Monday, July 16, 2018. Have a blessed day on this Feast of Our Lady!
Aleppo, Angel, Annunciation, Aramaic, Bethlehem, Bible, c. 1500s, carol, cherry, Christ, Christianity, Christmas, Church, Crusades, England, English Midlands, faith, Family, God, Gospel, Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, History, Holy Land, hymn, Infancy Gospel of James, Jerusalem, Jesus, Joseph, literature, liturgy, Luke 2:4–5:, Mary, Matthew 1:20, Medieval, Middle East, Mystery Plays, Nativity, Sura 19.22–25, Syriac, tree
Mary Joan Winn Leith • 10/11/2016
JOSEPH was an old man,
And an old man was he,
When he wedded Mary
In the land of Galilee.
Joseph and Mary walk’d
Through an orchard good,
Where was cherries and berries
So red as any blood.
O then bespoke Mary,
So meek and so mild,
‘Pluck me one cherry, Joseph,
For I am with child.’
O then bespoke Joseph
With words so unkind,
‘Let him pluck thee a cherry
That brought thee with child.’
Then bow’d down the highest tree
Unto our Lady’s hand:
Then she said, ‘See, Joseph,
I have cherries at command!’
‘O eat your cherries, Mary,
O eat your cherries now;
O eat your cherries, Mary,
That grow upon the bough.’
—The Cherry Tree Carol (c. 1500)
Ever since I first discovered it in college, the “Cherry Tree Carol” has been one of my favorites. Its surprisingly risqué story line shines an unexpected light on the familiar Christmas Journey to Bethlehem from Luke 2:4–5: Joseph walking alongside the donkey and Mary, very pregnant, perched on its back. Creatively building on gospel narrative, the song fills in the gaps of the brief Nativity stories in Matthew and Luke. How endearing and wholly human, that Joseph might have had trouble fully coming to terms with his wife’s mysterious pregnancy despite the angel’s reassurances (“…do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit”) in Matthew 1:20! Mary and Joseph in the cherry orchard recalls, of course, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There, trouble with fruit led to big trouble for humanity, trouble that the baby in Mary’s womb will set right. In this somewhat feminist counter-story, a man is put in his place by a woman—with God’s full cooperation!
Mosaic of the Journey to Bethlehem from the Chora Church in Istanbul.
A visit to YouTube will yield an assortment of lovely performances, including a version discovered in Appalachia. While the Cherry Tree Carol blooms in cyberspace, however, its roots go deep and wide: from medieval England back to the 12th-century Crusader kingdoms and ultimately to early Christian communities of the Middle East who worshipped in Syriac, a liturgical (religious) form of Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Adherents of Syriac Christianity include a range of different denominations, but they have lived in the Middle East for 2,000 years. Today, facing the twin threats of ISIS and the Syrian civil war, the future of these ancient communities is in doubt. The beleaguered Syrian city of Aleppo in particular (see the Google city map) is home to many churches, from Syriac-speaking to Evangelical, whose congregations may never recover. Syriac Christianity, in particular, has generally flown under the radar of mainstream scholarship, although this is beginning to change. It now appears that the Cherry Tree Carol’s distinctive take on Joseph’s outspokenness at Mary’s pregnancy can be traced back to a unique feature of Syriac liturgy, one still operative in churches (if they survive) today, the dialogue hymn.
Churches in Aleppo, Syria
Like many carols, the “original” version of the Cherry Tree Carol comes from the Middle Ages. It appears in a set of Bible-based “Mystery Plays,” known today as the “N-Town Plays,” that were performed in the English Midlands around 1500. The Middle Ages may be the quintessential Christmas setting (yule logs, holly and ivy, wassailing!), but the inspiration for the magical fruit tree and Joseph’s bitterness is even older. Scholars generally identify the carol’s prototype in a ninth-century bestseller, the “Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew,” in which a date palm bows to Mary. This story, however, is set after Jesus is born, during the Flight to Egypt, and it is the infant Jesus who commands the tree to “bend thy branches and refresh my mother with thy fruit” when Mary grows faint. Variations on the miraculous fruit tree motif appear in a wide variety of sources, from Greek mythology to the Qur’an’s account of Mary and the birth of Jesus in Sura 19.22–25. On the other hand, nowhere in “Pseudo-Matthew” does Joseph utter a harsh word to Mary, not even when he finds Mary pregnant; Mary’s virgin companions, not Mary, face Joseph’s interrogation until the angel shows up to calm him down.
