2) and potentates, and princes, and for those that persecute and hate you, (Matt 5:44) and for the enemies of the cross, that your fruit may be manifest to all, and that ye may be perfect in Him.

Chap. XIII. — Concerning the Transmission of Epistles.
Both you and Ignatius wrote to me, that if any one went [from this] into Syria, he should carry your letter with him; which request I will attend to if I find a fitting opportunity, either personally, or through some other acting for me, that your desire may be fulfilled. The Epistles of Ignatius written by him to us, and all the rest [of his Epistles] which we have by us, we have sent to you, as you requested. They are subjoined to this Epistle, and by them ye may be greatly profited; for they treat of faith and patience, and all things that tend to edification in our Lord. Any more certain information you may have obtained respecting both Ignatius himself, and those that were with him, have the goodness to make known to us.

Chap. XIV. — Conclusion.
These things I have written to you by Crescens, whom up to the present time I have recommended unto you, and do now recommend. For he has acted blamelessly among us, and I believe also among you. Moreover, ye will hold his sister in esteem when she comes to you. Be ye safe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with you all. Amen.

Posted in Biblical miscellany, Catechetical Resources, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, fathers of the church, Quotes | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The Temple in the Gospel of Mark

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 11, 2010

Vicki Phillips has written this review of Dr. Tim Gray’s new book THE TEMPLE IN THE GOSPEL OF MARK: A Study in Its Narrative Role. H/T to The Sacred Page. It sounds interesting. I’ll have to catch up on my reading and then buy it.

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The Life Of John Maldonatus (Juan De Moldonato)

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 17, 2010

I’ve posted some notes on this site from Maldonatus’ Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.  The following brief life of this great Jesuit scholar was actually written by an Anglican

THE life of a member of a religious order, a student at once, and a teacher, is seldom one of much action or adventure, and that of John Maldonatus was no exception to this rule.  We learn from his contemporary biographers that he was born of good parentage in the village of Zaphara or Safra, in Estramudura, in the south of Spain, about the year 1534; and he early distinguished himself as a scholar and divine.  He studied in the University of Salamanca under the most celebrated teachers of the day: especially Fr. Dominic of the Order of S. Dominic, and Francis of Toledo, afterwards Cardinal.

He became a member of the Society of Jesus in 1562 at Rome, where for some time he was known as a teacher of Theology.  He removed thence to Paris, in the newly-opened schools of which city he spent ten years as teacher of Philosophy and Theology, with great fame. His popularity was so great that his hearers frequently assembled two or three hours before the appointed time, in such numbers that there was a struggle for places, and he was obliged to give his lectures in the college quadrangle.

He afterwards taught at Poitiers.  The Cardinal of Lorraine, desirous of bringing renown to an institution which he had at heart, induced him to come to the university which he had founded at Pont-a-Mousson.  On his return to Paris he continued to teach with undiminished reputation.

But his zeal and learning did not, unfortunately, prevent him at one time from falling under suspicion.  He was accused of having unduly influenced President Montbrun to make a bequest of the whole of his property to the Society of Jesus. Of this charge he was acquitted by a decree of the Parliament of Paris.  He was also accused of having taught errors on the subject of the Immaculate Conception. The Sorbonne raised this indictment against him because he had said that this was not a certain and incontestable doctrine, an opinion which was then tenable.  Pope Gregory XIII. referred the case to Dr. P. Gondi, Bishop of Paris, and subsequently Cardinal.  The Bishop presided in person at an inquiry into his life and conduct, which resulted in his entire acquittal.  This, however, only increased the desire to persecute him; but he escaped his adversaries by withdrawing to Bourges, where he retired from public teaching and devoted himself to literary labors; the chief of which was the compilation of those Commentaries on the Scriptures of which the present volume forms a part, and for which his name has since been so well known.  In about eighteen months, Maldonatus was summoned to Rome, by Pope Gregory XIII., to superintend an edition of the Septuagint. After a short period he died in that city in the 51st year of his age, A.D. 1584.

Maldonatus was one of the most learned theologians of his Society, and one of the finest geniuses of his age.  He is described as being gifted by nature with admirable quickness of wit and great subtlety and penetration, excellent judgment, a most tenacious memory, and indefatigable diligence in study, by which he made himself master of the Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, and other Eastern languages, as is shown throughout his works.  To this may be added a profound knowledge of the Greek and Latin fathers and historians of the Church.

In his moral life, his goodness, or rather holiness, was great.  He showed much contempt for worldly distinction and honour. He was humble of heart, and of almost incredible modesty of mind.  He was well received by the great, but his humility constantly induced him to decline their overtures, even to the extent of being thought by some to be haughty and morose.  He was ardent and continual
in devotion, prayer, and divine meditation, exceedingly simple and temperate in his diet, and so true a follower of primitive poverty as to refuse to possess anything of his own; even when he travelled he took nothing with him but the clothes he was wearing, and these mean rather than even simple and unostentatious.  In a word, he was a man crucified to the world and to himself.

Maldonatus when near his end delivered his Commentaries to the care of Claude Aquaviva, General of his Society, who gave orders to the Jesuits of Pont-a-Mousson, in Lorraine, to print  them from a copy which was sent to them.  These acknowledge, in the preface of the work, that they had inserted some things of their own, and that they had been obliged to correct the MS. copy, which was defective in some places, it not being in their power to consult the original, which was at Rome.  The author, moreover, not having noted in the margin of the copy the books and places whence he had taken a good part of his citations, they had supplied this defect.

