RELIGION, NATION, MARRIAGE: THE LOYALTIES OF MEN
PRAY, WORK, STUDY, PROTECT: THE DUTIES OF MEN


Saturday, April 30, 2022

Religion, Nations, and Geopolitical Review: SATURDAY, APRIL 30

by A. Joseph Lynch

I. POPE FRANCIS AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

CLERICALIZED PAGANS: Pope Francis has a way with words, and his recent description for worldly priests - clericalized pagans - is spot on. 


II. AMERICAN POLITICS

MADELINE ALBRIGHT (1937-2022): Madeline Albright, who helped destroy the office of the US Secretary of State, has died. Despite this glowing article, we must not forget that Albright helped push America down the path the led to war in Ukraine by bringing about the betrayal of Russia and the expansion of NATO. Her legacy will forever cast a sad shadow upon the office she held and upon the ultimate failure of US foreign policy.

MUSK BUYS TWITTER: Twitter has accepted the offer of billionaire and free speech advocate, Elon Musk, to buy out Twitter. We expect him to bring some sanity - and perhaps Donald Trump - to the troubled platform, especially as he calls out the extreme Left for taking over Twitter and out American institutions. 

US NEARING RECESSION: While the Russian economy grew in the first quarter of 2022, the US economy has officially contracted. And as Biden sends part of the US strategic oil reserves to Europe, we expect higher gas prices to hit, inflation to rise, and a recession on the horizon.

A PENCE FOR GOVERNOR: Cain Pence, the son of the late, great Dr. David Pence, is running for Minnesota Governor. After suffering two strokes following his coronavirus vaccination, Cain has been rehabilitating and now plans to run as an independent. We suggest you watch his video, visit his website, and support his run.


III. THE NATIONS

MACRON DEFEATS LE PEN: French President Macron soundly defeated the "far right" candidate, Marine Le Pen in last weekend's presidential elections. While we have no love for Macron, we've never been fans of Le Pen here at AoA. Despite the "far right" adjective, Le Pen appears to be a pro-abortion, anti-religious, gay marriage-supporting atheist whose only "conservatives" attribute is a hatred for Muslims. France is facing crisis after crisis and Le Pen's focus is on banning veils. We hope France has a better conservative candidate for 2027.

SAUDI AMBASSADOR INSULT: A recent article argues that the new US ambassador to Saudi Arabia is likely to insult MBS as US-Saudi tensions hit a new low. Some believe the US might even go to war with the Saudis - not over its promotion of Wahhabi terror but over - you guessed it - oil. The US has found itself in a real pickle over Ukraine, and it appears a war of some sort is exactly what the American are looking for.

FOOD CRISIS COMING: ZeroHedge is reporting a looming crop crisis in America as cold and rain/snow are keeping much of the northern midwest from planting crops. Combine this with the coming crop shortfall in Ukraine and Russia's refusal to sell agricultural goods - like fertilizer - to "unfriendly" countries, and you have the makings for a disaster in the fall. 

IS THE UKRAINE WAR SPREADING? We may be living in the shadow of those years between teh two world wars. It appears as though Poland is preparing to enter western Ukraine in an attempt to regain the lands it held from 1919-1939. Meanwhile Ukraine and Romania might join forces to invade Moldova - a territory part of Romania from - you guessed it - 1919-1939. Ukraine for its part wants not Moldova but the massive arms warehouse in Transnistria, an ethnically Russian strip of land that borders Ukraine. See the recent video from Religion, Sex, and Politics for more on a looming Moldova invasion.

RUSSIA'S NEW MISSILE: Russia recently tested its new Sarmat ICBM - a very, very impressive missile system. Here are ten facts you need to know about it.


IV. CULTURE OF LIFE, CULTURE OF PROTECTION

BIG TECH, MSM SHAKE UP: RINO-supporting Chris Wallace is out of a job as CNN+ collapsed within a month of its launch. Netflix is down billions. Disney is in huge trouble, losing $34 billion in its ill-advised fight with Florida over its promotion of the gay agenda. Meanwhile Twitter has been bought by free speech advocate and billionaire, Elon Musk.

WHOSE CHILDREN? Joe Biden repeated the leftist view of child indoctrination through public schools as he stated a child at school is the child of the community and the teacher - not his parent's child

"MARIJUANA" BANNED: No not the drug, the word. Washington State now says the word "marijuana" is - you guessed it - racist. We live in clownworld.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD ON DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY: “On that day are open all the divine floodgates through which graces flow"

[first published April 27, 2014]


Those are the words of Our Lord to Saint Faustina.

An entry from her Polish diary:
“Strangely, all things came about just as the Lord had requested. In fact, it was on the first Sunday after Easter [April 1935] that the image was publicly honored by crowds of people for the first time. For three days it was exposed and received public veneration.”   (#89)

Three years later she died in Krakow at the age of 33. The Church's  emphasis on the Octave of Easter that Christ's Passion is a manifestation of the mercy of The Father is not a peculiar quirk of a Polish nun made famous by a Polish Pope. The mystic nun did not invent this day. The liturgical readings were never changed. All octaves are resonating contemplations of the prior feast. That's been true since eight day circumcision established the spiritual communal identity of the Jewish male.   It is true on the Octave of Pentecost when we contemplate the eternal interpersonal communion of the Trinity which subsumes humans in the Church. Christ admonished Phillip that seeing Him clearly was "seeing the Father".  St Faustina needed no admonishing. She saw clearly the Father acting in her  contemplation of the Cross. This Octave is a great celebration of the Fatherhood of God. (This becomes especially clear  in reading St John Paul II on Dives in Misericordia. Here is a good explanation of his subsequent naming the Octave of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday)

                                                      

The image of Divine Mercy is the red and white lights of Mercy from our incarnate Lord. It is the blood and water that flowed from his side at Calvary, when like the first Adam he allowed the new Eve of the Church to come from his side. The water and blood are Baptism and the Eucharist, by which men are incorporated into the Body of Christ.

