Saints and Fathers

Cut off His Head! John the Baptist

by Steve Ray on August 29, 2018

 Beheading of John the Baptist
August 29


A98FFCE0-DE6B-4263-983C-5725A406AFA4-2688-000004140EC29279_tmpHe was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New. He was the first to proclaim the news that Jesus was the Messiah, the Lamb of God. He was 100% from the lineage of Aaron the High Priest. He is the prophesied “Elijah who is to come” in the last verses of the prophets in the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5-6).

Where was he born and what do we know about him?
He was born in Ein Kerem west of Jerusalem. Prior to birth he was sanctified in the womb by the Holy Spirit when the Blessed Virgin Mary arrived for the Visitation. He later left for the wilderness where he probably associated with the Essenes at Qumran. Jesus probably met him in the Wilderness. He ate locusts and wild honey so he was a manly man!

The_Beheading_of_Saint_John-Caravaggio_1608What sources do we have outside the Bible?
The Jewish historian Josephus tells us about John, especially his death which took place in Herod’s Fortress of Machareus on the east side of the Dead Sea in the modern country of Jordan. It is from Josephus that we learn the name of Herodias’ daughter – Salome.

Where are the bones of John the Baptist today?
They were placed in a Church in Sebaste in Samaria. in the late 300’s Emperor Julian the Apostate tried to descrate the bone but clever monks whisked them away to the Monastery of St. Macarius in the deserts of western Egypt. Here is a picture of Janet and I at that location when we filmed our documentary Elijah and Elisha.

To learn more about John, see my DVD Jesus, the Word Became Flesh and our latest DVD Elijah and Elisha. We go to the very site he was beheaded in the first and the to site of his bones in the second. All filmed on location.  Click here.

Below: The remains of Herod’s Fortress of Machaerus where John was beheaded and what it looked like at the time of Christ. Also Janet and I at the bones of John the Baptist.

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The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church, by Steve Ray

The word “Eucharist” was used early in the Church to describe the Body and Blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. Eucharist comes from the Greek word for “thanks” (eucharistia), describing Christ’s actions: “And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you’.” From the first century the Apostolic Fathers referred to this Blessed Sacrament as the Eucharist, emphasizing that it was both the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Sacrifice of the New Covenant.

6a29d71314e8119903342fe7ef723835Our Lord taught the Apostles the meaning and liturgical form of the Eucharist and the apostles in turn passed the tradition on to the early Church. Many Christian sects deny apostolic tradition and attempt to derive details of the sacrament from the Bible alone.

However, the NT was never intended as a manual with detailed sacramental instructions—the Blessed Sacrament was learned by apostolic instruction and the faithful transmission of that tradition through the bishops. The final canon of Scripture was not recognized for almost four centuries after Christ, yet the Christians faithfully celebrated the Eucharist as taught by the apostolic tradition deposited in the Church.

Confusion about the Eucharist abounds in non-Catholic Christian circles. But, for the first twelve or thirteen centuries, with the exceptions of Ratramnus (d. ad 868) and Berengarius (d. 1088), both of whom affirmed the Real Presence in the end, there was a universal understanding and a consistent practice of the Eucharist throughout the Church, but only fifty years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door there was a book published entitled Two Hundred Definitions of the Words ‘This is My Body’. The Fathers of the Church knew no such confusion.

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 11.09.45 AMOne of the earliest usages of the word Eucharist is in the Didache which was written as early as ad 60—before many NT writings. In the Didache we read: “Assemble on the Lord’s Day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one” (Didache 14). In the fourth century, St. Athanasius used the Didache as a catechetical text for his students.

Malachi’s prophecy helps understand the Fathers’ grasp of the Eucharist. St. Paul uses Malachi’s technical term “the table of the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 10:21. Referring to the “table of the Lord”, used in the context (Malachi 1: 7, 12), the prophet Malachi wrote, “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts” (KJV).

eucharistThis reference to “a pure offering” offered on “the table of the Lord” was interpreted repeatedly by the Fathers, from the first century onward, as a reference to the Eucharist. Even the Didache alludes to Malachi: “For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’(Didache 14).