Naturally, Maldonatus is not always as exact as if he had himself put the last touch to his Commentary; but, notwithstanding this defect, and some others easy to correct, it can be well seen that the author laboured with great diligence at this excellent work.  He allows no difficulty to pass which he does not examine to the bottom.  When he finds many literal meanings to the same passage, he is accustomed to select the best, without having too much regard to the authority of ancient commentators, nor even to the majority: considering only the truth in itself.  He often rejects the interpretation of S. Augustin, not only on points of grammar or criticism, but even in the important facts of Theology; being persuaded, that whatever weight his authority has, it should not serve as a rule to theologians.  He is not servilely attached to the opinions of scholastic theologians; he thought for himself, and had opinions sufficiently free, and sometimes singular, but always orthodox.  If he is a little too diffuse on some matters of controversy, he could not be otherwise according to the design which he proposed to himself of replying to heretics, principally Calvinists, who had published Commentaries on the New Testament, filled with disputes of this kind. His controversies are not wearisome, because he does not make long digressions.

His style is clear and didactic.  Great facility of expression, great vivacity, the presence of spirit and flexibility rendered him very formidable in disputation.  He is, indeed, sometimes cutting and severe; but if we compare him with Calvin and Beza, who continually declaim against the Roman Church, he appears moderate. Those even among the Calvinists who considered him an evil speaker,
“maledicentissimus Maldonatus,”have not been able to refrain from praises of his strength of mind and great erudition.

Of his works, we have :
I. An excellent Commentary on the Gospels: the best editions of which are those of Pont-a-Mousson, in folio, 1595, and the following ones until 1617; for those which have been made since are much altered.

II. A Treatise on the Sacraments, with other Opuscula, printed at Lyons, 1614, in quarto.

III. A Treatise on Grace, one on Original Sin, one on the Rites of the Church; Scholia on the Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah, and many other pieces: published in Paris in 1677, in folio.  This volume is enriched with a preface in his praise.

IV. A Treatise upon Angels and Demons, Paris, 1617.  This curious and rare work has only been printed in French; being translated from the Latin, which has never seen the light, by Fr. Arnauld, Seigneur of Laborie.

V. Summula Casuum Conscientiae, the teaching of which appears somewhat lax.

VI. Tractatus de Ceremoniis, which was printed for the first time at Rome in 1781, in quarto, by the care of Francois Antoine Zaccaria, in the Bibliotheca Ritualis.

He alludes sometimes to writings which he had dictated, and which he had intended to publish, frequently citing one entitled, “Liber Hebraicarum lectionum,” in which he treats, in several lectures, the Hebrew text where it differs from the Septuagint.

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Currently Reading

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 24, 2010

BLOOD AND WATER: The Death and Resurrection of Jesus in John 18-21, by John Paul Heil.  The work is part of The Catholic Biblical Quarterly’s Monograph Series.  It is a narrative critical analysis of the text and I’ve found it very interesting.  I purchased the book used on Amazon.

50 QUESTIONS ON THE NATURAL LAW by Charles Rice.  Published by Ignatius Press it is a very easy introduction to the subject of Natural Law, relying heavily on St Thomas Aquinas, various Popes, and famed figures in the history of English and American jurisprudence.

I will soon be reading THE USE OF TORAH BY ISAIAH: His Debate With The Wisdom Tradition, by Joseph Jensen, a Benedictine.  This is also part of The Catholic Biblical Quarterly’s Monograph Series (again, used via Amazon).

ISAIAH 1-39, by Joseph Jensen, O.S.B.  This is part of the Old Testament Message Series published in the mid 80’s.

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Online Commentary On Hebrews

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 13, 2010

Danny Garland of Irish, Catholic and Dangerous has alerted us to an ongoing online commentary on Hebrews by Biblical Scholar Fr. James Swetnam.

Fr. Swetnam “is a distinguished Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology” who “entered the Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus in 1945 and was ordained a priest in 1958. He holds degrees in classical languages, philosophy, theology and Scripture.  His doctoral degree is from the University of Oxford.

Since 1962 he has been a scholar of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, where he has held numerous posts, including vice rector and dean of the biblical faculty. He has also served in an editorial capacity for several academic journals, including: Orientalia, Analecta Orientalia, and Biblica. His area of specialization is the Epistle to the Hebrews. Swetnam is the author of Jesus and Isaac: A Study of the Epistle to the Hebrews in the Light of the Aqedah (Rome: Analecta Biblica, 1981) and An Introduction to the Study of New Testament Greek (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1992)” [source].

Fr. Swetnam’s home page can be found here.

His introductory material to Hebrews, along with his ongoing commentary (he’s up to chapt. 7) can be found here.

His “entries” page contains links to a number of his other online writings, most of which deal with biblical topics and text.

