I am in the middle of reading a commentary on the Apocalypse published in 1955 by Fr Hermann Kramer and called The Book of Destiny. It is better and more erudite than you might suppose from its title. I learned about it when listening to a talk by Hamish Fraser, who refers to it as the most interesting book that he has ever read.

Fr Kramer takes the Apocalypse to be principally a chronological prophecy of the Church’s future from the apostolic age to the Parousia, though with some reprises, rather than, say, a depiction of permanent features of the Church’s situation in this world. He offers some interesting interpretations of the 7 trumpets of Apoc. 8 and 9. On the assumption, reasonable given his general approach, that the description in 7:13-14 of those who have come through the great tribulation represents the Church as she emerged from the Diocletian persecution, he argues that the seven trumpets announce events that follow this period of freedom.

The first trumpet he takes to mark the barbarian invasions. His interpretation here is perhaps too literal: he suggests that  the burning up of a third part of the trees might refer to a serious disruption of agriculture, at that time. Earlier, by contrast, he suggested that ‘tree’ might be taken to refer to the leading men of the time, and this might apply better here also. Although he doesn’t mention it, the burning up of all the green grass would fit well with his view of the barbarian invasions as a punishment for excessive luxury. The Fathers interpret ‘green grass’ as a symbol of concupiscence, in the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

But I was more interested in the next two trumpets. Apoc. 9:8 says:

And the second angel blew sounded the trumpet: and as it were a great mountain, burning with fire, was cast into the sea, and the third part of the sea became blood. And the third part of those creatures died, which had life in the sea, and the third part of the ships was destroyed.

Fr Kramer thinks this is a reference to Islam; and it does seem antecedently plausible that so terrible and permanent an enemy of the Church would be mentioned in the only canonical prophecy of the Church’s life (if that is indeed what we should understand the Apocalypse to be). ‘Fire’ suggests, among other things, the passionate fanaticism of militant Islam, while ‘mountain’ is a good symbol of its bulk, impermeability and deadness. ‘The creatures which had life’ is literally ‘the creatures which had souls’, suggesting the death of the soul caused by the prolonged Mohammedan usurpation. He also suggests that ‘ships’ here might be a symbol for ‘churches’. Might one-third, approximately, of the churches then existing have been desecrated by Islam?

The Apocalypse continues:

And the third angel sounded the trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, burning as it were a torch, and it fell on the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountain of waters. And the name of the star is called Wormwood. And the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made better.

This disaster differs from the previous two, since it is said to proceed from ‘heaven’. The author interprets heaven throughout the book to refer to the Church, considered as endowed with heavenly gifts. Apoc. 1:20 itself strongly suggests that ‘stars’ in the Apocalypse will refer to bishops or priests. A ‘great’ star, therefore, says Fr Kramer, will be an eminent bishop or metropolitan. It is said to be burning even after as it descends (unlike the stars that fall in 6:13, 9:1 and 12:9), suggesting that it still gives some light to the faithful after leaving the Church, indicating rather schism than heresy, and the continued presence of erudition.

The star is called ‘Wormwood’. In Jeremiah and Amos, wormwood is mentioned in connection with priests who are disobedient (Jer. 9:13-15), and who teach falsely (Jer. 23:11-40), and with those who pervert the sources of justice (Amos 5:7). These last people are told, instead, to ‘seek him that maketh Arcturus and Orion’ (Amos 5:8), which, if we accept the symbolism of a star as a bishop, implies a command to recognise the diving origin of the hierarchy of the Church: again, a warning against schism.

This great shining star falls upon a third part of the springs of water, presumably the sources of grace. Many die from drinking the bitter waters. As Fr Kramer says:

Wormwood is to be given those people, priests, and bishops who refuse to obey the authority of the Church which possesses this authority by divine commission from Christ. This is schism, ad formal schism is grievous sin. And many shall die from participation of the fountains, the sacraments, polluted by the star fallen into schism. […] The fallen star is guilty of pride, hypocrisy, and rebellion, when he assumes unlawful authority over others and perverts and refuses submission to the true order established by Christ. It begets pride and rebellion in his followers. They follow a slippery path and must stumble and fall after they have partaken of this poisonous potion. Sharing in the hypocrisy and rebellion of their schismatic superior, they knowingly partake of his wormwood and become wormwood themselves.