Clement of Rome (AD 96), a fellow-worker with the Apostles, relates the new priesthood to that of the Old Testament Levites, emphasizing the distinction between the service of the priest and the laity: “In the same way, my brothers, when we offer our own Eucharist to God, each one should keep to his own degree (calling)” (Letter of Clement to the Corinthians, 41).

St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 106), another associate of the Apostles, wrote of “one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with His Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice” (Epistles to the Philippians, 4). St. Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165) cites Malachi 1:11:  “[God] then speaks to those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist” (Dialog with Trypho the Jew, 14).

St. Ignatius of Antioch, martyred 106 AD St. Ignatius of Antioch, martyred 106 AD

St. Ignatius of Antioch, though writing around ad 106, clearly represents the theology of the first century. He warns, “But look at those men who have those perverted notions about the grace of Jesus Christ which has come down to us, and see how contrary to the mind of God they are . . . . They even abstain from the Eucharist and the public prayer, because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the self-same body of our Savior Jesus Christ, which [flesh] suffered for our sins, and which the Father in His goodness raised up again” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 6, 7).

St. Ignatius speaks nobly of the Eucharist: “Share in one common breaking of bread—the medicine of immortality, and the sovereign remedy by which we escape death and live in Jesus Christ evermore” (Epistle to the Ephesians, 20).

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 11.16.20 AMThe Catholic Mass continues the theology and liturgy of the first centuries. St. Justin Martyr offers a glimpse of the Eucharistic sacrifice in the mid-second century. “And this food is called among us Eucaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh” (First Apology, 1, 62).

The word “Transubstantiation” was commonly used in the 12th century and given classical formulation by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th. Though the early Fathers did not use this exact terminology, the teaching was essential to their theology. The Fathers unanimously held to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Some Protestants (e.g., William Webster, The Church of Rome at the Bar of History) tend to approach the Church Fathers in one of two ways. First, they may just ignore or disregard the Fathers as “uninspired” or irrelevant—why study the Fathers when we have the Bible? Second, they may search for perceived contradictions. The perceived contradiction is then presented as a false dilemma. This false dilemma forces an either/or dichotomy.

For example, “The Eucharist is either a “symbol” of the Body of Christ or it “is” the Body of Christ. The Fathers rejected such contrasts and espoused the both/and approach, understanding that the Eucharist was both a symbol (but never merely as a symbol) and the Real Presence.

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 11.17.33 AMIf the Real Presence was an illicit teaching or unorthodox teaching we would expect to find early orthodox Christians condemning it? Instead, we see the earliest and most respected Christians consistently promoting both the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and the reality of the Real Presence. Never is this teaching condemned or forbidden. The Catholic doctrine is the result of the organic development of the doctrine taught by the apostles and faithfully preserved by the bishops in the apostolic succession.

As an example of such false dilemmas, Fundamentalists Protestants may claim that St. Augustine rejects the Real Presence and refers to the Eucharist as a mere symbol (“eaten spiritually, drunk spiritually”). With such words, St. Augustine is exhorting believers to eat and drink the Eucharist in faith.

However, the Fundamentalists fail to disclose that St. Augustine taught that “[Jesus] took flesh from the flesh of Mary. He walked here in the same flesh, and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. But no one eats that flesh unless he adores it” (Sermon 174, 7). St. Augustine certainly does not see any contradiction; in fact, his teaching is foundational to the dogmas of the Catholic Church.

With glorious harmony, the Fathers of the Church proclaimed the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrifice of the Altar. Opposition was virtually nonexistent until the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. The confusion began with the Reformers, who could form no doctrinal consensus on the Eucharist.

Luther and Zwingli heatedly disagreeing on the Eucharist Luther and Zwingli heatedly disagreeing on the Eucharist

At the Marburg Conference in 1529 they were sharply divided and departed the conference in utter disarray. In contrast, the Catholic Church has maintained unity and the fullness of the apostolic teaching by unabashedly proclaiming for two thousand years that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. St. John Chrysostom (c. 347–407) writes, “This is the Body which He gave us, both to hold in reserve and to eat” (Homily on 1 Cor 24, 4).

St. Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376?444) concurs, “[Jesus] states demonstratively: ‘This is My Body,’ and ‘This is My Blood,’ lest you might suppose the things that are seen are a figure. Rather, by some secret of the all-powerful God the things seen are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, truly offered in a sacrifice in which we, as participants, receive the life-giving and sanctifying power of Christ” (Commentary on Matthew, 26:27).

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Sources:

Didache quote: “On Sunday Worship,, Early Christian Writings, trans. Maxwell Staniforth, Penguin Books, 1968, p. 197.
Second Didache quote: ibid.
St. Clement’s quote: Early Christian Writings. trans. Maxwell Staniforth. Penguin Books, 1968, p. 39.
St. Ignatius’s first quote: Early Christian Writings. trans. Maxwell Staniforth, Penguin Books, 1968, p. 66.
Justin Martyr’s first quote: Ante-Nicene Fathers. Roberts and Donaldson, Eerdmans, 1985, vol. 1, p. 215.
St. Ignatius’ second quote: The Early Christian Writings, p.102?103.
St. Ignatius’ third quote: Early Christian Writings, p. 66
St. Auqustine’s first quote: Faith of the Early Fathers, William Jurgens, Liturgical Press. 1979, vol. 3, p. 20.
Chrysostom’s quote: The Faith of the Early Fathers, 2:118.
Cyril of Alexandria’s quote: The Faith of the Early Fathers, 3:220

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Recommended Reading:

Crossing the Tiber,  Steve Ray, Ignatius Press, 1987 (Whole section on the Eucharist).
The Real Presence through the Ages, Michael Gaudoin-Parker, Alba House, 1998.
The Eucharist in the New Testament and the Early Church, Eugene LaVeriere, Liturgical Press, 1996.
The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist. James T. O’Conner, Ignatius Press, 1988.
The Faith of the Early Fathers in three volumes, William Jurgens, Liturgical Press, 1979.
The Holy Eucharist. Aidan Nichols, OP, Veritas Publications, 1991.
Catholic Faith in the Holy Eucharist, C. Lattey, ed. B. Herder Book Co., 1923.

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Grilling a Deacon

by Steve Ray on August 9, 2018

Tomorrow is the Feast Day of Deacon St. Lawrence.

Young Deacon Lawrence (only 28 years old when killed) was the treasurer for the Church in Rome and responsible for the care of the poor. When the Emperor called Lawrence to appear before him he demanded that Deacon Lawrence–as the treasurer of the Church of Rome– turn in all the treasures of the Church. The next day Lawrence gave the money to the poor and then brought all the poor of the Church to the Emperor and said, “These are the treasures of the Church!”

LawrenceAs expected, the Emporer was infuriated and commanded that Deacon Lawrence be tortured and killed. Lawrence was then martyred by roasting. They put him on a grill and roasted him to death. Halfway through the torture, he shouted cheerfully from the flames, “I’m well done on this side. Turn me over!”  He is buried in St. Lawrence  Outside the Walls in Rome along with St. Stephen and St. Justin Martyr.

Because of his answer, he is the patron saint of comedians, cooks and chefs. Don’t you just love Catholic humor!

I know SO MANY marvelous deacons today. We should all be grateful to the deacons that serve us in the Church today!

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Last Days of Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome

June 29, 2018

Happy Feast Day of Sts. Peter and Paul…. When I take my pilgrims to Rome one of my main objectives is to introduce them to the saints – especially Peter and Paul. We meditate on the last days of the lives, imprisonments, martyrdoms and burials of these two Princes of the Apostles: Peter and Paul. Both of […]

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Bloody Martyrdoms in Lyons – Feast Day of St. Irenaeus

June 28, 2018

In honor of the feast day of St. Irenaeus today I have reposted a blog from several years ago when we were filming our documentary on Apostolic Fathers, Handing on the Faith. Here is the story… “We finished getting all our work done in Lyon for St. Irenaeus. It was very cold and windy — with snow hampering […]

