Ember days, Wednesday, Friday,
Christmass Eve will fall next Sunday—no fast or
Blessing of Scapulars after Mass—Elias is reputed to be
the first Carmelite
for Alfie Evans, 16 Months old ,
another hostage of socialized medicine in Britain.
The Mass in Latin and English
Third Sunday of Advent
Dominica Tertia Adventus
Ember Days in Advent
This is one of the two Sundays of the year—the third of
Advent (Gaudéte) and the fourth of Lent (Lætáre)—when we wear Rose colored
vestments for Mass. The colors as well as the names of the Sundays suggest a
slight relaxation of the penitential season. Both of them, Latin words, in
the Entrance Psalms can be translated as “rejoice.” But, after this
brief relaxation, we are bid to get back to observing Advent. Indeed, the
Advent Ember days fall this coming week—traditional Catholics will plan to
observe them as days of fast and abstinence (only one full meal; no meat).
Most of my sermons are exhortations—asking you to do
this or not do that—more prayers, frequent Communion, more chastity, less
anger, and so on. But today I will simply tell you something about the
people mentioned in today’s Gospel.
Today's Gospel has Saint John the Baptist being
interrogated by delegates from the Temple. They ask whether or not John is
actually the Christ (the Messiah who is to come), or perhaps Elias, the
prophet of the Old Testament? There are Scriptural reasons for both
questions, and it is worth our time to go over them. John, Elias, and the
Christ share an interesting relationship.
Elias lived about nine centuries before Christ,, and
most of what we know about him can be found in the Third Book of Kings. He
was a true ascetic, whose food, clothing, and shelter came from the coarse
materials at hand—a spiritual man with very little need for the goods of the
world. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes him thus:
manner of life resembles somewhat that of the Nazarites and is a loud
protest against his corrupt age. His skin garment and leather girdle
1, 8), his swift foot
Kings 18:46), his habit
of dwelling in the clefts of the torrents
or in the caves of the mountains
of sleeping under a scanty shelter
betray the true son of the desert.
Those from the Temple saw many of the same qualities in
John the Baptist, and thought to identify him as Elias. Saint Matthew tells
us that “John had his garment of camels’ hair, and a leathern girdle about
his loins: and his meat was locusts and wild honey.”
Likewise, the Christ who came after John lived the life of a wandering poor
man, “without even a place to lay his head.”
The people of the Temple knew John’s Father Zachary,
who was one of their priests.
All of the Jewish priests were the male descendants of Moses’ brother
Aaron—the priesthood was hereditary.
So John had to be a priest like his father, even if he didn’t serve in the
After the time of Moses only the hereditary priests
were allowed to offer sacrifice to God. Saul, the first King of Israel and
not a priest, lost his kingdom shortly after taking it upon himself to offer
sacrifice without a priest.
But Elias seems to have been a priest, for we have an account of him, not
only offering sacrifice, but doing so with God’s direct cooperation.
Achab, the king of the northern kingdom had built a
temple to the false god Baal in Samaria, and had arranged to have hundreds
of the false prophets of Baal to offer their idolatrous sacrifice. Elias
issued them a challenge—on Mount Carmel an altar for the false god would be
prepared with a sacrificial victim, and Elias would prepare an altar for the
true God with a sacrificial victim—the false prophets would call upon Baal
to send fire to consume his victim, and then Elias would call upon God to
consume His. The false prophets cried out from morning until past noon and
nothing happened. Elias ordered God’s victim to soaked three times with
water, and then called upon God to send His fire, which God did, and the
firewood, the water, and the sacrificial victim went up in smoke!
Needless to say, a lot of Achab’s subjects learned which “god” was the true
God on that day.
The Christ would likewise be a priest, the perfect
mediator between God and man—a priest possessed of both human and divine
nature. Those of the Temple would recall that He was begotten by God
“before the daystar … a priest forever according to the order of
Like Melchisedech, He would offer sacrifice in the appearance of bread and
wine—but under those appearances He would offer the most precious victim
possible, the offering of God’s own Son!
Elias was a miracle worker, although it was clear that
he never worked through his own power. So to speak, he “set up” the
miracles and relied upon the power of God to work them. John is similar, in
that his baptism with water was merely symbolic—the Christ to come after him
would baptize with power to radically change the souls of men and women.
Finally, we know that Elias was taken up to heaven in a
“fiery chariot on a whirlwind.”
Jesus Christ ascended into heaven under His own power, after telling the
Apostles to wait in Jerusalem for Pentecost, “For John indeed baptized with
water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence.”
The Old Testament prophet Malachy foretold the return
of Elias: “Behold I will send you Elias the prophet, before the coming of
the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Thus the priests of the Temple
were wondering if John was the returned Elias.
We are promised that Elias will return in the days of
the Antichrist. Together with Henoch, another Old Testament figure taken by
God into heaven—“seen no more: because God took him.”—the
two will evangelize Jews and Gentiles before being slain by the Beast.
And then will come the Christ “to judge the living and the dead, by his
coming, and his kingdom.”
This was not to be an exhortation—but I do have one
small request for you. Please take the time to read the third Book of Kings
(plus two chapters of the fourth), so that you can come to know Elias first