From the moment it was announced that Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired Archbishop of Bologna, was to preach the Spiritual Exercises to the Pope and Curia in February 2007, one topic was always sure to feature in his meditations.
In March 2000, His Eminence had caused quite a media stir by delivering a conference paper on the nature of the Antichrist. Drawing on the writings of Vladimir Solovyov, a nineteenth century philosopher and mystic, he said the Antichrist was not the beast with seven heads described in St John's Book of Revelations, but rather a "fascinating personality" whose outward charm and plausibility would deceive his enemies.
He depicted the Man of Sin as an "admirable philanthropist, a committed and zealous pacifist, a dedicated vegetarian," an advocate of human rights and "a resolute proponent of animal rights." In addition, he identified him as a biblical expert, who nonetheless promotes "vague and fashionable spiritual values" rather than the Scriptures, and an "excellent ecumenist" promoting dialogue between the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations, including the Anglicans and Orthodox. This apparently worthy aim, Biffi explained, is manipulated by the Antichrist to dilute and undermine Catholicism to the point of collapse, in pursuit of his real aim: the destruction of Christianity and "the death of God."
As expected, therefore, the 78-year-old Cardinal's week long Vatican meditations last February did indeed address Solovyov's writings. Just as his 2000 address had stressed the apocalyptic substitution of a Social Gospel - "feel-good" causes like ecology and humanitarian aid - for "true religion," he quoted Solovyov's prediction that: "Days will come in Christianity in which they will try to reduce the salvific event to a mere series of values."
With the exception of small groups of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, the masses will follow the Antichrist when he seeks a consensus of all the Christian confessions in respect of this reduction, Biffi told the Holy Father and other retreatants. However, "the teaching that the great Russian philosopher left us," he continued, "is that Christianity cannot be reduced to a set of values. At the centre of being a Christian is, in fact, the personal encounter with Jesus Christ."
His Eminence also repeated that the Antichrist deftly facilitating this negation of God - offering a Christianity without Christ and His cross and resurrection - "presents himself as pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist." One imagines a kind of Blairite-Clintonite hybrid of fixed smile and chilling emptiness, but once again the Cardinal did not point the finger at any world figures. He is very wise. For once you start the Antichrist name-game and End Time predictions the possibilities are endless, often imbecilic and sometimes tragic.
In recent times we have witnessed mass suicides involving the Heaven's Gate and Peoples Temple (Jonestown) cults, and the shocking 1993 Waco siege during which 78 Branch Davidian cult members (and 4 U.S. federal agents) died.
The Heaven's Gate leaders convinced thirty-eight followers to commit suicide so that their souls could take a ride on a spaceship that they believed was hiding behind the 1997 Hale-Bopp comet carrying Jesus. The Branch Davidians, who emerged from a schismatic Seventh Day Adventist group, considered themselves to be in a final End Times confrontation with cosmic significance.
As for the Antichrist, he has been named and shamed in a never-ending line down the ages as King Nebuchadnezzar of the Assyrians, Nero, Caligula, Ghengis Khan, Napoleon, Czar Peter the Great, Hitler, Stalin, Ayatollah Khomeini… pick a tyrant!
In similar vein, few religious or socio-political celebrities and institutions of modern times have escaped identification as the Antichrist by someone: Pope John Paul II (apparently the numerical value of Vicarius Filii Dei, "Vicar of the Son of God," is 666), Adventists, Sun Myung Moon, Freemasonry, Bill Gates, David Rockefeller, the Bildebergs, to name a mere handful. President John F. Kennedy was posthumously fingered because he died of a head wound and received 666 votes at the 1956 Democratic Party Convention. Ronald Reagan was collared because each of his names - including his middle name, William - has six letters. Mikhail Gorbachev is accused on account of the unusual birthmark on his head and the suggestion that he is a false prophet of peace, as forewarned in 1Thessalonians 5:3.
Even the heroic Protestant pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed that Hitler, who died of a mortal wound to the head, might be the Antichrist. And seeing as the Beast of the Apocalypse also suffered a mortal head wound yet recovered [Apoc. 13:3], some suggest that the evil Dr Josef Mengele could have laid the foundations for the future cloning of the Fuhrer's DNA. Who knows what was left behind in test tubes and secret refrigerators?
Adopting this lunatic spirit, we have a bit of fun ourselves in this edition piecing together the biographical tell-tale signs of a certain sporting icon. Yet we do so only to underscore a serious point: that all these cults and tragi-comic speculations undermine the teachings of the Church and give "true religion" a bad name. Quite apart from harming the salvation of souls, they provide the Liberal pseudo-elite with ammunition to place all traditionally-minded Christians - the dreaded "forces of conservatism" denounced by Tony Blair - on a par with the eccentric, brainwashed and barking mad. Thus, "conservative" Christianity (read: Catholicism) becomes "fanatical" and "extreme" and a principal target for godless "hate crime" commissars, who, given the chance, would doubtless press for the removal of St. John's Apocalypse from the Scriptures.
At the same time, it is certainly true that rabid End Time opinions rooted in the misinterpretation and abuse of Scripture are capable of inciting hysteria on a far greater and more homicidal scale than that of individual cults. The constant vilification of the Pope as the Antichrist during the Reformation, for instance, surely fuelled the entrenched hatred of English Catholics and exacerbated their sufferings. The burning of "witches" from the 15th to the 17th century was also a manic response to their being seen as "companions of the Antichrist."
This latent power to seduce and inflame souls on an epic scale is a sobering feature of End Time-Antichrist scaremongering, as it is of human history in general. A former member of the People's Temple doomsday cult, more than 900 of whose members committed suicide in 1978 by drinking poisoned punch, wrote instructively about her experience:
Most people think they're immune to brainwashing. They think they're too stubborn or too smart; their IQ is too high to be brainwashed. [Leader] Jim Jones, however, changed our whole outlook and belief system very subtly. He got us to question the Bible. Then he pointed out the hypocrisy of Christian leaders who weren't living what they preached. Step by step we found ourselves seduced more and more as Jim Jones undermined everything we'd held sacred, and gradually replaced what we had once believed with Marxist philosophy.
