Christmas of confrontation

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Christ the Pantokrator. Apse of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Washington, DC.

The postcard arrived showing a snowy landscape and the words “Peace on Earth” printed in gold letters. But reading the Gospel of St Luke we can learn a few things about the original character of Christmas. First there’s this matter of the date. A friend of mine, who is old enough to have attended a Catholic school in those great pre-conciliar times, told me that the sisters took good care to teach them that the Catholic Church celebrates the birth of Christ on Christmas but in fact Christ was more likely to have been born early in the spring.[1] Thanks to great advances in technology and science some patient and studious Christians like Rick Larson have been able to determine that the appearance of the star over Bethlehem, and the visit of the Magi most likely occurred on a 25th of December. I highly recommend to watch Mr Larson’s documentary The Star of Bethlehem and for that matter, watch it several times to catch every bit of the very good information presented there.

So the Magi visited Jesus not at the manger in Bethlehem but years later when the Holy Family was residing there in Joseph’s hometown, at the time when Jesus was a paidion, a toddler. The date is quite significant and I presume it would be difficult for St Mary to forget, because December 25th was a great holiday for the pagan citizenry of the Roman Empire. That was the day of Sol Invictus, the Invincible Sun, the universal life giver and also a time when the Roman Emperor was honored in every house as being a god among men, and the dispenser of order, fertility, and prosperity for all his subjects. Of course, Jews and Christians did not share that belief.

When Jesus was presented in the Temple only a few days after being born, the prophet Simeon revealed that the baby was going to be “a sign of contradiction” among other things. By celebrating and honoring the birth of Christ on the day of Sol Invictus, the Church was opposing Christ to Caesar. It was Christ the real ruler of the world, the giver of life, the true God among men. The Magi honoring Christ with gold, frankincense, and myrrh represented all the nations of the world, in all their nobility and wisdom, honoring Jesus the eternal ruler whose kingdom shall never end. From then on, Christ and Caesar, the Church and the World, would fight a fierce battle through the coming millennia both out in the world and in every human heart.

The real confrontation behind that battle began in the Garden of Eden when the devil tempted our mother Eve into envy that resulted in disobedience, death for the human family, and a divine curse placed upon the soil. We know the story of Adam and Eve: the woman was deceived but Adam failed to confront the situation. He did not resist the Serpent, he did not defend the truth about God, he did not battle the devil out of fear, and so he lost his life and also his bride’s.

The war between God and the Serpent (the devil ) continued throughout human history until the days of Calvary. In the beginning of his ministry Christ was impelled to go to the desert where he confronted and defeated the devil’s deceptions. But the devil continued resisting Christ and eventually he was allowed to crucify the Giver of Life. The devil’s idea was to destroy Christ’s bride, the Church but this new Adam was invincible and He demonstrated His love for his bride by giving up His life for her. That second round of the confrontation was a victory for the forces of good. The devil knew from that moment that his days of deceiving mankind were counted.

St. John Paul II, said once:

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of American society, or the whole circle of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the Anti-Christ. This confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence, it’s in God’s plan but it is a trial that the Church must take up and face courageously.”[2]

Christ fearlessly gave His life for the Church, His bride. It is now the time for a third great confrontation, the passion of the Church. What is then needed for this confrontation to take place? The first time the Serpent confronted Adam and Eve, the second time Satan confronted Christ; it logically follows that a false church, a church of deception, must fight the bride of Christ, the Church of Truth. That is basically what St Paul says to the Thessalonians.

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.

There has to be a deceiving church, an apostate or rebellious church to accompany the Anti-Christ in a final act of defiance, in a last attack against Christ and His bride.

“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.   The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2: 8-11.

I do believe we are living in the midst of an extraordinary confrontation right now. For example, when someone insists on saying “Happy Holidays” instead of the traditional “Merry Christmas;” that is not an innocent gesture of “inclusion” as they say today.   That is part of a deception designed to drive Christ out of the season, a subtle way to restore the holiday to its pre-Christian state. Pay attention to St Paul: “Let no one deceive you in any way.”

Jesus called the devil “the father of lies, and a murderer from the beginning” that is why we know the deception precedes a murderous attack. If we do not participate in the lie, someone will try to kill us. There is no middle ground; there is no way to negotiate peace with a murderer.

“It is almost a joke now in the Western world, in the 20th century, to use words like ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ They have become almost old-fashioned concepts, but they are very real and genuine concepts. These are concepts from a sphere, which is higher than us. And instead of getting involved in base, petty, shortsighted political calculations and games. We have to recognize that the concentration of world evil and the tremendous force of hatred is there and it’s flowing from there throughout the world. And we have to stand up against it and not hasten to give to it, everything that it wants to swallow.”Alexander Solzhenitsyn[3]

The deception is in place; a violent anti-church with its leaders and its doctrines is fighting hard to displace the true Church. All kinds of lies and deceptive statements are filling the media, and many are fooled to fall in the trap because they do not “believe the truth but have pleasure in unrighteousness.” Do I have to show any examples? All we have to do is read the newspapers or watch television to conclude “we are not in Kansas anymore.”

