dimanche, novembre 23, 2008

Is Antichrist near?

Sermon for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost

For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders

The end of the liturgical year makes us anticipate the end of times as the whole liturgical year is a recapitulation and a summary of the history of salvation. The first coming of Christ has inaugurated a new era. His second coming will conclude it. It will be the crowning of the victory of Christ and of His Church. Our Lord and Master will come and this thought gives us a great joy.
We know that the return of Christ will be preceded by signs. Saint Paul, in the second letter to the Thessalonians tells us what are these signs: Let no man deceive you by any means: for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition who opposes and is lifted up above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God.

How interesting is this sentence from Saint Paul! Yet, many Christians ignore it or do not pay attention to it. But Cardinal Newman reminds us that it is our duty, as Christians, to be watching for the advent of the Lord and to search for the signs of it in all that happens around them; and above all to keep in mind this great and awful sign which the text speaks of. At this season of the year, then, when we turn our thoughts to the coming of Christ, it is not out of place to review the intimations given us in Scripture concerning His precursor.

Now, with the precious help of Cardinal Newman, let us consider how the precursor of the Lord, also known as Antichrist will come. The Scriptures mention Antichrist just a few times and always under the pen of Saint John. In his first letter, he presents him: This is Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he comes. This shows that the first Christians have heard about him, probably from Our Lord Himself. According to Saint John, Antichrist is already in the world. Antichrist is every spirit that dissolves Jesus. (1Jn 4,3). They are the heretics that deny the two natures of Christ. In fact everyone who does not confess Our Lord Jesus Christ true God and true man is an Antichrist and as Saint John says again: There are become many Antichrists. But those are the forerunners of the great Antichrist who has still to come and John specifies that it will be at the last hour.

Saint Paul speaks about the revelation of the man of sin and son of perdition. The Thessalonians thought that the end of time was near. I guess we find Christians in all generations that believe that it is near. And they are right in a certain way because time is short. But Saint Paul explained to the Thessalonians and to the Christians of all generations that something has to come first: the revelation of the man of sin and son of perdition. And there will be a revolt first. What is this revolt, or falling away?
Cardinal Newman, who follows the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, says it is a certain frightful apostasy. We have more precision from Our Lord who speaks about false prophets and false Christs. And because of iniquity, charity will grow cold. Jesus gives another sign: the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations: and then shall the consummation come. (Mt 24)

The commentary of Cardinal Newman on this last statement is particularly interesting: Now it may be objected to this conclusion, that St. Paul says, in the passage before us, that "the mystery of iniquity doth already work," i.e. even in his day, as if Antichrist had in fact come even then. But he would seem to mean merely this, that in his day there were shadows and forebodings, earnests and operating elements of that which was one day to come in its fullness. Just as the types of Christ went before Christ, so the shadows of Antichrist precede him. In truth, every event in this world is a type of those that follow, history proceeding forward as a circle ever enlarging. The days of the Apostles typified the last days: there were false Christs, and troubles, and the true Christ came in judgment to destroy the Jewish Church.

We know that Antichrist will come at the last hour, but his figures or shadows are already in the world and we can recognize them throughout History. Cardinal Newman mentions Antiochus, Julian the Apostate and Mohammed. Now, what about the context? Saint Paul mentions a restraining power that impedes the manifestation of Antichrist: only that he who now holdeth do hold, until he be taken out of the way. (2 Thes. 2,7) The Fathers thought that it was the Roman Empire. For example Saint Cyril of Jerusalem says that Antichrist will come when the time of the Roman Empire will be concluded.

Cardinal Newman believes that the Roman Empire is not yet gone and that it is still with us, at least in the XIX century. Let us listen to his explanation: I do not grant that the Roman empire is gone. Far from it: the Roman empire remains even to this day. It had a very different fate from the other three monsters mentioned by the Prophet Daniel; as will be seen by his description of it. "Behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns." These ten horns, an Angel informed him, "are ten kings that shall arise out of this kingdom" of Rome. As, then, the ten horns belonged to the beast, and were not separate from it, so are the kingdoms into which the Roman empire has been divided, part of that empire itself,-a continuation of that empire in the view of prophecy, however we decide the historical question. And as the horns, or kingdoms, still exist, as a matter of fact, consequently we have not yet seen the end of the Roman empire.

The old Roman Empire was extended in time through the different Kingdoms. But the Revolution, which is not achieved, has attacked them and now we see the emergence of a new order of the world. Cardinal Newman explains again: that this will be when revolutions prevail, and the present framework of Society breaks to pieces; that at present the Spirit which he will embody and represent, is kept under by "the powers that be," but that on their dissolution, he will rise out of the bosom of them, and knit them together again in his own evil way, under his own rule, to the exclusion of the Church. Cardinal Newman said that in 1835. Things are worst today and Satan more than ever continues to deceive people.
Cardinal Newman warns us again:
Far be it from any of us to be of those simple ones, who are taken in that snare which is circling around us! Far be it from us to be seduced with the fair promises in which Satan is sure to hide his poison! Do you think he is so unskillful in his craft, as to ask you openly and plainly to join him in his warfare against the Truth? No; he offers you baits to tempt you. He promises you civil liberty; he promises you equality; he promises you trade and wealth; he promises you a remission of taxes; he promises you reform. This is the way in which he conceals from you the kind of work to which he is putting you; he tempts you to rail against your rulers and superiors; he does so himself, and induces you to imitate him; or he promises you illumination,-he offers you knowledge, science, philosophy, enlargement of mind. He scoffs at times gone by; he scoffs at every institution which reveres them. He prompts you what to say, and then listens to you, and praises you, and encourages you. He bids you mount aloft. He shows you how to become as gods. Then he laughs and jokes with you, and gets intimate with you; he takes your hand, and gets his fingers between yours, and grasps them, and then you are his.

Is the manifestation of the man of sin and the son of perdition near? I do not know, but what is sure is that if it is not near, we know now a great shadow of Antichrist. We expect him to be a man, but he can be manifested through ideologies that prepare his coming. The French Revolution has certainly been the first step of the final battle. Today the new religion of human rights has replaced the true worship of God. Let us not be deceived, dear brethren. Let us not be mistaken. Our battle is for the victory of Christ, the exaltation of the Holy Catholic Church and the salvation of souls. As the soldiers of the Catholic army used to sing during the Revolution, we have only one honor in the world, this is the honor of Our Lord. We have only one hope in the world, this is the Heart of Our Lord.

1 commentaire:

Unknown a dit…

Perhaps there is a relationship between the collapse of the Austrian-Hungarian empire (arguably the last vestige of the Roman Empire) at the end of WW I and the vision Pope Leo XIII recieved in the late 19th century and which inspired him to write the St. Michael the Archangel prayer. The enemy will be given 100 years to destroy the Church