Soon we didn't want to wait for golden slippers and golden streets. We were going to build our own Utopia here and now. And we would do it through Marxism, because God didn't exist for us anymore. The process was gradual, almost imperceptible, until the time came when we found ourselves swearing to do things we would never have thought we were capable of doing.
I don't believe I could actually have killed anyone, yet I signed an affidavit saying I would kill, destroy, or commit any act necessary to establish communist rule under Jim Jones. [The Cult Explosion, Dave Hunt, 1978]
As with all types or "shadows" of the Antichrist throughout history, Jones sought the death of God. His particular methodology (subtly replacing supernatural faith with naturalism) also mirrored that of Solovyov's Antichrist as recounted by Cardinal Biffi.
Many fall prey to the hysterics and seductions of such messianic personalities through a lack of authoritative direction about the Last Days and the Second Coming of Christ. The fact that countless would-be prophets continue to fix precise dates of the coming of the Lord, only to be shown up again and again, never deters a faithless world from adopting speculation as fact. This credulity represents a singular business opportunity.
Evangelical Hal Lindsey, for one, sold 30 million copies of The Late Great Planet Earth, first released in 1970. He assured his readers that "we do have prophets today who are being given special insights into the prophetic word of God. God is opening the book of the prophets to many men. This is one reason you will find on Christian bookshelves an increasing number of books on the subject of Bible prophecy." Thus, designating himself one such prophet, Lindsey interpreted a biblical passage in Osee to confidently declare that Our Lord's coming would occur "within forty years or so" of the 1948 rebirth of the state of Israel. 1988 came and went. So he simply 'revised' his timeline in subsequent editions of his book.
Protestants, of course, cut and paste biblical passages to please themselves, preferring Luther's diabolical sola scriptura to St Peter's clear warning that "no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation. For prophecy came not by the will of man at any time: but the holy men of God spoke, inspired by the Holy Ghost" [2Pet. 1:20-21]. Hence, taking the Bible in a strictly literal sense (except, as Belloc says: "This is my body…this is my blood") they are especially vulnerable when it comes to the cyclical, semitic literary form of the Apocalypse: in which, St Augustine writes, there are "many obscure passage to exercise the mind of the reader… and this difficulty is increased by the repetition of the same things, in forms so different, that the things referred to seem to be different, although in fact they are only differently stated."
Protestants fall easily into the ancient heretical tendency of Millenarianism, for instance, taking verses 4-7 in chapter 20 of the Apocalypse to mean a literal thousand year visible reign on earth by Christ, which they expect to occur any time soon. A throwback to the false messianism which plagued Our Lord during His public life, Millenarianism has been condemned several times by the Magisterium, as recently as 1944 in a decree of the Holy Office. While some early Fathers like St Ireneus and St. Hippolytus understood the millennium in a literal sense, it is the common opinion of the Doctors since St Augustine that the 1,000 years is a symbolic way of describing the rule of Christ in His Church, from the time of His First Coming to His Second Coming. We are in the millennium now and Our Lord is ruling on earth in the Blessed Sacrament over His saints.
The Modernists, of course, represent the opposite extreme of Evangelicals like Hal Lindsey. They deny that there is any prophecy at all in the Apocalypse, admitting only that it has an enduring moral message. "The Apocalypse is eminently fitting for periods of crisis and trouble," writes Fr Andre Feuillet, who doubts the Johannine authenticity of the Fourth Gospel. "We need only to be on guard against the temptations to look in it for precise historical predictions which the author has not the least intention or desire of conveying" [The Apocalypse, 1964]. This contradicts Catholic tradition and teaching which has always considered the Apocalypse a prophetic book.
Catholics, however, need not fear speculation on the Last Things because Our Lord has provided them with an infallible guide for the proper interpretation of Scripture, the teachings of the Fathers and Doctors, and the Magisterium of the Church. The Fifth Lateran Council in 1516 under Pope Leo X decreed:
We command all those who exercise the function of preaching or will do so in the future, not to presume, either in their sermons or in their affirmations, to fix a date for future evils, whether for the coming of Antichrist or for the Day of Judgement, seeing that the Truth has said: It is not for you to know the times or the moments, which the Father put in his own power. Those, therefore, who have the audacity to make such statements in the past have lied, and it is well known that, on their account, the authority of those who preach wisely has greatly suffered.
"Take heed that no man seduce you," Our Lord Himself warned the apostles during His magisterial summation of the End Times in chapter 24 of St Matthew's gospel. "For many will come in my name saying, I am Christ: and they will seduce many. And you shall hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that ye be not troubled. For these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet." [Matt 24:4-6]
This Divine reassurance falls on deaf ears and so the masses become readily "troubled" and fearful. Indeed, talk of Armageddon is perhaps more pervasive than ever in our nuclear age when "wars and rumours of wars" have taken on a truly apocalyptic sense, leaving the un-Churched more prey than ever to "the Antichrist's deception" and that "'intrinsically perverse' political form of a secular messianism" especially condemned by the Church [CCC #676].
Last January, the keepers of the so-called Doomsday Clock, which represents how close the world is to atomic Armageddon, indicated that time is running out. The clock, with midnight representing nuclear apocalypse, has appeared in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in Chicago since 1947, when its hands were first set at seven minutes to midnight. Ever since, the minute hand has been moved at intervals according to the judgement of scientists and strategists about the nuclear, environmental and technological threats to the world. For instance, it was pushed forward four minutes in 1949 when the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb; back seven minutes when the two superpowers signed a Partial Test Ban Treaty - and so forth. On 17 January 2007, for the first time in 4 years, the clock's hand was advanced, by 2 minutes. The scientists said they are doing this because the world has entered its most perilous nuclear phase since Hiroshima.
