The Alabaster Jar of Anti-Sacramental Mystery Part II: Are Christian Division and Their Sacraments Anticipated in the Bible? Protestant Chaos? Probably, Yes! Read On!
NOTE: This is in STUDENT/TEACHER format, for entertaining interplay. This is very long, but well worth it, in my humble opinion. Enjoy if you can!
In part I we discussed the extremes in Christainity and the world. Now we move on to symbolic numbers of sacraments and division amongst the disciples.
TEACHER: Yes, here, the numbers in our scenes of the woman with the jar will provide the basis of our sacramental mysteries. If you return to the Scriptures cited above, the numbers seem to form a correlation: 300 and 30 in the Sadducaical scene and 500 and 50 in the Pharisaical. More specifically, the alabaster jar is presumably worth “300 days wages”, and then we have the far more familiar “30 pieces of silver” for which Judas betrays Jesus. In the Pharisaical scene, Jesus exhorts the hard-hearted Simon with a parable of one forgiven much, the 500 days wages, and one little, the 50 days wages. We will argue that it is no coincidence that in each scene, two numbers exist, one in the 100 amount and another in a 10 amount, with leading size factor the same (3, 5).
STUDENT: Wait, let me guess from your previous articles. The numbers 3 and 5 will come from the sacramental analogies you have given regarding the 5 loaves and 2 fish, and the 3 loaves at midnight parable. There, the five loaves imaged the five sacraments that heretics lose, and the 3 loaves at midnight imaged the 3 sacraments of Initiation received in the middle of the night at Easter Vigil.
TEACHER: You are dead on. Moreover, these sacramental mysteries will be able to provide a deeper theology of the extremes we have developed, both in a Christian sense and in the secular dimension.
STUDENT: Very good, but I need a refresher on these loaves and fishes analogies.
TEACHER: You got it.
Theology of Sacraments and Christian Division
Now, we need to realize this, which may not apparently seem relevant, but just hang loose, blood. We gonna set you up on the theology side. The sacraments don't merely convey grace. If it was merely grace, then there wouldn't need to be seven; there would only need to be one. Rather, each sacrament has a unique form, matter, and theology. Therefore, wherever there is ritual and theology present, there is mystery. And that is why the East calls the especially Sacred Mysteries.
But the sacraments are intimately tied to Christian division, which we have seen with the loaves and fishesstories [please read the article to the left carefully if you want a good backdrop, but our re-treatment might suffice here], and Christian division also deals with errors and heresies. Why should not, therefore, the sacraments also image the theology of the errors from division? For, since the loaves and fishes have been shown to be the image of the types of Christian Division and degree of error therein, the theology of the sacraments should in fact be the very embodiment of the same theology of the types of specific errors of the various divided Christians. We will in fact, discover that there is quite profound evidence for these claims.
While we are at it, we can remember that where there are errors, one is slipping towards the ultimate error which is the fall itself, so that the sacramental mysteries should also contain the mystery of the lies of the Fall themselves.
In this treatment, we will explore these dimensions. To begin, let us revisit the five loaves and two fish as heresy discourse.
STUDENT: Ok, so what are these loaves and fishes analogies?
TEACHER: They are as follows:
Spiritual Protestantism: 5 Loaves, 2 Fish
Again, the Sacraments are intimately tied to the ecclesial union of Christians. Rifts in the Body of Christ affect the sacramental nature that the separated Churches and communities retain. More specifically, from Catholic doctrine, we know that there are really only two forms of rift in the Body of Christ: schism and heresy. Furthermore, we must recall that each form of separation disputes one or more sources of truth, namely:
Apostolic Succession in general (Bishops and Oral Tradition);
The Special Apostolic Successor, Peter (the Pope).
Schism disputes the special apostolic successor in Peter but not all apostolic succession. Heresy, or Protestants, dispute all of the sources, that is, both Peter and all Bishops and Tradition.
Now, clearly, the more truth rejected, the more grace lost. This is indeed so. Consequently, schism, a minor wound to Christ’s Sacred Heart, graciously leaves all seven sacraments intact since it retains general Apostolic Succession, or bishops, who are the ultimate source of all sacraments. This is like seven loaves, seven sacraments.
