Saturday, 11 May 2013
I've just finished reading Stephen Walford's excellent new book Heralds of the Second Coming. The main focus of Walford's unique work is to sift through and collect together various important papal documents which reveal the eschatological thought of the popes of the modern era. In doing so, it provides the reader with an insight into the end-times theology of the select few people who are not only the most authoritative on this subject, but also the best informed - the successors of St. Peter. Heralds of the Second Coming branches out into several other areas of relevance to this subject, such as the apocalyptic literature of the Bible, and a choice number of Church-approved private revelations. This detailed exposition of the eschatological thought of contemporary Church leaders highlights the urgency in which this matter is held, calling on all of us to be "watchmen of the new dawn".
A great strength of this book is that it roots itself firmly within the bounds of orthodox Catholic theology, and completely eschews any millenarian tendencies. In doing so, it plots an eschatological trajectory almost identical to the future timeline outlaid in my own work on this subject, making it a perfect accompaniment to Unveiling the Apocalypse. Especially given Walford's belief that the wars of the 20th century are identical with Jesus' prophecy in the Olivet discourse, concerning the "wars and rumours of wars" that must precede His final coming. By outlining the fact that the popes of war-torn Europe expressed this very same opinion in several papal documents, Heralds of the Second Coming provides an independent testimony to the importance of the horrors of the 20th century in relation to this closing chapter of the history of salvation.
This is an essential resource for any serious student of Catholic eschatology, and a book that I will be referring back to time and again.
Stephen Walford has also started a highly informative blog, which can be found at his website http://divinemercypopes.com/, and readers of the comments section will recognise his contribution here under the username Rachmaninov.
Saturday, 4 May 2013
Michael, by Guido Reni, 1636.
The following material is a greatly expanded version of an earlier post on the Prophecy of Pope Leo XIII, which may help shed some light on the value of adhering to the traditional amillennialist view of the Apocalypse. For those who are already familiar with the older article, it will still be worth reading this newly revised version - especially for the most recent findings outlined in the latter portion of this post:
The St. Michael Prayer, which was said after Low Mass until the liturgical changes in 1965, was
instituted by Pope Leo XIII after he received a prophetic vision. The most widely known element of this vision is that the Holy Father overheard a debate between Our Lord and Satan, during which the Devil was granted more power and authority for a period of 75 to 100 years. According to the most widespread accounts, the events behind the prophecy of Pope Leo XIII run as following:
On October 13, 1884, after Pope Leo XIII had finished celebrating Mass in the Vatican Chapel, attended by a few Cardinals and members of the Vatican staff, he suddenly stopped at the foot of the altar. He stood there for about 10 minutes, as if in a trance, his face ashen white. Then, going immediately from the Chapel to his office, he composed the prayer to St. Michael, with instructions it be said after all Low Masses everywhere. When asked what had happened, he explained that, as he was about to leave the foot of the altar, he suddenly heard voices - two voices, one kind and gentle, the other guttural and harsh. They seemed to come from near the tabernacle. As he listened, he heard the following conversation:
The guttural voice, the voice of Satan in his pride, boasting to Our Lord: "I can destroy your Church"
The gentle voice of Our Lord: "You can? Then go ahead and do so."
Satan: "To do so, I need more time and more power."
Our Lord: "How much time? How much power?
Satan: "75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service."
Our Lord: "You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will."
Current research suggests that the earliest version of this story to appear in print was in 1933, in a German Sunday newspaper. The way in which this prophecy first surfaced suggests that it originally circulated in oral form amongst the Vatican staff and hierarchy who were with the pope during this encounter. As such, it is impossible to trace back to an original documented source. After its initial publication in 1933, a German writer, Fr. Bers, attempted to find the origins of this prophecy for a 1934 article titled "Die Gebete nach der hl. Messe" (Theol-Prakt. Quartalschrift 87, 162-163). During his investigation, Fr. Bers failed to find any concrete source, leaving him to conclude that the prophecy was a later invention that was "spreading like a virus". However, 13 years after Fr. Bers had initially failed to find the original source of this prophecy, an eyewitness to the events behind the institution of the St. Michael Prayer eventually came forward. Writing in 1947, Fr. Domenico Pechenino, a priest who worked at the Vatican during the time of Leo XIII, provides a first-hand account of these events:
“Finally, as though coming to his senses, he lightly but firmly tapped his hand and rose to his feet. He headed for his private office. His retinue followed anxiously and solicitously, whispering: ‘Holy Father, are you not feeling well? Do you need anything?’ He answered: ‘Nothing, nothing.’ About half an hour later, he called for the Secretary of the Congregation of Rites and, handing him a sheet of paper, requested that it be printed and sent to all the ordinaries around the world. What was that paper? It was the prayer that we recite with the people at the end of every Mass. It is the plea to Mary and the passionate request to the Prince of the heavenly host, (St. Michael: Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle) beseeching God to send Satan back to hell."
(Fr. Domenico Pechenino, quoted in the 1955 Roman journal Ephemerides Liturgicae V. LXIX, pp 54–60)
Although he leaves out any mention of Pope Leo hearing a conversation between God and the Devil, and the prophecy of the 100 years of Satan's greater power, the fact that it was written 14 years after the original version of this prophecy first appeared in print would suggest that Fr Pechenino presumes that readers are already aware of the contents of the prophecy, and is merely writing to confirm what he saw that day. Fr. Bers had noted in 1934 that this prophecy was already in wide circulation, and was "spreading like a virus", so it was certainly well-known by the time Fr. Pechenino was providing his eyewitness testimony, and we can be sure that he was aware of it. It seems that the real reason Fr. Pechenino leaves out any mention of the 100 years element of this vision is due to the simple fact that he did not actually hear or see the vision himself, but was rather relating how he witnessed Pope Leo experiencing this event. Given that Fr. Pechenino is recalling these events solely as an observer, he could not have possibly known the content of the vision at this time, since by his own admission, the Holy Father did not reveal to him exactly what he saw or heard. He only knew that the Pope had composed the St. Michael Prayer immediately after this episode, which runs as following:
The St. Michael Prayer
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
The fact that Fr. Pechenino's account confirms the later 1933 version, can be used to establish that the prophecy of the 100 years of Satan's greater power is in fact genuine. If we compare both texts above, we can see that Fr Pechenino's testimony concurs almost exactly with the original version of the story behind the prophecy. The only difference is that Fr. Pechenino was not told exactly what Pope Leo experienced during this vision, which suggests that the Holy Father confided what he saw to someone else - the retinue who Fr. Pechenino saw following the pope afterwards and was questioning him. Being a member of his personal entourage, the retinue would have been a close confidant of the pope, and the details of the vision were probably given to him. This would make the retinue the most likely source of this prophecy, and how it was circulated in the Vatican.
