Holidays/Feast Days

Cardinal John Henry Newman converted to the Catholic faith. He played a big part in my own converseion. He has a unique and beautiful understanding of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  You can read it below or at Aletia here.

Why the Assumption made perfect sense to Newman, and what it meant for him

BLESSED JOHN HENRY NEWMAN

The great convert to the faith understood how it could be that Mary is so powerful … and so beloved.

Even as a Protestant, Blessed John Henry Newman had a high view of the Lord’s Mother. He knew the Scriptures inside out, and the Church Fathers as well. That made the Assumption a “Well, duh” matter for him when he became a Catholic, even though it wasn’t yet a defined dogma. The great thing about him in this case is that he shows how the dogma fits everything else. It’s not a devotional add-on to the Faith, but part of God’s great story.Newman had been one of the stars of the Church of England, and he gave that up to become a Catholic. He entered the Church in 1845, at the age of 44. Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in 2010. He’s the consensus greatest theologian to write in English.

The biblical story points to the Assumption

As Newman says often in his writings, God’s revelation is a whole, a complete thing, with all the parts related to all the others. The Scriptures don’t mention the Assumption, but lots of things in the biblical story point to it.

He saw something of this as a Protestant minister. “Who can estimate the holiness and perfection of her, who was chosen to be the Mother of Christ?” he said in a sermon delivered in 1835. The implied answer is that none of us can estimate it, because it’s so great. We’re not holy enough to have any idea how holy was the woman God prepared to be the Mother of His Son. But we know from the Gospel story that she will be supremely holy.

Not everyone gets this. One of Newman’s and my fellow Anglicans (a minister, in fact) once said to me that Mary was only “the delivery system” by which Christ became incarnate. After his birth, he said, she didn’t matter anymore. He would have said the Assumption was complete nonsense, had I asked, but I wisely didn’t. Strange but true.

But Newman got it, because he knew the Scriptures so well. Even as an Anglican, he saw that because “the Creator Spirit condescended to overshadow [Mary] with His miraculous presence,” she would have a “transcendent purity.” Then he asked: “What must have been her gifts, who was chosen to be the only near earthly relative of the Son of God, the only one whom He was bound by nature to revere and look up to; the one appointed to train and educate Him, to instruct Him day by day, as He grew in wisdom and stature?” He doesn’t answer the question, because he thinks the answer’s obvious: Her gifts were huge, great, vast.

The matter goes even deeper, he adds. What, he asks, “was the sanctified state of that human nature, of which God formed His sinless Son”? He quotes God speaking in Job, saying “nothing can bring a clean thing out of an unclean.” In other words, to bear the perfect sinless Son of God, Mary must be sinless herself — as Catholics would say, immaculately conceived.

The Assumption

You can see why when Newman became a Catholic, the Assumption made perfect sense to him. He saw that Mary, being the Mother of God, would get everything Her Son had to give. In particular, that she’d get everything he’d given others.

You can find much of his writing on Mary in his wonderful book Meditations and Devotions. You can find more of his reflections in a modern collection called The Mystical Rose.

This is one of the ways God gave Mary what he gave others. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that at the Resurrection many of the saints rose from the dead and walked into Jerusalem. “The holy Prophets, Priests, and Kings of former times rose again in anticipation of the last day,” Newman writes. Then he says: “Can we suppose that Abraham, or David, or Isaias, or Ezechias, should have been thus favoured, and not God’s own Mother?” Obviously no.

Had she not a claim on the love of her Son to have what any others had? Was she not nearer to Him than the greatest of the Saints before her? And is it conceivable that the law of the grave should admit of relaxation in their case, and not in hers? Therefore we confidently say that our Lord, having preserved her from sin and the consequences of sin by His Passion, lost no time in pouring out the full merits of that Passion upon her body as well as her soul.

He saw other reasons to believe in the Assumption from Scripture alone. For one, God had created Adam and Eve without sin. They would not have “crumbled into dust” if they hadn’t sinned. Having never sinned, Mary “retained the gift which Eve by sinning lost.” To put it simply: If Mary is the New Eve, she would be assumed into Heaven.

In other words, if you believe what all Christians believe, even if you’re not Catholic, you should believe that as Pope Pius XII declared in 1950: “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

What the Assumption meant to him

But what did the Assumption mean to Newman? What was the point? He didn’t write anything directly devotional or personal about it, but we get hints from his other writings.