The nuclear fear goes back even further than 6 August 1945. As early as 1914, decades before the development of nuclear weapons, the dissolute yet prescient H.G. Wells foresaw and described the horrific impact of atomic devices in his book The World Set Free, in which the major powers attack each other simultaneously and most of the world is laid waste. Hiroshima and Nagasaki finally realised this Armageddon-like capability.
The world has held its breath in unspeakable anticipation ever since, enduring the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and a number of near-misses during the Cold War, even though the nuclear situation was then relatively predictable and neither side was eager to risk mutual annihilation. (The near-misses occurred when, through computer or human error, both the Russians and Americans thought false "First Strike" alarms were the real thing, warranting the launch of retaliatory nuclear missiles. A U.S. Senator who witnessed the reaction to one such false alarm on 9 November 1979, when computer screens falsely displayed a full-scale Soviet attack, described an atmosphere of absolute panic inside the joint American-Canadian aerospace defence command facility as emergency retaliation preparations were made.)
Today, however, despite the greater spread of nuclear warheads, such as those possessed by Pakistan and India (40 apiece), and the chronic instability introduced by the likes of North Korea, Iran and Islamic terrorists, it is hard to envisage a totemic H.G. Wells "World War III"-style obliteration of the entire planet.
Rather, there is a likelihood of small-scale nuclear attacks on major cities, creating unimaginable psychological and economic fallout far worse than mere physical destruction and casualties. 'Small' in this context, of course, is a relative term.
President Ahmadinejad's ravings about Islamic world-domination and the annihilation of Israel are based on his own apocalyptic scenario paving the way for the reappearance of the 12th imam, the Mahdi: a 5-year-old boy who vanished 1,100 years ago and who will lead the world into an era of peace and prosperity, but not before the planet is convulsed by death and destruction.
Bin Laden shares that vision. He is not looking to set off a mere "dirty" nuke or one nuclear explosion but to explode several nuclear devices in several American cities at once. And since "creating home-made explosives is difficult," as former MI5 chief Stella Rimington confirmed, the many botched bombings we have thankfully experienced can only serve to increase Al Qaeda's pursuit of the nuclear option.
In this regard, the CIA's Michael Scheuer says that Al Qaeda has been "involved in an extraordinarily sophisticated and professional effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction - in this case, nuclear weapons," since the early 90s.
Scheuer is quoted in The Day of Islam: The Annihilation of America and the Western World by former FBI consultant Paul Williams. Sourced with government reports and comments made "on the record" by top officials, the book examines Al Qaeda's nuclear ambitions. It relates Saudi intelligence service claims that bin Laden has an arsenal of between 40 and 70 tactical nuclear weapons. Russian sources indicate that bin Laden bought 12 to 15 fully assembled nuclear weapons from the Chechens and Russian Mafia. Bin Laden himself told a Pakistani journalist two months before 9/11 that acquiring nuclear was "not difficult" - claiming they were available from Russia for between $10 million and $20 million. And Williams offers further information on the workings of Pakistani scientists and technicians from the A.Q. Khan Research Facility to maintain and upgrade Al Qaeda's "bespoke nukes" (with explosive yields in excess of 10 kilotons) for the "American Hiroshima" (which was roughly 12-15 kilotons).
What emerges from Williams' virtual tour of Al Qaeda's global operations, including its activities in Canada, Latin America and Mexico (its main conduit point for penetration into the U.S. and the smuggling of nuclear materials), is a harrowing picture of international terrorist activities all aimed at the destruction of the U.S.A. and the collapse of the West. Plausibility and impetus will be added to these grandiose goals if Al Qaeda morphs into legitimate political factions or even theocratic governments in countries like Syria, Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, Iraq et. al. In that event it could not be so easily dismissed as a mere straw man exploited by governments to justify crackdowns.
After all, Al Qaeda has already managed to turn the West on its head with one seminal strike involving only several thousand deaths. Yet even a low yield "junk" nuclear device would kill an estimated 250,000 New Yorkers in several days, a threat so real that only last month FBI Director Robert Mueller said it keeps him awake at night. And even that is only a fraction of the overrall target figure. The "fatwa" (religious order) bin Laden received in 2003, fully translated in The Day of Islam, "grants al-Qaeda permission to kill 10 million Americans by way of nuclear weapons."
Order of events
More bin Laden bravado? Perhaps. Yet Al Qaeda are nothing if not patient. They think and plan long-term and the prospect of their inflicting bloodshed and suffering of epic proportions is real enough. In this environment, therefore, fear and foreboding can easily overwhelm those at the mercy of rapacious prophets of doom like the fundamentalist Protestants, for whom "End Times" and "nuclear holocaust" are synonomous - although they themselves will be spared by "the rapture." (This typical perversion of scripture interprets St. Paul's words about being "taken up… to meet Christ in the air" [1Thess. 4:15-16] as a literal rising of the "raptured" elect into the air, avoiding death and particular judgement, rather than its intended meaning about the general resurrection just before the Last Judgement.)
Despite these present physical threats all about us, however, Christ said: "…be not troubled. For these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet." There is, in other words, a definite sequence to be played out in salvation history which even nuclear megalomaniacs cannot obviate. Very briefly, the four main events leading up to the End of the World as given by Jesus Himself in Matthew's gospel, are:
It is only after this, when Jesus comes "in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty" and gathers the "elect" as in "the days of Noah" [Matt. 24:30-31, 36-39], that the reign of the Antichrist will end in a final battle. "And he shall gather them together into a place, which in Hebrew is called Armagedon" [Apoc. 16:16], which means the Mount of Megido in Galilee, not far from Nazareth, the scene of many decisive battles both in biblical and secular history. The Last Judgement will then take place.