But when should this 100 year period be calculated from? Most interpreters think that the hundred years referred to the 20th century, and some later versions of this prophecy explicitly state this view. While the original version doesn't mention a specific starting point, there are only two real options - either the year the vision was first received, which according to the first account was 1884, or the turn of the century. It seems the latter position is the most likely, since in what he himself described as the "greatest act of my pontificate", Pope Leo XIII consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 11th 1899, as requested by Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart (see here). Since this was obviously a date of utmost importance to the pontiff, and it commenced at a symbolically significant turning point (the end of the century), it would be logical to assume that the dawn of the 20th century was the beginning of the 100 years allotted to Satan.
Rather interestingly, in the post The Seven Wandering Stars and the Heads of the Dragon, we note how the 20th century was framed by two extremely rare planetary alignments - in the year 1899 and the year 2000. And if we look closely at the Book of Revelation, it suggests that the opening of the abyss (during which Satan is released "for a little while" to gather the nations for war) is marked by just such an event. Rev 1 depicts Jesus holding seven stars in his right hand, and upon experiencing this vision, St. John is told that Christ has the keys to the abyss:
In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
The fact that Christ is holding an arrangement of stars in his hand, and then immediately afterwards informs us "I have the keys of Death and Hades", suggests that the keys to the abyss are to be directly identified with these seven stars. It also suggests that this arrangement of stars is in some way a remarkable and unique event involving the wandering planets, rather than being a fixed constellation comprised of seven stars. If the seven stars held in the hand of Jesus are interpreted as an alignment of the seven classical planets, then it would follow that the opening and closing of the abyss would be marked by the appearance of such phenomena:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.
The amillennial approach towards the interpretation of the millennium, first forwarded by St. Augustine of Hippo in the 5th century, has been almost universally accepted by Catholic theologians as the standard for interpreting this prophecy for over 1600 years. In chapter XX of his monumental work City of God, St. Augustine equated the "millennium" with the age of the Church. For St. Augustine, the beginning of the "millennium" or age of the Church is thus traced back to ministry of Christ, when Jesus bound the power of Satan through his sacrifice on the Cross. As St. Augustine points out, this is alluded to by Christ Himself in the Gospels:
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself says,
No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man— meaning by the strong man the devil, because he had power to take captive the human race; and meaning by his goods which he was to take, those who had been held by the devil in various sins and iniquities, but were to become believers in Himself. It was then for the binding of this strong one that the apostle saw in the Apocalypse
an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss, and a chain in his hand. And he laid hold,he says,
on the dragon, that old serpent, which is called the devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,— that is, bridled and restrained his power so that he could not seduce and gain possession of those who were to be freed. (St. Augustine of Hippo, City of God, XX:7)
For the past 1,600 years, Roman Catholic teaching on the millennium has developed around St. Augustine's amillennial view of the Apocalypse - a long history of interpretation which would eventually shape magisterial teaching on eschatology and the development of the Catechism. According to the amillennialist position, the millennium is not a literal thousand year period, but rather it represents a very long period of time during which the power of Satan is restricted, in order to allow the spread of the Gospel. The strong man is Satan, whilst the phrase the "strong man's house" refers to the Devil as the lord of this world:
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
(2 Cor 4:3-4)
In Matt 12:29, Christ tells us that in order for Him to plunder the worldly realm of Satan and open the eyes of unbelievers to the Gospel, He would first have to "bind the strong man". Although evil still exists during this period, and Satan can still interfere with human affairs, his power would be limited in order to facilitate the growth of the Gospel. As the Catechism teaches, even though Satan was definitively defeated by Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross, the reign of Christ's kingdom on earth in the Church will always be subject to the attacks of evil powers until the creation of the new heaven and the new earth after the Last Judgement:
Though already present in his Church, Christ's reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled "with power and great glory" by the King's return to earth. This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ's Passover. Until everything is subject to him, "until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God."
The Book of Revelation tells us that this "millennium" or age of the Church will come to a close towards the end of the world, when Satan would once again be set loose for "a little while" to deceive the inhabitants of the earth, and gather the nations together for war. During this age of apostasy, Satan would once again have the power to blind the minds of unbelievers from the light of the Gospel, and would be able to inhibit its growth. And given that this is exactly the situation we are faced with today in the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Great Apostasy, we can only be left to conclude that the "millennium", or age of the Church has already came to end, and that the forces of Satan have already been unbound. The Apocalypse tells us that once the forces of hell have been unleashed at the end of the "thousand years", they will gather the nations together for war, and surround the Heavenly Jerusalem, which represents the Church:
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city...
As St. Augustine elaborates:
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and encompassed the camp of the saints and the beloved city,do not mean that they have come, or shall come, to one place, as if the camp of the saints and the beloved city should be in some one place; for this camp is nothing else than the Church of Christ extending over the whole world. And consequently wherever the Church shall be—and it shall be in all nations, as is signified by
the breadth of the earth,— there also shall be the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and there it shall be encompassed by the savage persecution of all its enemies...
(City of God, XX:11)
The end of the "thousand years" in Rev 20 is the age spoken of by Christ in his eschatological discourse on Mount Olivet, when wars would increase in intensity and there would be a mass departure from the Faith - the age of the Great Apostasy, when the light of the Gospel would once again be veiled to the minds of unbelievers:
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.
During this "little while" at the end of the "thousand years", Satan would be granted a period of greater power, much like in the Book of Job. Indeed the prophetic vision of Pope Leo XIII directly bases itself on the story of Job in the Old Testament. Here, Satan is granted greater power over Job, God's faithful servant, in order to test his level of faith. While Satan believes that he will be able to make Job turn his back on God by heaping atrocities upon him, the Heavenly Father is certain that Job will remain faithful in patient suffering. Job then has to endure a series of trials inflicted upon him at the hand of Satan, in order to prove his faithfulness to God. But in the vision of Leo XIII, the Church itself takes the place of Job.
During this new "trial of Job", Satan uses the increase in lawlessness (in the horrors of war and genocide) in an attempt to destroy peoples' faith in God, making the love of many grow cold. And in the light of the general apostasy which followed the horrors of the two World Wars and the genocides of the 20th century, it seems that this tactic has paid off spectacularly. Which isn't at all surprising, given the fact that the exposition of the philosophical problem of evil is one of the primary weapons of modern atheism. Once the "thousand years" were over, the forces of evil really did surround the City of God, and the Church is still being besieged by the modern secular values espoused in the principles of Freemasonry.