Surely, as the author implies, this describes no one so well as Photios the Great? His very name suggests a shining light, and he was famed for his learning. He was a great star, too, metropolitan of a see that claimed second rank in the Church, but he broke away from the constellation appointed for him. A great number of dioceses, though still a minority, were struck by his calamitous fall and the sources of grace to this very day have been made bitter for all those who knowingly partake of his schism. What, in fact, is more bitter than schism, directly opposed as it is not to the faith, but to charity and joy and peace?

 

 

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While I mostly ignore news (which is probably wrong), whenever current events bring me to actually follow them, it is interesting to compare headlines in German and Anglophone media. According to what I catch from the latter, everyone, apart from us, seems to be concerned about the perceived fact that we are currently naively facilitating the Muslim invasion of Europe.

Of course, the ‘refugee crisis’ is in the German headlines as well, but from a quite different angle. There are probably hosts of people who could say something more intelligent or thoughtful about this than I, but since I have been told, courteously, but repeatedly, to post something here once more, here my inchoate musings:

For one thing, the shameful German history of the first half of the 20th century has a strong influence on the debate, in different ways.

Among my grandparents, two were refugees themselves, having lived in Pomerania and Silesia until the end of the war. They and their families, though in the latter case recognized as ‘anti-fascists’ even by the occupying powers, lost all their material goods, and, having nothing left to offer on the black market, starved more than others did at the time. But the thing that really enraged me, as a child and youth, was the fact that, when they came to the area that remained Germany, they were resented and despised, because the people of that area had to give up rooms to them, because their clothes were shabby, because they came from the East, were ‘Poles’ themselves.

Even more dramatically, there is the question of those directly persecuted by the National Socialists. Of course, at some point, it became difficult or impossible to leave Germany, because of the Germans. But I have always been thinking, up to now, that all allied or neutral countries ought to have been falling over themselves, so to speak, to receive Jewish refugees. I used to think that once someone got to the US, or Britain, etc., there was a happy end – and was shocked that too often, this was not the case.

I do not know to which extent these particular points actually influences attitudes or decisions, consciously or unconsciously, but I guess that they do, at least somewhat.

Then, there is the fact that the large majority of people critical of the refugee policies (or worse) are so from the wrong reasons entirely. The refugees could consist entirely of Christian families with children, so grateful that they got into safety that, however crowded, cold, monotonous their camps, they would not consider anything less than full compliance with our society’s ‘values’: Those people would still rage against ‘foreigners’, against the fact that housing and feeding them cost us money that they would rather spend on themselves.

Of course, they are opposed by the good people. Those who remember that we, the Germans, are the very last people who are permitted to refuse anyone for their ‘strangeness’, their culture, etc. I myself probably belong to them, to a not inconsiderable extent. And we imagine, indeed, the families with little children whom we cannot leave to drown in the Mediterranean, to starve or be shot in Syria, to freeze somewhere at the EU borders. If we are Christians, we believe that among them there are our brethren in the Faith, persecuted for it, whom we give refuge, as the Holy Family found in Egypt.

We are not the people who try to burn down refugee housings. We are disconcerted, however, when even the mainstream media in Germany, in some hidden corners of the news, start to report that Christian refugees are being attacked, in many places, by their Muslim compatriots. We would be interested, by the way, to have some demographics about the refugees that come. When we do see people, in the news, on the streets, there is a curious preponderance of young men without any family. Given the cost for getting to Europe, it might make sense to send just the sturdiest person, first, in the hope to get the family to follow. It could also be very tempting for unmarried young men to use the current political situation to get to Europe, where everyone has smartphones, a big car and whatever you dream of, and where they would not let you go to in peace time.

