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Just before the year 1300, Blessed Mechtilde was asked by a certain brother to put this question to our Lord in prayer: “Where are the souls of Samson, Solomon, Origen and Trajan?” He answered her: “That which My love has done with the soul of Samson, I wish to be unknown, that men may fear to avenge themselves further upon their enemies. What My mercy has done with the soul of Solomon, I wish to be hidden from men, so that they may the rather shun carnal sins. What My kindness has done with the soul of Origen, I wish to be hidden, so that no one, trusting in his own science, should dare be lifted up. And what My generosity has commanded concerning the soul of Trajan, I wish men not to know, that the Catholic faith may thereby be the more extolled: for although he was excellent in all virtues, he lacked Christian faith and baptism” (quoted by Cornelius a Lapide, Commentary on Ecclesiasticus, 47:22).

Anything to quibble with here?

The 11 resurrection appearances (Mt 28; Mk 16; Lk 24; Jn 20-21; Acts 9:3-6; 1 Cor 15:5-8)

  • First and second appearances (Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:1-11; Lk 24:1-11; Jn 20:1-18)
    • Mary Magdalene, Aunt Mary (wife of Cleopas, Joseph’s brother), Cousin Salome (daughter of Cleopas and Mary), and Joanna see the angels and empty tomb, and at some point therein Magdalene leaves to get Peter and John (Mt 28:1-8; Mk 16:1-8; Lk 24:1-9; Jn 20:1-10)
    • The other women eventually leave to give the testimony of the angels to the apostles, which is denied, while Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb with Peter and John (Lk 24:10-11)
    • First appearance to Mary Magdalene at the tomb on Easter Sunday (Mk 16:9-11; Jn 20:11-18)
      • Peter and John return to the upper room, while Magdalene encounters the risen Christ after mistaking him for the gardener
      • Magdalene’s testimony is denied by the apostles
    • Second appearance on Easter Sunday to Aunt Mary, cousin Salome, and Joanna at an undetermined place in Jerusalem (Mt 28:9-10)
      • Christ appears to the women after their testimony from the angels was denied by the apostles
      • Their testimony is again denied by the apostles
  • Third appearance on Easter Sunday to Peter, but no details are recorded (Lk 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5)
  • Fourth appearance on Easter Sunday to Uncle Cleopas (Joseph’s brother) and an unnamed disciple on the Road to Emmaus (Mk 16:12-13; Lk 24:13-35)
  • Fifth appearance on Easter Sunday to the 10 apostles (except Thomas) in the upper room for the institution of the Sacrament of Penance – the apostles should have immediately gone to Galilee upon the testimony of the women, but Christ must condescend to “prove” himself amidst their unbelief (Lk 24:36-49; Jn 20:19-23)
  • Sixth appearance the following Sunday to the 11 apostles in the upper room for the “doubting Thomas” episode (Mk 16:14; Jn 20:26-29; 1 Cor 15:5)
  • Seventh appearance an unspecified time thereafter at the Sea of Tiberias to the apostles Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James and John of Zebedee, and 2 unnamed disciples (Jn 21:1-23)
  • Eighth appearance an unspecified time thereafter at Galilee to more than 500 disciples, along with the “Great Commission” (Mt 28:16-20; Mk 16:15-18; 1 Cor 15:6)
  • Ninth appearance an unspecified time thereafter to cousin James the Lesser (son of Cleopas and Mary), but no details are recorded (1 Cor 15:7)
  • Tenth appearance at the Ascension on the 40th day after Easter Sunday at the Mount of Olives to the faithful (Mk 16:19; Lk 24:50-52; Acts 1:6-11; 1 Cor 15:7)
  • Eleventh appearance a few years thereafter on the Road to Damascus for Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:3-6; 1 Cor 15:8)

 

Some possible arguments, as well, as to why the Galilee appearance with the “Great Commission” in the Gospels in the same as the appearance to more than 500 disciples that Paul mentions:

  • Galilee seems to be the biggie, as it was spoken of from day 1, with both the angels and Christ telling the women to instruct the apostles to go to Galilee, which they seemingly should have on Easter Sunday, simply based on the testimony of the women. Thus, it seems reasonable that this biggie would be the one with the most witnesses.
  • Since this is the one resurrection appearance that is anticipated (Matthew says that they go to the mountain that Jesus directed them to, so the apostles seemingly know ahead of time when this is going to happen after having failed to respond to the call on Easter Sunday), the apostles would have been able to gather up all the troops in preparation. How else would more than 500 disciples otherwise be gathered together for a spontaneous resurrection appearance?
  • Matthew writes that those at Galilee worship Christ, though some doubt, but what apostles could still be doubting at this point? Surely there must be others there who have yet to see the risen Christ. This then explains why the Church was smaller come Pentecost Sunday, as some don’t believe, and so they fall away.
  • Galilee is the “Great Commission”, so it makes sense that the whole Church would be gathered together, as that way you can witness the authority that Christ has given to the apostles and the task distinct to the Church.
  • It’s on a mountain, a place where more than 500 could conceivably be gathered.

Rather prescient too…

“The observance of Lent is the very badge of the Christian warfare. By it we prove ourselves not to be enemies of the cross of Christ. By it we avert the scourges of Divine justice. By it we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should mankind grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God’s glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe.”

~ Pope Benedict XIV

I remain convinced that when the Church has triumphantly risen from its present ashes (unless our Lord’s return happens before then!), one of the most mind-boggling points of fact will be the death of the Catholic school. We shall look back and wonder how such a thing ever happened, not just about how heretics infiltrated everything, but also the simple fact of how even supposedly orthodox schools didn’t take theology seriously enough as the queen of the sciences. How, for instance, do supposedly orthodox high schools hire intellectually unqualified, even if morally fit, teachers for theology classes?