The heretics, on the other hand, have a more serious wound: they lose Apostolic Succession altogether and so lose bishops; consequently, they lose the five sacraments that absolutely require the bishops. We will discuss these momentarily. This is like five loaves and two fish.
STUDENT: Ok, but is there deeper theology here for the loaves and fishes? I mean, so far we simply have numbers. Is there something peculiar to the different kinds of food and perhaps more?
TEACHER: Yes, excellent question. Let me offer the greater depth now.
Now, loaves need barely, which is made in the earth, and fish come from the sea. The earth is stable, but the sea is a chaos of roaring waves. Per St Paul’s address to St Timothy, 1 Tim. 3:15, “the Church of the Living God is the pillar and ground of truth.” The Church here clearly means the Magisterium, or at least the bishops and Tradition, which forms the foundation of all truth through the infallible guidance of the Spirit and the stable Tradition to give the backdrop meaning to Scripture. Hence, the earth can symbolize the stability of bishops and priests with Tradition, and the fact that loaves require the earth to give it the grain of barely, loaves can symbolize sacraments that require or can come from the Tradition and Bishops, or Episcopate. The sea, on the other hand, is chaotic. It is written that we should be not be “tossed to and fro” by every wave of doctrine. The sea, therefore, can image the place where the stability of bishops and Tradition do not exist, as in, especially, the sola-scriptura of heretics, Protestants.
STUDENT: That is very cool. Let me see if I can put this together myself.
Now we can recall the theology: schismatics, because they do have the stability of the Episcopate, have all seven sacraments, seven loaves. But the Orthodox, and all other schismatics, are a little shaky doctrinally without the Rock of Peter. So they fish a little in the chaotic sea, a few fish.
The heretics, or the Protestants, on the other hand, have lost or rejected the true Episcopate. Because of this, they don’t have valid bishops or priests. Consequently, they lose all sacraments that absolutely require a bishop or priest. These are appropriately five, five loaves:
Confession: requires forgiveness of sins, which only a priest can do
Confirmation: only a priest or bishop can confirm
Eucharist: only a priest can transform bread and wine into God
Holy Orders: only a valid bishop can ordain priests or other bishops
This leaves them with two sacraments, Baptism and Marriage. The Baptism of heretics is valid, de fide! Any person can baptize, even a catechumen who is not yet Christian. Indeed, when a Protestant minister intends to wash away sins and initiate the recipient into Christ’s family, using water and the proper Trinitarian formula, a valid Baptism occurs; moreover, if the recipient has no obstacle, it is fruitful.
TEACHER: Yes, please continue; you are doing well.
STUDENT: Thanks. Moving on, when it comes to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, per Saint John Paul II and his perennial Theology of the Body, the priest is not the confector of the sacrament but rather the man and woman are themselves, first, through their vows, and then, through their bodies in the act of consummation. Hence, any validly baptized Protestant man and woman who come together, free to marry, with the proper intentions, and no impediments to a valid marriage, who solemnly and sincerely pronounce the vows, and consummate, contract a sacramental marriage even if they don’t (and they usually don’t) thinkit is a sacrament.
Five sacraments of stability lost, two sacraments in their ocean of confusion retained. Five loaves, two fish.
TEACHER: Excellent, and explain to me deeper the theology of the fish.
STUDENT: Yes, here goes. They only have two fish, which means they are perpetually in the sea, and therefore in chaos. How do we understand their chaos? They have cast aside all Apostolic Succession and the Sacred Tradition, alone which can infallibly illumine the implied meaning of Scripture texts that do not make explicit the intention of the Sacred Author. Consequently, without this sure charism of truth, their lot is inevitable: to confound the Scriptures ad infinitum, tossed to and fro by every wave of doctrine, by every whim and fancy unchecked by human vice and ignorance. Hence, not only do they not have the rock of Peter, but neither do they even have an earth on which to build a house, as the Orthodox do. For the Orthodox have Churches, since in every one of their holy edifices, Jesus Christ is literally and truly there—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. But where there is no Bishop, neither is there a priest, and if there is no priest, there is no literal, physical presence of Christ at the altar, and if there is no literal presence of Christ, there is no Church. Hence, though it be ecumenically painful, we really cannot say, “The Lutheran Church,” or the “Baptist Church,” or “the Church of God.” Yes, in all these, there are beautiful people, surely, who will one day see Jesus and be married to him forever, but sadly, their places of dwelling are in the end merely “ecclesial communities.”