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Advent Meditation #2 The Desired Of All Nations

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 3, 2009

II. THE DESIRED OF ALL NATIONS.

” Thus saith the Lord of hosts : Yet one little while, and I will move the Heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. And I will move all nations : and the desired of all nations shall come : and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. Great shall be the glory of this last house more than of the first, saith the Lord of hosts : and in this place I will give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.” HAGGAI. ii. 7-10.

i. It is no mere fancy of historians which sees in the history of almost if not quite all ancient peoples a certain looking into the future, a certain consciousness of undevelop- ment among themselves, a certain craving for something which they had not yet got, but which was yet to come to them a light and more perfect understanding, a power for good, a completion and satisfaction in their being which would bring them peace and contentment. It is specially marked among the Greeks, that hungry, restless, inquiring, half-despairing people, in spite of their natural gifts and perfections; a restless looking beyond which expresses itself with almost tragic force in their philosophers, and in the terrible agnosticism in which at last St. Paul found them. It is marked no less in the less-romantic Romans, whose very triumphs ring with a sense of dissatisfaction, almost with a determination to make them selves believe they had found what they had sought. But the later writers betray the hunger, and Virgil portrays the ideal that ate at their hearts.

2. But if this is true of all the nations, how much more true is it of the Jews. Of all races the Jews are the most hungry-hearted. They were built up upon it in the past; in the pursuit of the ideal they were drawn apart from the rest of the world: and even to this day it may be safely said that this hungry searching, for they know not what, characterizes them wherever they go. They look for the Messiah still; this is the first article of their belief. Now, as in early times, many grow weary of waiting, and seek their satisfaction in other things; but their very weariness does but confirm the truth of that hunger that has been, and that lingers on because it would not eat of the bread when it was offered. ” Your fathers did eat manna in the desert and are dead; this is the bread which cometh down from Heaven, that if any man eat of it he may not die.”

3. The satisfaction of this hungering, expressed in many ways, is not the least of the beauties of the Old Testament, and finds its echo in the New. There are many parallels to the following, but we must be content with one: “I, wisdom, have poured out rivers. I like a brook out of a river of a mighty water, I like a channel of a river, and like an aqueduct, came out of paradise. I said : I will water my garden of plants, and I will water abundantly the fruits of my meadow. And behold my brook became a great river, and my river came near to a sea : for I make doctrine shine forth to all as the morning light, and I will declare it afar off. I will penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth, and will behold all that sleep, and will enlighten all that hope in the Lord. I will yet pour out doctrine as prophecy, and will leave it to them that seek wisdom, and will not cease to instruct their offspring even to the holy age” (Eccles. xxiv. 40-46).

Summary.

1. The hungering for something discoverable in the

ancient civilizations.

2. This specially seen among the Jews.

3. The fulfilment in the coming of Our Lord.~The Prince Of Peace, By Most Rev. Alban Goodier,S.J.

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St Edmond Campion’s TEN REASONS (First Reason)

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 21, 2009

I posted this on my other blog some time back.