Without doubt, the history of the last hundred years - with its wars, persecutions, catastrophes, mass communications and institutionalised atheism and apostasy - resonates strongly with the several "signs" announcing the arrival of the Antichrist in Matthew 24: the "gospel of the kingdom preached in the whole world"; "false prophets" deceiving many; "wars and rumours of wars;" "plagues and famines and earthquakes;" persecution and torture of Christians; the charity of many grown cold "because wickedness abounds."
This latter sign is especially familiar to a uniquely wicked generation whose satanic culture of death and degradation is spewing forth perversions of the natural law at a frightening rate. To name just one recent terrifying development: The Human Tissue and Embryos Bill released in May 2007 will permit UK scientists to create human-animal hybrids (human clones made with animal ova) for research purposes. Moreover, the Academy of Medical Sciences which supports the Bill is already stressing "the speed of this field of research" and promoting the likely need for "true" hybrids - containing more than the 0.1% animal DNA permitted in the Bill - for future research. "There are no substantive ethical or moral reasons not to proceed with research on human embryos containing animal material," declared a self-satisfied Academy spokesman.
Several years before his elevation to the papacy, Cardinal Ratzinger painted an apocalyptic picture of the potential consequences of such genetic research. "God will react against a last crime, a last criminal self-destruction of the human being. He will resist the degradation of the human person through the breeding of slave-people. There is a last boundary that we cannot cross without becoming the destroyers of creation itself." [God and the World, 2000]
For a rough measure of where this latest outrageous provocation might situate us on the Antichrist-Armageddon time line, we need only recall that a turn of the century world infinitely less malign than today's was enough to elicit this warning from St. Pius X, as he fought the Masons without and the Modernists within:
There is room to fear that we are experiencing the foretaste and beginnings of the evils which are to come at the end of time, and that the Son of Perdition, of whom the Apostle speaks, has already arrived on earth. [Encyclical Suprema Apostolatus, 1903]
Shadows of Antichrist
It transpired that he had not "arrived." Yet numerous shadows of Antichrist like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini were indeed already on earth and about to set the satanic tone for the twentieth century. Hitler in particular became the forerunner of the activist Antichrist dictator-to-come. "Nazism made of Catholic Europe a material and spiritual wasteland in which the victorious seeds of godless Communism have taken root and flourished," writes Fr Vincent Micelli, S.J in The Antichrist. While Stalinist Communism far outdid even German Nazism in its insatiable lust for blood, terror and slave-labour at home; subversion and violent rebellion abroad.
God-haters like these joined earlier precursors of the Antichrist, such as Luther, Mohammed, Calvin and all the heretics down the ages who have divided Christ, denied His divinity and sought to create a paradise for wicked, unclean, unrepentant sinners. Fr Micelli states that even St. Robert Bellarmine considered Luther the last precursor of the greatest and cruellest Antichrist:
For Luther has all the characteristics which are directly opposed to the virtues of St. John the Baptist, the saintly precursor of Christ. Luther is full of deceit, tyrannical, cruel, fraudulent and envious. He is a thousand times a liar; he is a reed shaken by the wind; he is dressed in soft clothing, frequenting palaces. John the Baptist gave up secular clothing, dressed in a hermit's garb and went into the desert, living a life dedicated to God through penance and the practice of virginity. Luther became the enemy of chastity and virginity when he threw off his religious garb and eloped with a nun. He ridicules the sacraments beginning with Baptism, the rite begun by John the Baptist. Luther seems to have been predicted as the precursor of the Antichrist. The famous preacher of the Dominican Order, Vincent Ferrer predicted shortly before the birth of Luther that the precursor of the Antichrist was near, and he described him with the marks that we have delineated here.
St John the Evangelist spoke of these perennial "precursors":
Dear children it is the last hour, and you have heard that Antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have arisen… Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is not of God, but is of Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he is coming and now is already in the world. [1Jn 2:18;4:3]
According to Father Micelli, the spiritual wasteland produced in our time by using traditional words like "God," "salvation" and "resurrection" but emptying them of all Catholic meaning, is testimony to the neo-Modernist work of "preparing a godless, morally corrupt society as the proper milieu for the coming of the Antichrist." Yet if "man's infidelity and immorality are the cause of the coming of the Antichrist," it is also true that "God makes use of him as a scourge to separate the evil from the good, the wheat from the chaff."
By contemplating accounts of the Antichrist, therefore, we can increase our awareness of contemporary evils and our own participation in them. Accordingly, St Augustine saw heretics and schismatics as forerunners of Antichrist but also reminded his congregation that many sitting before him possessed the spirit of Antichrist - praising God with their lips but scorning Him with their actions and lying to Him in their hearts. He urged all to examine themselves and to root out whatever of Antichrist was present in their souls.
What of the Man of Sin himself?
It is the common opinion of the Church Fathers that the Antichrist will be a Jew from the tribe of Dan, as foretold by Jeremiah: "We shall hear the voice of his swift horses from Dan; the whole earth shall be moved by the voice of the neighing of his galloping horses: he shall come and devour the earth, and the fullness thereof, the city also, and they that dwell therein" [Jer. 8:16]. The tribe of Dan apparently disappeared with the other northern tribes during the Babylonian captivity and is not reckoned in the Apocalypse among those saved. It is said to have been the vilest of the tribes, thus indicating his base birth.
In essence he will mirror the one Christ mentions when he upbraids the Jews: "I do not receive glory from men. But I know that you have not the love of God in you. I have come in the name of my Father, and you do not receive me. If another come in his own name, him you will receive."[Jn 541-43]
Thus, the mark of the Antichrist is the fact that he speaks in his own name, having no credentials from God but only power from Satan.