TEACHER: You got it. You are the student par excellans. Let me move further:
Later in our analysis, we will see that this chaos they inherit by not possessing the five loaves will give a profound theology to these five sacraments that leave them in this self-same disarray and confounding: these five sacraments form the theological basis for almost all of their primary errors. But we will come to this momentarily.
Applying the Sacramental Theology of Separation to the Extremes
TEACHER: Yes, this is where the real meat starts to be ingested. As expected, the 500 and 50, per the Pharisee scene, will symbolize anti-Sacramental theology around the 5 loaves, or five sacraments lost, and the 300 and 30, per the corporal-works-of-mercy scene, will image similar anti-Sacramental theology for the three loaves, or sacraments of initiation.
STUDENT: This is all fascinating. Where should we begin?
Pharisaical Heretics, the 5 Sacraments of Instability
TEACHER: We are going to start with the Pharisaical heretics and their 5-sacrament-deprivation instability. There is an article from months past, where we have seen that Baptism and Marriageare effectively like basicSacraments, summarizing, in their supreme signs, all that is good. Further, mystically, they provide a profound interpretation of Apocalypse 13, the false prophet, as having two horns like Lamb (who has seven, cited in Apocalypse 4-5). These were the two anti-Sacramental interpretations of the lies of the fall, the summary of all evil.
We can then ask, what about these five sacraments? Here, I argue another mystical meaning is present, an unbelievably profound meaning: if Baptism and Marriage are the most basic Sacraments, the sign of all that is good, the signs of rudimentary Christianity, and a sign of the great beginning of Salvation and the hoped-for end, then the five remaining sacraments fill in the gaps, fill in the specificities and subtleties of the general journey between the beginning and the end. More to the point, if the heretics lack these five sacraments through their lack of the Episcopate, and the Episcopate is like and “earth” of stability, it would seem to imply that nearly all of their instability in doctrine should hinge on the full theological implications of these very five sacraments they lack!
STUDENT: That makes perfect sense. And I assume that this has proper theology. Let’s go through it.
TEACHER: Indeed, here were go.
First, let us recall the five that they lack:
Confession: requires forgiveness of sins, which only a priest can do
Confirmation: only a priest or bishop can confirm
Eucharist: only a priest can transform bread and wine into God
Holy Orders: only a valid bishop can ordain priests or other bishops
The Forgiveness of Sins and Justification
The first set of sacraments that form the theological basis of a great portion of debated doctrine in Protestantism is the sacraments of confession and anointing of the sick. The reason is because they entails the issue of the forgiveness of sins. We will see this involves the question of whether grace can be resisted, whether justification can be lost, whether there is unforgivable sin prior to death, and related issues. Let us start with Confession.
The true doctrines implied by Confession are these, among others:
any grace is resistible
the grace of justification can be lost and is lost through grievous sin
there is non-grievous sin
grievous sin has clear defined parameters: grave matter, full culpability in intellect and will
grace of justification can be restored through confession with at least imperfect contrition
perfect contrition restores justification if penitent intends confession asap
one must die in charity to be saved
charity necessitates proactive acts of love
grave sins of omission of charity result in loss of justification
charitable acts are signs of grace, but are not guaranteed since grace is resistible
Protestants confound these truths ad infinitum. Half of Protestant Christendom believes that grace is resistible, and half [Calvinists] does not. Consequently, Calvinists do not believe that justification can be lost. They believe that positive movement in grace is guaranteed if one is elect, since grace is irresistible. Most Calvinists would say that if someone who seemed elect fell into serious sin, it would mean that person never knew God to begin with. Protestants seem to have aversion to the doctrine that distinguishes mortal sin from venial sin.
