+St. Pius I+
We modern-day Magdalenes and St. Johns, who witnessed the Church in Her death throes in our youth, now watch helplessly as Our Lord’s Mystical Body, entrusted to His Mother, fights for its very existence. For are we not held in the crossing of her arms, just as His physical Body was held, as she promised Juan Diego at Tepeyac Hill? And like the Magdalene, have we not followed Our Lord to his tomb, there to discover the sleeping Roman soldiers set to guard it, soldiers who can only represent the useless attempts of earthly principalities and powers to interfere with the designs of God, the fulfillment of prophecy? And the angel who told us He was risen, was it not perhaps St. Michael, guardian of the Church and the papacy, who in the end shall stand and fight for the people of God?
How significant that when Mary Magdalene saw the empty tomb she immediately said, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” Who else is “they” but the Jews and their Sanhedrin, who the Holy Women and the Apostles suspected would steal Our Lord’s Body to prevent its veneration? Did they indeed steal it? No, and Catholics today should not blame them either for the passion and death of the Church. Christ Himself vacated the tomb, and left his burial cloth draped across His would-be final resting place. That winding sheet is the symbol not only of his Divinity and Infinity but is proof as well of the fact that His Church, like its Divine Founder, cannot perish or be contained for long in any earthly tomb. Members of Christ’s Mystical Body yet exist and will exist until the end of time. We exist in those three symbolic days that the early Christians believed Jesus to be gone forever, not realizing He had promised to rise again. But is it Christ Himself who shall be the one to come and restore the Church in Heaven, or will the Church be revived for a time on earth?
Where was Christ at the time the tomb was found empty? He was right there with the Holy Women, and they did not even know it. He was disguised as a gardener, hidden from them, and had undergone that spiritual transformation that prompted Him to gently warn Mary Magdalene not to touch Him, because He had not yet ascended to His Father in Heaven. Was this a prefigure of the fact that the Church in Her passion and death, following Her resurrection and subsequent triumph over that death, would exist, but not as She had formerly? Would exist in a miraculous way, just as the Resurrection was miraculous, guided by the Holy Ghost and comforted by Our Lady? Christ established the papacy before his death, but he did not give St. Peter the power of Divine jurisdiction until after His Resurrection. Christ was the Head of His Church while on earth, and that Church could not have two heads. He designated Peter as the head meant to succeed Him, but he did not grant Him the keys until shortly before the Ascension. The doctrine of the papacy and its two keys is alive and will always exist; but those keys will not be given to another pope unless and until the Church is restored.
In the meantime, Christ is Head of the Church, just as He was even after His death but before the Resurrection. He had made the apostles priests and bishops and had instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; He had made Peter his designated successor. But did St. Peter have the power to act, did the Apostles say Mass and distribute the Sacraments during those three days? No; they could not have done so, at least for the faithful publicly, because they had not yet received jurisdiction; their commission from Christ. This they received from Our Lord shortly before his Ascension, just as Peter received the power to exercise his commission. If Christ’s passion and death was the template for the passion of His Mystical Body, as certain spiritual writers claim, then why aren’t those who are insisting they must attend Mass and receive the Sacraments today drawing out this analogy?
There is no doubt that we are indeed enduring this mystical passion, but why is there no appreciation of the mystical significance of our current situation? One explanation, surely, is that the interior life is absent in so many today. No one “considers in the heart.” All of Holy Scripture carries a meaning deeper than many realize; St. Jerome tells us that every word of the Scriptures is rich in symbolic application. If we all are to fill up what is wanting to Christ’s Passion in our own lives, won’t that filling up follow the pattern of the Master in every particular? We are speaking of actual Church doctrine in referring to the exercise of jurisdiction and the establishment of the papacy. Certainly in this, especially, the plight of the faithful would comply in every detail.
So until the Ascension, there was no Mass and no Sacraments. At the Ascension Christ rises to rejoin His Father, but remains the invisible Head of the Church. In Apocalypse 12 we discover that the woman in labor to give birth is Our Lady, who delivered Our Lord to the world, to be pursued by the evil dragon as her children are pursued today. But the particular child in Apoc. 12, “taken up to God and His throne” cannot be Christ, since he is “taken up.” It must be a human being then, not a Divine being, for Christ ascended to the Father by His own power and was not “taken up.” Some interpret this as a suspension of the functionality of the juridic Church on earth with Christ only heading the Church for a time. We are ripe for punishment, not favors, but none can believe God would ever be so “cruel.” They entirely dismiss the true idea of the very Sacrifice He offered for us in opening the gates of Heaven: it is suffering and deprivation that satisfies the Divine vengeance and opens the sluice gates of Divine mercy, not consolations and rewards.