The Gospel on this Octave of Easter recounts the first act which Christ did on Easter evening. In a locked upper room, He transmitted the Father's  Divine Mercy in a sacramental form that would resonate through the ages.  He deliberately set aside the Apostles as He breathed the Spirit on them to empower them to forgive sins as He had done. He instituted the sacrament of mercy (reconciliation/confession) and just as the saving blood and water could only come from his side, forgiveness of sins is mediated only through His Apostolic priesthood. This part of today's Gospel reading almost always gives way to the second story about Thomas and his reluctance to believe without seeing and touching. (The Thomas episode happened eight days later on the Octave Sunday) Because his experience of doubting is such a universal one, that episode is almost always the topic of Catholic and Protestant homilies on this day. But on Divine Mercy Sunday -- in this special papal year of Divine Mercy -- let us concentrate on the first episode of today's Gospel.  This is the Christian Day of Atonement because there is a new designated Holy of Holies where every Christian through the ages can come to meet God face to face and beg forgiveness. The Divine Mercy of the Father is manifested in Christ and works through a sacramental order. Man is rescued from Satan in Baptism, confirmed in the Spirit by a bishop, forgiven of sins by a priest in confession, and  integrated into the salvific Body of Christ in the Mass. Mercy overflows but it comes from a narrow spigot, a very particular and well-formed font: the side of Christ, the Apostolic Church, the reality of the sacraments.
                                               


UPDATE: It's remarkable, but both Faustina and Hans Urs von Balthasar were born in the month of August 1905.  They certainly came to different views of Hell's existence!  Another excerpt from Faustina's diary:
“Today, I was led by an Angel to the chasms of hell. It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is …  I, sister Faustina, by the order of God, have visited the abysses of hell so that I might tell souls about it and testify to its existence. I cannot speak about it now; but I have received a command from God to leave it in writing. The devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God. What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell.” 
              
Good Pope John, son of the soil of northern Italy, was canonized today (along with the Polish man in full, John Paul). Angelo Roncalli's sharecropper parents had 13 children. An army chaplain in the First World War, Angelo later served in Bulgaria, Turkey, and France as a Vatican diplomat.


Here is Faustina (the first saint of the 'Great Jubilee' of 2000) on the power of the Eucharist:

"All the good that is in me is due to Holy Communion... Herein lies the whole secret of my sanctity... One thing alone sustains me, and that is Holy Communion. From it I draw all my strength; in it is all my comfort... Jesus concealed in the Host is everything to me... I would not know how to give glory to God if I did not have the Eucharist in my heart... O living Host, my one and only strength, fountain of love and mercy, embrace the whole world, and fortify faint souls. O blessed be the instant and the moment when Jesus left us His most merciful Heart!"




Saturday, April 23, 2022

Religion, Nations, and Geopolitical Review: SATURDAY, APRIL 23

by A. Joseph Lynch

I. POPE FRANCIS AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

POPE FRANCIS ON UKRAINE: Although Pope Francis won't cite Russia by name, he all but threw Russia and Putin under the bus in recent comments. The pope is sadly ill-informed (his kissing a Ukrainian Nazi flag was a particularly sad moment) in regards to the situation in Ukraine over the past eight years and how Russia has done everything it could to prevent war. If Francis wanted to make a difference, he would be blasting Ukraine and its "Western" allies for not following the Minsk Agreement. And if he wanted the war to end, Francis should be calling for Ukraine's surrender.

CLOSING CHURCHES: While Russia hit a rate of opening three new churches each day, earlier this year the UK reported the closure of over 400 churches in a decade. The atheist West "lives" as a parasite on its Christian civilizational roots. The closure of churches is a kind of countdown clock to civilizational suicide. This is why Russia fights. It does not want to be re-conquered by the death cults of the atheist West. While off base on Russia, Francis is at least in tune to the self-destructive acts in Western Europe, placing blame on "identity" and "diversity" as components of its suicidal activity.

DISGRACED BISHOP: Lurid details about the depraved sex life of an Argentine bishop have emerged in his trial. What makes the case all the more shocking is that this bishop is from Pope Francis' backyard in Argentina. And to add scandal upon scandal, a Catholic cardinal in Luxembourg now calls for a change to the Church's moral teaching on sexuality. Like the rest of the atheist West, cardinals such as these seek to plunge the entire Church onto the same suicidal path already set down by those who plan to lead the atheist West to complete ruin.

VIGANO ON UKRAINE: We at AoA have been more than skeptical of Archbishop Vigano over the years, but his statement on Ukraine is rather spot on and worth the read.

HOLDING BACK THE ANTICHRIST: Bold words from Russia's Patriarch Kirill - Russia is holding back the emergence of the anti-Christ. We couldn't agree more. Too bad Pope Francis refuses to meet the Patriarch for some real religious dialogue on a subject right up Francis' alley. 


II. AMERICAN POLITICS

US QUICK WITH INTEL: The US knows full well that Ukraine cannot win a war with Russia - so it plays a different game: a PR game. Part of the information war being waged is through the selective release of intelligence used to sway the public concerning Russia. An unsurprising to none, it turns out the US will release even sketchy of all-out bad intel if it will help shape public support for Ukraine.