The most striking aspect of the Cherry Tree Carol is that Joseph is so disrespectful to the Virgin Mary. In the N-Town “Nativity” play, Joseph is quick to apologize, and the play passes on to its main subject, the birth of Jesus. Joseph’s bad attitude, however, is the sole topic of another N-Town play, “Joseph’s Doubt,” that was performed right after the “Annunciation” and before the “Nativity.” The play seems to have been popular; the two other leading medieval mystery play cycles, the York Mystery plays and the Wakefield Plays, also include versions. “Joseph’s Doubt” devotes 135 astonishing lines to back-and-forth between a distressed and angry Joseph and his increasingly anguished wife. Joseph’s scorn is unrelenting: “God’s child? You lie! God never played thus with a maiden! … All men will despise me and say, ‘Old cuckold,’ thy bow is bent.” Hearing of the angel’s visit to Mary, Joseph scoffs, “An angel? Alas for shame. You sin by blaming it on an angel … it was some boy began this game.” Helpless, Mary prays to God and the angel appears to set Joseph straight, at which point he apologizes abjectly, “I realize now I have acted amiss; I know I was never worthy to be your husband. I shall amend my ways and follow your example from now on, and serve you hand and foot.”
In the Bible, faced with Mary’s interesting condition, “Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly” (Matthew 1:19). No histrionics here. Joseph is rather more upset in the second-century apocryphal “Infancy Gospel of James”: “[H]e smote his face, and cast himself down upon the ground on sackcloth and wept bitterly,” demanding of Mary, “‘Why have you done this? … Why have you humbled your soul?’ But she wept bitterly, saying, ‘I am pure and I know not a man.’”Around the fifth century, however, this story line expanded into a full-fledged drama in the form of a Syriac Christian dialogue hymn sung in church by twin choirs—one singing the part of Joseph; the other, Mary—as part of the Christmas liturgy. One published version runs to well over 100 lines of dialogue. Joseph’s words often recall the later medieval “Joseph’s Doubt” plays, but in this Syriac drama, Mary holds her own and does not falter. She even proves herself an adept Biblical scholar: “You have gone astray, Joseph; take and read for yourself in Isaiah it is written all about me, how a virgin shall bear fruit.”1
How did a Syriac drama find its way to the medieval English Midlands? The likely answer is with Crusaders returning from the Holy Land in the 12th and 13th centuries. During the Crusades, relations between Western (“Latin”) Christians and Middle Eastern Christians began badly. After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, the Crusaders (the “Latins”) considered the indigenous Christians (Syriac and Orthodox) to be citizens of secondary status—no better in their eyes than Muslims or Jews. This view evolved as the Latins came to know the various indigenous Christian groups, particularly those from northern Syria whose leaders took care to make their interests known to the new rulers. Much productive interaction occurred between Latin, Orthodox (“Greek”) and Syriac Christians (with Muslims, too, but that is another story). Art historian Lucy-Ann Hunt has described the Crusaders’ growing “concern with language, rites, and customs” of the indigenous Christians and “sympathetic reception and transmission of eastern works of art.”2
How appropriate, since this is a Christmas blog, that some of the best evidence for cooperation between Crusaders and local Christians comes from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem! The Church was famously founded in the fourth century by Constantine and his mother Helena, but the existing wall mosaics and some of the barely visible column frescoes date to the 12th century. This is when the Byzantine Emperor Manuel Comnenos forged an alliance with King Amalric of Jerusalem and sponsored a new decorative program in the Church of the Nativity. Interestingly, trilingual (Latin, Greek, Syriac) inscriptions in the church attest to both Byzantine-trained and local Christian artists. Furthermore, as Hunt notes, “While the Orthodox and Latin were the predominant communities, the ‘Monophysites’ [i.e., local Christians] were also represented at the Church of the Nativity.”3These days, Crusaders have a deservedly clouded reputation, but perhaps for one brief shining moment at Christmas in the Church of the Nativity they acquitted themselves as one would wish with open ears and hearts. I like to imagine “Latin” Crusaders hearing the Syriac Joseph and Mary dialogue performed at Christmas in the Church of the Nativity. Captivated by the hymn, they adopted and adapted it to become part of the developing English Mystery play tradition, a tradition we can thank for the Cherry Tree Carol.
