WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF CATHOLIC CHURCH?
The history of the Catholic Church is traced by the Catholic Church back to apostolic times and thus covers a period of nearly 2,000 years, making it one of the world’s oldest institutions. The history of the Catholic Church is an integral part of the history of Christianity and of Western civilization.
The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, its spiritual head. Catholic doctrine asserts that it is the continuation of the Church that was founded at the Confession of Peter. It interprets the Confession of Peter as Christ’s designation of Apostle Peter and his successors in Rome to be the temporal head of his Church. Thus, it asserts that the Bishop of Rome has the sole legitimate claim to Petrine authority and the primacy due to the Roman Pontiff. The Catholic Church claims legitimacy of its bishops and priests via the doctrine of apostolic succession and authority of the Pope via the unbroken line of popes, successors to Simon Peter.
The authority of the Apostle Peter and his successors is thus viewed as a continuous history from Jesus Christ. The institution of the papacy as it exists today developed through the centuries. Church tradition records that Peter became the first leader of Christians in the Imperial capital of Rome. The Apostles and many Christians traveled to northern Africa, Asia Minor, Arabia, Greece, and Rome to found the first Christian communities. Christianity spread quickly through the Roman Empire, and by the second century, there were many established bishoprics within the Empire including Northern Africa, France, Italy, Syria, and Asia Minor, and twenty bishoprics outside the empire, mainly in Armenia. Irenaeus (d. 202) defended the apostolic tradition.
In 313, the struggles of the Early Church were lessened by the legalisation of Christianity by the Emperor Constantine I. In 380, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire by the decree of the Emperor, which would persist until the fall of the Western Empire, and later, with the Eastern Roman Empire, until the Fall of Constantinople. During this time (the period of the Seven Ecumenical Councils) there were considered five primary sees according to Eusebius: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, see also Pentarchy.
After the destruction of the western Roman Empire, the church in the West was a major factor in the preservation of classical civilization, establishing monasteries, and sending missionaries to convert the peoples of northern Europe, as far as Ireland in the north. In the East, the Byzantine Empire preserved Orthodoxy, until the massive invasions of Islam in the mid-seventh century. The invasions of Islam devastated three of the five patriarchal sees, capturing Jerusalem first, then Alexandria, and then finally in the mid-eighth century, Antioch.
The whole period of the next five centuries was dominated by the struggle between Christianity and Islam throughout the Mediterranean Basin. The battles of Poitiers and Toulouse preserved the Catholic west, even though Rome itself was ravaged in 850, and Constantinople besieged.
In the 11th century, already strained relations between the primarily Greek church in the East, and the Latin church in the West developed into the East-West Schism, partially due to conflicts over Papal Authority. The fourth crusade and the sacking of Constantinople by renegade crusaders proved the final breach.
In the 16th century, in response to the Protestant Reformation, the Church engaged in a process of substantial reform and renewal, known as the Counter-Reformation. In subsequent centuries, Catholicism spread widely across the world despite experiencing a reduction in its hold on European populations due to the growth of religious skepticism during and after the Enlightenment. The Second Vatican Council in the 1960s introduced the most significant changes to Catholic practices since the Council of Trent three centuries before.
WHY PALM SUNDAY AND NOT BRANCH SUNDAY OR CLOAK SUNDAY?
We all know the story of the Triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Palm Sunday is the Christian Holy Day commemorating Jesus’ triumphal entrance into the City of Jerusalem during the Passover Feast. This occurs on the Sunday before Easter as described in all four gospels (Matthew 21: 1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44 and John 12:12-19). The gospels of Mark and John specify this event occurring on the Sunday before Easter.
But interestingly, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke makes no mention of Palms being used. Specifically, Matthew 21:8 says “most of the crowds spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from trees and spread them on the road.” Mark says the same in 11:8. Luke on his part simply says the people spread their garments on the road (Luke 19:36). Since Jesus was coming down from Mount of Olives we can assume that the branches were mostly olive branches and other branches from low trees in the vicinity. Moreover, palm branches would have been too high to get to (except one is a professional palm wine tapper) and difficult to cut with mere hands (Edward Scissors Hand or Wolverine?), not to talk of the little matter of the thorns on the palm branch.
