January 29, 2008
volume 19, no. 29

A Time of Transition
Father Gerard McKee, CMRI

      For the Time of Septuagesima Fr. Gerard recalls how the Jewish Rabbis altered key words of the Old Testament to prevent conversions to Christianity, purposely denying the divinity of Christ. It was the modus operandi of the Rabbis dating back to the time of the Egyptian Exile when they hid the truths of three Persons in one God for fear King Ptolemy would think the Jews worshipped more than one God. It was seventy of them in collusion back then and it's ironic that this is revealed in this time of Septuagesima which means 70. Father shows how holy Mother Church in her wisdom, has set aside this time between Christmas and Lent to provide a transition from joy to preparation for prayer, penance and self-mortification in order to glory in His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. This cannot be done without going through the Passion and Death of our Lord and Savior. Without the cross there can be no glory.

    As a matter of course, Bishop Pivarunas always tries to have some theological topic to discuss with the priests at our priests' meeting in Spokane. This time he brought a book, which he had, about the actual revelations in the Old Testament of the Trinity from several passages in the Old Testament it can actually be seen that there was reference to the persons in God because in some passages it uses the name of God "Elhoim" and that is actually a plural noun, but the verb, which is used with it, is a singular form.

    The very first words of the book of Genesis refer to the creation of the world and it says in our translation: “In the beginning, God created Heaven and earth and the spirit of God was moved over the waters and the world was empty and void.” Now here, there is a reference to three divine persons because the verb created as in the singular but the very first word of the Old Testament in Hebrew is a word, which refers to the principle or the beginning as far as some sort of work.

    When the 70 Jewish scholars went to translate the bible in the Old Testament as it existed then for King Ptolemy, the Pharoah of Egypt, they were afraid that if they translated it in a very literal sense, he might think that they were worshipping more than one God because the word, which I don’t remember at the moment refers to a divine being. So we see right at the beginning of the Old Testament the beginning or principal that we have God, then we have the Spirit of God.

    There are several other places in the Old Testament. One was the apparition of three men who came to visit Abraham but in the process of addressing them he called them: “Lord", using the singular, and in the passage it goes back and forth between the three and the one and then it goes one and three, and in one of the responses in the breviary talking about that particular event in the book of Genesis, it says: “Abraham saw three and worshipped one.” So we have there a reference to the three persons and one God. Also, I think its in Isaias, he had a vision of the heavens being opened and he saw the Seraphim there before the throne of God and he said: “Holy, Holy, Holy” referring again to the three Persons. So this was quite interesting and there may be copies of this book available on a limited basis because it can be photo copied, it’s outside of the copyright period.

    The unfortunate thing is that the Jewish rabbis recognized this but they rejected the Trinity and so they, in the second century AD, they twisted the interpretation of these passages. If, in fact, they had been honest they would have seen in those three words: “Hear, O’ Israel, The Lord our God, The Lord our God, The Lord is one.” For God there are three different names used. One is “El” and the other two I don’t remember but they are distinct names.

    There are three names for God and the singular word is one. So again, three Persons, one God. The Jewish Rabbis changed the interpretation of the scriptures and devised a warped interpretation to preserve their particular teaching so that the people who read the Old Testament would not be converted to Christianity, for it was happening that many of the Jews, seeing all the prophecies fulfilled in Christ, were becoming Christians because the Apostles and the disciples and the bishops were going into the Synagogues and preaching the scriptures, the Old Testament, and proving that Jesus is the Lord, that he is the Messiah. So what these Rabbis did was twist the interpretations of scriptures, they watered down how scripture was actually written so that people wouldn’t see so clearly that Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures.

    That is why, to truly understand the New Testament and why the Church provides the liturgies she does, we need to understand the Old Testament. This time of the year that is emphasized.

    We are now in the pre-lenten period of the Church’s liturgy, which began last Sunday and takes it’s name from that Sunday, Septuagesima. This season of the Church year, even though it’s sort, was established as something definite in the time of St. Gregory the Great, who was Pope from 590-604. It is made up of three Sundays. The idea of it is: “What is to avoid an abrupt transition from Epiphany to Lent and also to prepare better for the entrance into Lent?”