FIRST REASON

HOLY WRIT

Of the many signs that tell of the adversaries' mistrust of their
own cause, none declares it so loudly as the shameful outrage
they put upon the majesty of the Holy Bible. After they have
dismissed with scorn the utterances and suffrages of the rest of
the witnesses, they are nevertheless brought to such straits that
they cannot hold their own otherwise than by laying violent hands
on the divine volumes themselves, thereby showing beyond all
question that they are brought to their last stand, and are
having recourse to the hardest and most extreme of expedients to
retrieve their desperate and ruined fortunes. What induced the
Manichees to tear out the Gospel of Matthew and the Acts of the
Apostles? Despair. For these volumes were a torment to men who
denied Christ's birth of a Virgin, and who pretended that the
Spirit then first descended upon Christians when their peculiar
Paraclete, a good-for-nothing Persian, made his appearance. What
induced the Ebionites to reject all St. Paul's Epistles? Despair.
For while those Letters kept their credit, the custom of
circumcision, which these men had reintroduced, was set aside as
an anachronism. What induced that crime-laden apostate Luther to
call the Epistle of James contentious, turgid, arid, a thing of
straw, and unworthy of the Apostolic spirit? Despair. For by this
writing the wretched man's argument of righteousness consisting
in faith alone was stabbed through and rent assunder. What
induced Luther's whelps to expunge off-hand from the genuine
canon of Scripture, Tobias, Ecclesiasticus, Maccabees, and, for
hatred of these, several other books involved in the same false
charge? Despair. For by these Oracles they are most manifestly
confuted whenever they argue about the patronage of Angels, about
free will, about the faithful departed, about the intercession of
Saints. Is it possible? So much perversity, so much audacity?
After trampling underfoot Church, Councils, Episcopal Sees,
Fathers, Martyrs, Potentates, Peoples, Laws, Universities,
Histories, all vestiges of Antiquity and Sanctity, and declaring
that they would settle their disputes by the written word of God
alone, to think that they should have emasculated that same Word,
which alone was left, by cutting out of the whole body so many
excellent and goodly parts! Seven whole books, to ignore lesser
diminutions, have the Calvinists cut out of the Old Testament.
The Lutherans take away the Epistle of James besides, and, in
their dislike of that, five other Epistles, about which there had
been controversy of old in certain places and times. To the
number of these the latest authorities at Geneva add the book of
Esther and about three chapters of Daniel, which their
fellow-disciples, the Anabaptists, had some time before condemned
and derided. How much greater was the modesty of Augustine (_De
doct. Christ. lib._ 2, _c._ 8.), who, in making his catalogue of
the Sacred Books, did not take for his rule the Hebrew Alphabet,
like the Jews, nor private judgment, like the Sectaries, but that
Spirit wherewith Christ animates the whole Church. The Church,
the guardian of this treasure, not its mistress (as heretics
falsely make out), vindicated publicly in former times by very
ancient Councils this entire treasure, which the Council of Trent
has taken up and embraced. Augustine also in a special discussion
on one small portion of Scripture cannot bring himself to think
that any man's rash murmuring should be permitted to thrust out
of the Canon the book of Wisdom, which even in his time had
obtained a sure place as a well-authenticated and Canonical book
in the reckoning of the Church, the judgment of ages, the
testimony of ancients, and the sense of the faithful. What would
he say now if he were alive on earth, and saw men like Luther and
Calvin manufacturing Bibles, filing down Old and New Testament
with a neat pretty little file of their own, setting aside, not
the book of wisdom alone, but with it very many others from the
list of Canonical Books? Thus whatever does not come out from
their shop, by a mad decree, is liable to be, spat upon by all as
a rude and barbarous composition. They who have stooped to this
dire and execrable way of saving themselves surely are beaten,
overthrown, and flung rolling in the dust, for all their fine
praises that are in the mouths of their admirers, for all their
traffic in priesthoods, for all their bawling in pulpits, for all
their sentencing of Catholics to chains, rack and gallows. Seated
in their armchairs as censors, as though any one had elected them
to that office, they seize their pens and mark passages as
spurious even in God's own Holy Writ, putting their pens through
whatever they cannot stomach. Can any fairly educated man be
afraid of battalions of such enemies? If in the midst of your
learned body they had recourse to such trickster's arts, calling
like wizards upon their familiar spirit, you would shout at
them,--you would stamp your feet at them. For instance I would
ask them what right they have to rend and mutilate the body of
the Bible. They would answer that they do not cut out true
Scriptures, but prune away supposititious accretions. By
authority of what judge? By the Holy Ghost. This is the answer
prescribed by Calvin (_Instit. lib._ I, _c._ 7), for escaping
this judgment of the Church whereby spirits of prophesy are
examined. Why then do some of you tear out one piece of
Scripture, and others another, whereas you all boast of being led
by the same Spirit? The Spirit of the Calvinists receives six
Epistles which do not please the Lutheran Spirit, both all the
while in full confidence reposing on the Holy Ghost. The
Anabaptists call the book of Job a fable, intermixed with tragedy
and comedy. How do they know? The Spirit has taught them. Whereas
the Song of Solomon is admired by Catholics as a paradise of the
soul, a hidden manna, and rich delight in Christ, Castalio, a
lewd rogue, has reckoned it nothing better than a love-song about
a mistress, and an amorous conversation with Court flunkeys.
Whence drew he that intimation? From the Spirit. In the
Apocalypse of John, every jot and tittle of which Jerane declares
to bear some lofty and magnificent meaning, Luther and Brent and
Kemnitz, critics hard to please, find something wanting, and are
inclined to throw over the whole book. Whom have they consulted?
The Spirit. Luther with preposterous heat pits the Four Gospels
one against another (_Praef. in Nov. Test._), and far prefers
Paul's Epistles to the first three, while he declares the Gospel
of St. John above the rest to be beautiful, true, and worthy of
mention in the first place,--thereby enrolling even the Apostles,
so far as in him lay, as having a hand in his quarrels. Who
taught him to do that? The Spirit. Nay this imp of a friar has
not hesitated in petulant style to assail Luke's Gospel because
therein good and virtuous works are frequently commended to us.
Whom did he consult? The Spirit. Theodore Beza has dared to carp
at, as a corruption and perversion of the original, that mystical
word from the twenty-second chapter of Luke, _this is the
chalice, the new testament in my blood, which_ (chalice) _shall
be shed for you_ [Greek: potaerion ekchunomenon], because this
language admits of no explanation other than that of the wine in
the chalice being converted into the true blood of Christ. Who
pointed that out? The Spirit. In short, in believing all things
every man in the faith of his own spirit, they horribly belie and
blaspheme the name of the Holy Ghost. So acting, do they not give
themselves away? are they not easily refuted? In an assembly of
learned men, such as yours, Gentlemen of the University, are they
not caught and throttled without trouble? Should I be afraid on
behalf of the Catholic faith to dispute with these men, who have
handled with the utmost ill faith not human but heavenly
utterances? I say nothing here of their perverse versions of
Scripture, though I could accuse them in this respect of
intolerable doings. I will not take the bread out of the mouth of
that great linguist, my fellow-Collegian, Gregory Martin, who
will do this work with more learning and abundance of detail than
I could; nor from others whom I understand already to have that
task in hand. More wicked and more abominable is the crime that I
am now prosecuting, that there have been found upstart Doctors
who have made a drunken onslaught on the handwriting that is of
heaven; who have given judgment against it as being in many
places defiled, defective, false, surreptitious; who have
corrected some passages, tampered with others; torn out others;
who have converted every bulwark wherewith it was guarded into
Lutheran "spirits," what I may call phantom ramparts and parted
walls. All this they have done that they might not be utterly
dumbfounded by falling upon Scripture texts contrary to their
errors, texts which they would have found it as hard to get over
as to swallow hot ashes or chew stones. This then has been my
First Reason, a strong and a just one. By revealing the shadowy
and broken powers of the adverse faction, it has certainly given
new courage to a Christian man, not unversed in these studies, to
fight for the Letters Patent of the Eternal King against the
remnant of a routed foe.