As for the time of his coming, St Paul states: "Let no man deceive you by any means, for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, Who opposeth, and is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself as if he were God. [2Thess. 2:3-4]
If "a revolt" was first understood to be the revolt from the Roman Empire, and later those like the Muslim and Protestant rebellions, the general apostasy within and without the Church today seems more like the kind of non serviam upheaval which would precede "the man of sin." It offers him degenerate, violent, godless, fearful nations on a platter: "Moloch states" steeped in secular, occult humanism who have institutionalised abortion and euthanasia and usurped the power of God over life and death.
Abandoned by the corrupted institutions of these brutalised states to vice of every kind and the scourges of drugs, street terrors, broken homes and, in general, to a coarse, venal, profligate quality of life, a life of fear and loneliness, peoples of the West are now primed to accept the Social anti-Gospel ideals and rule of the Antichrist. Moreover, as we have seen, the potential for world chaos of sufficient magnitude to set the stage for a Saviour figure has never been more apparent.
So, if the contemporary scene appears tailor made for the Antichrist, who or what is holding him back?
St. Paul goes on to say: "And now you know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed…" [2Thess. 2:6-8]. In Matthew 23:15, Jesus refers us to the prophet Daniel in order to identify this mysterious force which has restrained Satan for nearly two thousand years:
And from the time when the continual sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination unto desolation shall be set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred ninety days. [Dan. 12:11]
Most of the Fathers understand by the "continual sacrifice" the sacrifice of the Mass. It is the Blessed Sacrament that is restraining the Evil One. Once it is taken away, Satan will be released in all his fury for three-and-a-half years. St Hippolytus writes:
And the churches, too, will wail with a mighty lamentation, because neither "oblation nor incense" is attended to, nor a service acceptable to God; but the sanctuaries of the churches will become like a garden-watcher's hut, and the holy body and blood of Christ will not be shown in those days. The public service of God shall be extinguished, psalmody shall cease, the reading of Scriptures shall not be heard; but for men there shall be darkness, and lamentation on lamentation, and woe on woe.
This prophecy was partially fulfilled by the Protestant Reformers who changed the Sacrifice of the Mass into a communion service, leaving countless Christians without sacrifice, altar and priests. The neo-Modernist Liberal Catholics pursue the same end today in their Pizza Hut churches. It is a truly apocalyptic policy. Over a hundred years ago the great Benedictine Abbot of Solesme Dom Gueranger wrote:
If the sacrifice of the Mass were extinguished, we would not delay falling into the depraved condition in which peoples tainted with paganism found themselves, and such will be the work of the Antichrist. He will seek every means of preventing the celebration of Holy Mass so that this great counter-weight may be overthrown and God will put an end to all things, having no longer any reason to keep them in existence. We can easily understand this, for since Protestantism, we notice far less strength in the heart of society. Civil wars have arisen bringing desolation in their wake, and that solely because the intensity of the sacrifice of the Mass is reduced. This is the beginning of what will happen when the devil and his followers will be unleashed over the world…
The neo-Modernists have infinitely worsened this state of affairs. Though valid in its essence, their artificial, banal, man-oriented liturgy distracts from the holy, frustrates intimate communion with God and trivialises, where it does not suppress, sacred actions, symbols, music and words. Consequently, it has proved ineffectual in blocking legions of demons from flooding the earth with vice, thus dramatically hastening the approach of the Antichrist. In this context, how ignorant and reckless the response of Boston's Cardinal O'Malley to the recent motu proprio: "This issue of the Latin Mass is not urgent for our country," he casually declared. In fact, despite some concerns about the document, we should all be thanking God that a further good measure of freedom to offer the Old Rite has now been afforded and that St. John's Gospel and the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel will be regularly enunciated in more and more churches.
Cardinal O'Malley and his complacent brethren desperately need reminding that the Mass restrains Satan. "All the Church's liturgy is exorcism in the sense that it saves us from Satan's power through the Incarnation and death of the only-begotten Son of God," writes Solange Hertz. Underlining the importance of the Old Mass in this regard, she adds:
The precision of its language is ordered to defining clearly and absolutely, again and again, the exact identity of the God who is being adored, together with the exact nature of the Sacrifice this God is actually offering to Himself by the human agency of His ordained priest. It is a standing monument to the commandment given to Moses: 'Thou shalt fear the Lord they God, and shall serve him only' - the command with which our Lord confronted Satan's temptation to worship him in the desert.
This is the Mass that Satan fears. The Latin language itself torments him, as exorcisms testify. If decades of feel-good Novus Ordo congregationalism has blinded the Western hierarchy to that reality - the pivotal role of the Old Mass in the cosmic struggle between Christ and Antichrist - it remains crystal clear to those who have retained a truly Catholic mind. Writer Myles Connolly, for one, captured this supernatural drama in his mini-classic, Mr. Blue. In one passage, Blue (the main character) proposes to Connolly (the narrator) a scenario for a movie about the Second Coming of Christ: cast as a struggle between the IGW [International Government of the World], a brutal technological dystopia, and the last Christian, a priest "keeping his promise to bring God back to earth" by saying Mass "in the citadel of the Antichrist":
"On top of that black tower of the devil in the kingdom of Antichrist," said Blue, "after all those centuries of extermination, there stood a priest in amice and alb, maniple, chasuble, girdle and stole, heir in a noble line of Christ's servants, clad in their symbols of chastity, charity, honour and faith. The figure of Christ's cross lay on his back. The annointment of Christ was on his soul. Before him was his altar, his case topped with the altar stone and missal and chalice. On it lay the corporal with the wafer he had made, from the wheat he had grown. By it stood two cruets of water and wine. He waited until first there was a streak of light across the east. Then he bowed down before his altar. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritui sancti. Amen. The Mass had begun…
"It was magnificent," exclaimed Blue as if he were telling of something he saw. "And while he is making the sign of the cross over the wafer of bread, the powers of the Anti-Christ are gathering. He has been seen.