Mary Joan Winn Leith is chair of the department of religious studies at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. At Stonehill, she teaches courses on the Bible and the religion, history and culture of the Ancient Near East and Greece. In addition, she offers a popular course on the Virgin Mary. Leith is a regular Biblical Views columnist for Biblical Archaeology Review.
1. Sebastian Brock, “A Dialogue Between Joseph and Mary From the Christian Orient,” Logos: Cylchgrawn Diwinyddol Cymru (The Welsh Theological Review) 1.3 (1992), pp. 4–11.
2. Lucy-Ann Hunt, “Art and Colonialism: The Mosaics of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (1169) and the Problem of ‘Crusader Art,’” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 45 (1991), p. 72.
3. Hunt, “Art and Colonialism,” p. 77.
Sura 19, “Maryam”: Lines 22–34 include the palm tree episode.
By Scott P. Richert, Catholicism Expert
A number of spiritual practices that were very common in the past have been neglected in recent decades. As belief in the doctrine of Purgatory has waned, fewer people pray for the Holy Souls—those who died in a state of grace, but without having fully atoned for their sins. And far fewer people engage in the practice of “offering it up”—offering up our daily sufferings, toil, and stress for the good of these souls in Purgatory.Continue Reading Below Pope Benedict XVI referred to this practice in his weekly Angelus address on Sunday, November 4, 2007:Truthfully, the Church invites us to pray for the dead every day, offering also our sufferings and difficulties that they, once completely purified, might be admitted to enjoy the light and peace of the Lord for all eternity.(It’s no coincidence that Pope Benedict discussed this in November, the Month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory—it’s a good month to make a daily effort to establish the habit of “offering it up.”)
We Benefit, Too, by Helping the Holy Souls
When we offer up our daily sufferings, we benefit, too, because we learn better to cope with the challenges of our daily life. Whenever we find ourselves in a bad situation, we should remind ourselves that we’re offering it up for the Holy Souls, because the merit of our offering increases when we cope with the situation with Christian charity, humility, and patience.
A Great Practice to Teach Your Children
Children, too, can learn to “offer it up,” and they’re often eager to do so, especially if they can offer up the trials of childhood for a beloved grandparent or other relative or friend who has died.Continue Reading BelowIt’s a good way to remind them that, as Christians, we believe in life after death and that, in a very real sense, the souls of the dead are still with us. That’s what the “Communion of Saints” that we refer to in the Apostles’ Creed (and every other Christian creed) means.
How Do You “Offer It Up”?
In the most general sense, any prayer or intention to “offer it up” is sufficient. Simply stop at a moment of stress, or as you enter into a situation that you know will be stressful, make the Sign of the Cross, and say something like, “O Jesus, I offer up my struggles and sacrifices today for the relief of the Holy Souls in Purgatory.”A better way, though, is to memorize a Morning Offering (or to keep a copy of it near your bed), and to say it when you first wake up. Traditionally, the Morning Offering, along with the Our Father and the Act of Faith, the Act of Hope, and the Act of Charity, were the centerpieces of Catholic morning prayers. In the Morning Offering, we dedicate our entire day to God, and we promise to offer up our sufferings throughout the day for the souls in Purgatory.
Augustine, Augustine of Hippo, Christ, Christian, Christianity, City of God, Companions of the Cross, Conrad of Parzham, Devotion, Doctor of the Church, Francis of Assisi, God, Jesus Christ, Lepanto, Prayer, relics, Rosary, Sack of Rome, Saints, Thérèse of Lisieux
Saturday, Jan 19, 2013 7:22 AM
“Crisis makes people return to their faith,” says Father Carlos Martins. “To hold a relic of a beloved saint makes the faith real for people, because the touch of a saint is always a touch of tenderness.”