Posted in Apologetics, Biblical miscellany | Leave a Comment »

Cardinal Newman on the City of the Antichrist

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 17, 2009

This is the third of four discourse the Cardinal gave on the subject of the Antichrist.  The two previous discourses I have posted can be viewed HERE and HERE.

The Angel thus interprets to St John the vision of the Great Harlot, the enchantress, who seduced the inhabitants of the earth.  He says, “The woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”  The city spoken of in these words is evidently Rome, which was then the seat of empire all over the earth,-which was supreme even in Judea.  We hear of the Romans all through the Gospels and Acts.  Our Savior was born when His mother the Blessed Virgin, and Joseph, were brought up to Bethlehem to be taxed by the Roman governor.  He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.  St Paul was at various times protected by the circumstance of his being a Roman citizen; and on the other hand, when he was seized and imprisoned, it was by the Roman governors, and at last he was sent to Rome itself, to the emperor and eventually martyred there, together with St Peter.  Thus the sovereignty of Rome, at the time when Christ and His Apostles preached and wrote, which is a matter of historical notoriety, is forced on our notice in the New Testament itself.  It is undeniably meant by the Angel when he speaks of ‘the great city which reigneth over the earth.”

The connection of Rome with the reign and exploits of Antichrist, is so often brought before us in the controversies of this day, that it may be well, after what I have already had occasion to say on the subject of the last enemy of the Church, to consider now what Scripture prophecy says concerning Rome; which I shall attempt to do, as before, with the guidance of the early Fathers.

Now let us observe what is said concerning Rome, in the passage which the Angel concludes in the words which I have quoted, and what we may deduce from it.

That great city is described under the image of a woman, cruel, profligate, and impious.  She is described as arrayed in all worldly splendor and costliness, in purple and scarlet, in gold and precious stones, and pearls, as shedding and drinking the blood of the saints, till she was drunken of it.  Moreover she is called by the name of “Babylon the Great,” to signify her power, wealth, profaness, pride, sensuality, and persecuting spirit, after the pattern of that former enemy of the Church.  I need not here relate how all this really answered to the character and history of Rome at the time St John spoke of it.  There never was a more ambitious, haughty, hard-hearted, and worldly people than the Romans; never any, for none else had ever the opportunity, which so persecuted the Church.  Christians suffered ten persecutions at their hands, as they are commonly reckoned, and very horrible ones, extending over two hundred and fifty years.  The day would fail to go through an account of the tortures they suffered from Rome; so that the Apostle’s description was as signally fulfilled afterwards as a prophecy, as it was accurate at the time as an historical notice.

The guilty city, represented by St John as an abandoned woman, is said to be seated on “a scarlet-colored monster, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.”  Here we are sent back by the prophetic description to the seventh chapter of Daniel, in which the four great empires of the world are shadowed out under the figure of four beasts, a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a nameless monster, “diverse” from the rest, “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly;” “and it had ten horns.”  This surely is the very same beast which St John saw: the ten horns mark it.  Now this fourth beast in Daniel’s vision is the Roman Empire; therefore “the beast,” on which the woman sat, is the Roman Empire.  And this agrees very accurately with the actual position of things in history; for Rome, the mistress of the world, might well be said to sit upon, and be carries about triumphantly on that world which she had subdued and tamed, and made her creature.  Further, the prophet Daniel explains the ten horns of the monster to be “ten kings that shall arise” out of this Empire; in which St John agrees, saying, “The ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet, but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.”  Moreover in a former vision Daniel speaks of the Empire as destined to be “divided,” as “partly strong and partly broken.”  Further still, this Empire, the beast of burden of the woman, was at length to rise against her and devour her, as some savage animal might turn upon its keeper; and it was to do this in the time of its divided or multiplied existence.  “The ten horns which thou sawest upon him, these shall hate” her, “and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”  Such was to be the end of the great city.  Lastly, three of the kings, perhaps all, are said to be subdued by Antichrist, who is to come up suddenly while they are in power; for such is the course of Daniel’s prophecy: “Another shall rise after them, and he shall be diverse from the first,and he shall subdue three kings, and he shall speak great words against the Most High, and think to change times and laws; and they shall be given into his hands until a time, times, and the dividing of atime.”  This power, who was to rise upon the kings, is the Antichrist; and I would have to observe how Rome and Antichrist stand towards each other in prophecy.  Rome is to fall before Antichrist rises; for the ten kings are to destroy Rome, and Antichrist is then to appear and supersede the ten kings.  As far as we dare judge from the words, this seems clear.  First, St John says, “The ten horns shall hate and devour” the woman; secondly, Daniel says, “I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another little horn,” vuz., Antichrist, “before whom” or by whom “there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots.”

Now then, let us consider how far these prophecies have been fulfilled, and what seems to remain unfulfilled.

In the first place, the Roman Empire did break up, as foretold.  It divided into a number of separate kingdoms, such as our own, in France, and the like; yet it is difficult to number ten accurately and exactly.  Next, though Rome certainly has been desolated in the most fearful and miserable way, yet it has not exactly suffered from ten parts of its former empire, but from barbarians who came down upon it from regions external to it; and, in the third place, it still exists as a city, whereas it was to be “desolated, devoured, and burned with fire.”  Fourthly, there is one point in the description of the ungodly city, which has hardly been fulfilled at all in the case of Rome.  She had “a golden cup in her hand full of abominations,” and made “the inhabitants of the earth drunk with the wine of her fornication;” expressions which imply surely some seduction or delusion which she was enabled to practice upon the world, and which, I say, has not been fulfilled in the case of that great imperial city upon seven hills of which St John spake.  Here then are points which require some consideration.