So if the "millennium" or age of the Church really did end at the turn of the 20th century, as is suggested by the prophecy of Pope Leo XIII, and indeed the actual unfolding of world events, we are left with the inescapable conclusion that the unbinding of Satan described in the Apocalypse is directly related to the two world wars. Turning back to the Book of Revelation, we find an earlier parallel reference to Satan being unbound from his prison in Rev 20, which is to be directly equated with the opening of the abyss in Rev 9. These two passages undoubtedly refer to the exact same event, only this time we are given the additional detail that the opening of the abyss at the end of the millennium or "age of the Church", would be marked not only by the "keys of the abyss" (which we have already established as an alignment of the seven classical planets) but also by a star falling to earth and the appearance of locust-like "demons":
And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.
In my book, I show how this prophecy of the appearance of demonic flying armour-clad locusts actually concerns the invention of military aircraft at the turn of the 20th century - right at the beginning of the 100 years of Satan's greater power. And that this was timed to exactly coincide with a "star" falling to earth - the Tunguska event of 1908 - when a large meteorite or asteroid exploded above the wilderness of Siberia (see the post Tunguska, Pope Leo XIII and the Opening of the Abyss, for further details on this subject). So just as the "little while" given to Satan mentioned in Rev 9 and 20 is marked by the appearance of the apocalyptic locusts and a star falling to earth, the beginning of the 100 years of Satan's greater power foretold by Pope Leo XIII coincided with the invention of military aircraft and the Tunguska event. In order to find out more information on what happens during the "little while" given to Satan, we must turn back to Rev 20, where we are told that after the Devil is released from his prison, he "will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea" (vv7-8). Once again, this corresponds almost exactly with the reality of the situation at the beginning of the 20th century - at the start of Satan's 100 years of greater power. The nations at the four corners of the earth truly were gathered together for battle, in the two greatest wars the world has ever known.
The theme of Satan gathering the nations together for war is also emphasised in a parallel passage in chapter 16:
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.
In the book, I argue that the three "woes" described in chapters 9-11 of the Book of Revelation correspond to three world wars, and that each of these "woes" are also represented by the three unclean spirits like frogs that issue from the mouths of the Dragon, False Prophet and the Beast. The first two woes refer to the two world wars, while the third woe represents the last great war - the battle of Armageddon. We are told above in Rev 16 that a noteworthy event precedes the coming of the unclean spirits of the Dragon, Beast and False Prophet to gather the nations for war - the drying up of the river Euphrates in Mesopotamia. It is interesting then to note that construction on the Hindiya Barrage on the river Euphrates lasted between the years 1911-1913 - just immediately before the outbreak of WWI in 1914. The Hindiya Barrage was the first modern dam erected on the Euphrates. During its construction, a new river bed was excavated and then inundated after its completion, while the old river bed was blocked with dams. So the Euphrates was indeed "dried up" just before the three demonic spirits began to assemble the armies of the whole world for battle. Which helps us to further establish that this parallel passage concerning the gathering of the nations for war is exactly the same event described as occurring at the end of the "thousand years": "And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea." (Rev 20:7-8).
Also if we are to take the "75 years" element of this prophecy as an indication of a different date other than the end of the century, as an alternative span for determining the dates connected to Satan's "little while", then it is noteworthy that calculating 75 years from 1914 brings us to the year 1989 - the year of the fall of Communism. The fruits of the "spark from Poland" which St. Faustina predicted would pave the way for the Second Coming of Christ. In the earlier post The Three Days of Darkness and the Angelic Pope, we have already noted that this year was highly significant to the Third Secret of Fatima, especially given the connection with the dates which can be calculated from the 153 fish of the Second Pentecost (153 times 13 - the number of Jesus and the 12 apostles - gives 1989).
We can find even more evidence that the prophecy of Pope Leo XIII is directly concerned with the unbinding of Satan at the end of the "millennium", in that the vision was actually composed of two separate parts - one auditory, and one visionary. While the auditory element of this vision is legendary (Pope Leo hearing the conversation between God and the Devil), what is not so well known is that according to first-hand reports, the Holy Father simulateanously experienced a visionary element in this prophecy - where he seen a huge number of demonic spirits converging upon Rome. A vision which matches the events described at the end of the millennium in the Apocalypse perfectly:
"And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city"
Although it is virtually unheard of, the visionary element of this prophecy was recorded for posterity by Cardinal Giovanni Nasalli Rocca di Corneliano. The aforementioned article in Ephemerides Liturgicae V. LXIX (which contained the testimony of Fr. Pechenino), also notes that Card. Corneliano gave an explanation for the exact wording of the St. Michael Prayer in his Pastoral Letters for Lent - stating that:
"the sentence 'The evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls' has a historical explanation that was many times repeated by his private secretary, Monsignor Rinaldo Angeli. Leo XIII truly saw, in a vision, demonic spirits who were congregating on the Eternal City (Rome). The prayer that he asked all the Church to recite was the fruit of that experience. He would recite that prayer with strong, powerful voice: we heard it many a time in the Vatican Basilica. Leo XIII also personally wrote an exorcism that is included in the Roman Ritual. He recommended that bishops and priests read these exorcisms often in their dioceses and parishes. He himself would recite them often throughout the day."
This would suggest that the original source of the prophecy of the 100 years of greater power was actually the Pope's private secretary - Mgr. Rinaldo Angeli, and that this is the same retinue mentioned by Fr. Pechenino - the one who followed the pope immediately after he received his vision. Given that Mgr. Angeli had been the Holy Father's private secretary since shortly after his election in 1878, this would make him the most likely candidate for the source of this prophecy.
On 18 May 1890, a different, much longer prayer to St. Michael was approved for use by Pope Leo XIII, which may help to shed some further light on the thoughts of the Holy Father after years of reflection on this vision. This is the same exorcism prayer in the Roman Ritual mentioned by Card. Corneliano:
O glorious Archangel St. Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, defend us in battle, and in the struggle which is ours against the principalities and Powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against spirits of evil in high places (Eph 6:12). Come to the aid of men, whom God created immortal, made in his own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil (Wis 2:23-24, 1 Cor 6:20).
Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. But that cruel, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan, who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with all his angels (Rev 12:7-9).
Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of man has taken courage, Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of his Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.
These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the Immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions (Lam 3:15).
In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be scattered.
Arise then, O invincible prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and bring them the victory.
The Church venerates thee as protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious powers of this world and of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude.
Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly conciliate the mercies of the Lord; and beating down the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations.