As St. Thomas writes, theology is the greatest of the speculative sciences, given its greater certitude than any other inquiry, being built upon Divine truth and not fallible human reason, as well as the fact that it treats of higher matters in pertaining to truths beyond human reason. And as a practical science it is likewise the noblest, given that it pertains to a greater end that all the others, namely eternal bliss, which everything else is subject to. This is not something to be trifled with, even if he/she be a “good person”!

In Sapientiae Christianae, Pope Leo XIII briefly notes Paul’s statement in Romans 10 that faith comes by hearing: “nevertheless, the objects themselves to which faith is the be applied are scarcely known in any other way than through the hearing. ‘How shall they believe Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? Faith then cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.’ Since, then, faith is necessary for salvation, it follows that the word of Christ must be preached.”

It seems nonsensical to suppose otherwise than the necessity of explicit faith in the Trinity and the Incarnation, for to suppose otherwise is to imply that the word of Christ that must be preached, He being the fullness of Divine revelation, is essentially no different than the implicit faith of the Old Testament. Implicit faith saved you then and implicit faith can save you now, effectively rendering the cross inconsequential. Unless, of course, implicit faith can no longer save you, for what is this word of Christ to be preached and believed if not the Son in the bosom of the Father?

In his excruciatingly bad article on the death penalty (http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2017/10/24/capital-punishment-and-the-papal-magisterium-a-response-to-dr-edward-feser/), Dr. Robert Fastiggi argues that while popes have previously interpreted Scripture concerning the death penalty, their interpretation is not necessarily definitive (which would seemingly make irrelevant anything the current Holy Father says, for if previous popes are not definitive in their interpretation of Scripture, then why can’t a future pope come along to say something different again from Pope Francis…anyways). He gives an example of another papal interpretation that is not definitive, in his mind at least:

“Another example of a biblical text understood in a certain way by a pope is Gen 2: 21–23. Pope Leo XIII, in his 1880 encyclical, Arcanum, writes: ‘We record what is to known to all, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and having breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep’ (n. 5). Pope Leo XIII here refers to something ‘known to all,’ namely that Eve was formed from the side of the sleeping Adam. Does this mean that Catholics must believe in the literal formation of Eve from the side of the sleeping Adam? Some might argue that this is the case, but St. John Paul II did not feel bound by this interpretation of Leo XIII. In his 1988 apostolic letter, Mulieris dignitatem, the Polish Pontiff states: ‘The second description of the creation of man (cf. Gen 2:18-25) makes use of different language to express the truth about the creation of man, and especially of woman. In a sense the language is less precise, and, one might say, more descriptive and metaphorical, closer to the language of the myths known at the time.’ (n. 6).”

Now then, the question I have is whether it’s possible to believe other than Eve being formed from the side of Adam? I may be naive, and correct me if so, but is this not necessary to believe? Wouldn’t the typology pointing to the Bride of Christ pouring forth from His pierced side on the cross be ruined if it were all just a nice metaphor? Wouldn’t the doctrine of Original Sin be ruined if Eve were not formed from Adam, as then he would not be the head of all humanity, in whom we are thus all represented in that corporate personality?

As any well-catechised Catholic should know, I know that it is a very fruitful practice to meditate on the Last Things. Unfortunately, intellectually knowing a thing and realizing it are two different pairs of shoes.

Recently, a science conference led me to Oregon, US, with the option to extend my stay for a week of travelling. My itinarary was rather varied and definitely interesting, including urban-area lows and wilderness highs; but the crowning moment of the whole trip for me was the time I spent at Mt. Rainier National Park. I went there mostly because it was on the way back from Washington to Portland, but let me tell you: Mt. Rainier is really, really impressive. I went to Portland on a plane from Vancouver, flying over miles and miles of the most dense cloud/smoke (forest fires) … and suddenly there is this awfully great big mountain sticking out as the one single thing from that whitish plain, at what seems the height of your plane itself! Again, driving with your car inwards from the coast, you think: well, back there is a rather funny cloud – when it is a great big ice-covered mountain at the horizon, sticking out from the apparent plain in a way that seems just impossible. (And this  imaga does not in the least reflect the majesty of that mountain, unfortunatly).

IMG_1810

When I drove up to Sunrise Visitor Centre, I had even closer views of Mt. Rainier. And from the first to the last moment I was up there, I caught myself at the thought that I just do not believe this mountain, no matter what my senses tell me. I had a great hike, actually pretty much twice the distance of my original plan; and even though I am pretty easy to turn to tears, this might have well been the first time in my life I found myself crying for the sheer beauty of landscape.

So, on the way back, the thought crossed my brain how much greater heaven must be if it leaves you not missing such a sight. And slogging along, somewhat weary on both feet and nerves, since I had crossed some exposed gravelly slopes that did make my height-scared brain pretty much freeze, I realized for the first time in my life that what happens after death, whether heaven or hell or purgatory, was actually the most certain thing to happen to us at all.

i guess looking into the future is a natural thing, but what do I see? Very clearly, tomorrow’s project meeting; with glad anticipation, my parents’ visit in a few weeks; pretty confidently, my travel to a conference to Ireland next year; with hope, getting a grant to do research in Colorado for two years; with less confidence, some sort of tenure track somewhere, or even so much better, a family: all these things may or may not happen, but me ending up in heaven/hell/purgatory at some point has a 100% likelyhood, and it might very well happen within the next 24 hours – which none (apart of the project meeting) can claim.

Is this how meditation on the Last Things should work? Realizing that how incomprehensible to the mortal intellect, this might well be the thing that hit you tomorrow?

 

 

 

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