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Some five years ago Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, as he was confirmed Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, stated that reception of Holy Communion according to the Church’s ancient tradition, kneeling and on the tongue should be encouraged. When asked if this were simply a question of external form, he replied that “it is not just a matter of form,” and went on to discuss the “profound meaning” of a man kneeling before God in adoration.

At the time of his statement, many believed that his concluding words on the subject may have pointed to an alteration in the Church’s current discipline for the novus ordo Mass: “What we have to grasp is that profound attitude of the man who prostrates himself before God, and that is what the Pope wants. (Emphasis mine.) Although Vatican prefects don’t generally say something is “what the Pope wants” unless they are really speaking for the Man in White himself, Pope Benedict at the time. That Canizares Llovera has earned for himself the name he Ratzingerino — the “Little Ratzinger” — is a sign of his like-mindedness with the Pope Emeritus, who was said to be amused by the sobriquet.

Several years on, since the statements above, we continue to witness worldwide triviality of Catholics while receiving Holy Communion. It makes one wonder whether there is an intrinsic problem with the way Catechism has been taught since the II Vatican council. That is, are Catholics still being taught to appreciate that Holy Communion really is the Presence of the Lord at Mass? If so, it is rather puzzling to verify that although most would not hesitate to prostrate before God should anyone be blessed with a ‘burning bush’ like encounter, most Catholics are reluctant to solemnly kneel at communion.

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The excerpt below was taken from a truly wonderful book I found online on EWTN's website.
I recommend it to all who want to learn what the Catholic Church teaches on marital sexual
relationship, birth-control,etc and why.
  