KENNAN REJECTED NATO EXPANSION: George Kennan was the father of our containment strategy during the Cold War. He also vehemently opposed the expansion of NATO - something worth considering anew in light of recent events in Ukraine. And as this viral clip reveals, at one point in time Joe Biden agreed with him (of course this is the same Biden who claimed to be behind the bombing of Serbia in 1999).

MOCKING BIDEN: Biden is such a walking disaster that even the Saudis are mocking him. Watch the parody video. But don't worry, Harris is ready to go should Biden step down. She reminded us she's up to the challenge by telling us about her daily playing of Wordle


III. THE NATIONS

END OF THE LIBERAL WORLD ORDER: The war in Ukraine will not only bring down a corrupt nation in eastern Europe, but it will also bring about the collapse of the atheist West. In our hubris we hope to turn Ukraine into Russia's modern Afghanistan, in the end it will be our own undoing. According to Russia's Lavrov, the war in Ukraine is meant to end the US attempt at world domination.

FORMING ALLIANCES: While the atheist West hoped to replace Russian natural gas with gas from Azerbaijan, Russia acted five steps ahead of them by signing an alliance between it and Azerbaijan just before war broke out. Meanwhile China entered into a security arrangement with the Solomon Islands - a move that will keep US bombers far away from China's shores. It's clear that Russia and China are playing to win while we in the atheist West continue to pridefully rest on our laurels of thirty years ago. The atheist West is even going so far as to threaten India. So while Russia and China are building bridges, the atheist West is burning them.

RUSSIS IS WINNING: The sanctions on Russia have all but backfired. Despite illegally seizing upwards of a third to a half billion dollars of Russia's central bank funds, Russia's ruble has stabilized and even returned to its pre-war value. What's more, cutting off Russia from dollars and euros means that Russia is beginning to sell its vast commodities in rubles (or currencies like China's Yuan) - and it is fast becoming a commodity super power that could leave the artificial financial system of the atheist West in collapse (especially as it's encouraging BRIC nations to forge new paths apart from the athiest West). Worse still, Russia may cut off the atheist West from its agricultural products - likely to send food prices soring as key staples go missing from food shelves.

PUTIN'S SPIRITUAL DESTINY: Putin has a spiritual destiny tied to Christianity and he's using his role as Russia's leader to fulfill his nation's role in the realm of faith. 

UKRAINE'S WAR CRIMES: The MSM tells us only about alleged Russian war crimes while offering no independent verification of such alleged crimes. Meanwhile Ukraine appears to be behind the Bucha massacre, and the rocket attacks on civilians in the Donbas. Meanwhile one Ukrainian doctor claims he instructed his workers to castrate injured Russian POWs. And sadly that's one of the nicer things we've seen from Ukrainians concerning the treatment of Russian POWs (and sadly civilians, too). Even the NY Times weighed in on Ukraine's crimes.

UKRAINIAN WMD'S: Russia has revealed the existence of over two dozen Ukrainian bioweapon labs run by the Ukrainian military and funded by the US. Although the US is denying that the sites have any WMDs, the WHO essentially told Ukraine to destroy the evidence. More from RT News. And we can't forget the Hunter Biden connection (and here's another piece on Biden from South Front).

EX-KAZAKH LEADER'S FORTUNE: Nursultan Nazarbayev - the former leader of Kazakhstan who appeared involved in a recent coup attempt - amassed a fortune for himself with his funds hosted in... Great Britain. It is all but clear that the UK played a major role in bankrolling the ex-Kazakh leader and in assisting him as he attempted to re-take power, likely in an effort to create an anti-Russian state on Russia's longest border country. Sadly it appeared the US successfully did something similar in Pakistan by helping remove a populist leader and replacing him with a pro-Western leader.

SOUTH KOREA ELECTS A HARDLINER: South Korea has elected a new president, but sadly this president is a hardliner who seeks confrontation with the North rather than peace. Not a good sign given the situation in Ukraine.

ORBAN WINS! The globalists threw everything they had to defeat Viktor Orban in Hungary. They even unified all the political parties into one in hopes of defeating Orban's party. Yet Orban won in a landslide! Sadly the EU is now placing Hungary on a sanctions escalator. How long will Hungary remain in the EU? Time will tell.

WORLD'S MILITARIES MAPPED: Check out this map that visually displays the world's militaries.


IV. CULTURE OF LIFE, CULTURE OF PROTECTION

BLACK NATIONALIST TERROR: Race or ethnic-based nationalism is a non-starter in multi-racial and multi-ethnic nations. We're seeing it now in Ukraine as racist neo-Nazis seek to dominate the nation - and sadly we got another terrible taste of it here in the US as a Black Nationalist attacked people in the New York subway system.

SEAN PENN ON MASCULINITY: Like Pope Francis, Sean Penn gets Ukraine dead wrong. He did, however, recently make some surprisingly good comments on the rise of transgenderism: ''There are a lot of, I think, cowardly genes that lead to people surrendering their jeans and putting on a skirt." When masculinity recedes, practices like transgenderism rises. It also explains the supposed news that 7.1% of Americans belong to the LGBTQIA+ movement. It's the suicidal zeitgeist that will only lead to our self-destruction. 

FEMALE F-35 PILOT... CRASHES: To quote the article, "The world's first female pilot, crashed an F-35 fighter on her first try." The US military was once a force to be reckoned with - now it is the place of social engineering and identitarianism. That's why the head of the US military told Congress he read not Sun Tzu but books on white rage.