Father Martins’ ministry is to carry that “touch of tenderness” to parishes across North America through his “Treasures of the Church” exposition. Incorporating both a multimedia presentation and exposition of actual relics, the exhibit gives the scriptural, catechetical and devotional basis for the Church’s use of relics and offers attendees the opportunity to venerate the relics of more than 150 saints.
At a time when religious liberty is being threatened and the truths of the faith attacked, the saints are a tangible source of solace to the faithful.
“The saints are God’s agents whom he sends to carry his love and mercy,” explains Father Martins. “As members of his mystical body, they are an extension of him. They are his hands and feet that go out to touch his children and make them aware of his presence.”
The exposition includes the relics of such beloved saints as Sts. Thérèse of Lisieux and Francis of Assisi, as well as those of lesser-known saints such as Sts. Conrad of Parzham and Zeno the Tribune. Of all the saints whose relics are included, Father Martins holds up Sts. Thomas More and Augustine as special intercessors for our time: “St. Thomas More was a brilliant lawyer and statesman who was martyred for defending the sacramental nature of marriage against King Henry VIII. St. Augustine, a doctor of the Church, wrote the beautiful City of God in response to the Roman Senate’s request — provoked by the sack of Rome and the anti-Christian sentiment that followed it — for an apologia for the Christian faith.
“These are saints who knew both politics and saintliness and who successfully married the two.”
Father Martins, a member of the Companions of the Cross religious community, adds, “Many see the recent encroachment against religious liberty by United States politicians as an echo to that which was instigated by Henry VIII and opposed by St. Thomas More.” The similarity makes Thomas More a saint to be “especially invoked” in these conflict-ridden times.
Stephen Krason, professor of political science at Franciscan University and author of The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic, agrees that “turning to saints for the intention of a religious revival in the United States may be just the thing for people to do.”
To illustrate, he points to two historical events: the 1571 victory of the Christians over the Turks at Lepanto and the 1955 withdrawal of the Soviets from southern Austria. Both events came about through the widespread and resolute recitation of the Rosary. “History shows the power of concentrated prayer and devotion,” asserts Krason. “We can’t shortchange the spiritual.”
Indeed, the spirituality of a single individual can alter the course of history. Such is the case with St. Augustine. Augustine’s compelling defense of eternal truths, City of God, is a book that has had a profound influence on Western civilization. But if it is St. Augustine’s brilliance that has distinguished him as a defender of the faith, it is his brokenness, as described by the saint in his autobiographical Confessions, which has endeared him to Christians over the centuries.
“The saints know what it is to be human and imperfect — to be sinful, broken, finite. And, yet, they have overcome these shortcomings with the grace of Christ,” says Father Martins. “Thus, they are attractive on two levels: They struggled with their imperfect natures, and, through grace, they achieved perfection in their natures.”
Pope Benedict voiced the same idea when, in his homily at last year’s chrism Mass, he stated, “The figure of Jesus Christ seems too lofty for us to dare to measure ourselves by him. The Lord knows this. So he has provided ‘translations’ on a scale that is more accessible and closer to us.”
The saints themselves are the “translations” provided to us by God, and our very kinship with them can help us to effect change in our country. Observes Father Martins, “The favorite saint to whom someone prays for the recovery of an ill child, for help with paying the monthly bills and for intercession that his job will be spared in the next round of layoffs is often the same one who is entrusted with the very important task of getting just laws enacted.”
The priest adds, “Relics are important because they provide a way to get closer to these Divine translations so as to better intuit the Word which gives them being. As members of Christ’s mystical body, the saints are incarnate in Christ. They lead us to him. As physical expressions of their lives, relics bring us closer to the saints.
“Because the saints now serve as our models and intercessors, their victory has become a victory for all of us.”
Celeste Behe writes from
Given below are the most viewed articles of this blog in 2012. All of them were written in a year other than 2012. Why is that? Search me. Although I might have some inkling on some of them. Here is how it boils down:
These are the posts that got the most views in 2012.
