In the second year of the reign of Ahasuerus the Great, on the first day of Nisan, Mordecai the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, had a dream. He was a Jew, dwelling in the city of Susa, a great man, serving in the court of the king. He was one of the captives whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had brought from Jerusalem with Jeconiah king of Judea. And this was his dream: Behold, [the noise of] voices and confusion, thunders and earthquake, tumult upon the earth! And behold, two great dragons came forward, both ready to fight, and they roared terribly. And at their roaring every nation prepared for war, to fight against the nation of the righteous. And behold, a day of darkness and gloom, tribulation and distress, affliction and great tumult upon the earth! And the whole righteous nation was troubled; they feared the evils that threatened them, and were ready to perish. Then they cried to God; and from their cry, as though from a tiny spring, there came a great river, with abundant water; light came, and the sun rose, and the lowly were exalted and consumed those held in honor.
Mordecai saw in this dream what God had determined to do, and after he awoke he had it on his mind and sought all day to understand it in every detail. — Esther 1, The Dream of Mordecai. RSVCE.
From the beginning of human history, two forces have been at war with each other like the two dragons of Mordecai’s dream. Power and Truth have fought a proxy war, using kings, emperors, generals, and armies of all kinds as their pawns on the game-board we call the world. To understand the battle we have to make a distinction. The power that confronts Truth is in reality the power of injustice, lies, deception, and darkness. We will call it the Unjust Power. The Power behind Truth is the power of justice, life, love, and light. We will call it the Just Power. The Unjust Power of Lies and the Just Power of Truth have fought many battles. Each seeks to establish a kingdom on Earth. Their final objective is to conquer the hearts of mankind. There are no neutral forces in this worldwide battle. You, and everyone else, are all soldiers in this fight as the climax of this battle approaches.
Why do we say Truth vs. Power? Because the side of truth claims ownership of the Earth on the grounds of sovereignty. That is God’s side. God made the Earth and it belongs to him rightly. That is the Truth. His enemy however, claims ownership of the Earth on the rights of conquest. With lies and deception he has taken the prize. When the battle ends, the victory will be God’s and then the Earth will belong to Him by both the rights of sovereignty and conquest.
One of the most important skirmishes in this ancient contest between Truth and Unjust Power occurred one Friday in 33 A.D. in Jerusalem. The man who said he was Truth incarnate was nailed to a Roman cross. The Roman Governor, Pontius ordered a sign to be nailed above the condemned man: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.” The sign was written in Latin, Greek and Hebrew: “Yeshua Ha’nazarei W‘melech Ha’yehudim” What was not apparent in the Greek and Latin translations was the acrostic formed by the first letter of each word. It spelled the Tetragrammaton, the Sacred Name of God: YHWH. That was not missed by the enemies of Jesus, who did not want to recognize him as their king. They went to the Roman Governor and demanded that the sign be changed but Pontius was firm: “Quod scripsi, scripsi.” It was written and it was not going to be changed. John 19:17-22.
Unjust Power had maneuvered to win an apparent victory, defeating Truth and Life on Calvary. The secret sign told us otherwise: an all powerful hand had posted His signature on top of the Cross, and even the mighty local representative of Caesar refused to remove it. To those perspicacious enough to see the complete image, the message was clear: “this may seem a defeat to the fools but not to the wise who can see this secret sign.” Unjust Power was not the ultimate power, there was Someone more powerful in charge of the whole scene.
Jesus died and was hastily buried. His disciples were scattered and remained in hiding, filled with fear and shame. Then some women who belonged to the group said they had seen him alive on Sunday morning but no one really believed their word. A group of the disciples decided to leave the city, travelling the road to a town called Emmaus. A battle had taken place there many decades before, between the armies of Gorgias and Judas Maccabeus, as related in 1st Maccabees 4. The disciples were walking away from Jerusalem, approaching Emmaus when someone joined them.
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. Luke 24: 13-35.
How many times Jesus had pointed at the bread he was blessing and told the disciples “this is my body”! Now he had secretly approached them on the road and opened the Scriptures to them about the sufferings of the Messiah. Later at the inn, Jesus had blessed the bread and then he allowed them to recognize him in the breaking of the bread. Thus he revealed to them that his body, broken but living, was the secret sign of his victory over the powers of death and darkness! Exactly at the moment when the eyes of the disciples were opened, Jesus disappeared but the blessed, broken bread remained with them. Surely the disciples remembered the time when David was fleeing for his life and had to eat the bread of presentation, the Todah, the daily offering. They were fleeing also from the powers of death, and were given the blessed bread to eat. Coincidentally the Jewish teachers agree that the Todah is a sign that will remain forever. When they returned to Jerusalem, the news were making the Church glad in that first Resurrection Sunday. See Matthew 12:3-5
And [Jesus] said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.” Mark 4:11-12.