On the other side, of those Protestants who believe that grace is resistible, there is no clear agreement as to how justification can be lost. For many, it would involve a grave sin, but probably not as clearly defined as by Rome. Some might just have conditions like, stop believing, stop trying, stop trusting in Jesus to cover you, and so forth. For them also, to get it back is not clear. It almost never involves confession to a priest or minister. Repentance would be common as a condition for reinstatement but not necessarily as defined as imperfect or perfect contrition. Sometimes it might just mean, as per above, resuming in fiducial trust in the merits of Christ, possibly starting trying again, or having faith again.
Works as necessary for salvation might be believed by some on the resistible side, but obviously, for the irresistible side, works are guaranteed from irresistible grace and so are not salvific, being just a manifestation of a salvation begun by initial conversion.
The heresy of imputation also comes in. The notion that there can be a contradiction between the actual state of one’s soul and actions and what God “considers” the reality to be is absurd. Catholicism is very realistic: God sees the soul as it is, whether there is divine love within it or not. This reality translates by way of implication into confession: confession presupposes that God is seeing the true state of the heart of the person. If they have cast Him aside by grave sin, then God can see it and renders the person an enemy as regards charity. If the person is in God’s friendship, that is, is in grace and has no stain of unrepentant grievous sin, then God sees that and is overall pleased with the soul. If these realities were not implied, confession would make no sense.
Let us move on to the Anointing:
Anointing of the Sick
The main true doctrines implied are:
God will pursue the soul unto the bitter end. Mercy is possible right up until the moment before death.
consequently, there is no unforgivable sin before death
suffering is part of the Christian experience and can be united to Jesus’ pains on the cross to purify the soul and to add to the redemption of other souls
through anointing, the soul’s sufferings are sanctified, and one is strengthened in the evening of life to suffer with patience and charity and to prepare for the ultimate union with God at death
suffering does not necessarily represent that the soul has fallen out of favor with God, but rather, God calls all of us, at various times, to participate with Christ in the cross
Protestantism confounds many of these things. With regards to unforgivable sins, Scripture seems to suggest at least these in several places:
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, Matthew 12
Apostasy from the faith, Hebrews 6
Swearing before God and breaking the promise [James, but whoever swears is damned]
The mark of the beast
If a Protestant sect has a more conservative bent of eisegesis, then they may have no other choice than to take these frightening passages literally. Consider the fate, then, of souls who are told that they are unforgivable, or who have come to believe they are unforgivable. This would be incomprehensible torture. It could be an “anointing unto damnation”: “Well, since you are now damned beyond relief, you may as well take up what pathetic time you have left before death, and eat, drink, fornicate, and be merry, for when it is through, you go into eternal fire!” This would then be the antithesis of the anointing of the sick, in that whereas the sacrament strengthens one in one’s suffering out of love, to prepare for ultimate salvation, the other, on the other hand, is a diabolical christening of pleasures to prepare for an irreversible damnation. Too, I have seen sects that claim that if any Christian sins seriously, his salvation is lost permanently. This fits here as well.
Moving on to suffering, there are definite poles. On the one hand, because the Pharisaical sects have separated themselves from the Incarnational and Eucharistic reality of the Gospel, where the Church on earth is intimately intertwined with the Christ and the Churches suffering and triumphant, they do not have a strong conception of the Christian who suffers in and through Christ and by His strength. Consequently, suffering is a sign of loss of favor with God. We must repent and get our life back in order if we wish to escape our misfortune. This then spiritually victimizes the suffering soul with spiritual torture like the anointing unto damnation. The suffering soul searches his heart for sin, for what he is doing wrong, and begins to despair. Too, some Calvinists have a teaching that if you are not overcoming some sin despite all efforts, it may be a sign that you are damned.
Election, Predestination, and the Charisms
The next set of errors flows from Confirmation. Here, the implications include election, predestination, gifts and charisms, and the divine resolve to save all men.
God has predestined the elect positively and the damned negatively; the elect were chosen from all eternity but not without consideration of their free will and good deeds. Similarly, God has foreseen and allowed that some men will not make it, but it is merely in consideration of future sins, merely allowedand not positively willed, that this is so, and noting that God will have offered salvation to the soul at multiple intervals, unto the bitter end.