Contraception is commonly called birth-control; an unfortunate term, since birth-control as such obviously is a reasonable and necessary thing. Catholics would be the last to deny that the human reason should control as far as possible such an important matter as the coming of new life into the world, with its added responsibilities to the parents. In point of fact, the very institution of marriage is a method of birth-control, since it limits procreation to those conditions in which a child will be cared for. Married people are called upon to be unselfish and generous, sometimes even heroic. A child must be regarded as more important than the refinements and luxuries of a social class. But they are not bound to have a child, or children, if reasonable chances of proper education and upbringing are lacking. The health and reasonable comfort of the mother require the spacing of births at intervals to be sanely and sensibly decided, though for the sake of the children themselves there should not be too great a difference between their ages. Clearly procreation cannot be undertaken without thought and control; trust in Providence does not mean banking on a very doubtful future. Let this be made quite clear. The Catholic Church is not opposed to rational birth-control as an end. Catholics, of course, do not agree with the propaganda for birth-control based on the difficulties of present social and economic conditions. Blessings should not be surrendered when the causes making them difficult can be changed. It should be intolerable that in a world of plenty many parents are unable to have as many children as they would like and could have, were the social structure not so unjust. Nor can Catholics admit the disinclination to have children because they are tiresome and worrying. Marriage is not a perpetual honeymoon, but a serious responsibility, and none the less happy for that. The Catholic Church’s condemnation is directed at the means employed for birth-control. What is opposed is not birth-control or the regulation of births, but certain methods of ensuring this. They are generally without qualification called birth control, but more accurately they should be classed under the term of contraception. They consist in altering or interfering with the natural character of sex-intercourse, or its antecedent or consequent processes. They are species of injustice or of impurity: of injustice when the family and social quality of sex is affected; of impurity when the sex impulse itself is disorganized. All wrongful methods of birth-control fall under these heads. Unjust methods may be reduced to sterilization and abortion, impure methods to onanism. (See Fig. 2.) UNJUST MEANS Our bodies are not our own to do with just as we will, they belong completely to God alone who made them; we must take reasonable care of them and administer them according to their nature. As we may not destroy our bodies by suicide, so we may not mutilate them or deprive them of an essential function, unless it be for the health of the body itself, when the part must be removed for the sake of the whole. Leaving aside the question of punitive and curative operations, the Catholic Church teaches that it is unlawful directly to deprive oneself of a bodily power. Thus all methods of eugenic sterilization are ruled out. They include surgical operations on the male or female designed primarily to prevent their having fruitful intercourse; also all mechanical or chemical methods of sterilizing the female for a period. Birth may be prevented after conception by chemical or mechanical or surgical methods, all of which come under the head of injustice when the taking of life is directly intended. Either they go so far as to murder the child in the womb (and without baptism) or they destroy a living thing that is becoming a human being. The unlawfulness of the operation is intensified by the fact that, for all we know, an immortal soul may be present from the moment of conception or soon after. The direct destruction of a fetus is the sin of abortion. IMPURE MEANS Impure methods of birth-control, or those that alter the nature of the sex act itself, are classed under the sin of onanism. Before considering this attempt to secure sex satisfaction without proper intercourse, let us return to the distinction of deed and motive. Two aspects must be separately considered, sex intercourse itself, which is the means, and the generation of a child, which is an end. Two aspects in the action of the married couple correspond to this distinction, namely their deed and their motives respectively. First as regards motives. If a couple decide against the birth of a child at a given time, the rightness or wrongness of their decision must be tested by the question: ought they to try to have a child then? If their decision springs from timidity, selfishness, love of ease and so on, then it is wrong, whatever the means they adopt in carrying it into effect. If the reasons against the birth of a child outweigh those in favour, if they are prudent in a Christian sense, then their decision is just. Up to the present it all hinges on the motives of the man and woman. In the first case, the motives are unworthy; in the second case, they are worthy. The question now narrows down to the nature of the means adopted. The couple may decide to abstain from intercourse. This means is not bad in itself; the moral colouring comes from the motives; bad in the first case, good in the second case. But complete abstinence from intercourse is not easy, nor is it honestly desirable in some cases from a Christian point of view. It is natural that a man and woman living together should strongly desire one another’s bodies, and though grace is always sufficient for proper self-control it does not blanket lawful desire, and the marriage act may be necessary for the real happiness of their lives together. Here is the real problem of contraception. How is it possible to combine the reasonable avoidance of pregnancy with the reasonable exercise of sex relations? The case of really selfish married people may be dismissed. We are concerned with those who decided against a child, not for unworthy motives, but because they feel they are not in a position to have one, for such reasons as ill- health or poverty. Quite decently they feel the need of intercourse. The rightness or wrongness of what they do turns on the means they adopt. If they commit onanism, then the Church judges that they do something wrong in itself, a bad kind of action, leaving aside the question of motives. It may be an act of self-indulgence, it may be an attempt to express human love. In either case, the means is wrong. The noblest end does not justify a bad means. Onanism is that action between the bodies of a man and woman which goes as closely as it can to proper sex union while at the same time attempting to prevent the joining of the male seed and the female ovum from which new human life begins. In old- fashioned onanism the act starts properly, but the man withdraws before his seed can enter the woman’s body. Modern research has invented methods by which the man can remain united to the woman, but his seed is either sterilized or prevented from joining the ovum. By this fact, the natural union of man and woman is not secured, and the climax of sex pleasure is reached without the appropriate act. They do not delight in one another as they really are, they do not commit themselves in confidence and happiness to sex as God has made it. The intercourse is bogus. They are not joined together immediately as man and woman, for an instrument or chemical interposes and destroys the life-giving character of the action. They have contrived to alter the situation and so use their sex powers in an act which is not the generative act of sex intercourse, but the reverse. The attempt to secure sex satisfaction without the complete sex act disorganizes the rational and natural arrangement of powers to their proper ends, the proper purpose of sex powers being the life-offering action of intercourse. With respect to the deed, there is little essential difference between contraceptive intercourse and mutual masturbation, though admittedly the surrounding psychological circumstances make for a different situation. Married people who use contraceptives may love one another decently and humanly apart from this, but whether they use them with an easy or uneasy conscience, the nature of the action in itself is not altered. According to Catholic teaching, moral standards do not entirely depend on individual judgement, and motives need not be considered for a kind of action to be condemned. Contraception is wrong in itself, and no motive can justify it; and it is gravely wrong, because of the importance of the action which is spoilt. It is worth noting that this attitude is not based principally on Revelation or on the supernatural authority of the Church. It is a matter of natural law. An instinctive repugnance to contraception which still exists is an echo of the case against it which can be worked out on purely rational grounds without appealing to doctrinal authority. There are also secondary, though considerable, arguments against contraception. It offers the occasion of sexual indiscipline; it can be responsible for serious bodily and mental disorders; it makes acquiescence easier in unjust social conditions; it is prejudicial to national life. Yet the problem remains unsolved of what is to be done when at the same time there are true and good reasons both against pregnancy and for sex-intercourse. We must go back and stress the necessity of making marriage a relationship of human friendship depending chiefly on the characters of the two persons, who enter the state to share their human lives together, to strengthen one another, to build up their characters together. Their lore is supported by the sacrament, which gives grace to all who try to live up to the ideal it sets. The couple, whether they are in a position to have a numerous family or whether they are not, must love one another with a love stronger and deeper than passion. But it is easier to preach than to practise. There are not a few cases when children cannot be welcomed and at the same time mutual love must be expressed through intercourse. It is possible that recent research has discovered a partial remedy, a providential arrangement existing for the benefit of such cases.

