Novum et Æternum Testamentum

Peter Gertner, Crucifixion, 1537; Walters Art Museum.
Peter Gertner, Crucifixion, 1537; Walters Art Museum.

And first of all, by the death of our Redeemer, the New Testament took the place of the Old Law which had been abolished; then the Law of Christ together with its mysteries, enactments, institutions, and sacred rites was ratified for the whole world in the blood of Jesus Christ. For, while our Divine Saviour was preaching in a restricted area — He was not sent but to the sheep that were lost of the House of Israel — the Law and the Gospel were together in force; but on the gibbet of His death Jesus made void the Law with its decrees fastened the handwriting of the Old Testament to the Cross, establishing the New Testament in His blood shed for the whole human race. “To such an extent, then,” says St. Leo the Great, speaking of the Cross of our Lord, “was there effected a transfer from the Law to the Gospel, from the Synagogue to the Church, from the many sacrifices to one Victim, that, as Our Lord expired, that mystical veil which shut off the innermost part of the temple and its sacred secret was rent violently from top to bottom.”

Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Mystici corporis Christi, no. 29 (29 June 1942).

No Dogmatic Authority; Contrary to the Faith

The secretary for the Unity of Christians said on 18 November 1964 in the Council Hall about Nostra Aetate: “As to the character of the declaration, the secretariat does not want to write a dogmatic declaration on non-Christian religions, but, rather, practical and pastoral norms.” Nostrae Aetate does not have any dogmatic authority, and thus one cannot demand from anyone to recognize this declaration as being dogmatic. This declaration can only be understood in the light of tradition and of the continuous Magisterium. For example, there exists today, unfortunately, the view — contrary to the Catholic Faith — that there is a salvific path independent of Christ and His Church. That has also been officially confirmed last of all by the Congregation for the Faith itself in its declaration, Dominus Jesus. Therefore, any interpretation of Nostrae Aetate which goes into this direction is fully unfounded and has to be rejected.

Archbishop Guido Pozzo, Secretary to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, interview in Die Zeit (32/2016).

Christ Alone Has the Power

Christ might indeed have chosen to select another form of government, and to institute the visible Church either as a democracy or as an aristocracy. Either of these is a conceivable and a possible form of government, and either is compatible with the existence of a governed society. Both of them have actually existed as forms of government in the civil order. The practical question, however, and with that alone we have concern, is not as to what Christ might have done, but as to what Christ actually did.

Christ instituted the visible Church neither as an aristocracy, nor as a democracy, but as a monarchy.

In an aristocracy ruling power is vested in several different men, who are regarded as being the best men, as chiefs or elders or otherwise. The power of each of these is an equal power. It is equally exercised by all of them, although it is exercised by all as if all were one, and formed one moral person, one ruling body. Hence in an aristocracy, the consent of a majority or, what is equivalent thereto, the prevailing might of a considerable minority, is required and suffices for exercise of ruling power. Christ did not institute the visible Church as an aristocracy, for Christ did not give to all of His Apostles an equal power, or to all of them supreme power.

In a democracy both legislative power and executive power rest with the people, and are exercised by the representatives and ministers of the people. It is self government. The people govern themselves. Christ did not institute the visible Church as a democracy, for over His Church Christ set rulers.

In a constitutional or representative government, which is a monarchy tempered with democracy, legislative power rests with the representatives of the people, and executive power with the king and his ministers. Christ did not institute the visible Church as a constitutional government, for He did not give to the Christian people, or to the representatives of the Christian people, the power of making the laws by which the Christian society was to be governed.

In a monarchy one person and one alone is in possession of supreme power, and thus has plenitude of power. One person has direct and immediate rule over all subjects within his kingdom, both singly and collectively, whether as individuals or as a body. It was as a monarchy that Christ instituted the visible Church. He so far tempered, however, this monarchy with aristocracy that it should not be in the power of the supreme ruler to abolish those inferior rulers whose power was equally of Christ’s institution, and therefore of Divine right. The supreme ruler was nevertheless not to be merely the ministerial head of the inferior rulers, and to exercise a power which flowed to him from them. He was to be in possession of supreme power, and of the plenitude of power, as his own power.

Pontificate and Episcopate are therefore equally of Divine right, as instituted by Christ. Both belong to the intestinal constitution of the visible Church. Neither of them can be abolished, nor can either cease to exist, if that Church is to endure in its identity as instituted by Christ. Pontificate without Episcopate would not constitute that Church; still less would Episcopate without Pontificate.