Here’s one in which he talks about the power of prayer to change this world. “This is why the Blessed Virgin is called Powerful — nay, sometimes, All-powerful, because she has, more than anyone else, more than all Angels and Saints, this great, prevailing gift of prayer,” he says.

No one has access to the Almighty as His Mother has; none has merit such as hers. Her Son will deny her nothing that she asks; and herein lies her power. While she defends the Church, neither height nor depth, neither men nor evil spirits, neither great monarchs, nor craft of man, nor popular violence, can avail to harm us; for human life is short, but Mary reigns above, a Queen for ever.

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Feast Day of St. Justin Martyr, June 1
Download a Free copy of the Apostolic Fathers Timeline

Timeline 2 copy_supersmall.jpg

This amazing Timeline drives home the point of how close these men were to Jesus and the Apostles.

It demonstrates how Catholic the first Christians really were!

 The Apostolic Fathers faced Emperors, heretics and lions but these heroes of the Catholic faith never lost courage. Chains, prisons and blood-soaked arenas did not stop the early Christians from witnessing for Christ and handing on the Apostolic Tradition.
  

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“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”
(Matt. 12:38-40)

Skeptics claim to have discovered an error in the New Testament —claiming Jesus was not in the tomb for three full 24-hour periods like he prophesied.

He was buried Friday afternoon and rose early Sunday morning.That seems to be only one full day and two nights.

Has the skeptic found an error in the Bible? How does one respond?

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”
(Matt. 12:38?40)

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Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

It is clear that Jesus rejects the call to perform various signs before the Jewish leaders in order to justify his claims and actions. Jesus would not give them signs, however, for he did not come primarily to be a wonder-worker but a Savior. His miracles were performed to display his power and identity and out of mercy to help the poor and sick.

Jesus performed many miracles in private and with a warning not to tell others about them. Yet, one great miracle would be given as a definitive sign. This would be the “sign of Jonah,” his resurrection from the “heart of the earth.”

The main problem encountered in Matthew 12:38-40 involves the temporal designation “three days and three nights.” Interpreting this designation literally, some try to solve the “problem” by arguing that Jesus was really crucified on Thursday rather than Friday. A Friday crucifixion and a Sunday resurrection do not provide sufficient time for three days and three nights.

Authentic Ancient Tomb in Israel

There are numerous ways of figuring out the day-night scheme for this period of time, but it is clear that three separate days and nights cannot be obtained by a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection scheme. Yet, it is clear from the Gospels that Jesus was crucified on Friday, the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath” (Mark 15:42) and raised on Sunday, the “first day of the week” (Mark 16:2). If the temporal designation of Matthew 12:40 is taken literally, a conflict does exist between the time indicated in this verse and the time indicated in the accounts of the passion story.

But should the expression “three days and three nights” be interpreted literally? Three arguments indicate that it should not.

First, it appears that this expression is another way of stating “on the third day” or “in three days.” This can be illustrated from 1 Samuel 30:12-13. The same Greek expression is found in 1 Samuel 30:12 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) as in Matthew 12:40.

Verse 13 refers to this three-day and three-night period as “three days ago” or, as the LXX literally states, “the third day today.” If “three days and three nights” can mean “on the third day,” there is no major problem in our passage.

By Jewish reckoning Jesus could have been crucified on Friday and raised on Sunday, the third day. Friday afternoon = day one; Friday 6 PM to Saturday 6 PM = day two; Saturday 6 PM to Sunday 6 PM = day three.’

A second argument against a literal temporal interpretation is the fact that Matthew did not see any conflict between this expression and either a third-day resurrection (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19) or a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection scheme (Matt. 27:62; 28:1). For him, as well as for the other Evangelists, expressions such as “three days and three nights,” “after three days,” and “on the third day” could be used interchangeably.

Holy Sepulchre, actual location of crucifixion and burial of Jesus

Finally, it should be pointed out that the main point of Jesus’ analogy in Matthew 12:40 does not involve the temporal designation but the sign of the resurrection. Only one miracle or sign will be given to this evil and adulterous generation. That sign will be Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The temporal designation is much less significant. Perhaps Jesus refers to three days and three nights because this expression is found in the Old Testament passage which he wants to quote (Jonah 1:17).