And because people are trying to burn the places where refugees stay, and go on the street with frighteningly xenophobic paroles, no one dares to follow social workers’ suggestions that Christian and Muslim refugees be housed separately – no, in Germany, there is tolerance, no religious separation. No one dares to ask what the consequence of continued boredom, in close quarters, might be even for completely average human beings, many of them young males (for whatever reason), and if local communities, leaving those xenophobes aside, are equipped to deal with that. No one nice dares to say that in the long-run (at least after the immediate crisis has past) it might be a country’s right to decide which rate of permanent immigration it thinks is compatible with national welfare. Actually, even hypothetically writing this, a part of my mind denounces me as a crypto-fascist.

Which is to say, I guess, that Germany faces some unique challenges regarding the refugee crisis.

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“He shall be a wild man: his hand will be against all men, and all men’s hands against him: and he shall pitch his tents over against all his brethren.” (Genesis 16:12)

In the Gospel According to St Luke 21:24 we read “and they shall fall by the edge of the sword; and shall be led away captives into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles; till the times of the nations be fulfilled.” The verse speaks of the sack of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. It is a rather disturbing verse as it implies that when the Jews recover possession of the earthly Jerusalem the ‘time of the nations [will] be fulfilled’. In various places the New Testament foretells a great apostasy of the Gentiles preceding the end of time. As Our Lord says in Luke 18:8 “the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” Indeed, in the discourse of which Luke 21:24 forms a part there is a clear shift at this very verse from describing the sack of Jerusalem to describing the end of the world. The very last event prophesied before the return of the Lord is the conversion of the Jews. As St Paul explains in Romans 11 “For if the loss of them be the reconciliation of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? … For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery, (lest you should be wise in your own conceits), that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in and so all Israel should be saved”. But between the falling away of the Gentiles and the conversion of the Jews there intervenes the reign of the Antichrist.

The old city of Jerusalem was recaptured by the Jews on 7th June 1967. One would have to be very blind not to have perceived a great falling away of the nations since that time. This carries the alarming implication that things are only going in one direction and that the Antichrist is on his way. It is slightly chilling that in revelation when the 144,000 are enumerated from the twelve tribes they are all alive while the ‘great multitude’ of the Gentile Christians are all dead. It is as if the remnant of the faithful in the time of Antichrist will all be children of Abraham (or rather Jacob) according to the flesh as well as the spirit. It is slightly consoling that the elect are drawn from all twelve tribes and who knows who might be descended from Israel in the female line? Another mysterious statement in Revelation 14:1-4 implies the Israelite elect will all be celibate. This might resolve a difficulty St Augustine raises towards the end of the De Civitate Dei. St Augustine notes that Our Lord says it is only possible to despoil the property of the strong man while he is bound and  Revelation tells us that in the last days the Devil will be unbound. St Augustine considers the possibility that during the three and a half years during which the Antichrist will rule the world no one will be justified. He discards this idea because of the efficacy of infant baptism. However, if the remainder of the faithful at this time are all celibate, infant baptism may not be such an objection. Our Lord even says in Matthew 24:37-39 “And as in the days of Noe, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, even till that day in which Noe entered into the ark, and they knew not till the flood came, and took them all away; so also shall the coming of the Son of man be.”