For the full work, please visit EWTN’s page here

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Faint they may be one by one, but at least they are various, and are drawn from many times and countries, and thereby serve to illustrate each other, and form a body of proof. Thus St. Clement, in the name of the Church of Rome, writes a letter to the Corinthians, when they were without a bishop; St. Ignatius of Antioch addresses the Roman Church, and it only out of the Churches to which he writes, as “the Church which has the first seat in the place of the country of the Romans;” St. Polycarp of Smyrna betakes himself to the Bishop of Rome on the question of Easter; the heretic Marcion, excommunicated in Pontus, betakes himself to Rome; Soter, Bishop of Rome, sends alms, according to the custom of his Church, to the Churches throughout the empire, and, in the words of Eusebius, “affectionately exhorted those who came to Rome, as a father his children;” the Montanists from Phrygia come to Rome to gain the countenance of its Bishop; Praxeas, from Africa, attempts the like, and for a while is successful; St. Victor, Bishop of Rome, threatens to excommunicate the Asian Churches; St. Irenaeus speaks of Rome as “the greatest Church, the most ancient, the most consplicuous, and founded and established by Peter and Paul,” appeals to its tradition, not in contrast indeed, but in preference to that of other Churches, and declares that  “in this Church, every Church, that is, the faithful from every side must meet” or ” agree together, propter potiorem principalitatem.”

“O Church, happy in its position,” says Tertullian, “into which the Apostles poured out, together with their blood, their whole doctrine.” The presbyters of St. Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, complain of his doctrine to St. Dionysius of Rome; the latter expostulates with him, and he explains.

The Emperor Aurelian leaves  “to the Bishops of Italy and of Rome” the decision, whether or not Paul of Samosata shall be dispossessed of the see-house at Antioch; St. Cyprian speaks of Rome as  “the See of Peter and the principal Church, whence the unity of the priesthood took its rise, . . whose faith has been commended by the Apostles, to whom faithlessness can have no access;”

St. Stephen refuses to receive St. Cyprian’s deputation, and separates himself from various Churches of the East; Fortunatus and Felix, deposed by St. Cyprian, have recourse to Rome; Basilides, deposed in Spain, betakes himself to Rome, and gains the ear of St. Stephen. Whatever objections may be made to this or that particular fact, and I do not think any valid ones can be raised, still, on the whole, I consider that a cumulative argument…that the writers of the fourth and fifth centuries fearlessly assert, or frankly allow, that the prerogatives of Roman were derived from apostolic times, and that because it was the See of Saint Peter.

St Augustine: “Many Things Keep Me in the Catholic Church”

For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the knowledge of which a few spiritual, men attain in this life, so as to know it, in the scantiest measure, indeed, because they are but men, still without any uncertainty (since the rest of the multitude derive their entire security not from acuteness of intellect, but from simplicity of faith) – not to speak of this wisdom, which you do not believe to be in the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should, though from the slowness of our understanding, or the small attainment of our life, the truth may not yet fully disclose itself. But with you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me, the promise of truth is the only thing that comes into play. Now if the truth is so clearly proved as to leave no possibility of doubt, it must be set before all the things that keep me in the Catholic Church; but if there is only a promise without any fulfillment, no one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion.