I say the Roman Empire has scarcely yet been divided into ten.  The Prophet Daniel is conspicuous among the inspired writers for the clearness and exactness of his predictions; so much so, that some unbelievers, overcome by the truth of them, could only take refuge in the unworthy, and at the same time, unreasonable and untenable supposition, that they were written after the events which they profess to foretell.  But we have had no such exact fulfillment in history of the ten kings; therefore we must suppose that it is yet to come.  With this accords the ancient notion, that they were to come at the end of the world, and last bur for a short time, Antichrist coming upon them.  There have, indeed, approximations of that number, yet, I conceive, nothing more.  Now observe how the actual state of things corresponds to the prophecy, and to primitive interpretation of it.  It is difficult to say whether the Roman Empire is gone or not; in one sense, it is not, for the date cannot be assigned at which it came to and end, and much might be said in various ways to show that it may be considered still existing, though in a mutilated and decayed state.  But if this be so, and if it is to end in ten vigorous kings, as Daniel says, then it must one day revive.  Now observe, I say, how the prophetic description answers to this account of it.  “The wild Beast,” that is, the Roman Empire, “the Monster that thou sawest was and is not, and shall ascend out of the abyss, and go into perdition.”  Again mention is made of “the Monster that was, and is not, and yet is.”  Again we are expressly told that the ten kings and the Empire shall rise together; the kings appearing at the time of the monster’s resurrection, not during its languid and torpid state.  “The ten kings…have received no kingdom as yet, but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.”  If, then, the Roman Empire is still prostate, then the ten kings have not come; and if the ten kings have not come, the destined destroyers of the woman, the full judgments upon Rome, have not yet come.

Thus the full measure of judgment has not fallen upon Rome; yet her sufferings, and the sufferings of her Empire, have been very severe.  St Peter seems to predict them, in his First Epistle, as then impending.  He seems to imply that our Lord’s visitation, which was then just occurring, was no local or momentary vengeance upon one people or city, but a solemn and extended judgment of the whole earth, though beginning at Jerusalem.  “The time is come,” he says, “when judgment must begin at the house of God (at the sacred city); “and, if it begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God?  And if the righteous scarcely be saved,”-(i.e., the remnant who should go forth of Zion, according to the prophecy, that chosen seed in the Jewish Church which received Christ when He came, and  the new name of Christians, and shot forth and grew far and wide into a fresh Church, or, in other words, the elect whom the Savior speaks of as being involved in all the troubles and judgments of the devoted people, yet safely carried through); “if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear,”the inhabitants of the world at large.

Here is intimation of the presence of a fearful scourge which was then going over the entire ungodly world, beginning at apostate Jerusalem, and punishing it.  Such was the case: vengeance first fell upon the once holy city, which was destroyed by the Romans: it proceeded next against the executioners themselves.  The Empire was disorganized, and broken to pieces by dissensions and insurrections, by plagues, famines, and earthquakes, while countless host of barbarians attacked it from the north and east, and portioned it out, and burned and pillaged Rome itself.  The judgment, I say, which began at Jerusalem, steadily tracked its way for centuries round and round the world, till at length, with unerring aim, it smote the haughty mistress of the nations herself, the guilty woman seated upon the forth monster which Daniel saw.  I will mention one or two of these fearful inflictions.

Hosts of barbarians came down upon the civilized world, the Roman Empire.  One multitude-though multitude is a feeble word to describe them,-invaded France, which was living in peace and prosperity under the shadow of Rome.  They desolated and burned town and country.  Seventeen provinces were made a desert.  Eight metropolitan cities were set on fire and destroyed.  Multitudes of Christians perished even in the churches.

The fertile coast of Africa was the scene of another of these invasions.  The barbarians gave no quarter to any who opposed them.  They tortured their captives, of whatever age, rank, and sex, to force them to give over their wealth.  They drove away the inhabitants of the cities to the mountains.  They ransacked churches.  They destroyed even the fruit trees, so complete was the desolation.

Of judgments in the course of nature, I will mention three out of a great number.  One, an inundation from the sea in all parts of the Eastern Empire.  The water overflowed the coast for two miles inland, sweeping away houses and inhabitants along the line of some thousand miles.  One great city (Alexandria) lost fifty thousand persons.

The second, a series of earthquakes; some of which were felt all over the empire.  Constantinople was thus shaken above forty days together.  At Antioch 250,000 persons perished in another.

And in the third place a plague, which lasted (languishing and reviving) through the long period of fifty-two years.  In Constantinople, during three months, there died daily 5,000, and at length 10,000 persons.  I give these facts from a modern writer, who is neither favorable to Christianity, nor credulous in matters of historical testimony (Newman is referring to Edward Gibbons).  In some countries the population was wasted away together, and has not recovered to this day.

Such were the scourges by which the fourth monster of Daniel’s vision was brought low, “the Lord God’s sore judgments, the sword, the famine, and the pestilence.”  Such was the process by which “that which withholdeth,” (in St Paul’s language) began to be “taken away;” though not altogether removed even now.

And, while the world itself was thus plagued, not less was the offending city which had ruled it.  Rome was taken and plundered several times.  The inhabitants were murdered, made captives, or obliged to fly all over Italy.  The gold and jewels of the queen of the nations, her precious silk and purple, and her works of art, were carried off or destroyed.

