THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
First Sunday of Advent
29 November 2020
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Last Sunday, we ended the Liturgical Year with the consideration of our individual end. We saw the destruction of Jerusalem (representing us individually) foretold and described by Jesus in the Gospel. Today, with Advent, we begin anew. We start with the consideration of our goal, the Second Coming of the Son of God to this world. With Saint John at the end of the book of the Apocalypse, we call out: "Come, Lord Jesus, come!" We are eager for His return and so we are given, in today's Gospel, the signs that will precede it.
The fear of judgment for our own souls in last week's sermon is now to be replaced with the desire for Jesus to Come and His Will to be accomplished forever with the end of the rebellion of men and angels in this world. The signs of this coming are frightening for the world that is to be condemned but not for those who are living the life of grace. We look to this event with a certain sorrow at the loss of so many souls, yet there is also a longing for the eternal joy and blessedness coming to the faithful elect.
"There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves; men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world" (St. Luke xxi).
Several of the Fathers of the Church speak of a literal or physical manifestation of events marking the end of this world. Eusebius suggests that the waters will dry up either from heat or from freezing so that "no longer will men hear the sound of the sea, nor will its waves again flood upon the seashore …" Theophylactus says: "the sea will rage fearfully, and the sea coasts will be battered by the storm, …"
Theophylactus then suggests, "Let us see if perhaps it be not better to understand that the events which were foretold by these words shall not be fulfilled in this manner, but rather that they will come to pass when tribulations shall be so spread through the whole world that it will affect the Church, which will be persecuted in every place, and not those who will persecute her; for it is they who will say; 'peace and security.'" St. Augustine says: "I consider that these things should be better understood in the Church, lest the Lord Jesus may appear to be foretelling, as extraordinary events which shall foretell His Coming, things which have happened in this world even before his First Coming, so that we may not be laughed at by those who have read of even more extraordinary events in the story of mankind. For the Church is the sun and the moon and the stars, to whom it was said: 'Fair as the moon, bright as the sun' (Cant. vi. 9), and she then shall not be seen, as her persecutors rage against her without measure."
St. Ambrose sums up this view: "Many apostatizing from Christianity, the brightness of the faith will be dimmed by this cloud of apostasy: since the heavenly Sun grows dim or shines in splendor according to my faith. And as in its monthly eclipse the moon, by reason of the earth coming between it and the sun, disappears from view, so likewise the Holy Church, when the vices of the flesh stand in the way of the celestial light, can no longer borrow the splendor of His Divine Light from the Sun of Christ. And in the persecutions, it was invariably the love of this life that stood in the path of the Divine Sun. Also the stars, that is men surrounded by the praise of their fellow Christians, shall fall, as the bitterness of persecution mounts up; which must however come to pass, until the number of the faithful is made up; for so the good are proved and the weak made known."
If our observations are correct, we find many of these spiritual signs accomplished right now. There appears to be a Great Apostasy from the True Catholic Faith. There is a worldwide rejection of the Mass of Sacrifice which is substituted with a Mass of a Memorial Meal. We read of would-be princes in the Church publishing Masonic Naturalism as well as Materialism. The Universal Catholic Church has been dimmed. There is still a remnant keeping the Faith alive, but for most of the world, the faith of the True Church has died. We do not see physical persecution as much as we find spiritual or psychological persecution. The remnant holding onto the True Faith is now perceived as fanatics, conspiracy theorists, or simply dismissed as lacking sufficient understanding to grasp the Modern ways. It is not stubbornness or unreasonable attachment to the past that motivates this remnant, but rather reasoned love for the Truth.
As we behold this darkening of the Church and the True Faith, we are greatly saddened, and so we look eagerly forward to the day when Jesus will come and His Light of Truth and Justice will shine unmistakably clear. Let us begin this Advent with humble hearts eagerly awaiting His return. Come, Lord Jesus, Come!
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