Alarm bells ringing? Is it in the Bible then? Relax! It’s sure in the Bible and used in the same event. The Gospel of St. John 12:13 tells us that “…they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, ‘Hosanna!’”
SO WHY PALM SUNDAY AND NOT BRANCH SUNDAY OR OLIVE SUNDAY?
This use of palm is based on its symbolism. The palm branch has always been held in high regard in many cultures that even predates Christianity. Ancient Egyptians see it as a sign of immortality and was used by ancient Greeks as a medal awarded to athletes. For the Romans, it represented victory and by extension, it was used to symbolize peace that comes after victory. For the Jews, the palm was a symbol of righteousness for the Psalmist says “the righteous will flourish like the palm tree” (Psalm 92:12). For the Igbos, the palm called omu, a tender palm frond, is used to sacralize and restrain…(You remember those traditionalists that put palm leaves in their mouths? That is to restrain them from talking. When you see a palm leaf tied on an item, it means the object is sacred…see ‘Nollywood’).
When the followers of Jesus used it that first Palm sunday, they were referring to the victorious power of Jesus and so they cried out “Hosanna!” which literarily means “Save us.”
In Christianity, early Christians used the palm branch to symbolize the victory of the faithful over enemies of the soul. In Western Christian art, martyrs were often shown holding a palm frond as an attribute, representing the victory of spirit over flesh, and it was widely believed that a picture of a palm on a tomb meant that a martyr was buried there.
It is presumed that the Palm Sunday celebration originated in the churches of Jerusalem sometime during the third or fourth century and marked the beginning of the holy week preceding Easter. By the fifth century, the Palm Sunday celebration had spread as far as Constantinople. Changes made in the sixth and seventh centuries resulted in two new Palm Sunday traditions. The ritual blessing of the palms and a morning procession instead of an evening one became the new norm. Adopted by the Western Church in the eighth century, the celebration received the name “Dominica in Palmis,” or “Palm Sunday”.
For Christians, the Palm branch is a symbol of victory, life, righteousness, fruitfulness, and peace. It is thus appropriate that we celebrate Palm sunday on the Sunday preceding the greatest Sunday in the Church’s calendar. It is also appropriate that while we continue our battle against the sins of the flesh during this Lenten season, we look forward to the victory over sin and the peace that comes with such victory.
Fr. Julian Egwuatu
WHY DO CATHOLICS MAKE THE SIGN OF THE CROSS?
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS
How often do you do the sign of the Cross? Only at home, in church or in the safety of your privacy? Can you boldly sign yourself with the Cross in public; market place, in the office, at a public/ Interdenominational prayer meeting, at a Restaurant, in the midst of your friends… non-Catholic friends?
St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (d. A.D. 386) says
“ Let us, therefore, not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ; but though another hide it, do thou openly seal it upon thy forehead, that the devils may behold the royal sign and flee trembling far away. Make then this sign at eating and drinking, at sitting, at lying down, at rising up, at speaking, at walking: in a word, at every act.”
These words are reminiscent of the Mosaic injunction in Deuteronomy 6:4-8 where the people were asked to wear the tefillin (“phylacteries”) on their foreheads and arms as a sign of their identity and devotion.
The Catholic Sign of the Cross is absolutely ancient, rooted not only in the Old Testament but also the New (Apocalypse speaks of those who have the sign of God in their foreheads — and those who have the sign of the Beast in their foreheads). When Catholics undergo the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Bishop (sometimes a priest) seals the sign on our foreheads with holy chrism. St. John of Damascus wrote:“This was given to us as a sign on our forehead, just as the circumcision was given to Israel: for by it we believers are separated and distinguished from unbelievers.”