The Master of the IGW has summoned the marshal of his soldiers. "Stop the Mass immediately!" he commands.
The marshal repeats that planes are speeding to the tower. "The top is too small for a landing. It is a difficult shot…" he is explaining.
The Master is furious. "Bomb the tower. Destroy it. Demolish it. But stop the Mass!…"
Abomination of Desolation
Once the Mass is out of the way, many Fathers also interpret St. Paul as saying that the Antichrist will rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and set up his throne therein, demanding from his depraved followers that divine worship he sought from Jesus in the desert: "… so that he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself as if he were God." [2Thess. 2:4]
To date, of course, the Jewish Temple has not been rebuilt on Temple Mount, which is still dominated by the Muslim Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. So another possibility, entertained by other Fathers, is that "the temple of God" can only refer to a Catholic Church, which the Antichrist will pervert to his own worship: as Mohammed has done by the churches of the east, and as foreshadowed more recently by allowing Muslims to worship in some Italian churches and the blasphemous Islamic concert in praise of "Allah" held in Westminster cathedral last month.
Whichever temple the Antichrist occupies, he will have his own precursor, his John the Baptist equivalent, by his side. This is the False Prophet who will make the people worship Antichrist:
And I saw another beast coming out of the earth, and he had two horns, like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. And he executed all the power of the former beast in his sight; and he caused the earth, and them that dwell therein to adore the first beast… And he did great signs… And it was given to him to give life to the image of the beast, and that the image of the beast should speak; and should cause, that whosoever will not adore the beast should be slain. [Apoc. 13:11-15]
Cornelius à Lapide says that the phrase "like a lamb" indicates that he will be an apostate Catholic, probably a priest or bishop. Just as Our Lord's precursor was a priest of the order of Levi, so Antichrist's precursor will be a priest of the order of Melchisedech.
In a Church brimming with tepid, weak, wicked or apostate prelates and clerics, "mini-antichrists" who have set vast numbers on the road to damnation, this scenario is easier to envisage than at any time in the history of the Church. Clearly, the False Prophet will not lack willing helpers, an eventuality depicted by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson in The Lord of the World.
Written in 1907 and set in that era, Benson's visionary social critique-cum-prophecy depicts a world divided between two superpowers, East and West, both of which possess the Benninschein shell which can wipe out an entire city. The human race is on the brink of self-destruction, when there suddenly appears out of nowhere a diplomat named Julian Felsenburgh, a Grand Master Mason and an expert linguist. He begins a series of lightning shuttle moves between East and West, that finally result in a permanent world peace and total disarmament. He is hailed globally as the Saviour of the World. He proclaims four compulsory world Feast Days, establishes the cult of "humanity" and institutes the "law of profession" which obliges citizens of the world to renounce the Christian God and profess belief in man's divinity, and in the divinity of Felsenburgh himself.
Putting aside today's illiterate clergy (whose ritual incompetence would vex even the Antichrist!), we can still appreciate this passage in which an apostate priest visits a Whitehall functionary to place his rubrical skills at Felsenburgh's disposal:
"Well, Mr. Brand, the society which I represent consists entirely of men who were once Catholic priests. We number about two hundred in London. I will leave a pamphlet with you, if I may, stating our objects, our constitution, and so on. It seemed to us that here was a matter in which our past experience might be of service to the Government. Catholic ceremonies, as you know, are very intricate, and some of us studied them very deeply in the old days. We used to say that Masters of Ceremonies were born, not made, and we have a fair number of those amongst us. But indeed every priest is something of a ceremonialist."He paused."Yes, Mr. Francis?"
"I am sure the Government realises the immense importance of all going smoothly. If Divine Service was at all grotesque or disorderly, it would largely defeat its own object. So I have been deputed to see you, Mr. Brand, and to suggest to you that here is a body of men - reckon it as at least twenty-five - who have had special experience in this kind of thing, and are perfectly ready to put themselves at the disposal of the Government."
Thus will blasphemous parodies substitute for the public celebration of Mass during the 3½ years of the Great Tribulation. Lapide says, however, that it will continue to be said in the mountains and caves, as in the catacombs of old. He cites Psalm 22:5 as proof of this: "Thou hast prepared a table before me against them that afflict me." Apocalypse 11:1-2 also indicates that the Mass will not completely fail in those days: the public sacrifice disappearing from the 'outer court' of the Temple but continuing to be said in secret in the 'inner court.'
The Great Tribulation
This abomination of desolation already afflicts the Jews, of course. They have no sacrifice, no altar, no priests, no temple. The prophets had announced that after the coming of the Messiah the Temple would be thrown down (as it was in 70AD by Titus) and the eternal sacrifice and the priesthood abolished. Rabbis (teachers) are all that remain. Thus, the Jews will be easily seduced. According to the common consensus of the Fathers, they will be the first people to accept the Antichrist as the Messiah, because he will offer them the earthly kingdom which they so ardently desire, and which Jesus denied them.
Their Zionist Protestant Evangelical brethren, the likes of Hal Lindsey and George Bush who all believe, in the words of the late Jerry Falwell, that "the future of the world is predicated upon the existence and perpetuity of the state of Israel," will be among the first to point out the Antichrist as Our Lord come for the second time, because he will offer them their eagerly awaited earthly Millennial kingdom.
