Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Third (Gaudéte) Sunday of Advent—17 December A.D. 2017
Ave Maria!



Ember days, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday

Christmass Eve will fall next Sunday—no fast or abstinence.

Blessing of Scapulars after Mass—Elias is reputed to be the first Carmelite


Please pray 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:

    His whole manner of life resembles somewhat that of the Nazarites and is a loud protest against his corrupt age. His skin garment and leather girdle (4 Kings, 1, 8), his swift foot (3 Kings 18:46), his habit of dwelling in the clefts of the torrents (xvii,3) or in the caves of the mountains (xix, 9), of sleeping under a scanty shelter (xix, 5), betray the true son of the desert.[1]

    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.”[2]  Likewise, the Christ who came after John lived the life of a wandering poor man, “without even a place to lay his head.”[3]

    The people of the Temple knew John’s Father Zachary, who was one of their priests.[4]   All of the Jewish priests were the male descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron—the priesthood was hereditary.[5]  So John had to be a priest like his father, even if he didn’t serve in the Temple.

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.[6]  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![7]  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 Melchisedech.”[8]  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.”[9]  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.”[10]

    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.”[11]—the two will evangelize Jews and Gentiles before being slain by the Beast.[12]  And then will come the Christ “to judge the living and the dead, by his coming, and his kingdom.”[13]

    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 hand.


[5]   C.f. Exodus xxciii: 41ff.

[6]   C.f. 1 Kings xiii: 9ff.



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