The Bishop Speaks

Bishop Louis Vezelis O.F.M.

Of Signs and Symbols

In its most broad meaning, the word `symbol' represents the idea which suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, etc. It especially refers to a visible sign of something invisible. Ideas are invisible. You cannot see an idea walking down the street or flying through the air.

In order to make an idea communicable from one mind to another, human ingenuity created language and other signs. Without these signs, communication with other human beings would be virtually impossible. We cannot read another person's mind. Even the devil cannot do this.

Consequently, our lives are filled with an almost endless parade of symbols. Ideas are expressed by words. Words are either written or spoken.

Everything that is concrete is a symbol of a reality we cannot grasp with our senses. The symbols are what we refer to as `phenomena' which is a Greek word meaning `to appear' or `to show.' In philosophy, it refers to any object known through the senses rather than through thought or intuition. It's opposite is `noumenon' which means an object of purely rational apprehension. For example, we cannot have a `phenomenal' experience of God because God does not have a body. Our experience of God can only come to us through the channel of reasoning which is a spiritual activity.

Behind every phenomenon there is the hidden reality called the `noumenon.' It is called the `thing-in-itself.'

This may all appear too abstract, but it is necessary to understand these ideas in order to understand the world around us, to understand the various signs and symbols that represent reality.

Our immediate concern here is to draw the attention of the reader to some very important symbols that represent something that is very real.

Heaven is a reality. It exists. It is not the result of someone's imagination. The same thing is true of `hell.' Equally true is the existence of `purgatory' _ that place where souls go that are neither condemned to eternal punishment in hell nor yet worthy of a reward in heaven.

The sign or symbol is not the thing itself; it merely represents the thing.

In the Old Testament, God was not present in the temple personally. His presence was only a symbolical presence. In the ark of the covenant were contained the tablets of stone upon which Moses wrote the ten commandments. The ark of the covenant was only a sign of God's presence _ it was not the presence itself. The things in the temple are not God, they only represent Him. It is similar to having a photograph of a loved one on a mantel or desk. The photograph is an image of the person represented, it is not the person himself.

It was in the time of the New Testament that God's desire to be among the people became a reality. This came about when God became incarnate in Jesus Christ and remains in our midst historically under the appearances of Bread and Wine.

Christ's remaining with us in the Blessed Sacrament and the Church's practice of keeping the Blessed Sacrament in the churches is precisely the realization of God's desire to remain among His people to the highest degree.

By means of the mystery of transubstantiation the Bread and the Wine become the entire body, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

This is a REALITY unlike any other reality in all of creation. For this reason His being among us in the tabernacle is properly called the Real Presence. It is completely different from the Protestant concept that harks back to the Old Testament symbolic presence of God. For the Protestant, the Blessed Sacrament is only a symbolic presence of Christ _ much as a photograph is the symbolic presence of the person depicted in the picture.

God Himself is really and truly present under the veil of the physical elements that are seen. These elements are the `phenomena' while the Real Presence would be the `noumenon.'

This is the reason also why churches of the New Testament are God's House in the fullest and direct meaning of the term. This reality can only be found in a Catholic Church. Jesus Christ, God and Man, is truly on our altars.

This is a most profound reality. This is a reality that can only be found in a Catholic Church. When Protestants say that their gathering places are the "House of God," they do not really mean what Catholics mean. They only mean that His presence is merely a symbolic presence. There is no reality behind their symbol because their ministers do not have the power to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

This power was lost, thanks to Martin Luther, who claimed that the Devil taught him to hate the Sacrifice of the Mass. Luther had to reject the reality of the Mass in favor of an empty symbol because he was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church for his heresies.

In retaliation for this separation, he stubbornly clung to his errors to the point of denying the power which he had once received in ordination.

Like all heretics, Luther sought to justify his error by simply getting as many people to accept it as he could. And, because his errors flattered the flesh, he had no trouble finding eager followers.

At this point, I would like to point out a very common, yet strange peculiarity. There is a certain irony to it. It is this: While Protestants do not have the Real Presence, they persist in believing that theirs is the "house of God". And in keeping with this false concept they do something good but for the wrong reason.

Protestants dress appropriately as if their meeting places were the house of God. Even though Protestant churches are not the house of God, the misguided faithful prolong their error by acting as if their meeting halls were the house of God.

If you were to ask a Protestant why he or she dresses in such a gentlemanly or lady-like manner, the answer will be: Because I am going to the house of God.

