The Celestial Phenomenon on Sept. 23 and Revelation 12

Stellarium screen shot, 9/23/2017

The following will occur in the daytime sky on Sept. 23rd:

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered” (Revelation 12:1-2).

As the sun envelopes the constellation Virgo (a virgin maiden in Greek mythology) the moon will cross beneath her feet. At the same time twelve stars will congregate just above her head, nine from the constellation Leo plus three visiting planets: Mercury, Venus, and Mars.* The planet Jupiter (mythological king), which had entered Virgo’s torso back on Dec. 1, 2016, will have just exited between her legs on Sept. 12th, 9 1/2 months later. (Recall that Jupiter’s entry into the constellation Leo represented the birth of a prince in Babylonian astrology and inspired the journey of the Magi). Continue reading “The Celestial Phenomenon on Sept. 23 and Revelation 12”

‘Damnation Don’t Slumber’

In a statistical analysis of mass attendance by CARA, one of the major findings was that the percentage of U.S. self-identifying Catholics who attend mass weekly has steadily declined since 1950, and now stands at 23%. Unsurprisingly, the number jumps to 68% on Easter Sunday. Parish priests get a captive audience and an opportunity to encourage lapsed Catholics back to the faith.

If it were me I would do three things this year:

  • Encourage parishioners to park at a distance if possible, or attend a mass that is not likely to have visitors. People tend to avoid going back to places where parking is a problem.
  • Have one or more confessionals open prior to mass and, if another priest is around, during mass. Visiting Catholics might feel the call to reconciliation just by seeing that it’s available.
  • Preach a homily on Hell. It doesn’t have to be in the fire and brimstone style of Jonathan Edwards, though it worked for him, and started a movement, “The Great Awakening”:

sinners2“The Wrath of God burns against them, their Damnation don’t slumber, the Pit is prepared, the Fire is made ready, the Furnace is now hot, ready to receive them, the Flames do now rage and glow. The glittering Sword is whet, and held over them, and the Pit hath opened her Mouth under them.”

“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (ca. 1741)

The fiery puritan grew tired of the malaise he noticed at his colonial-era church and community. People went through the motions of the religious life but lacked passion, which for Edwards meant an absence of an appreciation of the reality of God, heaven, and hell. He wanted evidence that a person was a true Christian through a visible “religious affection”. The malaise, however, was the unavoidable by-product of Calvinism, in which salvation or damnation was predetermined for everyone.

It has been claimed that certain readings and prayers addressing eternal damnation were purged in the mass of Pope Paul VI. Theologian Brian Harrison, O.S. examined this question in detail and concluded that there was little substantial difference between the old and new masses with respect to such matters. He added, however, that the true disparity comes from the pulpit:

“…Catholics attending the old rite heard – and still hear – a lot more about sin, judgment, wrath and Hell than their ‘Novus Ordo’ brethren, simply because post-conciliar priests, whatever the readings of the day may be, tend to avoid those topics like the plague in their bland, vacuous, and politically correct homilies.” (link)

Continue reading “‘Damnation Don’t Slumber’”

Lenten Reflections on Scripture: A Wedding in Galilee

WaterwineAs the story of the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11) is one of the Luminous mysteries, many of us have contemplated the account of Jesus’ first miracle many times. The narrative is simple and easy to understand: Jesus begins to show his “signs” in order to prove who he is. Homilies I’ve heard on this text will often focus on Mary’s role here as the initiator of Christ’s first miracle and expound on that role in the life and ministry of her Son.

However, I’ve always been perplexed by the exchange between Jesus and Mary. She comes to Jesus and reports that the wine had run out. He answers, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary does not respond to Him, but addresses the waiters, “Do whatever he tells you.” It’s the objectionable language of Jesus, and Mary’s non-response that I have trouble understanding.

One thing I will often do to help me fully grasp a gospel narrative is to use my imagination to picture the scene as if I was part of it. I enjoy theater and did a lot of acting in college which helps. I once heard a lecture by actor Michael York on performing Shakespeare. He noted that Shakespeare did not provide stage directions and never really cared how a play or a character was interpreted; the director or actor could do whatever they wanted. This is perhaps why his plays work in many different settings. Gospel narratives can be similar in that the text can be lacking in detail, as well as the fact that the Greek manuscripts had no punctuation, leaving it to the interpreter to picture the scene and punctuate the text. Continue reading “Lenten Reflections on Scripture: A Wedding in Galilee”