The kingdoms of a world the fashion of which passeth away may be altered into aristocracies, and so cease to be kingdoms. Aristocracies may be altered into democracies or into kingdoms, and so cease to be aristocracies, in the one case as in the other. Democracies may develop into aristocracies, and these again into monarchies, and in either case they cease to be democracies. With all such changes there is a change of intestinal constitution. There is radical change, and the society, in its altered constitution, has ceased to be that society which it was in its beginning. In a visible society of Divine institution, which is to endure in the living oneness of its identity to the end of time, the alteration of its constitution is an absolute impossibility. For such an alteration the Pontiff with his supreme power is in the plenitude of his power as powerless as are the Bishops; and the whole body of the Bishops is as powerless as is the Christian people. Christ alone has power to alter the constitution of that visible Church which the same Christ instituted. All save Christ must say Non possumus, We are destitute of power.

— William Humphrey, S. J., Urbs et Orbis, London: Thos. Baker, 1899.

Only the Shedding of Men’s Blood

Detail of manuscript illustration, depicting Vergil and Dante encountering Mohammed in Hell, MS. Holkham misc. 48, Inferno, Canto XXVIII.
Detail of manuscript illustration, depicting Vergil and Dante encountering Mohammed in Hell, MS. Holkham misc. 48, Inferno, Canto XXVIII.

My brother Abraham has written to me from Caesarea that a false prophet has appeared among the Saracens. “For when the candidatus Sergius1 was killed by the Saracens,” says Abraham,  “I was at Caesarea, and I went by boat to Sycaminum; and they said, ‘the candidatus has been killed,’ and we Jews had great joy. And they say that a prophet has appeared coming up with the Saracens and proclaims the coming of the anointed, the Christ who cometh. And when I Abraham came to Sycaminum, I went to the elder, a very learned man, and I said to him: ‘What do you say, Rabbi, about the prophet who has appeared with the Saracens?’ And he groaned loudly and said: ‘He is false, for surely the prophets do not come with sword and chariot. Verily the troubles of today are works of confusion, and I fear lest the Christ who came first, whom the Christians worship, was himself he that was sent by God, and we shall receive Hermolaus (the Devil) instead of him. For Isaiah said that we Jews have hearts that have gone astray and been hardened, until all the earth be desolate. But go, Abraham, and enquire about the prophet that has appeared.’ And I Abraham made enquiry and learned from those that had met him, that you find nothing true in the so-called prophet, save shedding the blood of men; for he says that he holds the key of paradise, which is untrue.”

Didaskalia of Jacob.

1 On 4 February 634, dux and candidatus, Sergius, led a detachment of 300 soldiers from Caesarea against a superior Mohammedan force, commanded by Abu Umamah al-Bahili, at the Battle of Dathin, in the vicinity of Gaza (St. Theophanes the Confessor, Chronographia). The Candidatus fell alongside his men in the Byzantine defeat.

Expecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum

For Christians, burial is not the disposal of a thing. It is caring for a person. In burial, we’re reminded that the body is not a shell, a husk tossed aside by the “real” person, the soul within. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6–8; Phil. 1:23), but the body that remains still belongs to someone, someone we love, someone who will reclaim it one day.

Our father Abraham did not “dispose” of the “container” previously occupied by his loved one. Moses tells us that “Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan” (Gen. 23:19, emphasis mine). His burial of his wife, returning her to the dust from which she came, honored our foremother, in precise distinction from the shamefulness with which our God views the leaving of bodies to decompose publicly (Is. 5:25).

The Gospel of John tells us that “Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days” (John 11:17). The Holy Spirit chose to identify this body as Lazarus, communicating continuity with the very same person Jesus had loved before and would love again.

After the crucifixion of Jesus, the Gospels present us with an example of devotion to Jesus in the way the women—and Joseph of Arimathea—minister to him, anointing him with spices, specifically anointing, Mark tells us, him and not just “his remains” (Mark 16:1), and wrapping him in a shroud. Why is Mary Magdalene so grieved when she finds the tomb to be empty? It is not that she doubts that a stolen body can be resurrected by God on the last day. It is instead that she sees violence done to the body of Jesus as violence done to him, dishonor done to his body as dishonor to him. When Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener, she tells him she is despondent because they “have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” (John 20:13). This body was, at least in some sense, still her Lord, and it mattered what someone had done to it. Jesus and the angelic beings never correct the devoted women. They simply ponder why they seek the living among the dead.