The meaning of the signs is opened to the eyes of the Church. That is itself a sign. It is the secret proof that Jesus is among us even in times of desolation.
Early in the 4th century a pagan Roman general, Constantine, was preparing to battle his enemies when he was given a sign.
The story, or a story, of what happened was told by Eusebius of Caesarea, a Christian biblical scholar and historian who wrote the first biography of Constantine soon after the emperor’s death. He knew Constantine well and said he had the story from the emperor himself. Constantine was a pagan monotheist, a devotee of the sun god Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun. However before the Milvian Bridge battle he and his army saw a cross of light in the sky above the sun with words in Greek that are generally translated into Latin as In hoc signo vinces (‘In this sign conquer’). That night Constantine had a dream in which Christ told him he should use the sign of the cross against his enemies. He was so impressed that he had the Christian symbol marked on his soldiers’ shields and when the Milvian Bridge battle gave him an overwhelming victory he attributed it to the god of the Christians. — History Today.
Constantine was a monotheistic pagan. He worshiped the Sun Invincible but now he was about to fight for Christ and later, he went on to liberate the Church after four centuries of persecutions. He was looking up to the sky when a sign appeared above the Sun. It was the Chi-rho, the ancient Christian symbol we see today on Catholic altars and buildings.
The meaning came to him later in a dream. Christ appeared to Constantine and told him to paint the Chi-rho on his soldiers shields. The future Emperor of Rome did that and history was changed forever. Constantine marched certain of a victory over his enemy. Even a pagan can have faith in Christ! One more time, a secret sign gave witness that the forces of Truth were advancing to complete their victory. (Psalm 110)
Keep all of it in mind please, while we jump 2,000 years into the future and contemplate today’s events. Do not forget the lesson: these apparent defeats are always accompanied by a secret sign that we can see only with the eyes of faith, a sign that the world outside cannot see nor understand. When you see that sign, you are safe.
Many in the Church were shaken by these recent news. [Please see also the video: The World Over, Edition of February 15, 2018.]
In a move that has upset many in the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican asked two “underground” bishops in China to surrender their positions to individuals approved by the country’s authoritarian government, including one the Vatican had excommunicated, a cardinal who traveled to Rome said on Monday. Asia Pacific: Vatican, Eager for China Ties, Asks ‘Underground’ Bishops to Step Aside, article by Ian Johnson. January 29, 2018.
A strange thing is happening here. The Church appears to be leaving the selection of her own bishops in the hands of one of the most oppressive regimes on Earth. Curiously enough that country is often symbolized as a dragon. Many are wondering what is going on and I am no exception. The news reminded me of the words of Fr Leonardo Castellani, written many decades ago in the mid 20th century. Here is a powerful insight on the days of desolation that will come when we join Jesus in the wilderness, during the Church’s last Lent.
“Assisted by the Holy Ghost, the Church obstructs its manifestation and reduces it, grounded on the human order that the Roman Empire organized in one political and legal body; but a day will come when we’ll arrive to the end of that age, and when that happens, the Obstacle shall be removed. Perhaps the Holy Ghost will then abandon that historical social body, called Christendom, carrying with it the elect to the most absolute solitude, giving it two wings of a great eagle that they might fly into the wilderness. And then the Church’s temporal structure will be Antichrist’s prey, and will fornicate with the kings of the earth, or at least with most of them, as has happened before, and the abomination of desolation shall stand in the holy place.” Is Christ ever coming back? by Fr Leonardo Castellani.
Where is the sign this time? I think I see it. We know that the Holy Spirit is supposed to name the Bishops of the Church, not some political regime, not the Roman Empire, not the King of England, not the Communist Party. When Jesus disappeared at the inn of Emmaus, he left the blessed bread on the table. It was the first Resurrection Sunday of the Church. It stands to reason that if the consecrated bread was to disappear from the altars of the Church, the opposite would happen: Jesus will reappear in the world, returning in glory because he has promised to remain with us until the end. Sending God on lay-off and allowing someone else to name the Bishops of the Church may also be a sign that a new spectacular appearance of the Holy Spirit may be around the corner. Remember the prophetic words of St John Bosco:
“There shall yet come a violent hurricane. Iniquity is at an end, sin shall cease, and before two full moons shall have shone in the month of flowers, the rainbow of peace shall appear on earth … Throughout the world a sun so bright shall shine as never seen since the flames of the Cenacle until today, nor shall it be seen again until the end of time.”
I am not in possession of any special or secret knowledge. Yet I am expecting that sign, a secret wink of God to let us know that He is still in charge (who doubts it!) The battle rages around us. The world seems to have gone mad as darkness envelops us from all sides but we have his comforting words:
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32.
Please remember to pray for (and if possible donate to) this ministry during Lent season.