(Rituale Romanum, 6th ed. post typicam, (Ratisbon: Pustet 1898), 163ff).
Note that towards the end of the prayer, we find the rather telling statement: "do thou again make him captive in the abyss", which can only suggest that the prayer of Pope Leo XIII concerns the unleashing of Satan after he had already been captive in the abyss - i.e. after the "thousand years" were over. The era which Rev 20 tells us that a hoarde of demons would be unleashed from hell to encircle the Heavenly Jerusalem, the Holy City of Rome - a scenario which corresponds exactly with the vision experienced by Pope Leo XIII. In this respect, it is noteworthy then that Pope Leo XIII issued Humanum Genus (his encyclical against Freemasonry) in the exact year he was reported to have first received his famous vision - in April 1884. And the primary theme of this encyclical is based on St. Augustine's City of God:
The race of man, after its miserable fall from God, the Creator and the Giver of heavenly gifts, "through the envy of the devil," separated into two diverse and opposite parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other of those things which are contrary to virtue and to truth. The one is the kingdom of God on earth, namely, the true Church of Jesus Christ; and those who desire from their heart to be united with it, so as to gain salvation, must of necessity serve God and His only-begotten Son with their whole mind and with an entire will. The other is the kingdom of Satan, in whose possession and control are all whosoever follow the fatal example of their leader and of our first parents, those who refuse to obey the divine and eternal law, and who have many aims of their own in contempt of God, and many aims also against God.
2. This twofold kingdom St. Augustine keenly discerned and described after the manner of two cities, contrary in their laws because striving for contrary objects; and with a subtle brevity he expressed the efficient cause of each in these words: "Two loves formed two cities: the love of self, reaching even to contempt of God, an earthly city; and the love of God, reaching to contempt of self, a heavenly one."(1) At every period of time each has been in conflict with the other, with a variety and multiplicity of weapons and of warfare, although not always with equal ardour and assault. At this period, however, the partisans of evil seems to be combining together, and to be struggling with united vehemence, led on or assisted by that strongly organized and widespread association called the Freemasons. No longer making any secret of their purposes, they are now boldly rising up against God Himself. They are planning the destruction of holy Church publicly and openly, and this with the set purpose of utterly despoiling the nations of Christendom, if it were possible, of the blessings obtained for us through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
(Pope Leo XIII, Humanum Genus, 1884. See here for the full text)
(Pope Leo XIII, Humanum Genus, 1884. See here for the full text)
Tuesday, 30 April 2013
Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Botticelli, 1480
City of God (Book XX)
Chapter 7.— What is Written in the Revelation of John Regarding the Two Resurrections, and the Thousand Years, and What May Reasonably Be Held on These Points.The evangelist John has spoken of these two resurrections in the book which is called the Apocalypse, but in such a way that some Christians do not understand the first of the two, and so construe the passage into ridiculous fancies. For the Apostle John says in the foresaid book,
And I saw an angel come down from heaven. . . . Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.Those who, on the strength of this passage, have suspected that the first resurrection is future and bodily, have been moved, among other things, specially by the number of a thousand years, as if it were a fit thing that the saints should thus enjoy a kind of Sabbath-rest during that period, a holy leisure after the labors of the six thousand years since man was created, and was on account of his great sin dismissed from the blessedness of paradise into the woes of this mortal life, so that thus, as it is written,
One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,2 Peter 3:8 there should follow on the completion of six thousand years, as of six days, a kind of seventh-day Sabbath in the succeeding thousand years; and that it is for this purpose the saints rise, viz., to celebrate this Sabbath. And this opinion would not be objectionable, if it were believed that the joys of the saints in that Sabbath shall be spiritual, and consequent on the presence of God; for I myself, too, once held this opinion. But, as they assert that those who then rise again shall enjoy the leisure of immoderate carnal banquets, furnished with an amount of meat and drink such as not only to shock the feeling of the temperate, but even to surpass the measure of credulity itself, such assertions can be believed only by the carnal. They who do believe them are called by the spiritual Chiliasts, which we may literally reproduce by the name Millenarians. It were a tedious process to refute these opinions point by point: we prefer proceeding to show how that passage of Scripture should be understood.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself says,
No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man— meaning by the strong man the devil, because he had power to take captive the human race; and meaning by his goods which he was to take, those who had been held by the devil in various sins and iniquities, but were to become believers in Himself. It was then for the binding of this strong one that the apostle saw in the Apocalypse
an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss, and a chain in his hand. And he laid hold,he says,
on the dragon, that old serpent, which is called the devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,— that is, bridled and restrained his power so that he could not seduce and gain possession of those who were to be freed. Now the thousand years may be understood in two ways, so far as occurs to me: either because these things happen in the sixth thousand of years or sixth millennium (the latter part of which is now passing), as if during the sixth day, which is to be followed by a Sabbath which has no evening, the endless rest of the saints, so that, speaking of a part under the name of the whole, he calls the last part of the millennium— the part, that is, which had yet to expire before the end of the world— a thousand years; or he used the thousand years as an equivalent for the whole duration of this world, employing the number of perfection to mark the fullness of time. For a thousand is the cube of ten. For ten times ten makes a hundred, that is; the square on a plane superficies. But to give this superficies height, and make it a cube, the hundred is again multiplied by ten, which gives a thousand. Besides, if a hundred is sometimes used for totality, as when the Lord said by way of promise to him that left all and followed Him
He shall receive in this world an hundredfold;Matthew 19:29 of which the apostle gives, as it were, an explanation when he says,
As having nothing, yet possessing all things,2 Corinthians 6:10 — for even of old it had been said, The whole world is the wealth of a believer,— with how much greater reason is a thousand put for totality since it is the cube, while the other is only the square? And for the same reason we cannot better interpret the words of the psalm,
He has been mindful of His covenant for ever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations,than by understanding it to mean
to all generations.
And he cast him into the abyss,— i.e., cast the devil into the abyss. By the abyss is meant the countless multitude of the wicked whose hearts are unfathomably deep in malignity against the Church of God; not that the devil was not there before, but he is said to be cast in there, because, when prevented from harming believers, he takes more complete possession of the ungodly. For that man is more abundantly possessed by the devil who is not only alienated from God, but also gratuitously hates those who serve God.
And shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years should be fulfilled.
