Since the early Middle Ages, all Christians have used the same method for determining the date of Easter, though they arrive at a different result. Described authoritatively in The Reckoning of Time by eighth-century English scholar Bede, “The Sunday following the full moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter.” The equinox is observed on March 21. This straightforward method based upon an easily observable natural phenomenon survived the Schism of 1054, when the Catholic and Orthodox Churches split from each other.
Pope Francis entered the papal conclave wearing the scarlet red of a cardinal and emerged in gleaming white. From where did this tradition arise? The old saying suggests that “good guys always wear white,” but have popes always done so?
Although the Catholic Church lifted its ban on cremation in 1963, it continued to teach that the deceased person’s body had to be present at the funeral.
Since 1963 the church has taught that Catholics can be cremated, abolishing its longstanding prohibition of the practice. Cremation was fairly widespread in the ancient world, but early Christians rejected the practice. Theologically, they did not consider cremation to be compatible with the doctrine of bodily resurrection. Creating new rituals for death and burial was also a way for Christians to distinguish themselves from their pagan neighbors.
In our contemporary political landscape, the option for the poor gets bandied about by people on all sides of the political spectrum.
I have a friend who is a permanent deacon. He’s a former Marine, and though he is wonderfully kind, he can also turn on his military face and voice to let you know when he means business. One Sunday at Mass, he preached a homily about prayer, particularly about praying for the poor. He had on his game face that day, and at the end of his homily he leaned in close to the microphone and said in a terrifyingly stern whisper, “I know you are all busy. But you can give 30 minutes of your God-given breath to pray for the poor.”
Traditionally, Catholics believed that a person could reach heaven only if he or she was buried in a Catholic cemetery. But limited space meant few people could be buried in the ground and left there forever. Instead, most people were buried temporarily in the parish cemetery until their bodies decomposed. Their bones were then exhumed and placed among the bones of previous generations of believers in an ossuary—a receptacle or room where bones of the deceased are gathered.
The most popular explanation of Satan maintains that he is a fallen angel tempted by pride. He is said to be a seducer originally created as good and whose rebellion against the divine will is reflected in the temptation that he offered to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Though they sometimes seem dissimilar, the two parts of the Bible are all about fulfillment.
The relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament reflects both the continuity and discontinuity between the Christian and Israelite faiths. Christians believe God had one plan for salvation that was revealed first to the Israelites and then to all peoples through Jesus Christ. The New Testament and Old Testament, then, tell one ongoing story of salvation. At the same time, the authors of the New Testament were proposing something radically new: Jesus’ fulfillment of the Israelites’ hope in God’s promises.
For centuries theologians have debated whether or not Jesus had any siblings. But what does scripture say about his complicated family tree?
The only child often gets a bad rap. Stereotyped as entitled and self-important, people who grow up without siblings aren’t always looked upon favorably—especially by those of us with at least a sibling or two. Jesus may have acted like an only child at times in the gospels, but all of the four evangelists make some mention of his brothers and sisters.
You won’t find the phrase “original sin” in the Bible. The story of humanity’s “fall” in Genesis 1 doesn’t use the term, and St. Paul, one of the church’s earliest theologians, only hints at it in places. After the first century the early church fathers started to define it, but those in the East and West took different approaches.
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