'To the angel Kamael that guides the congregation of Scorpio, write:'
So says your boss, He who has the seven spirits of Yahweh and the seven stars:
'I know you inside and out, always have, and I love you even though you are the walking dead.
'Look around you!! You don't even realize what has happened to you!! You don't even see what has become of the bright, sharply sweet, incisive and altruistic person I used to know. You were really Something then!!
'Go back and think about who you were, who you really were inside, when we first met; look at yourself now. You just don't see anymore and your best gift has always been perception. You were made to be the bellwether, the watchmen, the prophets and alarms.
'Yet now you are overcome with surprise when you occasionally find Me in your midst. You didn't see Me come in.
'There are still a few who have not slept for a week in their street clothes, or who are still in their pajamas at 3 in the afternoon.
'Those who keep watch and see it coming will be ready, dressed in colors to match their pure hearts, whose names will be written in the stars forever, whose names will be called out loud by Me for the whole of creation to hear.
'Say these things to ALL the churches.'
Jesus Christ wrote this letter to the angel Camael, known as Mars, who presides over the congregation of Scorpio, exemplified by the church in the city of Sardis.
The news is not good, and hardly shocking; this church is spiritually dead. A scant few, a remnant, have remained faithful, in an ambiance that glorifies violence, gore, and indignity. The rare good deeds which are done are not complete in the sight of God; this should sound a warning to us that is very real! Unless we awaken from our worldly obsessions, we are warned that we will miss the signs of His coming, and He will come upon us like a thief in the night!
We will walk with Jesus and be acknowledged as belonging to Him when we turn to Him, He promises. He reminds us that Jesus Himself is the Good Shepherd, confessed by His own lips: 'I AM the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.' John 10:11.
Good news to all!
Penance is a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in which forgiveness of sins committed after baptism is granted through the priest's absolution to those who with true sorrow confess their sins and promise to satisfy for the same. It is called a "sacrament" not simply a function or ceremony, because it is an outward sign instituted by Christ to impart grace to the soul. As an outward sign it comprises the actions of the penitent in presenting himself to the priest and accusing himself of his sins, and the actions of the priest in pronouncing absolution and imposing satisfaction. This whole procedure is usually called, from one of its parts, "confession", and it is said to take place in the "tribunal of penance", because it is a judicial process in which the penitent is at once the accuser, the person accused, and the witness, while the priest pronounces judgment and sentence. The grace conferred is deliverance from the guilt of sin and, in the case of mortal sin, from its eternal punishment; hence also reconciliation with God, justification. Finally, the confession is made not in the secrecy of the penitent's heart nor to a layman as friend and advocate, nor to a representative of human authority, but to a duly ordained priest with requisite jurisdiction and with the "power of the keys", i.e., the power to forgive sins which Christ granted to His Church.
The Council of Trent (1551) declares:
But as the Council of Trent declares, Christ principally instituted the Sacrament of Penance after His Resurrection, a miracle greater than that of healing the sick. "As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained' (John 20:21-23). While the sense of these words is quite obvious, the following points are to be considered:
*He prefaces this grant of power by declaring that the mission of the Apostles is similar to that which He had received from the Father and which *He had fulfilled: "As the Father hath sent me". Now it is beyond doubt that He came into the world to destroy sin and that on various occasions *He explicitly forgave sin (Matthew 9:2-8; Luke 5:20; 7:47; Revelation 1:5), hence the forgiving of sin is to be included in the mission of the Apostles.
Christ not only declared that sins were forgiven, but really and actually forgave them; hence, the Apostles are empowered not merely to announce to the sinner that his sins are forgiven but to grant him forgiveness-"whose sins you shall forgive". If their power were limited to the declaration "God pardons you", they would need a special revelation in each case to make the declaration valid.
The power is twofold -- to forgive or to retain, i.e., the Apostles are not told to grant or withhold forgiveness nondiscriminately; they must act judicially, forgiving or retaining according as the sinner deserves.
The exercise of this power in either form (forgiving or retaining) is not restricted: no distinction is made or even suggested between one kind of sin and another, or between one class of sinners and all the rest: Christ simply says "whose sins".
The sentence pronounced by the Apostles (remission or retention) is also God's sentence -- "they are forgiven . . . they are retained".
It is therefore clear from the words of Christ that the Apostles had power to forgive sins. But this was not a personal prerogative that was to erase at their death; it was granted to them in their official capacity and hence as a permanent institution in the Church -- no less permanent than the mission to teach and baptize all nations. Christ foresaw that even those who received faith and baptism, whether during the lifetime of the Apostles or later, would fall into sin and therefore would need forgiveness in order to be saved. He must, then, have intended that the power to forgive should be transmitted from the Apostles to their successors and be used as long as there would be sinners in the Church, and that means to the end of time. It is true that in baptism also sins are forgiven, but this does not warrant the view that the power to forgive is simply the power to baptize. In the first place, as appears from the texts cited above, the power to forgive is also the power to retain; its exercise involves a judicial action. But no such action is implied in the commission to baptize (Matthew 28:18-20); in fact, as the Council of Trent affirms, the Church does not pass judgment on those who are not yet members of the Church, and membership is obtained through baptism. Furthermore, baptism, because it is a new birth, cannot be repeated, whereas the power to forgive sins (penance) is to be used as often as the sinner may need it. Hence the condemnation, by the same Council, of any one "who, confounding the sacraments, should say that baptism itself is the Sacrament of Penance, as though these two sacraments were not distinct and as though penance were not rightly called the second plank after shipwreck" (Sess. XIV, can. 2 de sac. poen.).
These pronouncements were directed against the Protestant teaching which held that penance was merely a sort of repeated baptism; and as baptism effected no real forgiveness of sin but only an external covering over of sin through faith alone, the same, it was alleged, must be the case with penance. This, then, as a sacrament is superfluous; absolution is only a declaration that sin is forgiven through faith, and satisfaction is needless because Christ has satisfied once for all men. This was the first sweeping and radical denial of the Sacrament of Penance. Some of the earlier sects had claimed that only priests in the state of grace could validly absolve, but they had not denied the existence of the power to forgive. During all the preceding centuries, Catholic belief in this power had been so clear and strong that in order to set it aside Protestantism was obliged to strike at the very constitution of the Church and reject the whole content of Tradition.
The reconciliation of the sinner with God has as a further consequence the revival of those merits which he had obtained before committing grievous sin. Good works performed in the state of grace deserve a reward from God, but this is forfeited by mortal sin, so that if the sinner should die unforgiven his good deeds avail him nothing. So long as he remains in sin, he is incapable of meriting: even works which are good in themselves are, in his case, worthless: they cannot revive, because they never were alive. But once his sin is cancelled by penance, he regains not only the state of grace but also the entire store of merit which had, before his sin, been placed to his credit. On this point theologians are practically unanimous: the only hindrance to obtaining reward is sin, and when this is removed, the former title, so to speak, is revalidated. On the other hand, if there were no such revalidation, the loss of merit once acquired would be equivalent to an eternal punishment, which is incompatible with the forgiveness effected by penance. As to the further question regarding the manner and extent of the revival of merit, various opinions have been proposed; but that which is generally accepted holds with Francisco Suárez (De reviviscentia meritorum) that the revival is complete, i.e., the forgiven penitent has to his credit as much merit as though he had never sinned. See De Augustinis, "De re sacramentaria", II, Rome, 1887; Pesch, op. cit., VII; Göttler, "Der hl. Thomas v. Aquin u. die vortridentinischen Thomisten über die Wirkungen d. Bussakramentes", Freiburg, 1904.
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