Today I was at Eucharist, and as the priest prayed over the Sacred Host, I suddenly had a profound realization. The Church’s role in history parallels the life of Jesus Christ.
1a) Jesus was persecuted in his infancy. Herod tried to kill him and his parents had to flee with him to Egypt, a land of idolaters.
1b) Similarly, the Early Christians had to flee from town to town to escape persecution. They were severely persecuted under the Roman Emperors.
2a) Then Jesus grew up and began his ministry. Great crowds flocked to him. Though he was attacked, his enemies could not come near him and could never defeat him.
2b) After its early tribulation, the Church thrived and became dominant throughout the Western world. Christianity filled the West, and through the Orthodox churches filled the East, too. It consumed all the known world. The Church was attacked repeatedly by heresies from within and violent aggressors from without, but these foes could never come near defeating them for a thousand years, until the Reformation. Just as Christ’s foes could not defeat or come near him, in spite of slander, spiritual and physical attacks, and his ministry thrived, even so this was true for the Church.
3a) Judas sold Jesus out for money and betrayed him with a kiss.
3b) Many kings, during the Reformation, betrayed the Church in order to seize Church property. The Protestants put the Word of God, the Bible, above any other authority in their rebellion. They hailed it with a place of honor, yet through their actions they shattered Christendom, the Body of Christ. In the same way, Judas betrayed the Word of God, Jesus Christ, through a kiss. And through his betrayal, Jesus’ body was butchered. The Reformation also was initiated first often through the actions of renegade priests. Similarly, Jesus was betrayed by a disciple.
4a) All Jesus’ disciples abandoned him.
4b) The Western world used to all be Catholic, but now our time is rightfully called the “post-Christian era.” Many members of the Church have abandoned it, and those that have stayed are often falling prey to corrupting outside influences.
5a) Jesus was tried and condemned unjustly. He was condemned for blasphemy, because the people wanted a different kind of Messiah, one who would lead them in a rebellion against Rome, and also because he was accused of trying to rebel against Caesar.
5b) Since the Reformation, it is easy to see how society has been putting the Church on trial. I can’t record all the times I’ve heard people condemn the Church, for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons parallel the reasons Jesus was condemned.
For instance, the Church is accused of being extremely violent when in power. Religion itself is sometimes accused, now, of being the source of all the world’s violence. Similarly, Jesus was accused of planning to lead a rebellion against Rome. In reality, the Pharisees feared for their own power, just as so many people today hate the idea of submitting to authority or giving up any “rights.”
The Church is condemned because the people want a different kind of salvation, one that they can achieve through rebellion. We can see this in the countless rebellious movements of our time. Whereas in the Medieval Ages, children submitted to parents, women submitted to men, peasants to nobles, nobles to kings, priests to bishops, bishops to the pope, a vast hierarchical system that spread throughout society, today’s society encourages rebellion on every social level and condemns the Church for its historical and present day opposition to these movements. Similarly, Jesus was condemned because the people wanted a king who would lead them in rebellion against Rome.
The Church is condemned for spreading lies and twisting the intended practice of Jesus. This is especially viewed as having occurred from the time of Constantine on, when the Church gained political influence and is supposed to have put the intention of Christ, the disciples and the Early Church second to their greed for power. They are supposed to have twisted and invented doctrines, just as Jesus was condemned for having trespassed the Law and the forefathers of Israel, essentially twisting and inventing doctrines.
Jesus was condemned for behaving as though he was God’s equal. People condemn the Church for claiming too much authority and taking God’s place. This is akin to the charge of blasphemy that was leveled against Jesus. I’ve heard especially from Protestants that the Catholic Church places men in God’s place, but it is a view that circulates commonly in secular culture too.
6a) Jesus was flogged.
6b) Many of the saints in the Church have seen visions of a Minor Chastisement, which is forthcoming.
7a) Jesus was given a moment of temporary relief, when Simon of Cyrene was told to carry his cross.
7b) Catholic mystics predict a brief “Age of Peace,” following the Minor Chastisement.
8a) Christ was crucified.
8b) The Church, it is predicted and believed by both the Catholic and most Protestant churches, will be taken into the worst Tribulation of its history.
9a) Christ was resurrected.
9b) Fallen believers will be resurrected, and all will be transformed.
10a) God destroyed Jerusalem because it killed Christ, after it was given a little more time of witnessing.
10b) Nonbelievers will be cast into hell at the Final Judgment.
That’s all I’ve got, for the moment. The most impressive parallels to me are those involving the downfall of the Medieval Ages. The way Judas kissed Jesus (the Word) to betray him so strongly resembles, to me, how the Protestants introduced Sola Scriptura, praising the Word of God with one hand while with the other destroying Christendom.
That parallel stands out to be mainly because of my Protestant background, though, I think. The others are very impressive to me too. I’d never noticed this predictive pattern in the Gospels before.
It’s neat to me too that this revelation about the Body of Christ, the Church, came to me at the same moment the priest prayed over the Eucharist, turning the elements into Christ’s body. Simultaneously, the Lord turned the “mere history” of his Body for me into spiritual reality. It was wonderful!