Shut him up,— i.e., prohibited him from going out, from doing what was forbidden. And the addition of
set a seal upon himseems to me to mean that it was designed to keep it a secret who belonged to the devil's party and who did not. For in this world this is a secret, for we cannot tell whether even the man who seems to stand shall fall, or whether he who seems to lie shall rise again. But by the chain and prison-house of this interdict the devil is prohibited and restrained from seducing those nations which belong to Christ, but which he formerly seduced or held in subjection. For before the foundation of the world God chose to rescue these from the power of darkness, and to translate them into the kingdom of the Son of His love, as the apostle says. Colossians 1:13 For what Christian is not aware that he seduces nations even now, and draws them with himself to eternal punishment, but not those predestined to eternal life? And let no one be dismayed by the circumstance that the devil often seduces even those who have been regenerated in Christ, and begun to walk in God's way. For
the Lord knows them that are His,2 Timothy 2:19 and of these the devil seduces none to eternal damnation. For it is as God, from whom nothing is hid even of things future, that the Lord knows them; not as a man, who sees a man at the present time (if he can be said to see one whose heart he does not see), but does not see even himself so far as to be able to know what kind of person he is to be. The devil, then, is bound and shut up in the abyss that he may not seduce the nations from which the Church is gathered, and which he formerly seduced before the Church existed. For it is not said
that he should not seduce any man,but
that he should not seduce the nations— meaning, no doubt, those among which the Church exists—
till the thousand years should be fulfilled,— i.e., either what remains of the sixth day which consists of a thousand years, or all the years which are to elapse till the end of the world.
that he should not seduce the nations till the thousand years should be fulfilled,are not to be understood as indicating that afterwards he is to seduce only those nations from which the predestined Church is composed, and from seducing whom he is restrained by that chain and imprisonment; but they are used in conformity with that usage frequently employed in Scripture and exemplified in the psalm,
So our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until He have mercy upon us,— not as if the eyes of His servants would no longer wait upon the Lord their God when He had mercy upon them. Or the order of the words is unquestionably this,
And he shut him up and set a seal upon him, till the thousand years should be fulfilled;and the interposed clause,
that he should seduce the nations no more,is not to be understood in the connection in which it stands, but separately, and as if added afterwards, so that the whole sentence might be read,
And He shut him up and set a seal upon him till the thousand years should be fulfilled, that he should seduce the nations no more,— i.e., he is shut up till the thousand years be fulfilled, on this account, that he may no more deceive the nations.
Chapter 8.— Of the Binding and Loosing of the Devil.
After that,says John,
he must be loosed a little season.If the binding and shutting up of the devil means his being made unable to seduce the Church, must his loosing be the recovery of this ability? By no means. For the Church predestined and elected before the foundation of the world, the Church of which it is said,
The Lord knows them that are His,shall never be seduced by him. And yet there shall be a Church in this world even when the devil shall be loosed, as there has been since the beginning, and shall be always, the places of the dying being filled by new believers. For a little after John says that the devil, being loosed, shall draw the nations whom he has seduced in the whole world to make war against the Church, and that the number of these enemies shall be as the sand of the sea.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. And the devil who seduced them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.Revelation 20:9-10 This relates to the last judgment, but I have thought fit to mention it now, lest any one might suppose that in that short time during which the devil shall be loose there shall be no Church upon earth, whether because the devil finds no Church, or destroys it by manifold persecutions. The devil, then, is not bound during the whole time which this book embraces—that is, from the first coming of Christ to the end of the world, when He shall come the second time,— not bound in this sense, that during this interval, which goes by the name of a thousand years, he shall not seduce the Church, for not even when loosed shall he seduce it. For certainly if his being bound means that he is not able or not permitted to seduce the Church, what can the loosing of him mean but his being able or permitted to do so? But God forbid that such should be the case! But the binding of the devil is his being prevented from the exercise of his whole power to seduce men, either by violently forcing or fraudulently deceiving them into taking part with him. If he were during so long a period permitted to assail the weakness of men, very many persons, such as God would not wish to expose to such temptation, would have their faith overthrown, or would be prevented from believing; and that this might not happen, he is bound.
But when the short time comes he shall be loosed. For he shall rage with the whole force of himself and his angels for three years and six months; and those with whom he makes war shall have power to withstand all his violence and stratagems. And if he were never loosed, his malicious power would be less patent, and less proof would be given of the steadfast fortitude of the holy city: it would, in short, be less manifest what good use the Almighty makes of his great evil. For the Almighty does not absolutely seclude the saints from his temptation, but shelters only their inner man, where faith resides, that by outward temptation they may grow in grace. And He binds him that he may not, in the free and eager exercise of his malice, hinder or destroy the faith of those countless weak persons, already believing or yet to believe, from whom the Church must be increased and completed; and he will in the end loose him, that the city of God may see how mighty an adversary it has conquered, to the great glory of its Redeemer, Helper, Deliverer. And what are we in comparison with those believers and saints who shall then exist, seeing that they shall be tested by the loosing of an enemy with whom we make war at the greatest peril even when he is bound? Although it is also certain that even in this intervening period there have been and are some soldiers of Christ so wise and strong, that if they were to be alive in this mortal condition at the time of his loosing, they would both most wisely guard against, and most patiently endure, all his snares and assaults.
Now the devil was thus bound not only when the Church began to be more and more widely extended among the nations beyond Judea, but is now and shall be bound till the end of the world, when he is to be loosed. Because even now men are, and doubtless to the end of the world shall be, converted to the faith from the unbelief in which he held them. And this strong one is bound in each instance in which he is spoiled of one of his goods; and the abyss in which he is shut up is not at an end when those die who were alive when first he was shut up in it, but these have been succeeded, and shall to the end of the world be succeeded, by others born after them with a like hate of the Christians, and in the depth of whose blind hearts he is continually shut up as in an abyss. But it is a question whether, during these three years and six months when he shall be loose, and raging with all his force, any one who has not previously believed shall attach himself to the faith. For how in that case would the words hold good,
Who enters into the house of a strong one to spoil his goods, unless first he shall have bound the strong one?Consequently this verse seems to compel us to believe that during that time, short as it is, no one will be added to the Christian community, but that the devil will make war with those who have previously become Christians, and that, though some of these may be conquered and desert to the devil, these do not belong to the predestinated number of the sons of God. For it is not without reason that John, the same apostle as wrote this Apocalypse, says in his epistle regarding certain persons,
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have remained with us.1 John 2:19 But what shall become of the little ones? For it is beyond all belief that in these days there shall not be found some Christian children born, but not yet baptized, and that there shall not also be some born during that very period; and if there be such, we cannot believe that their parents shall not find some way of bringing them to the laver of regeneration. But if this shall be the case, how shall these goods be snatched from the devil when he is loose, since into his house no man enters to spoil his goods unless he has first bound him? On the contrary, we are rather to believe that in these days there shall be no lack either of those who fall away from, or of those who attach themselves to the Church; but there shall be such resoluteness, both in parents to seek baptism for their little ones, and in those who shall then first believe, that they shall conquer that strong one, even though unbound,— that is, shall both vigilantly comprehend, and patiently bear up against him, though employing such wiles and putting forth such force as he never before used; and thus they shall be snatched from him even though unbound. And yet the verse of the Gospel will not be untrue,
Who enters into the house of the strong one to spoil his goods, unless he shall first have bound the strong one?For in accordance with this true saying that order is observed— the strong one first bound, and then his goods spoiled; for the Church is so increased by the weak and strong from all nations far and near, that by its most robust faith in things divinely predicted and accomplished, it shall be able to spoil the goods of even the unbound devil. For as we must own that,
when iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold,Matthew 24:12 and that those who have not been written in the book of life shall in large numbers yield to the severe and unprecedented persecutions and stratagems of the devil now loosed, so we cannot but think that not only those whom that time shall find sound in the faith, but also some who till then shall be without, shall become firm in the faith they have hitherto rejected and mighty to conquer the devil even though unbound, God's grace aiding them to understand the Scriptures, in which, among other things, there is foretold that very end which they themselves see to be arriving. And if this shall be so, his binding is to be spoken of as preceding, that there might follow a spoiling of him both bound and loosed; for it is of this it is said,
Who shall enter into the house of the strong one to spoil his goods, unless he shall first have bound the strong one?