St. Augustine [A.D. 354-430]

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No, it is not true. Protestants have as their sole rule of faith the written Word of God, which we find in Sacred Scripture. The Catholic Church has as its sole rule of faith, the entire Word of God, as it is found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

All of the Word of God was at one time passed on orally: Sacred Tradition. Eventually, some of Sacred Tradition was written down; this became Sacred Scripture, which is written tradition. However, Scripture itself tells us that not all of the things that Jesus said and did were written down. And listen to what Paul says about “tradition”:

2 Thes 2:15, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” Traditions! Traditions taught by word of mouth, in other words, oral tradition, and traditions taught by letter. Traditions which they are being told to “stand firm and hold to”. Sacred Scripture and Tradition do not contradict themselves, but complement each other.

1 Cor 11:2, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” The Corinthians are being commended by Paul because they maintain the traditions that he passed on to them. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

2 Tim 2:2: “and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” What we have here in 2 Timothy is an instance, in Scripture, of Paul commanding the passing on of oral tradition.

1 Thes 2:13, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers.” So, they received as the Word of God that which they heard, not simply that which they read in Scripture.

In other words, the Bible clearly supports the Catholic Church’s teaching that the Word of God is contained in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

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We praise Thee, O God: we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship Thee and the Father everlasting.
To Thee all Angels:
to Thee the heavens and all the Powers therein.
To Thee the Cherubim and Seraphim cry with unceasing voice:
Holy, Holy, Holy: Lord God of Hosts.
The heavens and the earth are full of the majesty of Thy glory.
Thee the glorious choir of the Apostles.
Thee the admirable company of the Prophets.
Thee the white-robed army of Martyrs praise.
Thee the Holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge.
The Father of infinite Majesty.
Thine adorable, true and only Son
Also the Holy Ghost the Paraclete.
Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
Thou having taken upon Thee to deliver man
didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
Thou having overcome the sting of death
didst open to believers the kingdom of heaven.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God
in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge.
We beseech Thee, therefore, help Thy servants:
whom Thou has redeemed with Thy precious Blood.
Make them to be numbered with Thy Saints in glory everlasting.
Lord, save Thy people:
and bless Thine inheritance.
Govern them and lift them up forever.
Day by day we bless Thee.
And we praise Thy name forever:
and world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, this day to keep us without sin.
Have mercy on us, O Lord: have mercy on us.
Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us:
as we have hoped in Thee.
O Lord, in Thee have I hoped:
let me never be confounded.

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“Jesus answered and said to him: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith to him: How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born again? Jesus answered: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3-5 ) 

Although the Scripture does not make any explicitly command for infant baptism, it does make various references to it through a number of passages. The most notorious ones are those that state that new converts would be baptized with their entire household (Acts 16:15, 33; Acts 10:47-48) as a means of receiving God’s Grace. Because in Biblical times most households would include not only adults, but also children and even slaves, Catholics accept these passages as evidence for infant baptism. 

The Ritual of Baptism

Furthermore, because the Scriptures do say that baptism ‘washes our sins’ (Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21, Heb. 10:22-23 & others),  Catholic children and infants are baptized so that they can be washed clean of the stain of original sin. After the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden, all people are now born with original sin due to our fallen human nature. Through the gift of grace in Baptism, God washes away this stain of original sin and makes us a part of His family and offer us eternal life. 

Psalm 51:5 – we are conceived in the iniquity of sin.  Job 14:1-4 – man that is born of woman is full of trouble and unclean.

However, Catholics believe that our loving Father would not wish to withhold His love and grace from anyone, including children. Baptism simply requires openness. Jesus said about children: 

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mtt 19:14, Mark 10:14 or Matt. 18:2-5) 

The Greek text of the scriptural passage in Acts 2:38, says: “Metanoesate kai bapistheto hekastos hymon.” The translation of this is: 

“If you repent, then each one who is a part of you and yours must each be baptized”. 