Moore, Russell D., “Grave Signs,” Touchstone Magazine, January/February, 2007.

The Wayfarer

THE WAYFARER.

I.

Among those in the home-straths of Argyll who are now grey, and in the quiet places of whose hearts old memories live green and sweet, there must be some who recall that day when a stranger came into Strath Nair, and spoke of the life eternal.

This man, who was a minister of God, was called James Campbell. He was what is called a good man, by those who measure the soul by inches and extol its vision by the tests of the purblind. He had rectitude of a kind, the cold and bitter thing that is not the sunlit integrity of the spirit. And he had the sternness that is the winter of a frozen life. In his heart, God was made in the image of John Calvin.

With this man the love of love was not even a dream. A poor strong man he was, this granite-clasped soul; and the sunlight faded out of many hearts, and hopes fell away to dust before the blight of the east wind of his spirit.

On the day after his coming to Strath Nair, the new minister went from cottage to cottage. He went to all, even to the hill-bothy of Peter Macnamara the shepherd; to all save one. He did not go to the cottage of Mary Gilchrist, for the woman lived, there alone, with the child that had been born to her. In the eyes of James Campbell she was evil. His ears heard, but not his heart, that no man or woman spoke harshly of her, for she had been betrayed.

On the morning of the Bell, as some of the old folk still call the morrow of the Sabbath, the glory of sunlight came down the Strath. For many days rain had fallen, hours upon hours at a time; or heavy, dropping masses of vapour had hung low upon the mountains, making the peaty uplands sodden, and turning the grey rocks into a wet blackness. By day and by night the wind had moaned among the corries along the high moors. There was one sound more lamentable still: the incessant mèhing of the desolate, soaked sheep. The wind in the corries, on the moors, among the pines and larches; the plaintive cruel sorrow of the wandering ewes; never was any other sound to be heard, save the distant wailing of curlews. Only, below all, as inland near the coast one hears continuously the murmur of the sea, so by night and day the Gorromalt Water made throughout the whole reach of Strath Nair an undertone as of a weary sighing.

But before nightfall on Saturday the rain ceased, and the wet wind of the south suddenly revolved upon itself beyond the spurs of Ben Maiseach. Long before the gloaming had oozed an earth-darkness to meet the falling dark, the mists had lifted. One by one, moist stars revealed hollows of voilet, which, when the moon yellowed the fir-tops, disclosed a vast untravelled waste of blue, wherein slow silent waves of darkness continuously lapsed. The air grew full of loosened fragrances; most poignantly, of the bog-myrtle, the bracken, and the resinous sprays of pine and larch.

Where the road turns at the Linn o’ Gorromalt there is an ancient disarray of granite boulders above the brown rushing water. Masses of wild rose grow in that place. On this June gloaming the multitudinous blooms were like pale wings, as though the fabled birds that live in rainbows, or the frail creatures of the falling dew, had alit there, tremulous, uncertain.

There that evening, the woman, Mary Gilchrist, sat, happy in the silences of the dusk. While she inhaled the fragrance of the wild roses, as it floated above the persistent green odour of the bent and the wet fern, and listened to the noise of Gorromalt Water foaming and surging out of the linn, she heard steps close by her. Glancing sidelong, she saw “the new minister,” a tall, gaunt man, with lank, irongrey hair above his white, stern, angular face.

He looked at her, not knowing who she was.

Continue reading “The Wayfarer”

Dona et Vocatio Dei

I must not fail, brethren, to make this revelation known to you; or else you might have too good a conceit of yourselves. Blindness has fallen upon a part of Israel, but only until the tale of the Gentile nations is complete; then the whole of Israel will find salvation, as we read in scripture, A deliverer shall come from Sion, to rid Jacob of his unfaithfulness; and this shall be the fulfilment of my covenant with them, when I take away their sins. In the preaching of the gospel, God rejects them, to make room for you; but in his elective purpose he still welcomes them, for the sake of their fathers; God does not repent of the gifts he makes, or of the calls he issues. You were once rebels, until through their rebellion you obtained pardon; they are rebels now, obtaining pardon for you, only to be pardoned in their turn. Thus God has abandoned all men to their rebellion, only to include them all in his pardon.

Romans xi. 25-32.