Two favorite articles are about words. I believe people are always curious about words and where they come from, as witness the futon and hooliganism.
Another article is about the history of the Medjool date. People like things that seem exotic – even if it is just about a date.
The blog of February 2010 is about a painting on “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey” in the National Gallery in London, England. Now that DOES puzzle me.
This story is about tithing as practiced in the Holy Land during Christ’s lifetime. In it, Jesus relates how he was witnessing the donations made by rich men into the donation box at the synagogue. Jesus relates how a poor widow donates but two mites, the lowest coinage of the realm. But, Christ highlights how these two small coins are all the widow has to give, whereas the wealthy gave but a small sum relative to their great wealth. Because of this blog’s popularity I can only surmise people are very curious about what Christianity has to say about the rich and the poor. I may write more upon this subject at a later date.
Editor’s note: Adam C. English is author of “The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of St. Nicholas of Myra” (Baylor University Press, 2012) and associate professor of religion at Campbell University.
By Adam C. English, Special to CNN
Four years ago, I embarked on a quest to discover the truth about Santa Claus and the original St. Nicholas. My search took me many places, sending me finally across the Atlantic to Bari, on Italy’s Adriatic coast.
The old town of Bari is a brambly, medieval maze of streets and alleyways that cross and crisscross. It is said that the city was intentionally constructed in a topsy-turvy way so that anyone trying to raid it would get swallowed and lost in its labyrinth. If you keep wandering, though, eventually you pop out onto a plaza and see the Basilica di San Nicola.
And there, in a gray tomb, lies the “real” Santa Claus. The basilica housing that tomb dates to the 11th century. You can go into the basilica and pray, rest or just gawk, but the real show lies below.
Down dark steps you will enter a candle-lit crypt, built in 1089, supported by 26 marble columns. Through a grate you will see a large marble and concrete tomb, St Nicholas’ final resting place.
Little is known for certain about the life of Nicholas, whose name means “the people’s champion.” He was born sometime after the year 260 and died sometime after 333.
He was bishop of the church in Myra in what was then the Roman province of Lycia, Asia Minor. He attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 with the other bishops of the Christian empire, where he would have seen the Emperor Constantine.
Perhaps he would have slipped into obscurity as nothing more than a minor saint – originally he was a patron saint of sailors – except for one unique story that circulated about him shortly after his death.
It’s such a strange and surprising tale that historians assume it must be based to a large degree on fact. It is the tale of three poor daughters.
Nicholas had been aware of a certain citizen of Patara – in Lycia, modern-day Turkey – who had once been an important and wealthy man of the city but who had fallen on hard times and into extreme poverty. The man grew so desperate that he lacked the very essentials of life.
The poor man reasoned that it was impossible to marry off his three beautiful daughters because they lacked dowries for proper marriages to respectable noblemen. He feared they would each in turn be forced into prostitution to support themselves.
Nicholas heard this heartbreaking news and resolved to do something about it. He bagged a sum of gold and in the dead of night, tossed it through the man’s window. The money was used as a dowry for the first daughter.
Sometime later, Nicholas made a second nighttime visit so that the second daughter might marry. Later tradition reported that, finding the windows closed, he dropped the bag of gold down the chimney, where it landed into one of the girl’s stockings that was hanging to dry.
When Nicholas returned to deliver anonymously the third bag of gold for the last daughter, the curious father was ready. When he heard a bag hit the floor, the father leapt to his feet and raced outside, where he caught the mysterious benefactor.
Nicholas revealed his identity to the father but made him swear never to tell anyone what he’d done. He did not want praise or recognition for his generosity.
More impressive than its connection with modern-day Santa Claus traditions is the tale’s historical uniqueness. The vast majority of saint stories that circulated in the early church involved extraordinary miracles and healings or dramatic martyrdoms and confessions of Christ.
They involved monks who went into the desert and experienced the tempting of the devil and the burning of the sun, mothers who’d had their entrails spilled onto the Colosseum floor for Christ, mystics who saw the heavens open in their visions.
But the Nicholas story was about a regular family facing a familiar crisis to which ordinary people could relate. Those in the pews had never heard anything like it.