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The Pain of Stolen Honey – John the Baptist was a Manly Man who Teaches us Many Things

June 24, 2018

A painful price is paid when one reaches his hand into a swarm of bees to swipe some of their honey. Stingers fly and welts flare. I raised hives of bees as a boy and once I was stung 35 times in one day. Wild honey is not collected from wild bees without burning pain […]

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Hey Steve: Jesus Taught us to Pray to the Father Alone, not Dead Saints

June 16, 2018

 Barry wrote in my combox today – in response to my post entitled “Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?” – Resources about Communion of the Saints I thought I would respond briefly. Barrry wrote: Would you please read the Lord’s prayer. Jesus prayed it. He was giving an example of how to […]

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“Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?” – Resources about Communion of the Saints

June 15, 2018

I compiled a list of Catechism, Scripture and quotes from the early Church Fathers and even archaeology to assist in understanding the Communion of Saints. You can download the source material here. Sample: Who should carry the most weight—Protestant pastors protesting Catholic theology today or pastors from the early Church who have the words of […]

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Today is St. Justin Martyr’s Feast Day – Free Apostolic Fathers Timeline

May 30, 2018

Feast Day of St. Justin Martyr, June 1 Download a Free copy of the Apostolic Fathers Timeline This amazing Timeline drives home the point of how close these men were to Jesus and the Apostles. It demonstrates how Catholic the first Christians really were!  The Apostolic Fathers faced Emperors, heretics and lions but these heroes of […]

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Did John the Baptist Doubt that Jesus was the Messiah?

May 24, 2018

I get asked this question a lot and thought others would find my answer helpful. Not that I claim to have discovered this myself but reading and gleaning has brought me to this conclusion. In Luke 7:19-28, John the Baptist was in prison and sent two of his disciples to Galilee to ask Jesus a […]

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Joseph the Sissy or Joseph the Worker – Feast Day of the Worker

March 19, 2018

Today is the Feast day of St. Joseph the Worker! There are some pictures of Joseph I don’t appreciate so much. They present him almost as soft, effeminate like he just came out of a beauty parlor. It appears he never worked in the real world and has not a wrinkle on his clothes or […]

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St. Polycarp’s name does not mean “many fish”

February 23, 2018

Today is the Feast Day of the Great Bishop and Saint Polycarp on February 23. When we converted to the Catholic Church my son Jesse chose St. Polycarp as his patron saint because of his great heroism. We filmed the whole life of St. Polycarp on location. I feel like I know him. The name Polycarp […]

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On 3 Radio Shows Thursday for Conversion of St. Paul

January 24, 2018

The conversion of St. Paul’s feast day is Thursday. I have been there – to the very location in Damascus several times. I wept when I was there. I’ll be on three radio shows on Thursday describing the importance of his conversion, the impact it made on St. Paul, the impact it had on me […]

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Feast of Churches of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome; Three Tours of Church of St. Paul in Rome

November 18, 2017

Join us on a future pilgrimage to Rome, or the Footprints of St. Paul Cruise, or Israel, Ireland or others. Check out www.SteveGoes.com, or call Elizabeth at 800-727-1999. The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls launched a newly renovated Web site to collect prayers, offer a virtual tour, and further the Apostle’s worldwide evangelization effort. […]

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Fatima’s ‘Miracle of the Sun’ broke darkness of Portugal’s atheist regimes

November 3, 2017

Since we arrive in Fatima today with our 3 buses, I thought I would share this EXCELLENT article about the power of the miracle in the midst of an antheist government and oppression of Christians. Fatima, Portugal, Oct 12, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News) On “the day the sun danced,” thousands of people bore witness […]

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Happy Feast Day of St. Luke, Friend of Mary

October 18, 2017

St Luke: Greek Physician, Historian & Friend of Mary (Feast Day October 18) “Her face shone as she related the stories—the words were vibrant, and though older now, her memory was excellent. He sat enraptured as she brought the past into living color. He had traveled a long way to see her and he sat […]

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