But, this is only an illusion. It is not real. Thinking it to be real does not make it so. Wanting a counterfeit ten dollar bill to be real does not make it real. It is still counterfeit even if a hundred people accepted it as real.

Now, we must take a closer look at what transpires in "Catholic" churches. Of course, it is not always easy to determine if the Real Presence is in these churches independently of how the people present themselves before the tabernacle.

That our Lord is not present in the Modernist apostate churches is no longer a matter of doubt. We know this to be true not only from the conduct of the ministers, but also from their own testimony concerning the Real Presence. Most former Catholic clergy no longer believe the doctrine of transubstantiation taught by the Council of Trent. Even among those few who may believe it, there is still the question as to the validity of ordinations administered in the apostate Church.

If God is truly present in our tabernacles, and if the faithful have a true conviction of this fact, then it becomes a puzzle to understand the callous conduct in dress and behavior before God Himself hidden beneath the veil of consecrated Bread and Wine.

There is an enigma here. The Protestant behaves in his church under the false illusion that it is God's house; and the Catholic behaves in his church in a way that suggests that God is not there!

This is a very dangerous confusion of ideas that leads to two distinctly different forms of conduct.

Everything has consequences. We are dynamic beings. That is to say, our existence is in constant movement. We are that existence and it is we who are moving. We are either moving closer to the Divinity or we are moving further and further away from the Divinity. `Divinity' means `God' and `God' means the Supreme Being from whence we have come and to Whom we must return in order to fulfill our very reason for being.

It is a question, then, of "How are we to be?" The question is a metaphysical one. It poses the question not of existence, but of how we must exist.

We are called into existence through the act of our parents and the infusion of the immortal soul by God. It is silly to think as some young people think: "I did not ask to be born." Of course you did not ask to be born. Our individual existence is a tremendous gift of God. It only becomes unbearable because of the malice of men.

At this point we enter the area that few have the courage to enter because of their limited prejudices which they delude into thinking is `wisdom.' Yet, it is the area of human experience where every saint has gone.

Oddly enough, it is pride that keeps people ignorant. And the reason for this is that pride is a lie and all liars distort reality to suit their subjective illusions. On the other hand, it is the humble man who is most open to truth because he already has an initial grasp of it. The humble man can be taught; the proud man cannot.

It is all well and good that Catholic churches are the House of God because God truly dwells there. But, what significance does all this have for us? How does this fact affect us in our existence?

This will all become clear when we compare the House of God with our own homes. There is an essential difference between God's House and our own homes. The difference lies in the fact that each house represents a mutually exclusive spiritual attitude.

Our natural homes are intimately bound up with our status of pilgrims in this world. But this intimate bond is a negative one. Our homes are a denial of our pilgrim condition. they are a symbolic statement that we do not wish to continue our pilgrimage. They are a statement that we consider ourselves not as travelers and strangers in this present life, but as inhabitants. We live as if our entire existence were limited to time and space. In so doing, we limit even ourselves. We are unable to reach beyond the material limitations that hold us prisoner in this present existence in time and space.

If we would look at the time and effort put into our material comfort, we would quickly see that our view has been corrupted by the world in which we live and breathe. This is a great misfortune even for those who have great fortunes.

Our homes and houses, no matter how humble or stately, can never satisfy our metaphysical yearning to be with God in our true home _ heaven.

When the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us and remains on our altars, our ties to this existence were re-directed to our original existential condition as pilgrims on the way to our true home.

The Blessed Sacrament of the altar is an eternal invitation to the beyond of this present existence. It is not only a guarantee of eternity _pignus futurae gloriae _ a pledge of future glory, as the Church says, but It is already a foretaste of that glory in time.

In view of the Blessed Sacrament, our present life is a pilgrimage, only a constant progression towards God and the Holy Eucharist is the guide and companion on this journey. We invite Christ in the Holy Eucharist from our earliest youth, we are strengthened by It on our journey and finally, we receive It as we take our last step in Holy Viaticum.

The Eucharistic Christ journeys with us. He is as much with us in the Holy Eucharist as he was when He walked the roads of Palestine.

When we are in our homes, we easily forget our journey God-ward. Our homes are designed for physical comfort and, to a greater or lesser extent to express our spiritual desire for order, harmony and beauty. There is nothing supernatural in this.

Our homes are precisely that: They are our homes; they are not the House of God.

It is not permitted to transact business in this holy place because it is a house of prayer. But, it is a house of prayer because it is the House of the heavenly Father.