Crossing one’s self recalls this seal, and the invocation that is said while making this holy sign calls on our God — the Father, His Son, and the Holy Ghost — and is a sign of our of belief; it is both a “mini-creed” that asserts our belief in the Triune God, and a prayer that invokes Him. The use of holy water when making this sign, such as we do when we enter a church, also recalls our Baptism and should bring to mind that we are born again of water and Spirit, thanks be to God.
HOW TO MAKE THE SIGN OF THE CROSS
The Sign of the Cross could be made in any of the following ways:
• Option A. With your right hand, touch the thumb and ring finger together and hold your index finger and middle finger together to signify the two natures of Christ. This is the most typical Western Catholic practice.
• Option B. Hold your thumb and index finger of your right hand together to signify the two natures of Christ
• Option C. Hold your thumb, index finger, middle finger of your right hand together (signifying the Trinity) while tucking the ring finger and pinky finger (signifying the two natures of Christ) toward your palm. This is the typically Eastern Catholic practice.
• Option D: Hold your right hand open with all 5 fingers — representing the 5 Wounds of Christ–together and very slightly curved, and thumb slightly tucked into palm (Nigerian Style?)
• touch the forehead as you say (or pray mentally) “In nomine Patris” (“In the name of the Father”)
• touch the breastbone or top of the belly as you say “et Filii” (“and of the Son”)
• touch the left shoulder, then right shoulder, as you say “et Spiritus Sancti” (“and of the Holy Ghost”). Note that some people end the Sign by crossing the thumb over the index finger to make a cross, and then kissing the thumb as a way of “kissing the Cross.”
An optional prayer to pray after signing yourself in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is this one, said to be favored by St. Benedict: By the Sign of the Cross, deliver me from my enemies, O Lord.
With the Sign, we send a visible sign to the world and follow the advice of St. Ephrem of Syria (died A.D. 373):
Mark all your actions with the sign of the life-giving Cross. Do not go out from the door of your house till you have signed yourself with the Cross. Do not neglect that sign whether in eating or drinking or going to sleep, or in the home or going on a journey. There is no habit to be compared with it. Let it be a protecting wall round all your conduct, and teach it to your children that they may earnestly learn the custom.
When the Sign is Made
Catholics should begin and end their prayers with the Sign of the Cross and should cross themselves when passing a church to honor Jesus in the Tabernacle, upon entering a church, and after receiving Communion. The sign is made, too, in times of trouble or fear (e.g., when receiving bad news, in times of temptation, when hearing an ambulance or emergency vehicle go by), when passing a cemetery or otherwise recalling the dead, when seeing a Crucifix – as a matter of fact, any time one wishes to honor and invoke God, or ward away evil, fear, and temptation.
Other Signs of the Cross
There are other signs of the Cross that Catholics make, too. One is made by tracing a small Cross with the thumb of the right hand on people and things. This sign is especially used by parents when blessing children by tracing the sign on the children’s foreheads.. Sometimes the sign is traced by the thumb on a book of Sacred Scripture and then kissed before reading. Another sign is the large sign made in the air by bishops and priests when blessing persons or when material are blessed.
Yet another is the series of three small Crosses traced by the thumb of the right hand — one small Cross on the forehead, one small Cross on the lips, and one small Cross on the breast — just before the Gospel reading at Mass. The sign on the forehead is to show that we believe the Gospel, the sign on the lips is to show that we respect the Gospel and desire to spread the Good News, and the sign on our breast is to show that we love the Gospel and want it kept in our hearts.
GOOD TO NOTE
Make the Sign of the Cross and make it often! Teach it to your children — even the smallest of children. If they’re infants, take their hands and make the movements for them! Making the Sign should feel as natural as breathing…
A partial indulgence is gained, under the usual conditions, when piously making the Sign of the Cross.
Because of what the Sign indicates — the very Cross of our salvation — Satan dreads it, and our using it makes demons flee. Make the Sign in times of temptation and confusion for the great spiritual benefit!