Chapter 9.— What the Reign of the Saints with Christ for a Thousand Years Is, and How It Differs from the Eternal Kingdom.But while the devil is bound, the saints reign with Christ during the same thousand years, understood in the same way, that is, of the time of His first coming. For, leaving out of account that kingdom concerning which He shall say in the end,
Come, you blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you,Matthew 25:34 the Church could not now be called His kingdom or the kingdom of heaven unless His saints were even now reigning with Him, though in another and far different way; for to His saints He says,
Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.Matthew 28:20 Certainly it is in this present time that the scribe well instructed in the kingdom of God, and of whom we have already spoken, brings forth from his treasure things new and old. And from the Church those reapers shall gather out the tares which He suffered to grow with the wheat till the harvest, as He explains in the words
The harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered together and burned with fire, so shall it be in the end of the world. The Son of man shall send His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all offenses.Matthew 13:39-41 Can He mean out of that kingdom in which are no offenses? Then it must be out of His present kingdom, the Church, that they are gathered. So He says,
He that breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but he that does and teaches thus shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 5:19 He speaks of both as being in the kingdom of heaven, both the man who does not perform the commandments which He teaches—for
to breakmeans not to keep, not to perform—and the man who does and teaches as He did; but the one He calls least, the other great. And He immediately adds, scribes and Pharisees He elsewhere says,
For they say and do not;Matthew 23:3 — unless therefore, your righteousness exceed theirs that is, so that you do not break but rather do what you teach,
you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 5:20 We must understand in one sense the kingdom of heaven in which exist together both he who breaks what he teaches and he who does it, the one being least, the other great, and in another sense the kingdom of heaven into which only he who does what he teaches shall enter. Consequently, where both classes exist, it is the Church as it now is, but where only the one shall exist, it is the Church as it is destined to be when no wicked person shall be in her. Therefore the Church even now is the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven. Accordingly, even now His saints reign with Him, though otherwise than as they shall reign hereafter; and yet, though the tares grow in the Church along with the wheat, they do not reign with Him. For they reign with Him who do what the apostle says,
If you be risen with Christ, mind the things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Seek those things which are above, not the things which are on the earth.Colossians 3:1-2 Of such persons he also says that their conversation is in heaven. Philippians 3:20 In fine, they reign with Him who are so in His kingdom that they themselves are His kingdom. But in what sense are those the kingdom of Christ who, to say no more, though they are in it until all offenses are gathered out of it at the end of the world, yet seek their own things in it, and not the things that are Christ's? Philippians 2:21
It is then of this kingdom militant, in which conflict with the enemy is still maintained, and war carried on with warring lusts, or government laid upon them as they yield, until we come to that most peaceful kingdom in which we shall reign without an enemy, and it is of this first resurrection in the present life, that the Apocalypse speaks in the words just quoted. For, after saying that the devil is bound a thousand years and is afterwards loosed for a short season, it goes on to give a sketch of what the Church does or of what is done in the Church in those days, in the words,
And I saw seats and them that sat upon them, and judgment was given.It is not to be supposed that this refers to the last judgment, but to the seats of the rulers and to the rulers themselves by whom the Church is now governed. And no better interpretation of judgment being given can be produced than that which we have in the words,
What ye bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what ye loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.Matthew 18:18 Whence the apostle says,
What have I to do with judging them that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?1 Corinthians 5:12
And the souls,says John,
reigned with Christ a thousand years,Revelation 20:4 — that is, the souls of the martyrs not yet restored to their bodies. For the souls of the pious dead are not separated from the Church, which even now is the kingdom of Christ; otherwise there would be no remembrance made of them at the altar of God in the partaking of the body of Christ, nor would it do any good in danger to run to His baptism, that we might not pass from this life without it; nor to reconciliation, if by penitence or a bad conscience any one may be severed from His body. For why are these things practised, if not because the faithful, even though dead, are His members? Therefore, while these thousand years run on, their souls reign with Him, though not as yet in conjunction with their bodies. And therefore in another part of this same book we read,
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth and now, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works do follow them.Revelation 14:13 The Church, then, begins its reign with Christ now in the living and in the dead. For, as the apostle says,
Christ died that He might be Lord both of the living and of the dead.Romans 14:9 But he mentioned the souls of the martyrs only, because they who have contended even to death for the truth, themselves principally reign after death; but, taking the part for the whole, we understand the words of all others who belong to the Church, which is the kingdom of Christ.
As to the words following,
And if any have not worshipped the beast nor his image, nor have received his inscription on their forehead, or on their hand,we must take them of both the living and the dead. And what this beast is, though it requires a more careful investigation, yet it is not inconsistent with the true faith to understand it of the ungodly city itself, and the community of unbelievers set in opposition to the faithful people and the city of God.