So at least for this Christmas spare me the “Peace on Earth” shallowness because this Christmas in particular comes to us at a time when the world is up to the eyeballs in violent strife. To this world Jesus is coming but not as a harmless baby. No, He is coming to us as the  Pantokrator, the “Ruler of All There Is” and His aim is bring to nothing the ancient rebellion and its leader, the original Serpent.

For us, for the Church, this is our time to shine. We have to be the light of the world, expose the deception without fear, and be ready to bring others into the truth of Christ. There is no time left to waste.


 

Nativity Prayer of St. Augustine

Let the just rejoice, for their justifier is born. Let the sick and infirm rejoice, for their saviour is born. Let the captives rejoice, for their Redeemer is born. Let slaves rejoice, for their Master is born. Let free men rejoice, for their Liberator is born. Let All Christians rejoice, for Jesus Christ is born.
Amen.


 

[1] Please see a previous article: Tidings of Great Joy.

[2] Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Address to the 1976 Eucharistic Congress.

[3] Address to the AFL-CIO, 1975.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Christmas of confrontation

  1. Particularly inspirational way of looking at Christmas this year, especially the last paragraph. The spiritual battle has been intense. I wanted to volunteer in a nice, safe setting this year and avoid the more dangerous path … But was turned away or ignored at the three places I would have preferred as safer, and led back to the place I had wanted to avoid, where I was in fact invited and easily accepted. Basically, I’ve been assigned to the front lines, which can in fact be rewarding. Please pray for my safety this Christmas, and I will pray for yours.

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  2. “The devil’s idea was to destroy Christ’s bride, the Church but this new Adam was invincible and He demonstrated His love for his bride by giving up His life for her.”

    Adam’s silence for Eve and his failure to protect her ensured Satan’s victory at Eden. But I’ve never once drawn that symbolism forward to Christ. That Satan once again wanted to tempt the Bride into rebellion, but that the Bridegroom protected His Bride — even unto death… amazing point of view!

    Paul’s mandate for husbands to lay down their lives always made sense, but it fits even better than I thought it did.

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    • Yup. That is why the devil hates marriage and the LORD hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) because the mystery of human life has an element of the presence of God in the moment of conception, and is a Holy Sacrament, an essential part of God’s Covenant with mankind. Divorce, death vs. Marriage, life.

      Nothing new. The early Fathers of the Church understood the progression as follows (my words, their concepts, any errors are mine.)

      Garden of Eden, first mystery
      Eve is tempted into envying the happiness and the sovereignty of God (“You shall be like God knowing [intimately in control of] good and evil…”) Then Adam, fearing the loss of his own life, joins the rebellion. Remember that the Serpent is Leviathan and part of the temptation was intimidation, the same intimidation that the devil would try later in Calvary. Blessed Anna Katharina Emmerick a suffering visionary, saw the grave of Adam deep under the spot where Christ’s Cross stood in Calvary. That coincides with the idea of the early fathers (Jerome, Ignatius of Antioch, and others) who believed that the Garden of Gethsemane in the Mount of Olives, is located where the Garden of Eden once was. The Temple was within sight of Gethsemane and there is where the entrance to Paradise was with the angel with the flaming sword. That is where David sees an angel with an unsheathed sword, over the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite ( 2 Samuel 24:16) David buys the field and there is where the altar of Solomon’s Temple stood.

      Calvary, the second mystery
      At the beginning and the end of Jesus’ ministry He is challenged by the devil. First during the fast of 40 days in the wilderness, and later from Gethsemane to Calvary. There in Calvary the force of History is reverted: one because Christ gives His life for His Bride. Adam begot Eve from the selah (a word meaning middle, rib, half, or side) from the side of Jesus’ pierced body the Roman centurion Longinus draws blood and water. Those are the symbols of the Sacraments: salvation (blood) and purification (water.)
      Mary the executes the other half of the combat. When she contemplates Jesus, she desires the fate of the Cross for herself with such intensity that a sword of indescribable pain pierces her heart (Luke 2:35) With that she reverses the results of the evil desire of Eve who envied God’s happiness and unfathomable will. The battle is won by a gunai a woman, see Genesis 3:15, and so the head of the serpent is crushed. The days of his evil empire of death are counted.

      The last days, the third mystery
      As the last days approach just as Adam and Eve confronted the Serpent Leviathan, and later Christ and Mary confronted Satan, now the descent of both have to be manifested and battle: the Church will fight the anti-church, and Christ will fight the Anti-Christ. Notice the counterpoints are perfect as for the actors and also the spiritual makeup of each contender. Two humans vs. one evil angel, both in Eden and Calvary. A condemning fruit of a forbidden tree in Eden, the redeeming fruit of the Tree of Life (the Cross) in the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Communion the true fruit of the Cross: Christ Himself (see John 6:53) This time Christ will slay the Antichrist with his breath (the Gospel of Truth) and send the devil to a thousand year in the depths of Hell.

      The Final Judgment, the fourth mystery
      In the distant future when the earth is restored, the devil will be allowed out of Hell for a little while. There every holy soul on Earth will have to face Leviathan just like Adam did. Those who are tempted into following him (hopefully none or very few) will perish in the second death. Finally Christ in His Majesty will destroy evil forever and both Heaven and Hell will be sealed, the tent of God will be with Mankind and the New Jerusalem will descend from Heaven to earth where all shall be as God intended it to be.

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