So, if the gentiles are to fall away entirely until only a tiny number of celibate Catholics, all descended from Jacob, remain, where will the Gentiles fall away to? A monk once showed me a book (written by a Protestant) given to him by a Cardinal which pointed out the startling similarities between the eschatology of the Mohammedans and that of the New Testament. The one key difference is that the heroes of Mohammedan eschatology are the villains of Christian prophecy. In Christian eschatology there are two key figures behind the final persecution of the Church: the Antichrist and the False Prophet. These correspond to the first and second beasts of Revelation 13. One is a great temporal ruler and the other his false religious auxiliary. Yet there seems to be some confusion in the tradition, for while the temporal ruler seems to take the lead and it is towards him that the False Prophet directs the worship of the reprobate, it is the second beast – the False Prophet – who is described as impersonating the Messiah “two horns, like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon”.  Yet it is normally the first beast who is though to be the Antichrist. The hero of Mohammedan eschatology is the Mahdi who will subject the entire world to Islamic rule. In his time Isa (the Mohammedan Jesus) will return. The Mahdi will offer to defer to the pseudo-Jesus but the latter will recognise Mahdi as greater. Isa will then commence the extermination of all remaining Jews and Christians on earth (two groups which, it would seem from the New Testament, may by then be materially identical). This suddenly makes a lot of sense of the two figures in the New Testament. Indeed, St Hippolytus in his treatise on the Antichrist seems to suspect that this is partly why the second beast has two horns: “By the beast, then, coming up out of the earth, he means the kingdom of Antichrist; and by the two horns he means him and the false prophet after him. And in speaking of the horns being like a lamb, he means that he will make himself like the Son of God, and set himself forward as king.”

In Galatians, St Paul famously contends that Ishmael is a type of the unbelieving Jews. As Ishmael was a slave so they are bound in servile subjection to the law. As Ishmael lived out his life in Arabia so they are bound to the covenant given on Sinai “a mountain in Arabia”. As he was rejected in favour of the miraculous son of the promise so they have been rejected in favour of the miraculously converted multitude of the Gentiles. How does this typology run once the children of Isaac after the flesh have once more become children of the promise? If the apostasy of the Jews means the conversion of the nations and the conversion of the Jews (and apostasy of the nations) means the end of the world might it not be that the return of the Jews to the promises of God will mean the transformation of the Gentiles into children of Ishmael according to the spirit?

“But what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.” (Galatians 4:30)

Cardinal Burke reassures us that the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is not part of the Papal Magisterium. Even if it were I suspect it would be merely ‘authentic’ teaching. No doctrinal judgement is proposed as binding on the faithful and therefore the guarantee of infallibility is not invoked. This is a relief as a number of things contained therein are, ahem, troubling. One very strange remark concerns Islam. The Holy Father tells us that,

“Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

Now I have heard that Islam classically does not licence freelance military action apart from the Caliphate and so cannot be blamed for terrorism (although the abolition of the Caliphate was presumably not anticipated and so presumably what to do in that eventuality was presumably not anticipated either). It seems though that Muslims have traditionally held it was their duty to strive for the conquest of the entire world and the enforced conversion of all non-Christians and non-Jews to Islam and the oppression of the Christians and Jews that remain. That seems violent to me. The Holy Father however alleges that Islam is “opposed to every form of violence”. Tony Blair seemed to think that ‘real’ Islam was a form of Anglicanism. Pope Francis seems to be presenting ‘real’ Islam as a kind of Quakerism. I have never seen Islam presented as pacifist before and I am confused.

Father Zuhlsdorf  promises on his blog to read ‘Francis through Benedict’. I am not sure about the propriety of this method. Certainly we ought to assume the Holy Father teaches us the truth but this presumption only gives way to certainty when as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church. To labour excessively to reconcile the lesser teachings of successive pontiffs can give scandal by creating the impression that a Catholic ought to hold that they cannot contradict each other or err. Nevertheless, there is a famous pronouncement of Pope Benedict XVI that might help us to understand how Islam could be said to reject every form of violence. I am thinking of the Regensburg address of 2006 which was the occasion of so much controversy. Here Pope Benedict remarks,

“Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. ‘God’, he [the Emperor Manuel II] says, ‘is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…’. The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.”

For a ‘real’ Muslim therefore (according to Benedict XVI) violence does not really exist. There is no eternal reason only will and power and so unnatural and involuntary motion strictly does not exist for all corresponds with the will of Allah there is no violence of any kind for there is no nature, no freedom and no truth. Just as Socialism rejects poverty and oppression in every form (despite causing a great deal of it) so Islam as Pope Francis rightly teaches is opposed to every form of violence.


