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Last Sunday after Pentecost—22 November AD 2020
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Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (c. 70 A.D.)

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

The “Abomination of Desolation”

    To understand today's Gospel)  it is necessary to know that the center of Jewish worship in the Old Testament was the Temple in Jerusalem.[1]  The Temple at the time of Christ was completely unlike the synagogues of today.  Even in Jesus' time a synagogue was located wherever Jews livedand many lived very far from Jerusalem.  Each synagogue was essentially a school (shule in Yiddish) where the sacred writings were read and commented upon by the teachers for the benefit of the less well educated.  A synagogue might be led by a “Rabbi,” a term that refers to a man with a doctoral degree in the Scriptures and the Law of Moses.   A few men with lesser education might also be called upon to explain the daily readings.  Jews pray in their synagogues, but they never offer the sacrifices commanded by God.  Sacrifice was offered only in the Temple in Jerusalem.

    During the Exodus from Egypt the Jews built a sort of “portable Temple” —wooden frameworks to support curtains being assembled in such a way as to closely resemble the permanent Temple that would eventually be built by King Solomon on a high place in Jerusalem.  This portable arrangement could be taken down for travel and then reassembled as they wandered through the desert enroute to the Promised Land.  God dwelt at the center of attention in the Temple, in a tall tabernacle, enfolded by goat hair curtains. This constituted the “Holy of Holies.”  Within the curtain was the Ark of the Covenant (a gold lined box) containing the tablets of the Commandments,  a golden urn containing manna that fed the Jews during the Exodus, and the staff of Aaron, which had bloomed with figs.  Only the High Priest was permitted to enter the tabernacle—and then, only once a year to offer a sacrifice of blood on the Day of Atonement.   

    The first Temple was built about 1,000 BC and served for roughly 400 years, until it was torn down by troops commanded by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, who sent many Jews into exile—the Babylonian Captivity.  The prophet Daniel, mentioned by our Lord in the Gospel, lived during the Captivity.[2]

    The Jews were able to leave Babylon around 600 BC under Zorobabel, who was designated governor of Judaea, who directed the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem.[3]. Apparently, Solomon's Temple  was used briefly for the sacrifices, but construction of a second Temple was soon started.  The Babylonians had been pretty destructive of the first.  Time took its toll on the second, and eventually it needed to be expanded.  The rebuilding of the Second Temple was begun by Herod the Great, king (37 BC–4 AD) of Judaea. Construction began in 20 BC and lasted for 46 years. The area of the Temple Mount was doubled and surrounded by a retaining wall with gates.

    Up until the time of Christ God actually dwelt in the Temple in a spiritual—yet quite real—manner.  The Shekinah, the presence of God in the Temple was a sort of precursor of the Blessed Sacrament, except for the fact that it was completely non-physical.  It is the same presence that went before the Jews during the Exodus as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of light by night—but attributing to  it a golden glow in the Temple was probably a more imaginary recognition of God's glory.  But God's real presence remained within the veil of the Holy of Holies.

    An outer veil enclosed a six branch candle stand a (the menorah), an altar for burning incense, and a table for the showbread (a sacrifice of cereal grain that was baked into loves, always fresh and warm) displayed before the Holy of Holies.  In front of this outer veil was the altar for offering animal sacrifices and a bronze laver for administering liturgical purifications with water.

    In the Book of Machabees we read that about 150 years before Christ the  Selucids stole the sacrificial vessels from the Temple and offered sacrifices to their gods on its altar.  And many of the Jews were martyred because of their fidelity to the one true God!  The heroic Machabees were able to overthrow the Selucids, the Temple was rededicated, and was back to normal use by Jesus' time.

    The account of the Crucifixion describes the physical reaction to our Lord's death.  Matthew[4] recounts an earthquake and the sun giving no light during the afternoon.  Mark tells us that the “veil of the Temple was rent in two, from the top to the bottom.”[5]  The veil was rather tall, so this seems like an act of the Divine Presence, leaving the Temple forever, and taking up His abode in the churches that would be founded by the Apostles.

    The Temple itself remained in use for about thirty-five years after the Crucifixion.  But about 70 AD, the Romans brutally put down a Jewish rebellion.  At first they used the Temple to offer sacrifice to their false god Jupiter, but later destroyed the whole city of Jerusalem, including the Temple, leaving “not one stone upon another.”  Virtually the only thing remaining was what today is called the “wailing wall” —not actually a wall of the Temple, but a massive structure, nearby, that shored up the temple mount.

    So what is this “Abomination of Desolation”?  We are free to differ as to the meaning of the phrase   The phrase is in the writings of the Prophet Daniel, who wrote during the Babylonian exile, so it could refer to any of the interruptions in Temple worship thereafter—to the damage done by the Babylonians, to the false gods worshipped by the Selucids, to the ripping of the Temple veil by God Himself at the Crucifixion of His Son, or to the Roman worship of Jupiter and the utter destruction of the building.

    I would suggest though, that the “Abomination” should be understood more personally.  The “Abomination” is our “Abomination”—one that we ourselves commit whenever we stray from God.  The “Abomination of Desolation” is our society’s turning away from God.  But much more to the point, the “Abomination” is our own turning from God whenever we sin.  Nothing is as “Desolate” as a people without God—nothing more “Desolate” than the soul devoid of Sanctifying Grace, a soul lacking Faith, Hope and Charity—a soul created for God, but given over to the Devil and the world.



Dei via est íntegra


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