At the same time, vast numbers of lukewarm nominal Catholics, dumbed-down and stripped of the Faith by their Modernist bishops, will also embrace the Antichrist because he will not censure their lax lifestyles. Once they have submitted to him and he has used them, however, he will turn on them, devouring "the great harlot" (representing the great apostasy of Catholics from the Church) and, per the Fathers, destroying the city of Rome. [Apoc.17:16]
He will wage an assault upon the Church more terrible than all the previous horrors and persecutions of human history. An incomprehensible prospect but one confirmed by Christ: "Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved: but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened." [Matt.24:21]
And yet, as with Solovyov so in Benson's Lord of the World the Antichrist appears not as a tyrant but a calm, serene, multilingual pacifist and globalist of unsurpassed virtue. A passionate newspaper account of Julian Felsenburgh's triumphant London address announcing the attainment of Universal Brotherhood, describes his mesmeric impact:
In appearance the man seemed to be about thirty-three years of age, clean-shaven, upright, with white hair and dark eyes and brows; he stood motionless with his hands on the rail, he made but one gesture that drew a kind of sob from the crowd, he spoke those words slowly, distinctly and in a clear voice; then he stood waiting…. that strange heart-shaking silence fell again. Many were weeping silently, the lips of thousands moved without a sound, and all faces were turned to that simple figure, as if the hope of every soul were centred there. So, if we may believe it, the eyes of man, centuries ago, were turned on one known now to history as JESUS OF NAZARETH."
The epitome of cultured humanitarianism, the charismatic personality and supreme oratorical and diplomatic skills of Felsenburgh bring about the elimination of war, the eradication of poverty (negating the prophecy of Christ through the "poverty laws" instituted by a Communist-Masonic alliance) and the end of suffering itself (through the introduction of his legislation by which weariness of life is sufficient ground to receive the "sacrament" of euthanasia). Even noise is eliminated as science and technology create the perfect world to the acclaim of the media, who euphorically proclaim:
'Not peace but a sword,' said, CHRIST; and bitterly true have those words proved to be. 'Not a sword but peace' is the retort, articulate at last, from those who have renounced CHRIST'S claims or have never accepted them… The Supernatural is dead; rather, we now know that it never yet has been alive… What remains is to work out this new lesson, to bring every action, word and thought to the bar of Love and Justice… Every code must be reversed; every barrier thrown down; party must unite with party, country with country, and continent with continent… Man has groaned long enough… but at length he understands himself and is at peace.
Unlike the ecumenical Solovyov, however, who foresaw a remnant of Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox in battle against the Antichrist, Benson believed that Catholicism alone will resist him. And since the Antichrist cannot abide men adoring any god other than himself, this resistance is intolerable. Thus, possessing every virtue except humility, the tolerant Felsenburgh makes an exception to his pacifism in order to wipe from the face of the earth the superstition of Catholicism which alone obstructs the world's self-revelation. When a group of English Catholics attack the cult of "humanity" - observed in former Catholic churches - he exposes the leaders of the plot to massacre.
London had gone completely mad on the announcement of the Catholic plot on the afternoon before. The secret had leaked out about fourteen o'clock, …. By fifteen-and-a-half all stores were closed, the Stock Exchange, the City offices, the West End establishments - all had as by irresistible impulse suspended business, and from within two hours after noon until nearly midnight, when the police had been adequately reinforced and enabled to deal with the situation, whole mobs and armies of men, screaming squadrons of women, troops of frantic youths, had paraded the streets, howling, denouncing, and murdering. It was not known how many deaths had taken place, but there was scarcely a street without the signs of outrage. Westminster Cathedral had been sacked, every altar overthrown, indescribable indignities performed there. An unknown priest had scarcely been able to consume the Blessed Sacrament before he was seized and throttled; the Archbishop with eleven priests and two bishops had been hanged at the north end of the church, thirty-five convents had been destroyed, St. George's Cathedral burned to the ground; and it was reported even, by the evening papers, that it was believed that, for the first time since the introduction of Christianity into England, there was not one Tabernacle left within twenty miles of the Abbey. "London," explained the New People, in huge headlines, "was cleansed at last of dingy and fantastic nonsense."
Notwithstanding that there are now few convents left to destroy, the devastating legacy of Modernism, how well this scene captures the rising flames of anti-Catholicism being fanned today by the Antichrist's politically correct Left-Liberal elite! The present hostile mood is further evoked in this passage, when Felsenburgh turns his flying "volors" (Zeppelins which Benson anticipated nearly a decade before their first use as airborne weapons) towards Rome. The Eternal City has become a refuge for those Catholics refusing to accept the "laws of profession." The "Catholic pest" must be exterminated:
It was known at about fifteen-and-a-half o'clock that at least seventy volors had left for Rome, and half-an-hour later that Berlin had reinforced them by sixty more. At midnight, fortunately at a time when the police had succeeded in shepherding the crowds into some kind of order, the news was flashed on to cloud and placard alike that the grim work was done, and that Rome had ceased to exist. The early morning papers added a few details, pointing out, of course, the coincidence of the fall with the close of the year, relating how, by an astonishing chance, practically all the heads of the hierarchy throughout the world had been assembled in the Vatican which had been the first object of attack, and how these, in desperation, it was supposed, had refused to leave the City when the news came by wireless telegraphy that the punitive force was on its way. There was not a building left in Rome; the entire place, Leonine City, Trastevere, suburbs - everything was gone; for the volors, poised at an immense height, had parcelled out the City beneath them with extreme care, before beginning to drop the explosives; and five minutes after the first roar from beneath and the first burst of smoke and flying fragments, the thing was finished. The volors had then dispersed in every direction, pursuing the motor and rail-tracks along which the population had attempted to escape so soon as the news was known; and it was supposed that not less than thirty thousand belated fugitives had been annihilated by this foresight. It was true, remarked the Studio, that many treasures of incalculable value had been destroyed, but this was a cheap price to pay for the final and complete extermination of the Catholic pest. "There comes a point," it remarked, "when destruction is the only cure for a vermin-infested house," and it proceeded to observe that now that the Pope with the entire College of Cardinals, all the ex-Royalties of Europe, all the most frantic religionists from the inhabited world who had taken up their abode in the "Holy City" were gone at a stroke, a recrudescence of the superstition was scarcely to be feared elsewhere. Yet care must even now be taken against any relenting. Catholics (if any were left bold enough to attempt it) must no longer be allowed to take any kind of part in the life of any civilised country. So far as messages had come in from other countries, there was but one chorus of approval at what had been done.