BIDEN'S PICK LOVES "PUPPY PLAY": Joe Biden continued the descent into clown world as his recent hire for the Department of Energy openly speaks of his sexually perverse love of "puppy play" - dressing in drag while engaging in sex acts with men dressed as dogs. Again, this is why Russia is fighting to protect itself from the kinds of deviancy not only allowed but promoted in the atheist West. The atheist West is circling the drain and Russia does not want to go down with it.

SCOUTING IN DECLINE: The Boy Scouts once occupied a place of great honor and esteem in our country. It taught young men how to become self-sufficient and resourceful while training them to be confident leaders in our nation. In recent years the Boy Scouts decided to drop the "Boy" and allow in the girls. The results were predictable. Just as in churches where boys and girls serve in Mass, the boys have dropped out. the NY Times reports that the former Boy Scouts have lost half their numbers since 2019. Letting in the girls might seem like a winner on paper, but it turns out that boys and girls need separation when it comes to maturation and socialization.  

ARRESTED FOR QUOTING THE BIBLE: A member of parliament has been arrested for quoting the Bible in connection to the LBGTQIA+ movement. No we're not talking about the USSR, we're talking about Finland. Finland is set to seek membership in NATO and fully pledge itself to the death cult we call the atheist West. It's an act that will all but consummate it's commitment to civilizational suicide. If only the nations of the atheist West could wake up to the self-destructive acts they are doing to themselves. 

UKRAINE WAR ABOUT LGBTQIA+? The UK supports Ukraine because it hates Russia. It has a long geopolitical history, yet now it appears the UK hates Russia because of its Christian faith and support for traditional morality. Case in point: the head of MI6 recently framed the war in Ukraine in terms of supporting the LGBTQIA+ movement. Someone should probably remind him that the Ukrainian government is will not allow men who "identify" as women to leave the country and will instead send them to the front lines. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

EASTER: A nation delivered from slavery; A species restored to life

"Father, You once saved a single nation from slavery and now you offer that salvation to all through baptism. May the peoples of the world become true sons of Abraham and prove worthy of the heritage of Israel. We ask this through Christ our Lord." 
(Easter Sunday Office)

From an Easter sermon of Saint John Chrysostom (d. 407):
"Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord.  You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today.  The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet.  The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry.  All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness.

"Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh."
Easter in Sri Lanka - 2019. The island nation southeast of India has 22 million people, 70% Buddhist, 13% Hindu, 10% Muslim 7% Christian. Over 250 Christians are dead in eight coordinated explosions injuring 400 more. Three churches and several luxury hotels were the Easter Sunday targets. UPDATE Background of inter religious violence-good interview.  The Sunni Muslim group responsible.    ISIS  makes their claim. Muslim leaders warned officials about jihad preacher.





Easter in Jerusalem from a 2017 article by a Palestinian journalist:

Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre

"The dwindling Palestinian Christian population celebrated Palm Sunday in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and even in Gaza. Eastern and Western Christian calendars were united this year, bringing larger numbers to the celebrations than usual. Israel again this year issued permits for Palestinian Christians from nearby Bethlehem and Ramallah to enter Jerusalem to celebrate the Easter festivities. 
"This season witnessed an increase in Egyptian Coptic pilgrims to Jerusalem. Air Sinai, which used to run four flights a week, increased them to 12, bringing 547 pilgrims to participate in the Easter celebrations. Press reports said that the number of pilgrims participating in Palm Sunday celebrations this year was more than double last year. Some 30,000 are reported to have participated, compared to 12,000 last year. Clergymen in Jerusalem say that the main reason for the increase is that Palm Sunday this year was celebrated on the same day by Christians who belong to the Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical churches. In Gaza, Orthodox Bishop Alexas led the tiny Christian Palestinian congregation in celebrating the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem one week before his crucifixion. The traditional Palm Sunday celebrations follow the same route that Jesus took some 2,000 years ago, starting from the Mount of Olives neighbourhood of Beit Ania, down past the Church of Gethsemane and up to the old city via the Lion Gate. Boy scouts from various local Palestinian Christian churches usually participate in the pageantry, along with believers, church leaders, tourists and lay persons. Palm Sunday marchers on the traditional path carry branches of palm trees and sing hymns as they remember the days leading to Easter Sunday. Easter in Jerusalem is quite special; various churches and religious denominations hold events, church services and colorful pageants throughout the Passion Week.Greek and Cypriot pilgrims who often stay with local Palestinian Christians participate in these events leading to the Easter morning when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus..."
President Trump's first Easter and Passover message as president.


                               The Law of Life, The Human Species, and Easter

“... the virgin birth, the incarnation, the resurrection... are the true laws of the flesh and the physical. Death, decay, destruction are the suspension of those laws... [It] would never have occurred to human consciousness to conceive of purity if we were not to look forward to a resurrection of the body, which will be flesh and spirit united in peace, in the way they were in Christ. The resurrection of Christ seems the high point in the law of nature.”                                             (Flannery O'Connor)

Saturday, April 16, 2022

HOLY SATURDAY: Christ the Conqueror of Hell

[first published April 19, 2014]


by David Pence                  




Holy Saturday always seems the most mysterious day of the Church calendar. We are in between two vivid earthly scenes. The first is depicted in the last three Stations of the Cross: Christ’s death, His return to His mother’s arms, and His burial. The second event is on Sunday as eyewitnesses register their stunning reports. Christ’s last words commending his spirit to the Father, and pronouncing his suffering now consummated, are deeply comforting after a night and a day of torture. But what happened from the time of his death to the sighting on Easter morning?