These are great and notable events, and certainly form part of the predicted judgment upon Rome; at the same time they do not adequately fulfill the prophecy, which says expressly, on the one hand, that the ten portions of the Empire itself which had almost been slain, shall rise up against the city, and “make her desolate and burn her with fire,” which they have not yet done; and, on the other hand, that the city shall experience a total destruction, which has not yet befallen her, for she still exists.  St John’s words on the latter point are clear and determinate.  “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen; and is become the habitation of devils, and the hole of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird;” words which would seem to refer us to the curse upon the literal Babylon; and we know how that curse was fulfilled.  The prophet Isaiah  had said, that in Babylon “wild beasts of the desert should lie there, and their houses be full of doleful creatures, and owls should dwell there, and satyrs,” or wild beasts ‘dance there.”  And we know that all this has in fact happened to Babylon; it is a heap of ruins; no man dwells there; may, it is difficult to say even where exactly it was placed, so great is the desolation.  Such a desolation St John seems to predict, concerning the guilty persecuting city we are considering; and in spite of what she had suffered, such a desolation has not come upon her yet.  Again, “she shall be utterly burnt with fire, for strong is the Lord God, who judgeth her.”  Surely this implies utter destruction, annihilation.  Again, “a mighty Angel took up a stone, like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, ‘thus with violence, shall the great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.”

To these passages I would add this reflection.  Surely Rome is spoken of in Scripture as a more inveterate enemy of God and His saints even than Babylon, as the great pollution and bane of the earth: if then Babylon has been destroyed wholly, much more, according to all reasonable conjecture, will Rome be destroyed one day.

It may be farther observed that holy men in the early Church certainly thought that the barbarian invasions were not all that Rome was to receive in the way of vengeance, but that God would one day destroy it by the fury of the elements.  “Rome,” says Pope Gregory, at a time when a barbarian conqueror had possession of the city, and all things seemed to threaten its destruction, “Rome shall not be destroyed by the nations, but shall consume away internally, worn out by storms of lighting, whirlwinds, and earthquakes.”  In accordance with this is the prophecy of St Malachi of Armagh, a medieval Archbishop (A.D. 1130), which declares, “In the lastt persecution of the Holy Church, Peter of Rome shall be on the throne, who shall feed his flock in many tribulations.  When these are past, the city upon seven hills shall be destroyed, and the awful Judge shall judge the people.”

This is what may be said on the one side, but after all something may be said on the other; not indeed to show that the prophecy is already fully accomplished, for it certainly is not, but to show that, granting this, such accomplishment as has to come has reference, not to Rome, but to some other object or objects of divine vengeance.  I shall explain my meaning under two heads.

First, why has Rome not been destroyed hitherto? how was it that the barbarian left it intact?  Babylon sank under the avenger brought against it-Rome has not: why is thins? for if there has been a something to procrastinate the vengeance due to Rome hitherto, peradventure that obstacle may act again and again, and stay the uplifted hand of divine wrath till the end come.  The cause of this unexpected respite seems to be simply this, that when the barbarians came down, God had a people in that city.  Babylon was a mere prison of the Church; Rome had received her as a guest.  The Church dwelt in Rome, and while her children suffered in the heathen city from the barbarians, so again they were the life and the salt of that city where they suffered.

Christians understood this at the time, and availed themselves of their position.  They remembered Abraham’s intercession for Sodom, and the gracious announcement made him, that, had there been ten righteous men therein, it would have been saved.

When the city was worsted, threatened, and at length overthrown, the Pagans had cried out that Christianity was the cause of this.  They said they had always flourished under their idols, and that these idols or devils (gods as they called them) were displeased with them for the numbers among them who had been converted to the faith of the Gospel, and had in consequence deserted them, given them over to their enemies, and brought vengeance upon them.  On the other hand, they scoffed at the Christians, saying in effect, “Where is now your God?  Why does he not save you? You are not better off than we;” they said, with the impenitent thief, “If thou be the Christ, save Thyself and us;” or with the multitude, “If He be the Son of God, let Him come down from the Cross.”  This was during the time of one of the most celebrated bishops and doctors of the Church, St Augustine, and he replied to their challenge.  He replied to them, and to his brethren also, some of whom were offended and shocked that such calamities should have happened to a city which had become Christian.  He pointed to the cities which had already sinned and been visited, and showed that they had altogether perished, whereas Rome was still preserved.  Here, then, he said, was the very fulfillment of the promise of God, announced to Abraham;-for the sake of the Christians in it, Rome was chastised, not overthrown utterly.

Historical facts support St Augustine’s view of things.  God provided visibly, not only in His secret counsels, that the Church should be the salvation of the city.  The fierce conqueror Alaric, who first came against it, exhorted his troops, “to respect the Churches of the Apostles St Peter and St Paul, as holy and inviolable sanctuaries;” and he gave orders that a quantity of plate, consecrated to St Peter, should be removed into his Church from the place where it had been discovered

Again, fifty years afterwards, when Attila was advancing against the city, the Bishop of Rome of the day, St Leo, formed one of a deputation of three, who went out to meet him, and was successful in arresting his purpose.