Understood in the context of biblical Judaism—and knowing the idioms and figures of speech in the designation “three days and three nights”—there is no problem with the Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection scheme described in the passion narratives. Any Jew or Roman would have immediately understood; only those divorced from the historical context fail to understand.

It is only if a twentieth-century reckoning of time is imposed or if the idiomatic nature of this temporal designation is not understood in its context that a problem appears.

See also Dave Armstrong’s article “3 Days & Nights” in the Tomb: Contradiction?

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“The Pain of the Crucifixion” – Free Talk by Steve Ray

April 19, 2019

Get my free talk on MP3 below. Also visit this site to see the magnificent artwork of James Tissot detailing the Passion of our Lord from Gethsemane to the Tomb. The PROMO CODE to download the free MP3 file is CRUCIFIXION.    

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Entering the Empty Tomb; A Contrast – Now and Back Then

April 19, 2019

It looks different today, but the place is the same. It is darker now, covered with a dome that blocks the sun. There is no grass, no hillside, no trees waving their leaves nearby. Instead there are the hushed voices of hundreds of people, the Muslim call to prayer echoing in the distance and the […]

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Welcoming New People at Mass this Easter – They May Be an Answer to Someone’s Prayers

April 16, 2019

We get busy on during the Easter Season. We don’t have a lot of respect for people who go to church only on Christmas and Easter. We may be irritated that seats are taken and the church is noisy. But, you are praying for your family and friends to come back to church and MAYBE these […]

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My Past Articles for Holy Week; Current Radio Shows this Week

April 15, 2019

Above is one of my all time favorite paintings — Peter and John running to the empty tomb by Eugene Burnand. Over the last few years I’ve answered some questions and commented on the events of Holy Week. Here are links to those articles: How long was Jesus on the Cross? How long was Jesus […]

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Real Stations of the Cross discussed on Relevant Radio

April 2, 2019

Steve Ray joined John Harper on Morning Air (Relevant Radio) to discuss the origin and the meaning of the Stations. Also insightful comments on each individual Station. Join the 20-minute discussion with the link provided. Steve’s discussion starts at the 26:00 minute mark.

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The Skull is Talking to Me; Lent is Upon Us!

March 31, 2019

THE SKULL TALKS TO ME EVERY MORNING! It says, “As you are now, I once was; as I am now, you soon shall be — remember your mortality!” No better way to approach Ash Wednesday and 40 days of Lent. Artists have painted St. Jerome with a skull on his desk. Popes were known to keep […]

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Feast of Chair of St. Peter: “Chair of Moses, Chair of Peter” Steve’s Article, YouTube Video and Resources

February 22, 2019

St. Cyprian of Carthage (beheaded 257 AD) one hundred and fifty years before the New Testament writings were collected into one book called “The Bible”: “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will […]

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Pictures of the Presentation

February 2, 2019

Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord. I did a show on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air on the presentation. You can listen to the podcast here. My interview begins 15:15 into the show. It was mandated in the Old Testament because after the exodus God had required the first born son to […]

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Epiphany? So What?

January 6, 2019

 What is Epiphany anyway? And why should I care? The Feast of the Epiphany – the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus and the Miracle of Cana all combined – is really quite fascinating. It was actually a celebration in the Church long before Christmas was celebrated and eventually overshadowed Epiphany. John Paul II gave 52 […]

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Holy Family – One of My Favorite Topics – Running through their World in Nazareth

December 31, 2018

Since we are in Nazareth today, I thought I would share a bit about the daily life of the Holy Family. These videos were taken when I could still run. You will enjoy seeing where Jesus and Joseph worked, and their hometown as it is today. Join me for two running adventures. Their life was […]

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Where Have All the Christmas Carols Gone?

December 25, 2018

I’m not that old. I’ll only be 64 years old this month but I still remember when the frosty month of December was filled with marvelous Christmas carols. It was like magic when the first snow covered the ground and the melodies sprang to life and everyone knew them, believed them and sang them with […]

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In 2 minutes Charlie Brown discover is the meaning of Christmas

December 24, 2018
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Was Jesus Born on December 25?

December 24, 2018

Yes, Christ Was Really Born on December 25: Here’s a Defense of the Traditional Date for Christmas   by Dr Taylor Marshall The following is adapted from Taylor Marshall’s new book: The Eternal City: Rome & and Origins of Catholic Christianity. This is a long article and quite convincing. I have only given Objection 3 to […]

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