When David went to slay Goliath, he rejected the sword of Saul. He brought five smooth stones – and trust in the Living God –  to his contest. When Christ went to his agony he ordered the sword of Peter back in the scabbard; and bore five open wounds, and trust in His Father, to the Cross.

David brought back the head of his foe to Jerusalem, and many say Golgotha is called the place of a very particular skull (the Philistine giant's). It sits over a grave as well: Adam’s. Christ, too, decapitated his foe – the Prince of this world – no longer Master and now deprived of his sting of death. David’s Lord delivered Adam, Abraham, and a host of others from the prison of death on this day. In the Eastern Church the triumph of the resurrection is depicted as the liberation of the captives. The resurrection of Christ delivers men from the bondage of Satan and initiates the ‘theosis’ of men. The liberated take their place in the Body of Christ, Who will soon be at the right hand of the Father. Finally, we will see man in his proper place.

The Dragon, meanwhile, mortally wounded – and stunned by the loss of so many souls – plots revenge against the new apostolic church which is sent out to exorcise demons, forgive sins, and baptize the nations into a worshipful fighting formation that will ultimately separate Satan from the land of the living.

Holy Saturday emits the same mysterious scent as the time between the Creation/Fall events of the Angels, and the first manifestation of matter. Pivotal angelic contests, transmitted in the shared patristic traditions of the Orthodox and Catholics, flesh out the Biblical narrative. These are not ancillary optional tales of the olden days. Only a drama employing the full cast of divine, angelic, and human characters can hope to present the cosmic scope of these high holy days of our liturgical life.  We learn about these characters as much from liturgical and patristic sources as from Scripture. This fuller view reminds us not to shrink the glory of this upcoming Octave of Easter to the return of "our friend Jesus" as an individual man who beat the Grim Reaper. Christ slew death and rises from the depths of a netherworld where he triumphed in a terrific battle. This is as much Bastille Day as a replay of Lazarus!

The Risen Christ is truly different. He now incorporates thousands of the liberated in His perfecting Body. He has freed our father Adam, and demonstrated the original mission of man: to take back from Satan his unlawful dominion on earth. No wonder our Lord looked so different -- even to those who knew Him best.



UPDATE:  Here are some further links on the subject. Probably the most compelling of all reflections on Holy Saturday is included in the Church's office of readings for this day. Read here an anonymous and ancient homily about our Lord’s harrowing of hell.

This 2002 sermon delivered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a learned historical contrast of the Eastern and Western traditions on the meaning of this day and its implications for a time of decision after death for all men. Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev is one of the leading lights of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Also a post by Taylor Marshall, which explains the bizarre teaching of the late Hans Urs von Balthasar; and an exchange in 'First Things'  between a critic and a priestly defender of the Swiss theologian.

This short video on the two Adams is a beautiful refection on the harrowing of Hell and the meaning of Holy Saturday. It is a stunning audiovisual using the complete text of the ancient homily referenced above from the Church's office of readings for today. This is an explanation of the icon above.

Friday, April 15, 2022

GOOD FRIDAY: the Anthropology of Sacrifice

[first published April 18, 2014]


by David Pence

"Ecce Homo" (1881)
by St. Albert Chmielowski

Lord has been pleased to crush him with suffering."  (Isaiah 53)

On this Good Friday let us renew an old custom of speaking no words, except those of the liturgy or communal prayer during the three hours of Christ’s hanging on the cross from noon to three o'clock. (If we define the crucifixion as His taking up the cross and the journey up Calvary commemorated in the stations, the ordeal began at 9am), If ever there was a day that our Christian nation should declare as holy, it should be this day of the ultimate sacrifice.

Anthropologists say there are three elements to every sacrifice:

 1) a setting aside
 2) a sacred killing
 3) a communion

In many animal sacrifices a setting aside of some specially designated animal, a killing of the animal often by a set aside priest is followed by some portion of the animal being eaten as a sign of union between those who eat and the gods. In Christ’s sacrifice we see the setting aside of the one perfect Victim -- the Anointed One (Christos). We hear him cry out: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" And He is killed.

As we leave that haunted hill (where some say David buried the skull of Goliath and others call the Tomb of Adam) we read the rest of the words of Psalm 22 which Jesus invoked. After many verses depicting the numbering of his bones and the casting of lots for his garments, we hear that the innocent victim “will proclaim your name in the assembly,” that “all the ends of the earth will worship you,” and that “deliverance is brought to a people yet unborn.” When we read the “forsaken verse” in the context of the whole Scripture and the practice of the Church, we find our Lord foretelling the Communion that will come from his sacrifice. From his vantage on the cross, our Lord sees the Masses of the future made present at Calvary. From the ends of the earth, God's name is proclaimed in the liturgical assemblies.
                                                         

Moderns hesitate at the language of sacrifice. They would rather tell the story of Christ in the language of nonviolence and the salvation of all. It seems too primitive and bloody a tale. But sacrifice entails separation and killing—a sword that divides and a sword that slays. These must precede Communion. It is part of the Grammar of Sacrifice. Sacrifice ('sacrum facio) means to make holy. Holiness is not so much a statement about morality as one about separateness. We are being offered access to the One Who is Separate. "I am God who art Holy and because I am Holy you shall be Holy." In our prayers and gestures and liturgy, God must be approached as the HOLY ONE who is ultimately separate from all creation because He is the Creator. There is also in this cast of characters an unredeemable Evil One who has spread a pall of death, sickness, and darkness over humanity. In some radical way, man must be separated from the world, the flesh and the devil. All three must be killed for man to enter fully into communion with the God who is Holy.