One cardinal, however, was absent from Rome and escaped death. Elected Pope, he guides the Catholic remnant to Nazareth with the help of another Cardinal. This sets the scene for the final encounter between Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and His arch-enemies, Antichrist and Satan. In this way, Msgr Benson's quintessentially Catholic Armageddon is an interpretation of the cryptic phrase in Our Lord's discourse on the last things: "Wheresoever the body shall be, thither will the eagles also be gathered together" [Lk 17:36-37]. His denouement also rings true, unlike the nuclear annihilation favoured by Evangelicals (the avoidance of which we should still pray about) or Solovyov's ecumenical vision (entailing an ecumenical council convoked by Antichrist at which all the Christian confessions, bar small groups of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, agree to follow him.)
In Nazareth, the Church portrayed by Benson has been reduced to its primitive beginnings with just twelve bishops and a remnant of the faithful. But what it has lost in quantity, it has gained in quality, for it has recovered its original fervour. A new religious order of men and women, directly under the Holy Father and with a fourth vow to accept martyrdom if offered, very much like St. Louis Marie de Montfort's Apostles of the Latter Times, has gone through the whole world preaching the faith and suffering imprisonment and death. One of the twelve bishops repeats the treachery of Judas, however, and informs Felsenburgh of the location of the Holy Father.
He orders each of the nations in his Empire to send a volor to accompany him to the Holy Land. He will again put aside his pacifism to personally dispatch the Pope and the last remnant of Catholics. The Holy Father knowing of the coming of Antichrist, goes out to meet him, carrying Our Lord in a monstrance, and with the remaining bishops, and the little flock of the faithful. Singing, they begin to process from Nazareth down the Plain of Esdraelon toward the Mount of Megido (Armagedon):
Still singing, the priest saw the veil laid as by a phantom upon the Pontiff's shoulders; there was a movement, a surge of figures - shadows only in the midst of substance,
- and the Pope stood erect, Himself a pallor in the heart of light, with spectral folds of silk dripping from His shoulders, His hands swathed in them, and His down-bent head hidden by the silver-rayed monstrance and that which it bore....
... Qui vitam sine termino
... They were moving now, and the world of life swung with them; of so much was he aware. …At the corner he turned for an instant to see the six pale flames move along a dozen yards behind, as spear-heads about a King, and in the midst the silver rays and the White Heart of God.... Then he was out, and the battle lay in array....
That sky on which he had looked an hour ago had passed from darkness charged with light to light overlaid with darkness - from glimmering night to Wrathful Day - and that light was red....
Verbum caro, panem verum
… until now even at his feet there slid along the ground the shadow of a monstrous bird, pale and undefined, as between the wan sun and himself moved out the vast shape that a moment ago hung above the Hill.... Then again it backed across and waited ...
Et si census deficit
... Then, with a roar, came the thunder again, pealing in circle beyond circle of those tremendous Presences - Thrones and Powers…. - The thunder broke loose, shaking the earth that now cringed on the quivering edge of dissolution....
Tantum ergo sacramentum
... He was coming now, swifter than ever, the heir of temporal ages and the Exile of eternity, the final piteous Prince of rebels, the creature against God, blinder than the sun which paled and the earth that shook; .... He was coming, and the earth, rent once again in its allegiance, shrank and reeled in the agony of divided homage....
... He was coming - and already the shadow swept off the plain and vanished, and the pale netted wings were rising to the cheek; and the great bell clanged, and the long sweet chord rang out - not more than whispers heard across the pealing storm of everlasting praise....
.... Genitori genitoque
And once more
Procedenti ab utroque
Then this world passed, and the glory of it.
"The woman clothed with the sun..."
Just as eliminating the Holy Sacrifice will finally reveal the "man of sin," Benson appears to say, so he and his Satanic master shall be overcome by the fruit of that Sacrifice: the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Similarly, Our Lord chose to share Calvary, His victory over sin and death, with His Immaculate Mother, and so He will conquer the Man of Sin through "the woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" [Apoc. 12]. Indeed, St. Louis de Montfort wrote: "It was through Mary that the salvation of the world was begun, and it is through Mary that it will be consummated." She was the test of the angels at the beginning, she will be the test of all men at the end.
As if to confirm this centrality of the Blessed Virgin to the consummation of the world, we even have pictorial messages from heaven. The miraculous image of Guadalupe shows Our Lady precisely clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet. Her name Guadalupe means in Aztec, "serpent crusher." The apparition of Our Lady at Knock is also a tableau from the Apocalypse, a vision of the Church: the Lamb as it were slain standing on the altar, St. Joseph representing the laity praying, St. John representing the priesthood preaching, and Our Lady offering all up to God. In addition, we have Our Lady of Fatima and the miracle of the sun.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke contain several parables revealing how we must live as faithful Catholics with a view to the reality of Christ's Second Coming on the day of our death! For each one of us the End of the World is that day, which will "come upon you suddenly" [Lk 21:34]. Hence the constant vigilance and care recommended in the parables, such as: reading the signs of the times (the "fig tree"), being ever prepared (the "ten virgins") and making profitable use of our gifts (the parable of the "talents").
But through all and above all, we must stay close to our Heavenly Mother, seeking shelter under her protective mantle. For as Fr Vincent Micelli explains:
Today Mary's war continues to be waged victoriously against the Antichrist and against all who imitate and follow him. But victory over these forces of evil depends on man's fidelity to the Holy Mother and her divine Child. Mary, who was never for an instant a slave of Satan, is doing and will continue to do her prayerfully omnipotent utmost to assure victory over the Serpent-Dragon and his Antichrist. But the peace and joy of that victory will be tasted eternally only by those who never cease to trust and follow her guidance.