When medieval Christians looked at the great church frescoes, basilica mosaics and cathedral stained glass pictures of Jesus, Mary, John the Baptist, the apostles and saints of old, there was little to distinguish one saint from another.
But St. Nicholas was easy to spot. He was always pictured carrying three bags of gold. The story of his helping the three sisters jumped off the dry page of history and into the minds and imaginations of young girls and boys and adults.
Indeed, Nicholas would become the most popular nonbiblical saint in the pre-modern church. More churches would be dedicated to him than to any other person except Mary, the mother of Jesus. The first medieval drama that was not intended as a worship ritual and that was written in the vernacular was about Nicholas.
No wonder, then, that sailors from Bari wanted his bones. In the 1080s, Seljuk Turks invaded Lycia and Asia Minor (what is now Turkey). It seemed only a matter of time before they would plunder the tomb of St. Nicholas.
The Barians resolved that his bones be moved, or “translated,” to use the expression of the day. Under the nose of the Turkish overlords in control of the area 47 Barian sailors disembarked at Myra disguised as pilgrims.
They quietly made their way to the church of St. Nicholas, hiding swords and shovels under their clothes. As soon as they entered the church, they barred the doors, smashed the marble cover and looked inside.
They found more than they had bargained for: Nicholas’ bones were floating in a sweet-smelling liquid like oil or water. Known as the myrrh or manna of St. Nicholas, the liquid was highly valued for its purported miraculous and therapeutic qualities.
The bones were taken back to Italy and a basilica was erected in Bari to house them. To this day, Nicholas’ tomb continues to excrete a small amount of watery liquid.
Every year on May 9, one of the Dominican friars charged with the upkeep and care of the Basilica di San Nicola squats down in front of a small opening in the tomb and slowly collects a vile of the myrrh of St. Nicholas. It is then diluted in holy water and bottled for pilgrims and visitors.
So there is a lot more to the story of St. Nick than meets the eye. His bold initiative to help three poor girls in need sparked a tradition of gift-giving that has carried into modern times. The magical Christmas Eve visits from Santa Claus represent the vestige of this old story. Instead of fixating on the commercialization and greed that plague the modern Santa Claus, I chose to see in it the lasting power of a simple act of kindness.
More than a footnote to the legend of Santa Claus, Nicholas is a model of Christian kindness, an inspiration for charity and a saint to be remembered. He challenges us at this time of year to give not only to those we know and love, but also to those we do not know and especially to those who find themselves in need.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Adam C. English.
The Editors – CNN Belief Blog
Filed under: Christianity • Christmas
source URL: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/22/my-take-the-christmas-message-of-the-real-st-nicholas/?hpt=hp_c3
November 17, 2012
In the November/December 2012 issue of BAR, Geza Vermes discusses how the Jewish Jesus movement decreased its focus on Mosaic law as it began to embrace non-Jewish members and develop into a gentile Christian religion.
The newly revised Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism presents the first six centuries of the two religions in one understandable and engaging volume. Learn about the histories of these two religions from the first century to the Arab conquest.
What can we reliably know about Paul and how can we know it? Biblical scholar James Tabor analyzes Biblical and extrabiblical depictions to provide readers with four diverse treatments of the historical apostle.
The 15th annual Bible and Archaeology Fest is off to a great start in Chicago. Visit our travel/study page and join us on the exciting seminar and travel programs we’ve put together for our readers and scholars in 2013!
Israeli archaeologists excavating one of the world’s oldest wells at ‘Enot Nisanit were surprised to discover two 8,500-year-old skeletons at the bottom of the well.
A recent article in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that a 6-foot 8-inch Roman stands as the earliest preserved example of a skeleton suffering from gigantism.
Excavations at Tel Beth-Shemesh, a city occupied by the Israelites, Canaanites and Philistines, revealed an 11th-century B.C.E. temple that was intentionally desecrated after its abandonment.
Write a caption for this cartoon (see Matthew 7:9-10). The deadline for mailed entries is November 30. The author of the winning caption will receive a copy of the BAS book The Origins of Things, a BAS tote bag and three gift subscriptions to give BARto friends. Runners-up will receive a BAS tote bag and two gift subscriptions.