Crossing one’s self is a good public witness! Do not be ashamed of it! To be ashamed of the sign of His Cross is to be ashamed of Him!
(Culled from fisheaters.com)
Fr. Julian Egwuatu
Is mary just an envelope for Jesus the letter
You may have heard our separated brethren obnoxiously refer to Mary as an ‘envelope’ through which God sent His ‘Letter’ Jesus. They use the term envelope to denigrate the importance of Mary in salvation’s history. Unfortunately, the reference of Mary as a mere envelope also waters down the importance of Jesus who will automatically be reduced to mere letter. In this article, we shall explore the title of Mary, to see her importance in the plan of God for us. She is the Ark of the New Covenant, because Jesus is the New Covenant.
Here we shall attempt:
1. To see how Mary’s visit to Elizabeth parallels David’s bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.
2. To understand how the book of Revelation uses the startling image of the rediscovered Ark of the Covenant to introduce a vision of the Mother of Christ.
3. To understand why the New Testament writers see Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant.
1. The Annunciation
A. How can this be?
B. The power of the Most High will overshadow you
2. A History of the Ark
A. God’s Presence among His People
B. David Brings the Ark to Jerusalem
C. Lost Forever?
3. The Visitation
A. Elizabeth and Mary
B. David’s Journey and Mary’s Visit
4. The Ark in Heaven
A. The Ark Reappears in Heaven
B. The Woman Clothed With the Sun
C. What Makes Mary the Ark of the New Covenant?
I. THE ANNUNCIATION
A. HOW CAN THIS BE?
Of all the Gospel writers, Luke gives us by far the most information about Mary. Most of that information is simple and literal: the stories of the Annunciation, the Nativity, and so on. But some of what Luke has to tell us is conveyed in a less obvious way, by means of parallels in words and images.
In the first lesson, we looked at the story of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary to tell her that she would conceive a child who would inherit the throne of David.
Naturally, Mary was surprised. She asked the obvious question: “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” (see Luke 1:34).
Gabriel replied that it would happen by the power of God: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (see Luke 1:35).
B. THE POWER OF THE MOST HIGH WILL OVERSHADOW YOU
The word translated “overshadow” is used nowhere else in the New Testament. In fact, it occurs only one other place in Scripture, if we refer to the Greek translation of the Old Testament that Luke was familiar with.
The book of Exodus tells us how Moses had the Ark of the Covenant placed in the Dwelling, the holy place in great tent that was to serve as the dwelling-place of God among His people. (The word translated “Dwelling” is often translated “Tabernacle.”)
“Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling. Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling” (see Exodus 40:34-35).
In the Greek version of the Old Testament, the word translated “settled down upon” (“the cloud settled down upon it”) is the same as Luke’s word “overshadow” (“the power of the Most High will overshadow you”).
Luke is telling us that the power of God will overshadow Mary just as the power of Godovershadowed the Ark of the Covenant in the tent.
II. A HISTORY OF THE ARK
A. GOD’S PRESENCE AMONG HIS PEOPLE
On Mt. Sinai, God gave Moses instructions for building the Ark of the Covenant. The construction is minutely described (see Exodus 25:1-22). The Ark’s most important contents are the tablets of the Law (see Exodus 25:16), God’s covenant with His people. It also contained a sample of the manna that fed the Israelites in the desert (see Exodus 16:14-16) and the rod of Aaron the priest.
The Ark, with its carved cherubim on top (see Exodus 25:18-20), was the visible throne of the invisible God. Once it was built, it went before the Israelites wherever they wandered, signifying God’s presence with them (see, for example, Numbers 10:33).
When the Israelites marched to conquer the Promised Land, the Ark of the Covenant still marched before them (see Joshua 3:3-4). It was the sign that God was with His people.
In the siege of Jericho, for example, Israel’s only military action was to parade the Ark of the Covenant around the city on seven successive days: the walls miraculously fell flat by themselves (see Joshua 6).
B. DAVID BRINGS THE ARK TO JERUSALEM
Long after most of the Promised Land belonged to Israel, the town of Jerusalem was still an independent enclave of Jebusites (see Joshua 15:63).