If Christ’s death on the Cross is fraught with signs in the sun, moon and stars, as it was, then the climax of the death of His Mystical Body also will be fraught with the same. Could the three days in the tomb signify the oft-predicted three days of darkness? Some believe that it could. And then Christ’s Resurrection could only prefigure the resurrection of His Church on earth. And when she emerges from the tomb, She will be transformed in some appreciable way, purified by Her sufferings and sanctified by Her Divine founder. Christ will once again commission Her Popes and bishops, if not personally then by other means. When He departs, the Holy Ghost will arrive to assist in the re-evangelization of the world.
At least that is what many so ardently believe, and as mentioned in our last blog, it is a possibility. But as time rolls inexorably onward, it appears to be a seemingly remote one. Christ’s presence on earth for only 40 days following the Resurrection should tell us something: the Church, if indeed She is to be restored before the Second Coming, will remain on earth only briefly, mirroring the life of Our Lord. Those longing for this triumph and glorious restoration must understand that nowhere is it promised to us save by private revelations. In the opinion of some it is at least suggested in Scripture. But there is no guarantee that it will occur and indeed, given the way those pretending to represent Our Lord and His true Church have betrayed Him, drawing to themselves those who should be his most loyal subjects, there is no basis for supposing that we have merited such a grace from the hands of God. We find the following words in the book of Daniel regarding the workings of Antichrist: “And strength was given to him against the continual sacrifice because of sins, and truth shall be cast down on the ground… (Dan. 8:12).” And again, we read in Dan. 9:5: “We have done wickedly and revolted.”
Do those calling themselves true Catholics have any real conception of what has happened here? Do they have the slightest idea of the enormity of their sins and the offense God has taken because of them? Sacrilege was punished in the early Church with the severest form of public penance. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “Real sacrilege is the irreverent treatment of sacred things as distinguished from places and persons. This can happen first of all by the administration or reception of the sacraments (or in the case of the Holy Eucharist by celebration) in the state of mortal sin, as also by advertently doing any of those things invalidly… Sometimes the guilt of sacrilege may be incurred by omitting what is required for the proper administration of the sacraments or celebration of the sacrifice, as for example, if one were to say Mass without the sacred vestments.” Origen tells us our lot in the Latter Days will be worse than that of the Jews, and Bossuet says that seeing how severely God punished the Jews for so many centuries, we should tremble when St. Paul warns us on the part of God that our ingratitude will bring down a similar punishment.
But all believe they shall receive a reward on earth, a time of peace, without any suffering or effort, minus any sacrifice of their own will in obedience to God’s law. They do not stop to think that the Final Judgment, as terrifying for sinners as it is, would bring us to Heaven where we could worship Christ forever around His eternal altar or to Purgatory where at least we would have hope of attaining eventually to this worship. Is not this infinitely better than any earthly peace? The triumph of the Church on earth is a most wonderful and worthy event to hope for, and we must hope for it, but we must not let the representations of this event so blind us that we lose sight of God’s ultimate plan for His creation, which may be nothing like what we imagine. Because if we expect the triumph must occur in a certain way before the Last Judgment and in His infinite wisdom Our Lord determines that it will occur in some other way, or perhaps not at all, then certainly what He warned us against — that He will come as a thief in the night — will be our fate. We must expect nothing and be ready for anything.
Remember the Jews who believed the Messiah would come as a mighty earthly king and vindicate them? It reminds a person of the belief that a grand restoration of the Church and confounding of her enemies in the eyes of all will take place — a visible vindication. St. Augustine wrote, Fr. P. Huchede tells us in his History of Antichrist, that “The events pertaining to the end of the world will happen in the manner they have been foretold, but as to their accidental circumstances, God alone knows the order in which they will take place. He has revealed nothing explicitly on this point and consequently our knowledge of them is confined to mere conjecture. Experience alone will put us in possession of the desired information.” Our experience tells us that many have been greatly mistaken about the length of Antichrist’s reign, the coming of the two witnesses, the identity of he who withholdeth, the state of the Church during this time period and many other details. Predictions about Antichrist and his exploits were all taken literally and were blown up entirely out of any reasonable proportion. This is what has led so many to believe that Antichrist has not yet come, and the Mass has not ceased.
Traditionalist ideas of entitlement to spiritual goods against God’s Holy will and their followers’ desensitization to all things sacred and truly holy amounts to presumption and resisting the known truth, the sin against the Holy Ghost which will not be forgiven if it persists until death. If only they would do penance as those inhabitants of Nineveh and Tyre did, they could hope for a stay of execution, but this this seems entirely foreign to them. Therefore, it is not inappropriate for anyone to say, seeing the world as it is today: “But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand… Watch ye therefore, praying at all times that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that are to come and to stand before the Son of man (Luke 21: 28,36).”