    The Church, as a wise Mother and teacher knows that the passing from the joys of Christmas time to the rigors of Lent would be a difficult one. Therefore she instituted this period of transition to prepare the faithful both in spirit and in body for the Lenten fast. The main characteristic in this period of the liturgical year is penance, even if that is very much in a lessened sense. There is no fast prescribed but this spirit in penance appears in outward sings. The purple vestments, the Gloria is not said during Mass, the Alleluia, which is a frequent occurrence in the liturgy ceases from Septuagesima Sunday until the solemn midnight Mass at Easter because alleluia is a word of prayer and joy and the translation from Hebrew is: “Praise ye God” and during this time we are meditating on solemn somber topics. Topics of sins and the topic of Christ’s suffering and death. We can deduce the importance given to this period by the Basilicas, which were the stational churches of these three Sundays.

    In ancient times, the faithful met at one Church, which was called the “Collecta” and from there they made a procession to the stational church, which was a particular church chosen for that Sunday for various reasons, sometimes it was because the Liturgy had a reference to a Saint that the church was dedicated to. In this case, the stational churches are very important. There are three of the seven churches in Rome for which there is a plenary indulgence for making a visit during a certain period of time. There’s St. Lawrence outside the walls, St. Paul’s which is also outside the walls of Rome, and St. Peter’s on the Vatican hill. Sts. Peter and Paul are called patriarchal churches, they are the two of the most important of the churches in Rome. St. John Lateran and other patriarchal churches, the Pope’s cathedral, but that Church is reserved for the first Sunday in Lent. Again to emphasize the very great importance of that Sunday because on Sunday the Pope would go there to have Mass.

    In order to obtain the purpose the Church has in mind. She, through appropriate liturgical texts, tries to make Christians realize the misery of their state as sinners and their own weakness in order to prepare them for the need of penance and unite them to the one sacrifice of Christ, which is commemorated in the Lenten Cycle.

    The period of Septuagesima is one likened to the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity. During that time, the Jews were convinced of their fault, they realized through the teaching of the prophets that it was because of their sins, because of their rejection of God that they had been carried off into captivity, they wept for their sins, they repented for them and longed for the return to Jerusalem.

    So during this period, the Church calls our attention to the exile of those who live far from Christ and allows us to weep for our sins. So that later, we may taste the joys of the Resurrection. Remember the saying, it’s almost a proverb, that “there is no resurrection without the crucifixion first.”

    St. Gregory composed the liturgical texts of these Sundays at a time when the Lombards, a barbarian tribe from the north, were laying Italy to waste and threatened to conquer the Holy City itself. Hunger and disease were the order of the day because of these wars and because of the destruction of life in society and the cities because of the destruction.

    Therefore the text of the Propers of these three Sundays reflect the misery and the weakening of a people who suffer deeply and paint in vivid colors the consequences of sin. The spirit in which we ought to observe in this pre-Lenten season is threefold.

    First, humility, recognizing our guilt this also is an emphasis in the holy season of lent, especially the first part.

    Then we must pray asking God to give us the grace to enter into lent, which is approaching in such a way as to get the most profit from it so that our spiritual lives may be revived.

    Finally, we ought to practice some acts of self-denial, some penance however slight, to prepare our minds and to prepare our bodies for the fast, which is imposed during the Holy season of Lent.

    If we take advantage of this particular part of the liturgical year, which the Church has wisely provided to prepare us for the Holy season of Lent, then that holy season will be a source of abundant graces for us, it would be as if it is meant to be the springtime for the spiritual life, that it will be renewed, that we will prepare ourselves to celebrate worthily the glorious feast of Easter.

    In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

      Editor's Note: The above sermon, edited for these pages, was transcribed by Michael Grant and given at the Sunday Masses for both Our Lady of Fatima in San Diego and Our Lady of Lourdes in Fontana on January 27, 2008.

      January 29, 2008
      vol 19, no. 29
      Treasures of Tradition