When David finally conquered Jerusalem, he made the strategically placed fortress town his capital (see 2 Samuel 5:9). Once the newly expanded city was established as the capital of Israel, David decided to give the Ark of the Covenant a permanent home there.
“And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:2, Revised Standard Version; compare the New American Bible translation).
The Ark of the Covenant was placed on a new cart (contrary to the instructions for carrying it given in Exodus 25:13-15, and compare 1 Chronicles 15:15). But the cart was unstable, and one of the attendants reached out to steady the Ark (another clear violation of the Law – see Numbers 4:15). He was struck dead immediately.
David was dismayed, and in awe of the power of God. “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” he asked (see 2 Samuel 6:9).
The procession turned aside, and the Ark “remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite for three months” (see 2 Samuel 6:11), bringing great blessing to Obed-Edom’s whole household.
Finally, David did bring the Ark into Jerusalem the proper way, amid great festivity and rejoicing. David himself went “leaping and dancing” for joy before the Ark, making such a spectacle of himself that his snobbish wife turned up her nose at him (see 2 Samuel 6:14-16).
C. LOST FOREVER?
The small empire built up by David and expanded by his son Solomon broke up after Solomon died (see 1 Kings 12). The two small kingdoms of Israel and Judah could not stand up against the great world powers. First Israel fell to Assyria (see 2 Kings 17:1-6); then Judah fell to Babylon (see 2 Kings 25).
The prophet Jeremiah had warned the people of Judah that God’s judgment was coming upon them. But he had also predicted a time when God would build up His people again and make a “new covenant” with them (see Jeremiah 31:27-34).
A story in 2 Maccabees 2:4-8 tells us that Jeremiah prepared for that time by hiding the Ark of the Covenant on Mount Nebo.
“The same document also tells how the prophet [Jeremiah], following a divine revelation, ordered that the tent and the ark should accompany him and how he went off to the mountain which Moses climbed to see God’s inheritance. When Jeremiah arrived there, he found a room in a cave in which he put the tent, the ark, and the altar of incense; then he blocked up the entrance.”
Since that time, the Ark has never been seen on earth again.
“Some of those who followed him came up intending to mark the path, but they could not find it. When Jeremiah heard of this, he reproved them: ‘The place is to remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy. Then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord will be seen in the cloud, just as it appeared in the time of Moses and when Solomon prayed that the Place [that is, the Temple] might be gloriously sanctified.’ “
The Ark would not be seen again until the time when God showed His mercy and gathered His people together again. But when would that be?
III. THE VISITATION
A. ELIZABETH AND MARY
The news that she would have a child was astonishing enough for Mary. But the angel Gabriel had more good news for her:
“And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God” (see Luke 1:36-37).
Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were both very old (see Luke 1:7); her pregnancy was nothing short of a miracle, though not a miracle on the same order as the one Mary was about to be a part of.
After this news, the very next thing we read is that Mary decided to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
We’re going to take a close look at this visit, because Luke will use it to show us a very important truth about Mary.
B. DAVID’S JOURNEY AND MARY’S VISIT
“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (Luke 1:39-40, Revised Standard Version; compare the New American Bible translation).
We remember how “David arose and went” to a city of Judah to bring out the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:2, Revised Standard Version; compare the New American Bibletranslation).
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb” (see Luke 1:41).
In the same way, David “leaped and danced” before the Ark of the Covenant (see 2 Samuel 6:14-16).
When she felt her child leap in her womb, Luke tells us, Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (see Luke 1:41). “And how does this happen to me,” she asked, “that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (see Luke 1:43).
Her words almost repeat what David said about the Ark of the Covenant: “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” (see 2 Samuel 6:9).
Finally, after her glorious hymn of praise to God (which we know, from its first word in Latin, as the Magnificat; see Luke 1:46-55), “Mary remained with her [Elizabeth] about three months and then returned to her home” (see Luke 1:56).