His imageseems to me to mean his simulation, to wit, in those men who profess to believe, but live as unbelievers. For they pretend to be what they are not, and are called Christians, not from a true likeness but from a deceitful image. For to this beast belong not only the avowed enemies of the name of Christ and His most glorious city, but also the tares which are to be gathered out of His kingdom, the Church, in the end of the world. And who are they who do not worship the beast and his image, if not those who do what the apostle says,
Be not yoked with unbelievers?2 Corinthians 6:14 For such do not worship, i.e., do not consent, are not subjected; neither do they receive the inscription, the brand of crime, on their forehead by their profession, on their hand by their practice. They, then, who are free from these pollutions, whether they still live in this mortal flesh, or are dead, reign with Christ even now, through this whole interval which is indicated by the thousand years, in a fashion suited to this time.
The rest of them,he says,
did not live.For now is the hour when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live; and the rest of them shall not live. The words added,
until the thousand years are finished,mean that they did not live in the time in which they ought to have lived by passing from death to life. And therefore, when the day of the bodily resurrection arrives, they shall come out of their graves, not to life, but to judgment, namely, to damnation, which is called the second death. For whosoever has not lived until the thousand years be finished, i.e., during this whole time in which the first resurrection is going on—whosoever has not heard the voice of the Son of God, and passed from death to life—that man shall certainly in the second resurrection, the resurrection of the flesh, pass with his flesh into the second death. For he goes to say
This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection,or who experiences it. Now he experiences it who not only revives from the death of sin, but continues in this renewed life.
In these the second death has no power.Therefore it has power in the rest, of whom he said above,
The rest of them did not live until the thousand years were finished;for in this whole intervening time called a thousand years, however lustily they lived in the body, they were not quickened to life out of that death in which their wickedness held them, so that by this revived life they should become partakers of the first resurrection, and so the second death should have no power over them.
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
The fresco of The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo
Whilst reading a customer review of Stephen Walford's intriguing new book on Catholic eschatology Heralds of the Second Coming (which I hope to be able to cover in more detail myself in the near future), I was surprised to note that he was criticised by a reader for failing to adhere to the concept of a purported future Eucharistic Reign of Christ. The idea of a future Eucharistic Reign of Christ on earth for a thousand years after an intermediate Paraousia (during which time Our Lord would supposedly rule invisibly on earth from heaven), is a concept which was first proposed in the writings of contemporary Catholic theologian Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi. It is of great importance here to realise that this work should be considered separately from the traditional Catholic amillennialist of the Apocalypse - a line of interpretation which has been followed by mainstream theologians since St. Augustine first clearly elucidated the true meaning of the millennium in the Book of Revelation.
According to Fr. Iannuzzi and his followers, who like the Protestant dispensationalists, hold to an overly literal view of the chronology of the Book of Revelation, there will a thousand year millenary reign of Christ following the defeat of the Antichrist - a historic triumph of the Church which is to be equated with the era of peace foretold in the Secret of Fatima. Much in line with the postmillennial view forwarded by some Protestant commentators, Fr. Iannuzzi suggests that after this glorious future thousand year reign of Christ is over, Satan will once again be let loose from his chains during his "little while" in order to deceive the inhabitants of the earth, before finally being thrown into the lake of fire by Christ at his final Coming.
In an attempt to lend his argument an air of credibility, Fr. Iannuzzi relies on the writings of a select few of the early Church Fathers before St. Augustine who had adhered to the concept of a future millennial reign of Christ on earth. Yet although some of the early Church Fathers clearly forwarded millenarian/chiliastic views, they were not viewed by later theologians to be heretical, since they had lived in an age before the Holy Spirit revealed the true meaning of the millennium to the Church in the writings of St. Augustine. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, the full truth of Scripture is something that is only revealed to the Church in stages over the course of the centuries:
Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.
So the evident chiliasm in the writings of some of the early Church Fathers can be put down to the fact did not yet possess any special insight into parts of Scripture that were still not fully illuminated by the Holy Spirit. They were merely attempting to make the best sense they could out of what is one of the most mysterious aspects of Christian eschatology. But after St. Augustine had revealed that the millennial reign of Christ started with His earthly ministry and that it encompassed the age of the Church, the chiliastic idea that Christ would reign for a thousand years with the saints on earth was subsequently recognised as a dangerous heresy which unduly emphasised the importance of the worldly realm over the spiritual. This was in keeping with Christ's declaration that "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).
Fr. Iannuzzi attempts to bypass the charge of millenarianism by making a distinction between Christ reigning visibly on earth in the flesh for a thousand years (which is the straight, undiluted form of chiliasm), from the notion that he could reign invisibly for a thousand years from heaven in His presence in the Eucharist. This slight modification of millenarian ideas has enabled his work to escape from being immediately condemned by the Church. Stephen Walford contends in his book Heralds of the Second Coming that Fr. Iannuzzi's work falls into the category of "mitigated millenarianism", which was ruled out by Pius XII in 1944. I would argue that Fr. Iannuzzi's work is an example of the "modified forms" of millenarianism condemned by the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgement. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.
Ever since St. Augustine of Hippo presented his understanding of the Apocalypse in the monumental work City of God, Catholic theologians have unswervingly adhered to the amillennialist position, which holds that the "millennium" began with the binding of Satan in the ministry of Christ, and that this "1000 years" symbolises the age of the Church as the kingdom of Christ on earth. For Catholics, Christ is already the King who reigns from heaven forever, and has done since the Incarnation - we do not need to wait until some point in the future for His millennial reign from heaven. Indeed accepting the amillennialist position outlined by St. Augustine (who as a doctor of the Church, is considered by Catholic theologians to be the ultimate authority on this matter) is a vital key to understanding the significance of the "little while" given to Satan - when he is unleashed after the "1000 years" are over. I believe that this "little while" of the unbinding of the Devil directly corresponds to the period of the Great Apostasy and Pope Leo XIII's vision of the 100 years of Satan's greater power, and is consequently related to the horrors of the 20th century.
Given that there are a significant number of Catholics who follow Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi's concept of a millennial Eucharistic Reign of Christ on earth after the defeat of the Antichrist, I thought I should link to a more critical (and orthodox) review of his one of his books - The Splendor of Creation, before commenting in some more detail on St. Augustine's view of the millennium in a later post.
The full review can be found at newtorah.org. I'll post a section of it below:
The author’s main purpose in this book is to convince us that, in the very near future, we will witness a historical and universal ‘era of peace’, driven by a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as at Pentecost: “As humankind enters the third millennium, it will witness an explosion of mystical gifts, particularly that of ‘Living in the Divine Will’. By means of this most powerful gift that elevates man’s internal powers to God’s continuously eternal activity, all creation will be set free from its former slavery to corruption and glory and enjoy the glorious freedom of the sons of God. This liberating process of man and the cosmos introduces God’s sons and daughters to the splendor of creation, where a ‘new Pentecost’ will assist his creatures to live in harmony and in holiness.”(pp. 187-188).