A few years afterwards, Genseric, the most savage of the barbarian conquerors, appeared before the defenseless city.  The same fearless Pontiff went out to meet him at the head of the clergy, and though he did not succeed in saving the city from pillage, yet he gained a promise that the unresisting multitude should be spared, the buildings protected from fire, and the captives from torture.

Thus form the Goth, Hun, and Vandal did the Christian Church shield the guilty city in which she dwelt.  What a wonderful rule of God’s providence is herein displayed which occurs daily!-the Church sanctifies, yet suffers with, the world,-sharing its sufferings, yet lightening them.  In the case before us, she has (if we may humbly say it) suspended, to this day, the vengeance destined to fall upon the city which was drunk with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.  That vengeance has never fallen; it is still suspended; nor can reason be given why Rome has not fallen under the rule of God’s general dealings with His rebellious creatures, and suffered (according to the prophecy) the fullness of God’s wrath begun in it, except that a Christian Church is still in that city, sanctifying it, interceding for it, saving it.  We in England consider that the Christian Church there has been in process of  time become infected with the sins of Rome itself, and has learned to be ambitious and cruel after the fashion of those who possessed the place aforetimes.  Yet, if it were what many would make it, if it were as reprobate as heathen Rome itself, what stays the judgment long ago begun? why does not the Avenging Arm, which made its first stroke ages since, deal its second and its third, till the city has fallen? Why is not Rome as Sodom and Gomorrah, if there be no righteous men in it?

This then is the first remark I would make as to that fulfillment of the prophecy which is not yet come; perhaps through divine mercy, it may be procrastinated even to the end, and never fulfilled.  Of this we can know nothing one way or the other.

Secondly, let it be considered, that as Babylon is a type of Rome, and of the world of sin and vanity, so Rome in turn may be a type also, whether of some other city, or of a proud and deceiving world.  The woman is said to be Babylon as well as Rome, and as she is something more than Babylon, namely, Rome, so again she may be something more than Rome, which is yet to come.  Various great cities in Scripture are made, in their ungodliness and ruin, types of the world itself.  Their end is described in figures, which in their fullness apply only to the end of the world; the sun and moon are said to fall, the earth to quake, and the stars to fall from heaven.  The destruction of Jerusalem in our Lord’s prophecy is associated with the end of things.  As then their ruin prefigures a greater and wider judgment, so the chapters, on which I have been dwelling, may have a further accomplishment, not in Rome, but in the world itself, or some other great city to which we cannot at present apply them, or to all the great cities of the world together, and to the spirit that rules in them, their avaricious, luxurious, self-dependent, irreligious spirit.  And in this sense is already fulfilled a portion of the chapter before us, which does not apply to heathen Rome;- I mean the description of the woman as making men drunk with her sorceries and delusions; for such, surely, and nothing else than an intoxication, is that arrogant, ungodly, falsely liberal, and worldly spirit, which great cities make dominant in a country.

To sum up what I have said.  The question asked was, is it not true (as is commonly said and believed among us) that Rome is mentioned in the Apocalypse, as having an especial share in the events which will come at the end of the world by means, or after the time, of Antichrist?  I answer this, that Rome’s judgments have come on her in great measure, when her Empire was taken from her; that her persecutions of the Church have been in great measure avenged, and the Scripture predictions concerning her fulfilled; that whether or not she shall be further judged depends on two circumstances, first, whether “the righteous men” in the city who saved her when her judgment first came, will not, through God’s great mercy, be allowed to save her still; next, whether the prophecy relates in its fullness to Rome or to some other object or objects of which Rome is a type.   And further, I say, that if it is in the divine counsels that Rome should still be judged, this must be before the Antichrist comes, because Antichrist comes upon and destroys the ten kings who are to destroy Rome.  On the other hand, so far would seem to be clear, that the prophecy itself has not been fully accomplished, whatever we decide about Rome’s concern in it.  The Roman Empire has not yet been divided into ten heads, nor has it yet arisen against the woman, whomever she may stand for, nor has the woman yet received her ultimate judgment.

We are warned against sharing in her sins and in her punishment;-against being found, when the end comes, mere children of this world and of its great cities; with tastes, opinions, habits, such as are found in its cities; with a heart dependent on human society, and a reason molded by it;-against finding ourselves at the last day, before our Judge, with all the low feelings, principles, and aims which the world encourages; with our thoughts wandering (if that be possible then), wandering after vanities; with thoughts that rise no higher than the consideration of our own comforts, or our gains; with a haughty contempt for the Church, her ministers, her lowly people; a love of rank and station, and admiration of of the splendor and the fashions of the world, an affection of refinement, a dependence upon our powers of reason, an habitual self-esteem, and an utter ignorance of the number and the heinousness of the sins which lie against us.  If we are found thus, when the end comes, where, when the judgment is over, and the saints have gone up to heaven, and there is silence and darkness where all was so full of life and expectation, where shall we find ourselves then?  And what good could the great Babylon do us then, though it were as immortal aw we are immortal ourselves?



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Currently Reading

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 18, 2009

THE THEOLOGY OF THE BODY IN JOHN PAUL II What It Means, Why It Matters-By Father Richard Hogan.  I’m also continuing to crawl my way through the two Summas of St Thomas, focusing primarily on the Summa Contra Gentiles.  For Lent I will be reading the Father Donald Senior’s four volume set THE PASSION OF JESUS.

Posted in Biblical miscellany, Books, St Thomas Aquinas | Leave a Comment »

 
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