The Ark of the Covenant “remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite for three months” on its way to Jerusalem (see 2 Samuel 6:11).
Luke piles these parallels one on top of another, so that we can’t help noticing the similarity between the Ark of the Covenant’s trip to Jerusalem and Mary’s trip to Zechariah’s house.
To drive the point home even more, Luke makes an interesting word choice in Luke 1:42: he tells us that Elizabeth “cried out in a loud voice” when she expressed her joy at Mary’s arrival.
The word translated “cried out” occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. But it does occur five times in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and every time it shows up in passages having to do with the Ark of the Covenant, describing the joyful noise God’s people made in celebration of His presence among them.
Elizabeth lifts up her voice in praise of God in the presence of Mary, just as her ancestors (Elizabeth was a Levite and a descendant of Aaron the priest; see Luke 1:5) did in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant.
All these parallels point to one startling truth: Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant.
In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant bore the tablets of God’s covenant, God’s word in stone. In the New Testament, Mary carries God’s Word in flesh, Jesus Christ, who will bring the New Covenant that Jeremiah foresaw so long ago (see Jeremiah 31:27-34)
IV. THE ARK IN HEAVEN
A. THE ARK REAPPEARS IN HEAVEN
Luke uses parallel language and images to make his point. But John, the author of Revelation, tells us directly that he saw the Ark of the Covenant – the holy object that had been lost since Jeremiah’s time – in a vision.
“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth” (see Revelation 11:19 and Revelation 12:1-2).
This is a strange string of images, almost overwhelming – like much of the book of Revelation. But certainly the statement that the Ark of the Covenant was visible must have caught the attention of the first people who heard the vision.
If the Ark had been seen, then the time Jeremiah spoke of must have come: the time when “God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy,” the time when “the glory of the Lord will be seen in the cloud, just as it appeared in the time of Moses” (see 2 Maccabees 7-8)
And indeed the sights and sounds are the same as in the time of Moses – storm and earthquake:
“There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm” (see Revelation 11:19).
“On the morning of the third day there were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled . . . Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke, for the LORD came down upon it in fire. The smoke rose from it as though from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently” (see Exodus 19:16, 18)
Naturally, we want to hear more about the rediscovered Ark of the Covenant. And John goes on to describe what he sees: “a woman clothed with the sun” (see Revelation 12:1).
In our modern Bibles, there is a chapter division between the appearance of the Ark of the Covenant and the description of the “woman clothed with the sun.” But chapter divisions were added in the Middle Ages to make the books of the Bible easier to refer to. John did not make any divisions: he wrote straight through from Revelation 11:19 to Revelation 12:1without a break.
In the dream-like but deeply significant logic of John’s vision, the Ark of the Covenant is “a woman clothed with the sun.”
B. THE WOMAN CLOTHED WITH THE SUN
And who is this woman?
“She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth ” (see Revelation 12:2).
“She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne” (see Revelation 12:5).
The one destined to rule the nations with an iron rod (a shepherd’s rod) is the Lord’s Anointed, the Messiah or Christ (see Psalm 2). The “woman clothed with the sun,” whom John sees when he looks at the Ark of the Covenant, is the Mother of the Christ.
C. WHAT MAKES MARY THE ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT?
The Ark of the Covenant was the sign of God’s real presence among His people. In Jesus Christ, born of Mary, God was really present among his people in an even more direct way.
The Ark held the Word of God written in stone. Mary bore the Word of God in flesh
The Ark contained the rod of Aaron, symbol of his priesthood. Mary bore Jesus Christ, our High Priest (see Hebrews 3:1).
If the Ark of the Covenant was holy, then by the same standards Mary is even holier. As Mother of God, she is the Ark of the New Covenant, bearing Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the Bread of Life, our great High Priest. That is not a re-interpretation of the Gospel: it is a truth made clear by the New Testament writers themselves.
Fr. Julian Egwuatu
Masturbation - According to bible, is it a sin?