The cosmos -- which man has only very recently begun to depict accurately -- is revealing to us the reality of election amidst widespread dissipation. Most of matter is heading out into oblivion, and those huge frightening angelic creatures who have been cast out of heaven and now roam the earth seeking the ruin of souls are going to be cast into the isolation of death at the final reckoning. Christ died to restore humans to our original mission and our role as priests, who in the ultimate sacrificial drama are going to participate in the killing of the victim who deserves to be slain. We will join in the exorcism of the Evil One. He was cast out of heaven by Michael. At the death of Christ, he was dethroned from the netherworld. Through the priestly power of the Church from now until the Last Judgment we are participating in casting Him out of our lives into Hell.

Adam was the first set-aside priest who was supposed to cooperate with the Angels in obeying the will of God to cast out Satan and dominate the earth. Out of all matter in the galaxies, some matter on the planet Earth was set aside for life. Out of the soil of life, only Adam was formed by a spiritual soul. Adam failed in his mission, so the new Adam came and died for the sins of humanity. We are now restored to our original mission. Our salvation is not the end of the story. We have been let out of jail to resume the contest that precedes communion. From now on, at the Mass we are at Calvary with the one-time victim who has become the eternal high priest; and the killing is of Satan, sin, self and death itself. The communion is the assembly of the new people foretold in Psalm 22. Those words of Our Lord seemed a cry of despair, but were indeed a promise of the means of our salvation and the restoration of our nature. Christ died on the cross first and foremost to obey the Will of His Father. It is his act of filial piety that returns mankind through our Head to communion with the Father. It is the Atonement. His perfect sacrifice has been done once and for all but we keep bringing those more deserving victims of self, sin and Satan to be killed as well.



Good Friday was predicted:
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up."


And the Eucharist initiating the great separation of the Last Judgment was likewise foretold:
"Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."


"The LORD is king, and he rules the nations... All mortal men will bow down before him."                                    (Psalm 22)          The Cross is a Triumph.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

HOLY THURSDAY: He who cleansed the temple, now cleansed the priesthood so He might dwell among us

[first published April 17, 2014]




An explanation of feet-washing at the birth of the Christian priesthood by Dr. Pence:

On the night before He died, Christ formed the foundation of the Church by a new command of ordered love. This commandment was not the general order that each of us is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  He issued a more particular command to His chosen apostles: to love one another “as I have loved you.”  Christ 'transmitted to the apostles the Kingdom received from His Father' (Pope John Paul II on the Birth of the Church, August 1989).

This newly ordered love of an elected group of men with the power to forgive sins, cast out demons, and heal the sick shapes the sacred fraternity of the priesthood and the Church. This sealed-character relationship with Christ that is fully realized in bishops, and shared by priests and deacons, is the sacred bond from which Christ’s earthly presence in the Eucharist is made real. The Kingdom of God is now present as the new Adam and His sons are incorporated as priests into the communal love of the Trinity.

Just as the Levitical priesthood was born in a bloody battle, so the new priesthood was ordained in a struggle. It was essential that the priestly bond be shaped by the deep love of Father and Son, the filial fraternity of Sons and brothers -- not polluted by incestuous counterfeit or betrayed by avarice for gold or fractured by arrogant pride.  This priestly bond was prepared to receive the 'generation of the Church by Christ's redemptive death' [JP II], as well as the two comings of the Holy Spirit: sealing their power to forgive sins on Easter night, and sweeping them into the public manifestation of their mission on Pentecost Sunday.

Before the priestly prayer was said and the newly ordered love covenant was established, Judas was expelled from the room – discreetly but definitively.  And before that, the necessity to wash the priestly bond clean of the Evil One was demonstrated by Christ in the washing of the feet.   Peter (like so many of his clerical successors today) saw the Lord on his knees as an act of humility and service. He was having none of it. But Jesus corrected him: “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

The washing itself was not an act of self-negation, but an authoritative act by Christ establishing a new priesthood which would sanctify and rule his Church.  Christ’s action was foreshadowed by the priestly consecration when “Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water” (Leviticus 8:6 and Exodus 30:17-21). After Christ entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, one of his first acts was the cleansing of the Temple. On Holy Thursday, He would wash the new priests of the new Temple. This same order of consecration is described in Numbers when Moses first consecrates the altar, and then "takes the Levites from the Israelites and purifies them" with "the water of remission."

Christ’s washing was a casting out of the Evil One who was polluting the collegial body of the new priesthood (“for He knew who should betray Him.”)  Priestly acts of exorcism, healing and forgiveness of sins are spiritual acts of authority -- as was the Lord’s washing of his apostles. Thomas Aquinas saw the command to “do as I have done” in the washing of the feet as a command to laymen to forgive one another's trespasses.  For prelates, Aquinas saw this as an order to sacramentally forgive sins.  Every act of forgiving sins is an expulsion of one Spirit of authority for the sweeter yoke of another.  It takes authority to set the captives free.  Every baptism is an exorcism. The water that lifted the Ark left many others drowned; and the Red Sea which split for the Jews closed on Pharaoh’s army. If Christ had to rid himself of one of his own – numbered among the Twelve – why should his followers be spared the same troubling duty?  “If I your Master washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet.”  This was a priestly purification command, which preceded the Love command. It was a bestowal of authority and the assignment of a duty. The Eastern Liturgy prayer of that night puts it this way: “When Thy glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of their feet before the supper, then the impious Judas was darkened …”

Christians who have no apostolic priesthood can be excused for misinterpreting the foot-washing command as a general ordinance (see Foot-washing Baptists).  English monarchs can be admired as they pass out money to the poor, inspired by the King of kings on His knees (see Maundy money). Many early Christian communities integrated foot-washing as a favored part of Eucharistic liturgy – a sort of kiss of peace with an added touch of humility – (see Saint Ambrose, d. 397). All these practices are understandable.  For Christ was indeed a servant leader. He preached it often; thus, to match His persistent general teaching with that particular iconic moment seems irresistible.