Confirmation is to strengthen the soul for the mature fight for salvation; it is available to all Catholics who desire it and are properly prepared and disposed; it implies a positive Divine resolve to save all mencharisms are gifts to the soul that are not for the soul but for the Church; God gives some unique subset of them to all the faithful.; no one charism or set of charisms are necessary for salvation
The Protestants confound all these issues. Firstly, there are extremes in predestination. On the right, in Calvinism, God not only knows the future, but positively chooses persons to save, and passes over the others. This effectively means that God does not will the salvation of all men but only “the chosen.” Signs of being elect can include, amongst the sects: holiness, worldly favor, materialistic blessings, or charisms, eg. for Pentecostals, one must have tongues to be saved. On a personal note, I once came across a sect that believed that unless you had all of the charisms, you will not be saved.
The tortured souls are then, again, those who are struggling to maintain holiness, those who are in destitution, those who are not blessed in the way of material things, or ones who don’t have “charisms,” or at least the right ones. When God does not desire to save all men, being in the downside group becomes this spiritual torture.
The opposite extreme is an assault on the omniscience of God: Open Theism. This heresy takes beginning Scriptures that use anthropomorphic language and that seem to suggest a God that is “caught off-guard,” and extrapolates to the erroneous notion that God is operating in time and is therefore as surprised by history as we are. He is not adapting His activity to what He knows is coming down the pike, but rather reacting to things He did not know were advancing.
The final set of errors in this section are the conundrums of Holy Orders and Eucharist. Both of these sacraments are intimately tied to the notion of the “true communion,” or, that is, which men truly speak for God.
the only true men of God, who are guaranteed to speak the truth and mediate the authentic graces formally are the men who have holy orders in union with the Pope: deacons, priests, and bishops. This is the sure sign of faith and right doctrine.
Holy orders inaugurates a sacramental economy of rituals and mysticism
Where the Eucharist is, there is the true Church
Protestants have no stable, centralized authority but only countless men with Bibles in their hands, all mutually conflicting and preaching that the Holy Spirit has shown them the fullness of truth. And which of them really speaks for God? They say, if you call them on it, “Don’t take my word for it, read the Bible for yourself.” This means, as in Steve Ray’s story, once you become a bible-believer, you have an enormous task on your shoulders: to develop the correct doctrines over the rest of your life through painstaking, humble and sincere Bible-study. This is obviously absurd, since you are not a full-time bible scholar and noting that there are full-time bible scholars in every denomination who have accepted Jesus into their heart, and are sincere, and who really repent every day, and who take everything in context, and who have read Scripture 40 times over; and no two of which can agree on all doctrinal issues. And you are not even a bible scholar, yet you have a 40-hour work week, wife, kids, chores, and so forth. How the hell are you supposed to solve Scripture when the full-time people cannot?!
The presumptuous one says, I just know because I am holy and learned, or they say, most of those questions are not essential doctrine. Just repent and follow Jesus. On the other hand, the fearful one who believes that he needs to get all doctrine correct, can only cower before the myriads of hell-fire “men of God” and try to sort out what the truth is. All with a full-time job (not a religious job), family, kids, and so forth.
As for sacraments, Protestantism has divisions across issues of what degree of ritual should be present. Modern evangelicals have a largely absent sacramental and ritual-based worship. Older, but more liberal sects, retain sacramental nature to varying degrees. Indeed, if it was true that in the OT, the Pharisees had physical rituals and no inner renewal, then we can say modern Pharisees have inner renewal but no physical rituals. The Catholic Church has the balance.
The sister doctrine is the Eucharist: the true Communion. This is a corollary problem from just above: you cannot find the true Church unless you figure out which of the 1000+ Bible-thumpers has the fullness of truth. In Calvin’s view, if you don’t find the exact one, you are toast. Today, in light of the confusion, the Protestants usually just shuffle off the doctrinal issues, as above, to non-essential categorization, get into a generic “bible-believing” Church, and consider it good.
STUDENT: This all makes very good sense. It seems, also, to summarize the main doctrines that Protestants contest, with certain aberrational exceptions. The forgiveness of sins is a huge issue. A plethora of Protestant debate centers around justification, sin, renewal, grace, etc, and confession adequately summarizes these topics. Too, predestination, the elect, and God’s foreknowledge are a big issue separating Protestants. Likewise, we have the place of charisms. Finally, the conundrum of finding the true Christian church is a can of worms in Protestantism, an ocean of confusion. Yes, it all comes together well.