Our Lord dwells in this holy place and, consequently, every one who enters this holy place must feel that he is standing before the Almighty. He must experience this place as something holy because wherever man comes into contact with God that place becomes untouchable to unconsecrated hands, unconsecrated vessels and unconsecrated actions. The entire ritual of the Catholic Church expresses this truth. Here, already, we perceive the great dividing line between the Catholic Church and non-Catholic sects.

The Protestant, for example, thinks he is in the "House of God" but is deceived. He is deceived because God does not dwell there in any manner besides that of His omnipresence. From a strict point of view, God is present in every thing that exists.

Therefore, God is present in temples, synagogues and other places of false worship. He is there only as a consequence of His immensity. This means that God is present in all of creation.

However, the special presence which makes the Catholic church the "House of God" is a sacramental presence. This presence is brought about through the mystery of transubstantiation. The substance of the bread and the substance of the wine become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. This is a unique presence which the Church correctly refers to as the Real Presence.

Only a Catholic church is, in the strictest sense of the term, the House of God.

This truth is revealed in the Old Testament when Moses drove his father-in-law's sheep into the wilderness. There he saw the burning bush. The bush burned but was not consumed by the flames. Moses said: I will go and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not consumed."

However, as he drew near he heard a voice: "Do not come closer! Take off the sandals on your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground."

Moses was led by curiosity. That is, by a profane motive, and for this reason he was not permitted to enter into holy place blessed by the vision of the Lord. He had to take off his sandals. This action was a sign that man must leave behind all that is not part of his nature when he comes into the presence of God.

Before God, man can only present himself as he is in himself, without any foreign elements. Everything that separates man from God, that places a wall between him and God _ all this must be left outside of this sacred place.

If the church is God's House, then we must feel and behave there in a completely different way than we do in our own homes or some one else's home. We must leave outside everything that is of the world because we are not the lords of this House.

The only thing we can bring with us is a spirit of prayer. And, of course, a genuine spirit of prayer shows itself in exterior behavior, posture and dress. The styles of the world have no place in the House of God. Especially, those styles of clothing that are an affront and offense to Christian modesty and dignity.

The parable of the wedding feast where someone comes "without a wedding garment" is very significant. Those "invited" were, of course, the first ones to show their obedience to God, the Israelites. Most of them, betrayed the graces received. It is of them that Christ speaks when He says "those who were invited were not worthy" (Matt.22,8). Now, even though the servants were sent out to "invite to the marriage feast whomever you shall find' there was still the proper decorum expected of them. The good and the bad were invited. But, when the king saw that one of the newly invited did not have on a wedding garment, he asked politely: "Friend, how didst thou come in here without a wedding garment?"

Our Lord is speaking in a parable that most of His listeners could understand and make the connection. The `wedding garment' was not just a symbol picked out of the air.

There appeared someone who was not appropriately dressed in an accustomed clean white garment for such festivities. We should note well that in our Lord's mind, the wearing of a wedding garment (appropriate attire) is a very serious matter. So serious, in fact, that the offender was not tolerated at all. On the contrary, the offender was not just asked to leave, but the servants were ordered to bind him hand and foot and to be cast out into the darkness. Our Lord adds: "where there will be the weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Our Lord is describing the two kinds of people who are excluded from heaven: Those who reject entirely the invitation and, those who do not accept it fully. Both are excluded from heaven. Therefore, since the House of God is heaven by the fact that God dwells there, it follows logically that those who reject the invitation to attend this unique House of God and those who wish to show themselves as boors by not dressing in the proper manner exclude themselves from the kingdom of heaven.

That there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth is evidenced by those who, having been reprimanded for coming into the House of God without a wedding garment, that is, improperly attired, they gnash their teeth at those who would correct them.

It is either a lack of genuine faith or ignorance that would prompt someone to approach the House the God improperly dressed. In either case, instruction would be welcomed. And, when it is not, this is a sure sign of the demonic entering the church.

We are no longer in the Old Testament when things represented the symbolic presence of God. We are in the New Testament when God Himself is present.

True, we are obliged by our Lord to believe His word when He says that the bread and wine are turned into His Body and Blood through the sacramental action of a valid priest. But, just because we must believe this on His word, it does not mean that He becomes present because of our belief. In other words, it is not our belief that makes Him really present. Otherwise, disbelief would make Him absent.

