That Which is to be Completed Must be Destroyed

Pentecost 26 Monday

Luke 21:25-26

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars; and on earth, people will be afraid, and they will despair; and the sea and the waters will roar. And the people will faint with fear and with foreboding of the things that are to come on earth; for even the powers of heaven will move.”

The distress, despair, and cries of the people are indicated here. Yet the word “despair” is applied to the people, not to the roaring of the sea and the rivers. For Christ wants to indicate the despair, fear, and despondency the peoples will endure in their soul when they will be in anxiety and distress, as if he wanted to say: “The peoples on earth are plagued and terrified by fear in their souls, be it out of fear of the signs or out of fear in the evil conscience.” And I am very concerned that this evil might already be on earth in some places. For we should not think that all peoples will experience this; otherwise, there would be no one laughing off these signs, since there will be such people, as we have said. For there are many people who are tortured by such fear and foreboding and go almost insane. Then, the roaring of
the sea and the rivers and the people will faint, as Erasmus explains it. Not that all people will faint, but only some who will be a sign to others who bear the present punishment of their sins and testify that others will undergo the same. We cannot actually say what the roaring of the sea and of the rivers will be; for we are no prophets…Some refer the powers of heaven to the angels; but it is better that we understand this in the simple meaning concerning the visible heavens, namely, that there will not only be earthquakes and a roaring of the sea and of the rivers, but also a confusion of the air and a disintegration of the heavens and the upper elements. St. Gregorius writes here: “Since everything is to be completed, everything has to be destroyed before the end of the world: The people by war and uprisings; the earth by earthquakes; the waters by roaring; the air by pestilence; the sun and moon by darkness; the stars by falling; and likewise the heavens by their movement.” For these signs are to be visible and noticeable. How else would they be signs? For the angels are not visible; this is why we understand the visible heavens here. Yet experience must teach how their movement will be like. Note that Christ does not simply say “heavens,” but powers of heaven, according to the custom of
Scripture: We read in Genesis 1:7 that heaven is called “firmament.” This is why firmness, power, and ability are attributed to heaven. And the powers of heaven is said in the manner of the Hebrew language, that is, the firm or mighty heavens. The heavens are the power of the world without which the world would be chaos and eternal darkness. For everything that takes place and is done in the world is done by movement and light, that is, by the government of the heavens, just like, among men, those who rule others are called mighty and powerful, because their subjects are ruled by their command and will.

St. Louis ed., 13.1:1008-1010.

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