In stating ‘each one who is part of you’, this passage is actually saying that children, who are part of their parents, must be baptized as well as their parents. 

This teaching is echoed by the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:39. 

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your *children (*teknon in Greek – which means infants, as the same word is used to describe eight-day old infants in Acts 21:21) and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 

St Paul makes reference to baptism as the ‘new circumcision’ of believers in Christ: 

In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12) 

Can a Child make an act of faith?

It is frequently asked by non-catholics how an infant is capable of making an act of faith in order to receive baptism. The response of the Catholic Church is to follow the Biblical example of Christ. Jesus accepted the faith of others as an occasion of salvation, forgiveness and healing of another. The Church has always done likewise. In infant baptism, the faith of parents and sponsors is required.

Mk 2:1-5 When Jesus returned to Capernaum … They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

Mt 8:5-13 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” … When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” … And Jesus said to the centurion, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.” And at that very hour (his) servant was healed.

When we put all these pieces together it becomes clear that infant baptism is not a non-biblical ‘tradition’ Catholics adopted, but a teaching  accepted by the apostles of Jesus Christ themselves. The Scriptural evidence for the Catholic understanding is perfectly confirmed in the writings of the early Christians, for instance in this text by Origen: 

“The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of given baptism even to infants. For the apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which are washed away through water and the Spirit.” (Origen, 248 AD – Commentaries on Romans 5:9)

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I have always been fascinated by languages, and this interest has led me to  become a  fluent speaker of various languages. Unfortunately, I do not speak Greek, but if I did it would had been extremely useful in case I ever decided to embark  on writing a linguistic essay on Matthew 16:18.  I am glad other people do speak it and  have done just that! 

However, even though I do not speak Greek, being proficient in other languages helps me to have a rather good understanding of some common grammatical possibilities that many European languages allow.  As an introduction to this post, let me use a hypothetical situation to illustrate a grammatical peculiarity that some languages have, which doesn’t exist in English.

Imagine I wanted to name a male child ‘Rock’, say in Portuguese; I would have to name him Pedra, which is the word for rock in that language. However, such choise of word would sound  odd in Portuguese, considering that the word Pedra is a feminine noun in Portuguese and, therefore,  unsuitable for a male child. To make a simple analogy,  it would be like calling a boy “Rockina”  in English.

Therefore,  the logical thing to do would be to change the  feminine ending  ‘a’ in Pedra  for a masculine one: ‘o’. This would result into a new word: Pedro, which in effect would become a proper name, derived from the root word pedra, stone or rock in Portuguese.

Similarly, this is how I look at the exegetical examination of the noun ‘petra‘ in Greek in Matthew 16:18, which was transformed into a proper name Petros. Here is an explanation by a renowned scholar, B. Brunette:

kaiV ejpiV tauvth// th’/ pevtra/- ‘upon this rock’: The kaiv merely serves as a connective conjunction, so it should simply be translated as “and.” When used with the dative, ejpiv can be understood in a spatial, temporal, or causal sense.72 Here, a spatial understanding works best, and the word may be understood as “on, upon”.73 The object of ejpiv should be understood as pevtra.

The tauvth (“this”) also refers to pevtra. The use of the article th/’ with the demonstrative pronoun tauvth, which is in the predicate position, indicates attributive function.74 So, the phrase may be translated as such: “and upon this rock.” The word pevtra means “rock, stone”; literally, it refers to the rock out of which a tomb is hewn.75 According to Cullman, in the LXX, pevtra can be used to signify the following: a. “rock or cliff” (Exod 17:6; Ps 80:16); b. place-name or geographical note, (1 Βar 23:28); c. fig. (Isa 8:14), of an unbending character (Isa 50:7) or the hardened mind (Jer 5:3); d. occasionally a name for God (2 Βar 22:2).76 The word occurs fifteen times in the New Testament77; nine of those fifteen occurrences are in the Gospels78; five of the fifteen are in Matthew.79 Only in Matt 16:18 are pevtra and Pevtro” used in the same verse.

