Saturday, December 16, 2023

The Abomination of Desolation: for Catholic Answers

My latest on Catholic Answers, on the Gospel of the Last Sunday After Pentecost.

The traditional lectionary for the Twenty-Fourth, or Last, Sunday After Pentecost has for the Gospel reading Matthew 24:15-35, which begins this way: “When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand. Then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains.” This is from what is called the Gospel of Matthew’s apocalypse: mysterious, profound, and troubling.

One mystery about it is why it should be found on that particular Sunday, as we are about to enter Advent. (It is not found anywhere—not even as an option for some category of martyr—in the lectionary produced after the Second Vatican Council.)

The obvious, but wrong, answer is that a treatment of the “Last Things” (death, judgement, hell, and heaven) is called for on the occasion of the end of the Church’s year. This is wrong because the Last Sunday After Pentecost was not, historically, regarded as the end of the Church’s year; there was no such concept. The liturgical year is not a linear thing, but a cycle.

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