The Dead Sea Scrolls: Discovery and Meaning
Subscribe to Biblical Archaeology Review.
Copyright © 2012 Biblical Archaeology Society
4710 41st Street NW
Washington, DC 20016
Telephone: 202 364-3300
Our increasingly secular world – or should I say “our thoroughly secular world” – has lost the concept, and the understanding, about sin. It is also increasingly omitted from homilies and pulpits throughout the United States. Sin isn’t in fashion these days, and so it is treated as though it were some sort of fashion – old fashion, that is; and therefore unacceptable and non-PC in the every day. But sin does exist. And sin has so permeated this world that men are blind to its presence. It is seen as normal, even desirable. But it is something that needs to brought back into the mainstream of discussion. For, how can sin be avoided if we do not see it or hear it spoken of in daily life?
In this article presented, the concept of the unforgivable sin is brought to the fore. It was something of which Jesus spoke throughout his ministry. And it is imperative that all Christians, and all good people, consider its consequence.
October 20, 2012 ·
It’s very strange to hear Jesus, particularly in Luke’s Gospel, speak about an unforgivable sin. The portrait Luke paints of Jesus is of a man whose arms are constantly open to sinners, who seemingly is incapable of refusing forgiveness to sinners. Yet there it is. Jesus in Luke speaks of the unforgivable sin, as he does also in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew.
It’s Mark and Matthew who give the context in which Jesus made this statement. The Pharisees had just claimed that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul and that he drove out demons by the power of the prince of demons.
The Pharisees had looked at Jesus working miracles and driving demons out of people possessed. What they saw was Jesus possessed by Beelzebul, driving demons out of people possessed by the power of the prince of demons. They looked at Jesus and saw Satan; they witnessed the obviously God-sanctioned works of Jesus and saw Satan at work. They blinded themselves to the goodness and truth in Jesus. They could no longer discern between evil and sin when confronted by them. Since they could no longer see sin as sin, they no longer saw the need for repentance. They were mired permanently in their sin. They had made themselves impermeable to the grace of the Spirit.
We also face this danger. Sin must be recognized as sin, evil as evil, truth and goodness as truth and goodness. If we get in the habit of not seeing sin where there is sin, we will lose our ability to discern good and evil. Though culpable, we will be incapable of repentance. We will have blinded ourselves.
source URL: http://catholicexchange.com/unforgivable-sin-2/
From Scott P. Richert, your Guide to Catholicism
As fall descends upon the Northern Hemisphere, the Catholic liturgical year draws to a close. In the traditional calendar, many of the feasts between mid-September and the First Sunday in Advent make reference to conflicts between Christianity and Islam, and great victories in battles in which the Church–and, more broadly, Christendom–was threatened.
The memory of these events turns our thoughts to the end times, when the Church will undergo trials and tribulations before the return of Christ the King. It may not be obvious how dedicating the month of October to the Holy Rosary fits into this pattern. But the rosary–and, more specifically, Our Lady of the Rosary–is credited with victory in a number of the battles commemorated in these final months of the year. Read more…
Many Protestants attack the rosary not simply because it is a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary but because of the fact that, in praying the rosary, we recite the same prayers over and over. And, sadly, in recent decades (no pun intended) many Catholics have begun to question the rosary for the same reason. But are rote prayers like the rosary really a problem? Or can they be an aid to a deeper prayer life? Read more…
Each one of us, the Church teaches, has our own guardian angel, who protects us both spiritually and physically. That physical protection is a reflection of the dignity that God has instilled in our bodies, and not simply our souls. We should thank God and our guardian angel for such great care, and make the Guardian Angel Prayer that we learned as children a part of our daily prayer life.
Most Catholics know the Prayer of Saint Francis (“Make me a channel of your peace . . . “), but this Act of Love, which he also wrote, is less well known. An act of spiritual communion, it expresses our belief in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and asks Him to come into our heart even when we cannot receive Him physically.
This newsletter is written by:
Scott P. Richert
249 West 17th Street
New York, NY, 10011
© 2012 About.com