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Pretty good stuff. The jurisdiction of the college of Bishops over the universal church is extraordinary. Jews and Muslims do not have supernatural faith. The state must recognise and worship the One True God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. False religions may only be tolerated. We should seek a Catholic state… (I’m not sure about the bit at the end about the rights of the majority being the basis for the civil position of the Church).

A wise and pacific French Dominican whom I once knew, an expert on Arabic and Islam who had lived many years in Egypt, used to remark that once that religion had entered a country, history showed only two alternatives. Either it gradually spread until it became the dominant force in the country, or else it was driven out by the sword.

Given the high and ever-rising number of Muslims in England, I wonder if the time has come to apply the solution which King Alfred used with regard to the Vikings after the battle of Ethandune, namely to cut off part of the country and allow them to govern it on condition that they didn’t cross over their borders. This would in turn naturally lead us back to what I believe is the even more ancient idea of England as divided into three kingdoms. Only, instead of Mercia, Wessex and Northumbria we could have the Muslims, the Catholics and the Secularists. The exact division of these territories could be settled by a summit meeting of the archbishop of Westminster, the President of the Muslim Council of Great Britain and the Director-General of the BBC.

I propose that the Secularists should have a court, or rather an endless succession of coalition governments elected by PR, based somewhere in north London, perhaps Islington or Hampstead. They could have the south of England, extending as far north as the Midlands and to the eastern suburbs of Oxford in the West, say to the Iffley Road just before you get to Greyfriars. This territory would therefore include East Anglia, but Walsingham would be reserved for the Catholics, a bit like La Rochelle in the 17th Century only in reverse. Walsingham could be ruled by twelve Guardians, who would have the right to try all but capital crimes.

The Muslims could have a caliphate centred, perhaps, on Bradford, and coming down as far as south and west as Birmingham inclusively. It need go no higher than York, I think, to suffice for their needs, which would create an amplified Ealdormanry of Northumbria as a buffer zone against the Scotch. We would have the rest of England, with our capital in Glastonbury. It would be ruled, subsidiarity being duly respected, by a descendant of James II nominated by the Pope after consultation with the the Duke of Bavaria and the head of the House of Hapsburg. The Anglicans and non-conformists would be allowed to decide which of the three realms they felt was their spiritual home. That would still leave the Hindus and Sikhs, of course, but perhaps they could partition the Isle of Man.

Teething problems in relations between the three realms could be settled by meetings of ambassadors at Crewe, which would be reasonably central and convenient for rail access. For this purpose I should be inclined to grant Crewe independence of all other jurisdictions, apart, of course, from that of the Roman Pontiff. Its supreme legislature would therefore be the town council, presided over by a Stationmaster-General. Within his territory he would rank as ceremonially equal to the heads of state of the three principal realms, and would have the right to have crossed flags borne before him in processions.

Since we should have Walsingham as an extra-territorial dependency, I should also be inclined for the sake of peace to grant something similar to the other two realms. The Muslims could have Luton. What of the secularists? Somewhat reluctantly, I suggest conceding them Hay-on-Wye. It would make a nice holiday destination if foreign travel were to become too expensive or dangerous, and they could go there to praise each other’s books.

This division would not last for many generations. The Secularists would wither away owing to birth-control, and we could easily re-take London, perhaps having first recovered and reconciled Canterbury Cathedral. The Muslims would multiply, as would we. We would send them missionaries, and perhaps our Lady of Fatima would intervene to bring about a wonderful conversion. If on the other hand the Sultan of Bradford forbade them to preach in his domain, the Roman pontiff could grant us the right to invade his territory to vindicate the rights of the faith. After a long and glorious reconquista the realm would again enjoy true peace.

Ridiculous? Of course. Yet no more ridiculous than if one had told a Tory MP in 1913 that in 100 years time, his party would propose that men should marry each other.