While the argument from Aramaic would work well in proving that the pevtra in question is Peter, it is not certain that Jesus spoke Aramaic here.80 Given the possibility that Jesus may have spoken Greek here, and given the fact that Matthew’s verses are in the Greek, one might do well to stick to a Greek understanding of the pevtra-Pevtro” word-play. If this is done, a wide variety of interpretations may be obtained. Gundry, for example, argues that the pevtra is the teachings of Jesus. He argues that Matthew essentially quotes 7:24, so the pevtra consists of Jesus’ teaching (i.e., the law of Christ).81

Scholars such as Keener, Carson, and Ridderbos argue that the pevtra is Peter. Against Caragounis, Ridderbos argues that the difference between pevtra and Pevtro” is rather insignificant. He asserts:

The explanation for the change from petros (“Peter”) to petra is that petra was the normal word for “rock.” Because the feminine ending of this noun made it unsuitable as a man’s name, however, Simon was not called petra but Petros. The word Petros was not an exact synonym of petra, as it literally meant “stone.” Jesus therefore had to switch to the word petra when He turned from Peter’s name to what it meant for the church. There is no good reason to think that Jesus switched from petros to petra to show that he was not speaking of the man Peter but of his confession as the foundation of the church. The words “on this rock [petra]” indeed refer to Peter. Because of the revelation that he had received and the confession that it motivated in him, Peter was appointed by Jesus to lay the foundation of the future church. Only Peter is mentioned in this verse, and the pun on his name of course applied to him alone.91

Cullman agrees with Ridderbos’ assessment. He also maintains that since the word pevtra is feminine in the Greek and has a feminine ending (-a), the New Testament chose a less usual Greek word which had the masculine ending (-o”) for the apostle: Pevtro”.92 Cullman goes on to state that there is no essential difference between pevtra and Pevtro“, for even though pevtra denoted a “live rock” and Pevtro” meant a “detached stone,” the distinction was not strictly observed.93 In several instances, pevtra is used with the meaning “piece of rock” or “stone.”94

Exegetically, it seems least probable that Jesus is referring to himself as the pevtra. Carson maintains that if Matthew wanted to say no more than that Peter was the stone while Jesus was the rock, then the more common word to use would have been lithos (which denotes a “stone” of almost any size) and no pun would have existed.95 It is true that there are numerous instances of God the Father being described as “rock” in the OT  and Jesus being described as “rock” or “foundation” in the NT (1 Cor 3:11, 10:4); however, that does not necessarily mean that Jesus is referring to himself (or the Father) as the “rock” of Matt 16:18.96 As a chapter, Matthew 16 does concentrate heavily on the theme of Jesus’ identity, but vv. 17-19 seem to focus particularly on Peter and his statements regarding Jesus’ identity. Therefore, it would seem likely that the pevtra of v. 18 either refers to the man or to his confession of faith.

In all of the Synoptic Gospels, Peter is named first in the lists of the apostles (Matt 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16); the same is true for the book of Acts (see 1:13). Peter, along with James and John, is included among the innermost circle of Jesus’ apostles; even among this band, though, Peter is listed first (Matt 17: 1-8; 26:37; Mark 5: 37; 9:2-8; Luke 9: 28-26; 13:3). Peter asks questions for the disciples (15:15: 18:21), and on one occasion, outsiders addressed him instead of Jesus (17:24).115 It is Peter who is the leading character in the story of the miraculous catch (Luke 5: 1-11).116 It is Peter who tries to imitate Jesus by walking on water (Matt 14:28).117 It is Peter who is called “blessed” for confessing that Jesus is the Christ (Matt 16:17), and it is Peter who is reprimanded for rebuking Jesus when the latter spoke of his impending death (Matt 16:23). It is Peter who cuts off Malchus’ ear in order to defend Jesus (John 18:10); it is Peter who is rebuked for doing so (John 18:11). It is Peter who denies Jesus three times (Matt 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:55-62; John 18:16-18, 25-27); it is Peter who receives a special commission from the post-resurrected Jesus (John 21:15-18). The occurrence of phrases such as “Peter and those who were with him” (see Mark 1:36 and Luke 9:32) is worth noting.118 On the morning of the resurrection, even the angel singled out Peter by saying: “Go and tell the disciples and Peter” that Jesus had risen from the dead. All four of the gospel writers, then, seem to attribute a unique position to Peter.119