He sets out to persuade us of this attractive prospect by arguing that the ‘era of peace’ (an expression taken from the Fatima apparitions in 1917, see note 22) has been prophesied by a formidable array of authoritative sources since the early days of the Church, and has been further confirmed and clarified over the last century in the ‘approved’ writings of a variety of Catholic mystics. He quotes extensively from the writings of these mystics, especially when explaining how the Holy Spirit’s work of divinization will bring all men to behave peacefully, during the imminent ‘era of peace’, through a voluntary and loving adherence to the divine will. The strength of this book lies in the author’s evident desire for the imminent ‘era of peace’ and his ardent conviction that this ‘period of triumphant Christianity’ corresponds to Christ’s reign of one thousand years prophesied in chapter 20 of the book of Revelation. One hesitates to criticize a book that anticipates such a pleasant and painless interim for the Church and for mankind, but it must be said that the force of the author’s conviction should not obscure our vision of the truth and our understanding of reality. Even though a host of worthy churchmen and women may wish for Christianity to be seen to triumph in this world, and for this triumph to be expressed in a historical and lengthy ‘era of peace’, one must seriously consider whether their wish truly conforms to reality, or whether it simply reflects a form of ecclesiastical idealism, or wishful thinking, that has become isolated from the ‘real world’, and especially from the ugly presence of unforgivable or ‘eternal’ sin (cf. Mk 3,29; Mt 12,32; 1Jn 5,16-17; Heb 6,4-6; 10,26-31; Rev 16,9-11.21). Given that this kind of sin can only be removed from the creation at the final judgment, and also that it is implacably hostile to God’s kingdom, it follows that before the final judgment there can be no historical realization, or consummation, of God’s kingdom. In the symbolical language of the book of Revelation, this means that the chaining of Satan in the abyss during the ‘millennium’ does not stop him from exerting his influence through spiritual (angelic) deputies and willing humans. In this way Satan is still able to oppose the Kingdom of God and impede its full realization. This is confirmed by the Catechism when it says “the kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil…God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgement after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world” (CCC 677b). So instead of the ‘historic triumph of the Church’ we should rather expect that “The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection” (CCC 677a). The inescapable conclusion is that the long-awaited and greatly desired consummation of God’s kingdom will be attainable only through a grueling persecution of the Church followed closely by the final judgment. The author’s ‘era of peace’ is exposed as a pious pipedream, an illusory escape from the hard realities that we should even now be spiritually preparing for. Far from being a miraculous placebo inducing a global ‘era of peace’ and a ‘historic triumph of the Church’, the new Pentecost (Rev 8:5) is actually granted to the Church to prepare and strengthen her for the last and greatest tribulation she will ever have to face, “her final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection” (CCC 677a), a persecution that to all the world will seem like a humiliating defeat. Related to this general theological objection to the author’s proposal for an imminent, historical ‘era of peace’, is the claim that it represents the millennial rule of Christ with his saints described in chapter 20 of the book of Revelation. Throughout the book, the author takes pains to distinguish his futuristic interpretation of the millennium from the various forms of millennialism that the Church has robustly condemned (chapter 7). Although he does not spell it out, the author’s proposal clearly conforms to the class of interpretations defined as ‘postmillennial’, which is to say that it expects the Second Coming of Christ to occur after a millennial ‘era of peace and triumphant Christianity’. One great weakness of his work is that he does not deal with the classical objections to this form of interpretation, namely that New Testament writers do not anticipate a millennial age to dawn on earth. As noted recently by a Protestant Scholar, “There is no biblical evidence that the nations as a whole will become Christianized. In fact, just the opposite appears to be the case. After all, we read the great lament of our Lord. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8). Indeed the Bible teaches that Christ will judge the nations when he returns because of their unbelief and hostility toward his kingdom (Matt. 25:31-32; Rev. 19:15; 20:11-12). It is hard to attribute this deplorable condition to a brief period of apostasy after Jesus Christ and his saints have ruled over these nations for a thousand years and, according to postmillennial expectations, the nations have become Christianized. Therefore, postmillennial expectations do not fit easily with the New Testament’s emphasis on our Lord’s return to judge the unbelieving world.” (A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times, Kim Riddlebarger, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books; Leicester, UK: IVP, 2003, p.237). And again, “But postmillenarians err when they attempt to locate the triumph of the kingdom in the Christianizing of the nations and the economic, cultural, and religious progress associated with an earthly millennium. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. But one day, John said, the kingdoms of the world will “become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (Rev. 11:15). That day will come when Jesus Christ returns but not before.” (op.cit. p. 239). Rev. Iannuzzi may be correct in asserting that postmillennial interpretations have not yet been censured by the Church’s Magisterium, but he appears to be blissfully unaware of the fact that they are not consistent with rest of the New Testament. While arguing against other interpretations of the millennium in chapter seven of his book, the author rather too hastily sweeps aside the traditional amillennialist view, according to which the millennium corresponds to the present Church age: “Not only did the Amillenarians disavow belief in the Pre- and Postmillenarians’ literal views of biblical eschatology, they denied and opposed the possibility of the magisterial ‘historic period of triumphant Christianity’. Needless to say, the Magisterium condemned their beliefs due to faulty interpretations of the 20th Chapter of the book of Revelation.” (p.200). This comment is contentious for several reasons: firstly because the Magisterium has never declared itself in favour of a ‘historic period of triumphant Christianity’ as the author claims. On the contrary, the Catechism of the Catholic Church asserts that “…the kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church…” (CCC 677) as already seen above. Secondly, it should be observed that the author’s lengthy descriptions of the proposed future ‘era of peace’ are equally applicable to the present Church age (e.g. ‘the first resurrection’, pp. 69-72). In this way, the author goes a long way in recognizing the arguments in favour of the amillennial interpretation. Thirdly, to the best of my knowledge, the Magisterium has never condemned the amillennialist interpretation of Rev. 20, and is never likely to condemn it, because this was the interpretation long ago proposed by St. Augustine (City of God, book 20, chs. 7-10) and adopted by the Church to oppose millennialism. Noteworthy in this regard is the absence of a reference in the endnotes to any document confirming this erroneous assertion. This last objection raises doubts about the veracity of the author in promoting his ‘era of peace’. Regrettably, there are several other instances in this book where the author seems to be drawing false conclusions from his sources. He does this, deliberately it would seem, by selectively quoting from the writings of ancient authors, in order to make them appear to support his postmillennial ‘era of peace’, even though they do not. In some cases this means hiding dissonant features and, in other cases, inventing consonant features.... (Read the full article here).