Among the basic epistemological errors of Modernists is this inordinate subjectivism as opposed to traditional Catholic objectivism. What this means is simply this: Jesus is not present in the transubstantiated bread and wine because I believe; but, I believe it because He is present. Whether I believe or not, Jesus will still be present in the Holy Eucharist. The Modernist would say: He is there if you believe He's there.

This fundamental philosophical error is the basis for the false ecumenism so fervently promoted by the false "popes". This is why, also, that Karl Wojtyla, alias "John Paul II" can feel at home in every temple, synagogue, and church. A genuine Catholic could not do this.

At bottom, when the churches were neglected in the past centuries, this was a sign that the Christians of that age no longer wished to be with God. It took a humble saint like St. Francis of Assisi to restore the original concept and truth of God's presence.

This same psychological attitude infects and makes possible the great apostasy in our day. The difference, however, lies in this: Unlike the open neglect of God's House on the part of mediocre Catholics, the present day sees the House of God turned into the House of Man, where Man becomes the object of worship and God becomes little more than an excuse.

This explains why our churches had to be demolished from within. They had to be "cleansed" of all that was God so that the new "gods" might reign unopposed. Logically, God had to be chased out and with Him all those who refuse to abandon the right order of things established by Him.

The "deification" of man necessarily terminates in the "humanization" of God. And when man is "divinized," his vices become virtues and virtues become vices. And the consequence of all this is that those who wish to live piously in the Lord are persecuted by those who prefer to live impiously.

He who turns his back on the symbol of salvation, turns his back on salvation itself. He who chooses to stay away from the true church, chooses to deny heaven. For, as the Church teaches: The House of God is the gate of heaven. Only those who pass through this gate can enter the abode of the saints.

The church is heaven on earth where our pilgrimage temporarily ends. We find in the church our perfect contact with God through Jesus Christ in the tabernacle. There we receive the supernatural grace that gives us strength and courage to return to the world in which we are strangers and once again continue our eschatological pilgrimage to the eternal heaven where the veil of faith will be lifted and we will see all things as they are.

Meanwhile, the heavenly Jerusalem _ which is the church _ invites us to come and taste how sweet is the Lord.

Our faith is not a matter of discussion or debate. It is always a matter of instructing those who are in the darkness of ignorance. Unlike the arch heretic, Karl Woytyla (alias "John Paul II") we Catholics are not "searching for the truth" _ we have the truth and gladly share it with all those who seek it sincerely. Jesus Christ is the `way, the truth and the life.'

One of the aims of the Modernist heretics who hijacked the Vatican Council was to prepare the way for the destruction of the Real Presence, thereby destroying the Presence of Jesus Christ in the world.

Significant is the fact that the antipope, Paul VI, invited six Protestant ministers to help formulate what has deceptively been called the "New Order of the Mass." The entire affair was orchestrated by Msgr. Annibal Bugnini, who must have been carrying out the orders of his superior, Paul VI. There is a picture on file of Paul VI `thanking' the Protestant ministers for their help in creating this "ecumenical" Mass.

What most Catholics fail to appreciate is the fact that not a single one of these six Protestant ministers believes in the Real Presence and the power of the priesthood. Yet, these men _ everyone of which is a laymen without holy orders _ are being thanked for their in-put in creating a ritual that would reflect their theological beliefs as opposed to those of the Catholic Church.

Undoubtedly, then, the informed Roman Catholic is more than justified in not only suspecting, but denouncing the New Order of the Mass as insidiously heretical. Peculiar, on this point, was the view of Marcel Lefebvre ( the founder of the sect known as the "Society of St. Pius X") that the New Mass was valid even though its nature had been changed. In other words, Marcel Lefebvre claimed that although the New Mass changed the very nature of the Sacrifice of the Mass, that it was still valid. Lefebvre apparently forgot his first-year course in philosophy where he learned, like every seminarian before and after him in the course on Ontology, that if you change the nature of a thing, you change the thing itself. Having changed the nature of the Mass, the Mass was changed and no longer expressed the mystical reality of Christ's death on the Cross.

It is passing strange that of all the heretical and schismatic sects that mushroomed after Vatican II Council, perhaps the most impressive and widespread was the organization initiated by Marcel Lefebvre. Also, it is likewise surprising that although serious objections to the actual validity of the ordinations of Lefebvre's followers is in question, none of the adepts of that sect are willing to accept the evidence thereof.

Just as those who see nothing wrong in attending the `wedding feast' without a `wedding garment,' the followers of the Lefebvre sect see nothing wrong in attending a Latin ritual performed by a non-priest and still call it the "Sacrifice of the Mass."

How odd!

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