Peter is also featured prominently in the first half of Acts. He guides the process of choosing Matthias as a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15-26); he functions as a preacher within the Jerusalem Church and as a missionary to those who are outside (Acts 2:14-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43); he is a miracle worker and (as in the case of Paul) some of his miracles resemble that of Jesus (Acts 3:1-10; 5:1-11, 15; 9:32-42); he is the object of divine care and receives visionary or heavenly guidance (Acts 5:17-21; 10:9-48; 12:6-11); and he is a spokesperson for the Jerusalem community (Acts 8:14-25; 11:1-18; 15:7-11).120 Despite the fact that it is James who becomes the leader of the Jerusalem Church, he is not consistently singled out like Simon Peter. Even with James’ eminent position in Jerusalem, it appears that Peter was the leader of the “apostolic band” that is, of the Twelve. It should also be noted that James’ rise in the Jerusalem Church did not occur until after Peter began his missionary work.121 Whether the interactions were positive or negative, it appears that Peter became a central apostolic figure because of his close and unique relationship to Jesus.122 Even though the position has its weaknesses, the interpretation of pevtra as Peter the apostle still seems most likely.

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Christ inaugurated the New Covenant to fulfill the Scriptures. The decision of  the Apostles to institute a new Sabbath lines up with what Christ taught them. Thus, the Catholic Church  must be loyal to this Tradition otherwise she would not be Apostolic.

Therefore, do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food or drink or observing festivals, new moons or Sabbaths.  These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Col 2: 16-17)

But to answer this question we first must remember the authority given to the Apostles by Jesus, because it was the early church led by the apostles that first consecrated the first day of the week, Sunday, also known as the Lord’s Day, as the day of worship of the early Christians.

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18).

Through the authority given to the Apostles, the early Christians consecrated the First day of the week, Sunday, to the Lord. Hence, the first day of the week became the Lord’s Day and the New Sabbath, when Worship  and celebrations of Christ’s life and Resurrection would take place. This fact is reflected in many Latin languages in which the terms for Sunday come from the Latin Expression Dies Domini or the Day of the Lord, as opposed to ‘the day of the Sun’  as in English.

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying…” (Rev1:10)

It is important to note that Jesus’ Resurrection and His subsequent appearances to the gathered apostles happened on the first day of the week, Sunday. In fact, the Scriptures do not record any appearances on the Sabbath after the Resurrection (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2 & 9, Luke 24:1, John 20:1 & 19). Rather, Jesus appeared to his disciples when they were gathered together to pray and worship.

[…] And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Mk 16: 8

There are various scriptural evidence that the early Church celebrated the Eucharist (the Breaking of the Bread), listened to preaching and even took up collections for the church at their gatherings on Sunday, first day of the week. Here are some examples from the New Testament:

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:7)

On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that contributions need not be made when I come. (1 Cor. 16:2)

We also see that the Apostles and other disciples gathered for prayer and worship on the first day of the week when the Holy Spirit fell upon them on the feast of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover Sabbath (Acts 2:1).

Some people may argue that the ‘Breaking of the Bread’ was just a regular meal often shared amongst the Jews of the scriptures, and not a memorial celebration of the Last Supper, as commanded by Jesus Himself: ‘Do this in remembrance of me‘ (1Cor 11:24). But such view can  be easily dismissed when various passages  are interpreted together. We also need to consider that Jesus not only commanded to the apostles to do it in His memory, but he also promised that “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again”. (1Cor 11:26).

Thus, the Scriptures say that ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer’. (Acts 2: 40). The Bible also provides some striking evidence that the apostles, as well as the early Christians, considered the celebration of the breaking of the bread to be a true participation in the blood and body of Christ.

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. (1Cor 10: 14-17).

The breaking of the bread was not a ’regular’ meal shared by the congregation. St. Paul was careful enough to give directions to the first Christians on how to approach the Lord’s Supper and warned them about the judgement that those who participated in it unworthily would receive.

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, because as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! (1 Cor. 11:17-22)

“Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:27).

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