According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the Creator made the universe according to the exitus-reditus scheme: creatures left God’s hands (exitus) in order to return to Him (reditus). In the Old Testament, the Lord facilitated this “return” through the covenant with Israel. It was up to the chosen people to respond to this call – particularly by means of the virtue of religion, connected to that of justice, in returning due honour to God. Accordingly, the children of the promise used the most varied forms of psalmody, sacrifices and celebrations for divine praise.
Unfortunately, throughout the ages, there have been various instances of aberrations from the true worship of God, such as the worship of Baal, Moloch and the golden calf, not to mention the rejection of the prophets sent to the people and the subsequent killing of many of them.
The abomination reached even the priestly class. Let us mention only the example of Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who, during the burnt offering, took from the meat offered to God, besides indulging in immorality near the tent of meeting. The Lord promised the death of these “children of Belial” (1 Sm 2:12), announcing: “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind” (1 Sm 2:35).
Historically, this priest is usually identified with Zadok, the first to officiate at the worship of the true God in the Temple of Solomon, but only in Jesus did the priesthood attain perfection: “For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens” (Heb 7:26). Our Lord was constituted as the “mediator between God and men” (1 Tm 2:5), whose Sacraments participate in the above-mentioned “return” to the Creator.
As in the past, throughout the history of the Church, prevarications concerning the due praise of God have continued to abound, largely through promiscuity with paganism. On one occasion, for example, St. Columban found baptized people and pagans sacrificing together to the god Odin. The Council of Tours, in 567, had to condemn the secret worship that some rendered to fountains, trees and stones. And the priesthood did not go unscathed: 10th-century Byzantine Caesaropapism agreed to bless unions based on crime or adultery. Let us also remember that the first of the great revolutions – the Protestant one – came about through an apostate priest: Luther.
Today the Church, as in the time of Zadok and of Christ himself, also needs a purification of religion and of the priesthood. It is noteworthy that Our Lady at Fatima asked for prayers for the clergy, whose infidelity had already been pointed out in her apparition at La Salette. In both messages the importance of divine worship is emphasized.
Moreover, the Blessed Virgin desires a “true devotion”, not one based on hypocrisy and self-interest, as denounced by St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, but on an authentic oblation, that is, on total surrender into her hands and complete detachment from sin. While neo-paganism advances throughout the world – partly due to the inaction of a certain portion of the clergy, preoccupied with “golden calves”, “meat”, “trees” and false blessings – millions of people the world over have consecrated themselves to Mary.
At this juncture, the prayer of the Marian Saint acquires its full meaning: “Lord Jesus, memento congregationis tuæ. Give your Mother this new company so that You may renew all things through Her, and bring the era of grace to a close through Mary just as You began it through Her.” This, then, will be the “great return” of history. ◊