But Jesus personally handed his apostles the Body and Blood, and no one dwells on His being a waiter! Likewise, when he separated his apostles from the power of the Evil One, we shouldn’t over-interpret His bended knee.

The love which will save us from the Evil One is the powerful sacramentally-ordered love of Christ and his purified apostles. Christian love is an ordered love, and the washing of the apostles’ feet manifests the authoritative love of a High Priest instituting a new ordinance.   We must insist that priestly ordination, the power to cast out sin, and the necessity of apostolic fraternal correction which constituted the substance of Christ’s act not be lost in the Zeitgeist.  We are not recounting this story to soothe priestless Protestants or feckless feminists.

The spotless purity of the Marian Church can only be safeguarded by a protective authority ready to cleanse and do battle.  Wherever Christ appears too publicly, He will be attacked.  Saint Joseph had little time to coo with the baby Jesus before He was leading His sacred charges into the dangers of a nighttime flight.  So, before Christ entrusted His presence with the new priesthood, he burnished some of them and expelled others.  The shirking of duty by Peter, the uncertain voice of Thomas, the cowardice of all the others must be confessed, repented, and reformed. The perfidy of Judas had to be washed away and expelled.




"The Lord will wash away the filth of the daughters of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire." (Isaiah 4:4). It was Irenaeus who recalled these words when he beheld the new Moses washing the feet of Aaron and his sons. When Irenaeus reflected on the washing of feet at the Last Supper, he did not see a Christ adding service hours to His resume.  He saw “the Word Himself ‘…washing away the filth of the daughters of Zion,’ when He washed the disciples' feet with His own hands. For He who washed the feet of the disciples sanctified the entire body, and rendered it clean.”
(Irenaeus, Book IV Chapter 22, Against Heresies)

The reintegration of the washing of the feet in the Holy Thursday liturgy is a very recent event (1955). It is not surprising that we are still learning the deep significance of this ancient ritual. It may be that it would be better placed in the morning Chrism Mass centered on the bishop and his priests.  For many, the male-only character of the foot-washing seems an affront – but so is a Church built on a male priesthood, the Real Presence of Christ, and a sacramental form of confession.  The flattened de-sacralized spirit of modernity and the congregationalist mentality of Protestants can make no peace with the authoritative masculine fraternity that Christ instituted on Holy Thursday to maintain His Living Presence among us.  Rather than inviting the ladies and grade-school girls to join in the foot-washing festivities, let us more deeply reflect on what we have received and render a more profound account of this pivotal event in the life of Christ and the Church.



UPDATE: In 2016, Pope Francis allowed the washing of women's feet in this ritual. Because he understands this as a sign of service, he sees no reason to exclude women and in his own practice has included non-Christians as well. This is entirely consistent with the symbol of service interpretation. Our comments when he made the announcement are here.  

Monday, April 11, 2022

Mapping Holy Week


By A. Joseph Lynch

The above map (click to enlarge) depicts the city of Jerusalem as it was at the time of Jesus. Although most of us are familiar with the events of Holy Week (from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday), most have not been introduced to the spatial and geographic dimensions of Holy Week. This is in some ways true even for those who have made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. For example, the walls of the "Old City" today are not the walls that stood 2,000 years ago. The walls from the time of Jesus were destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 and those that stand today were built by the Kurdish Sunni Muslim, Saladin, during the time of the Crusades. Because of this, the location of the Upper Room (site of the Last Supper and Pentecost) is now located outside the Old City walls despite the fact that it was within the walls at the time of Jesus. (To put the Jerusalem  story in the national context, see our Mapping Israel: from Joshua to Jesus.)

On Palm Sunday, Jesus made his way to Jerusalem along the road from Bethany and Jericho, over the Mount of Olives (see the east, or right, side of the map). According to Matthew 21, Jesus rode both an ass and a colt as he made his way over the terrain and into the city via the Golden Gate (see Matthew 21:1-11). Taylor Marshall suspects that Christ rode the ass, more capable of crossing rugged terrain, over the Mount of Olives and the colt as he rode into the city. He sees in the former an image of Israel under the yoke of the Law of Moses and young colt as a sign of the Gentiles to which Christ will send the Church. It is highly likely that Jesus would have passed by the Garden of Gethsemane on his way down the mountain. Luke records that as Jerusalem came into full view, he foresaw its eventual destruction by the Romans and wept over its failure to accept the coming of the Messiah (see Luke 19:41-44). Below is an image the author took of Jerusalem from the church now standing to mark the place of Jesus' weeping.