The Bible never explicitly mentions masturbation or states whether or not masturbation is a sin. The Scripture most frequently pointed to in regards to masturbation is the story of Onan inGenesis 38:9-10. Some interpret this passage as saying that “spilling your seed” on the ground is a sin. However, that is not precisely what the passage is saying. God condemned Onan not for “spilling his seed” but because Onan refused to fulfill his duty to provide an heir for his brother. The passage is not about masturbation, but rather about fulfilling a family duty. A second passage sometimes used as evidence for masturbation’s being a sin isMatthew 5:27-30. Jesus speaks against having lustful thoughts and then says, “If your right-hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” While there are parallels between this passage and masturbation, it is unlikely that masturbation was what Jesus was alluding to.
While the Bible nowhere explicitly states that masturbation is a sin, there is no question as to whether the actions that lead to masturbation are sinful. Masturbation is nearly always the result of lustful thoughts, sexual stimulation, and/or pornographic images. It is these problems that need to be dealt with. If the sins of lust, immoral thoughts, and pornography are forsaken and overcome, masturbation will become a non-issue. Many people struggle with guilty feelings concerning masturbation when in reality, the things that led to the act are far more worthy of repentance.
There are some biblical principles that can be applied to the issue of masturbation.Ephesians 5:3declares, “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity.” It is hard to see how masturbating can pass that particular test. The Bible teaches us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). If you cannot give God glory for something, you should not do it. If a person is not fully convinced that an activity is pleasing to God, then it is a sin: “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Further, we need to remember that our bodies have been redeemed and belong to God. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This great truth should have a real bearing on what we do with our bodies. In light of these principles, the conclusion that masturbation is a sin is biblical. Clearly, masturbation is not glorifying to God; it does not avoid the appearance of immorality, nor does it pass the test of God’s having ownership over our bodies.
I AM HAVING SERIOUS ISSUES WITH MARIAN DOCTRINES. I FEEL THE TITLES THE CHURCH GIVES TO HER, SUCH AS CO-REDEMPTRIX, MEDIATRIX, AND DISPENSER OF ALL GRACES, REALLY LIMIT THE POWER OF CHRIST. I FEAR I AM COMMITTING IDOLATRY
It will help if you understand what the Church means by such doctrines and what it does not mean. First, the Church recognizes that Jesus in the ultimate sense is our only redeemer—plain and simple. Only God could make up for an offense against his divinity. When Jesus, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, became the man, he used the services of several human beings. he used prophets, the last of whom was his cousin, John the Baptist. He used St. Joseph as his foster father to protect him and to be a father to him in his formative years. Most of all, he used Mary as his mother who gave birth to him, nursed him, and nurtured him as a child. All of these people cooperated with him and his mission of salvation. He alone was the redeemer in the ultimate sense, but they cooperated with him in his work of redemption. In varying degrees, they all could be called co-redeemers because of such cooperation. But because of her unique role and the degree of her cooperation, Mary is singled out. In all of the humanity, God singled her out for a truly sublime role. Nursing Almighty God at her breast is beyond our ability to fully appreciate. Yet thousands of Christians since the Protestant reformation have completely ignored such sublimity.
What is said of co-redemptrix is also true of mediatrix. Because these terms can be highly misleading, the Church has not infallibly proclaimed them. (See article:www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/ORMARIA2.HTM) Nevertheless, God is the one who singled Mary out for the unique role in salvation that she has. She did not seek out such distinction. It is important to remember the high praise Jesus lavished on St. John the Baptist. Yet his mission was not nearly as exalted as Mary’s. Jesus worked his first miracle at her request. All she needed to say was: “They have no wine.” He understood exactly what she wanted. He could have taken care of the matter on his own. But he chose to have his mother’s intercession be a part of the mix. The miracle wasn’t any less significant because of her part in it. On the contrary, she shows us how accessible he is to our needs. To truly appreciate Mary is to appreciate her Son all the more.
Answered by: Fr. Vincent Serpa O.P.