So correct me if I am wrong, but this basically shows that not only do these five sacraments confound the heretics of their same great rebellion but also sets up a dichotomy between the presumptuous and fearful, or despairing. Is that true?
TEACHER: Absolutely. On the one hand, presumptuous heretics assume they are immune to the issues of the five sacraments lost, and the fearful, or despairing, cower in fear because they get no relief of definitive answers for their mind or heart.
STUDENT: Can you summarize?
TEACHER: Yes. Here are the basic principles in summary
The Presumptuous Heretic
Confession: I have no need of it, for no true believer can fall from grace. If they do, they never knew God to begin with. Or else, I can sin with impunity.
Anointing of the Sick: Perhaps I might fall from grace temporarily and multiple times, but, in the end, God will guarantee my restoration and save me. Misfortune and illness does not touch me because I am holy.
Confirmation: I know that I am elect, a chosen one, so why do I need special graces to persevere, especially since grace is irresistible?
Holy Orders: Rome is an impostor, but *I* know what the Scriptures mean. No one will give me fear that I do not properly interpret the Word. The Spirit surely inspires me, so let me go out into the field and sow the Word as a man of God for certain. And what about those 99 other preachers like me, no two of which agree with one another, including me? They are not as mature as I, not as sincere, not as wise, not as versed in the Biblical texts.
Holy Communion: I know that my community is the true society of Christ. Never mind that there are 99 other such communities claiming the same sola-scriptura mantra, and not one of them has any other credential to make them stand out from the others more than any other one. I know the truth, and we have it. Or else, it does not matter what church you belong to, just so long as it is bible-believing.
The Innocent, Scrupulous Heretic
This is the innocent heretic. His heart is soft, so he realizes perpetual need for repentance and dependence on God. But the Scriptures, without Rome's stable Tradition, have left fearful uncertain answers by their harsh hyperbole to the five dimensions above, as follows:
Confession: I cannot know if the grace of God’s friendship can be lost or not, let alone in what manner, and let alone if I can get it back. If I can lose it, it is not certain how. Then it is not certain if I can get it back. If I can get it back, how is not known. I cannot lose it, some say; I have no culpability, since my sins will not be imputed to me. If righteousness matters, some say the love of God flows infallibly by irresistible grace, meaning that if I seem to walk with God for many years, and backslide, I must never have known Him to begin with. O, Lord, save me. What shall I do?
Anointing: O, Lord, have I committed the unforgivable sin? Have I blasphemed the Holy Spirit? Have I taken the mark of the beast? Have I swore and been unfaithful to the promise? Have I apostatized? Is there no hope for me now? Must I wait now In horror until judgment day, the day of my damnation? O, Lord, I have sickness and disease. The dear pastor said that this is a sign of judgment. Lord have mercy, don’t damn me!
Confirmation: Am I elect, Lord? Or have you passed over me? Do you love me, or am I condemned? Lord, I am struggling with some sins, am I lost? O, Lord, if I am condemned, I cannot bear it. Take my life and damn me now!
Holy Orders: Lord, I do not trust Rome because of her sins and laxity. I fear her, Lord; she is the antichrist. But now, without her, and her so-called stability, I have only an arena of myriads of competing men and factions, all hell-fire and brimstone, claiming to speak for God, but all mutually conflicting. What must I do? They all say that I must search the Scriptures in fear, cowering in humility, until I think I have found all truth. If I misinterpret, Lord, because of my sins, I will perish! Where are the true men of God, Lord? Save me!
Holy Communion: Lord, Calvin taught that at any age of history, there is guaranteed to be at least one community that fully correctly interprets the Word, but where it is, no one knows! I can only HOPE that I find it! But if I don’t and join even a partially erroneous community, I will perish.
STUDENT: That sounds very interesting. I cannot wait. Now, are there are any other loaves and/or fishes discourses in the Gospels? Any other error to look at? Yes Stay Tuned for Part III.