From the site of which Christ wept over Jerusalem. The gold-topped Dome of the Rock today sits on the place the Temple once stood. Immediately below this picture is the Kidron Valley dividing Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Nearby towards the base of the valley is Gethsemane.
As Jesus crossed the base of the Kidron Valley and approached the Golden Gate at the foot of the Temple Mount, he was met by many proclaiming "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21:9). From here Jesus entered into the Temple where the Synoptic Gospels tell us he overturned the money tables and cleansed the Temple of the those making it a "den of robbers." Some allegorically note that as we prepare to receive the Eucharistic Christ into our bodies - the temples of the Holy Spirit - we proclaim the same words as those at the city gates and await the arrival of the King to cleanse our souls of venial sin through the reception of Holy Communion.

From Palm Sunday we advance to Holy Thursday. The Last Supper took place in the Upper Room, which is named for the guest room that stood above the site of King David's tomb. The site today is revered by both Jews and Christians as the former, segregated by gender, flock to visit the tomb of David while the latter climb the stairs up to the place where the Last Supper and Pentecost took place. The significance of this place to both religions is also why Christians have not turned the site into a church. Nevertheless, this area became the Church's first chancery of sorts as it is where the Apostles originally governed and, just across the street, the place where Mary is said to have entered her Dormition and Assumption. That site is marked today by the Church of the Dormition, visible in the Jerusalem cityscape image above and blown up in the image to the right. Note in the picture that the medieval walls of Jerusalem place the area outside the Old City, but in the time of Christ the walls would have extended much further south.

As Jesus, Peter, James, and John departed from the Upper Room for Gethsemane, they may very well have passed the house of Caiaphas. This house included areas to hold prisoners and it would be here that Jesus would have been taken after his betrayal by Judas. Remains of stairs (see left) from the first century have been found and preserved descending on the north side of Caiaphas' house on a path towards the Kidron Valley and Gethsemane below. A few feet from these stairs is the courtyard where Peter denied Jesus three times. Pilgrims today can visit both sites, and go inside the house of Caiaphas and enter into what scholars believe was the pit-like prison into which Jesus was interred the night of Holy Thursday after his pseudo-trail before the Sanhedrin.

While there is little debate over where Good Friday ended, there is some debate today over exactly where some of the earlier events of Good Friday took place. Crusaders believed that Jesus was taken to the Antonia Fortress located at the northwestern corner of the Temple. The fortress, however, was built to stand over the Temple to keep guard against an potential religiously-induced anti-Herodian or anti-Roman riots among the Jews on Temple grounds. By locating this place as where Jesus went  before Pilate, the crusaders left their mark on the location for pilgrims following the Stations of the Cross within the city. It seems that early Christians - and modern scholars - look to a different location for the trial. On the west side Jerusalem (see map at top) is found both the Praetorium (where Pilate lived) and Herod's Palace. As the Gospels note multiple trials taking place during the day between Herod and Pilate, it seems to make more sense that Jesus was not taken back and forth from one side of town to the other but rather shuttled back and forth from two parts of the same general location. If this is the historical case, it would mean that the path set down by the Crusaders for the Stations of the Cross were inaccurate while the western path used by early Christians was the correct one.

The site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher today marks the place where the Crucifixion and burial of Christ took place. At the time of Christ it would have been located just outside the city walls on the northwest part of Jerusalem. Calvary - or Golgotha, the place of the Skull (of Goliath)  - was the location for public executions. In some traditions this site was the burial place of Adam as well.  The execution sites were near the city gates so travelers and inhabitants would see the punishment for capital crimes. As the site of frequent deaths, it is unsurprising that burial grounds where located nearby. In fact, so close were they to Calvary that the tomb of Jesus is preserved within the same Church that houses Calvary. Within the walls of that Church, the pivotal moments of salvation history took place in which the eternal Son of God won man redemption through His suffering, death, and resurrection. Forty days later - Ascension Thursday - Christ would end his time on earth where this article's story began: the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem. Here Jesus commissioned the Apostles to baptize the nations. From there they went back to the Upper Room with Mary, praying for the next ten days until the Holy Spirit descended upon them on Pentecost Sunday bringing about the corporate body of Christ, the Church.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

HOLY WEEK

[first published April 16, 2014]
                                



"Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss, the sign of friendship and love. The betrayal and crucifixion of Christ carried the ancestral sin to its extreme limits. In these two acts the rebellion against God reached its maximum capacity. The seduction of man in paradise culminated in the death of God in the flesh. To be victorious, evil must quench the light and discredit the good. In the end, however, it shows itself to be a lie, an absurdity and sheer madness. The death and resurrection of Christ rendered evil powerless."                                                                                                       (from an Eastern Orthodox website)


Holy Week is when everything slows down, and truth presses its claims: will I keep settling for a superficial embrace of our Lord, or am I ready to submit to the schooling of the Holy Spirit -- the only One who can teach us how to become "partakers of the divine nature"?

Easter can be either a false kiss or true Communion.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Religion, Nations, and Geopolitical Review: SATURDAY, APRIL 9

THE WEEKLY BRIEF
BY A. JOSEPH LYNCH

WAR IN UKRAINE IN VIDEO
WAR IN UKRAINE UPDATE
ZELENSKY DEFENDS WAR CRIMINALS

We continue our coverage of Ukraine this week with more videos from Religion, Sex, and Politics. Please feel free to watch the videos below to learn more about the events of the week.

Our first video offers our readers an update on Ukraine, specifically examining the battlefield situation, the economic war, and the geopolitics of Asia reorienting to Moscow and Beijing. 



Our second video offers a shocking clip of Ukraine's president, Zelensky, defending the Nazi Azov Battalion after an untold number of civilians state the unit's many war crimes in Mariupol.