Frequently in my travels and interactions, I hear how confused and flustered Catholics feel when confronted by sincere questions from fallen-away Catholics or non-Catholics who measure Catholicism by the Bible. Understanding one’s Catholic faith concisely, especially from the Bible, has always required cobbling apologetic material from multiple sources and authors – an arduous, confusing, and time-consuming endeavor.
Because of the inherent difficulty, Catholics have long felt unable to defend Catholic faith and practice from the Bible as deftly as their non-Catholic counterparts seem able to pick it apart using the Bible. Don’t we seem to be speaking two different languages with the same Book?
As a result, Catholics’ faith-sharing goes unheard, and under such passionate dismissal, they feel defeated and even question the veracity of their own faith. Many fall away entirely.
This reality is as intolerable to me as a fresh burn, one that I will work until my very last breath to help alleviate as a matter of sweet penance; because I was a non-Catholic who once made it her mission to “pick off” Catholics from the Church, and I was very good at it.
I used the “Roman Road” like a rapier:
- “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3:10).
- “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).
- “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).
- “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom 10:9-10).
- Did you see anything there about sacraments? It says believe and confess, and you will be saved. Confession to a priest? No. The Bible says that nowhere, and the Bible does not lie. Church attendance? Saints? Holy days of “obligation”? No. You must be saved, and that is all. You just read it yourself. Have you been saved? Will you go to heaven when you die? “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life” (Joh 3:16). You must be saved, or go to hell and perish. It. Is. That. Simple.
When an understanding of Catholicism clicked for me through the model I share with you in the Fulfilled study, I spent the long, dark hours of an entire night on my face before the Lord, sobbing at my zealous, self-righteous ignorance in leading His gentle, unassuming, faithful people away from His Church to the valley of dry bones where the living breath of the Holy Spirit in the sacraments does not blow (Ez 37).
Writing these words makes the tears sting all over again, because with head and heart and faith now fulfilled in the Church, I see with painful regularity how quickly God’s “people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos 4:6), even as they yearn to share the beautiful practices that animate their lives with those they know and love.
I know you long to be able to explain this glorious, ever-ancient, ever-new faith we call Catholicism in a way that will not only intrigue, but inspire others to investigate and embrace the Church more fully.
Because I was once an adversary, by God’s relentless mercy I know how to answer this longing. I languish with you. I have begged God to give me back every Catholic I stole away, number for number, and to make me an instrument in the Church for unity.
Uncovering the Biblical Foundations of Catholicism
Fulfilled is a new apologetic that introduces you to this faith-sharing model. The Bible is not the foundation of Catholicism, because the Bible as we know it did not exist for centuries after the Church was founded and flourishing.
But the foundation of Catholic worship and practice is found in the Bible in a shockingly simple blueprint. In Fulfilled, we explore the Old Testament tabernacle and discover a conveniently packaged, biblical model for Catholicism.
First and foremost, the Church is the final, eternal tabernacle of God as Christ’s mystical body. As St. Paul says, because the church is the New Testament “house” or tabernacle, it is the foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15).
Because the Church is made of individual Christians, you also are a living tabernacle of God. For God to feel completely at home and dwell most fully in us, every worship element of the Old Testament tabernacle should be reflected in our own lives. The fullness of faith has been preserved in the Catholic Church so that each prescribed element is present in the faithful Catholic’s life today. The Old Testament Tabernacle is fulfilled in the Catholic Church.
Observing the liturgical worship schedule of the Church is a happy privilege. Through our liturgical year, we “keep time” with God and all the saints and angels, past, present, and future. As in the Old Testament, our special days include rest, offerings, and a sacred assembly. St. Paul tells us plainly to “celebrate the festival [feast]” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). Every Catholic holy and feast day is centered on the New Covenant himself, in the Eucharist. The Old Testament liturgical year is fulfilled in the Catholic liturgical year.
As in the Old Testament and Ezekiel’s messianic temple, there is both an institutional and lay priesthood in the Catholic Church. “And like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
Our Catholic priesthood serves God’s people through the new sacramental economy founded on Christ in the Eucharist. Every Christian is also called to some form of priesthood. We lay “priests” can offer all our sacrifices in union with Christ for the good of souls. Because Jesus appoints his priests and rules through our Catholic priesthood, obeying Church leadership is obeying Christ (see Romans 13:1-2). The Levitical priesthood is fulfilled in the Catholic priesthood.
The Bronze Altar
The bronze altar in the Tabernacle was the location for burnt offerings. Jesus is both our High Priest and Victim. He is the ultimate sacrifice, the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Cross is his altar and ours, too. Following in the sacrificial footsteps of Christ, we can offer up our own sufferings as a sacrifice to God for our good and the good of souls. The bronze altar is fulfilled in the Catholic sacrificial altar.
Throughout Scripture, God revealed his all-consuming love for his people through fire, “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29, emphasis added). The “fiery trials” and sufferings we experience in our lives are ultimately the presence of God accepting our many offerings throughout the primary offering of our whole life: heart, soul, mind, and strength. This fiery Presence purifies us with the strength of his love, and so he is the fire of purgatory. God, himself, is the fire that purifies and saves us (see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). The Tabernacle altar fire is fulfilled in purgatory.
The Old Testament laver foreshadowed the sacrament of baptism. Baptism configures the soul for grace and initiates us into the life of Christ, and Confession keeps the soul clean: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The Tabernacle laver is fulfilled in Confession and Baptism.
The lampstand was the only illumination in the holy place of the Old Testament sanctuary. Engraved with beautiful almond branches, flowers, and ripe fruit, it remained in God’s presence, symbolizing the almond branch-staff of the high priest. His staff was chosen and confirmed by God as the first high priest and representative of his eternal, institutional priesthood.Jesus is the center of the historical, institutional priesthood of the Church (see Revelation 1:12-13, 20). The Tabernacle lampstand is fulfilled through the Magisterium of the Church.
Table of Presence Bread
The golden Table of Presence Bread in the Tabernacle foreshadowed Jesus, our “super manna.” The Catholic Church retains the Old Testament teaching of the real presence of God in the Presence Bread through Christ in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the daily, consistent continuation of God’s command that there be perpetual Bread of the Presence in the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle Presence Bread is fulfilled in the Eucharist.
Whenever we pray, especially in the Mass (see Malachi 1:11), and particularly when our prayers are most difficult and sacrificial, our prayer ascends to the heavenly Tabernacle before God like incense (see Revelation 5:8-10). He is touched, pleased, and moved by our communal and personal prayers, which are accompanied by those of the angels and saints who are always offering the “incense” of the Church’s prayer to God as a sacrifice. Tabernacle incense is fulfilled in the Catholic Mass.
The entrance to the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament Tabernacle was covered by an intricately embroidered tapestry. Woven in vibrant purple, blue, and scarlet threads, and decorated with cherubim, the veil was an artistic rendering of a sacred truth: God’s royal, sacrificial Presence is covered and guarded by a woven veil and angels—in the Tabernacle, in the flesh of Jesus, and our own flesh, in varying degrees. Imagine yourself and your neighbor surrounded by angels, and the flesh as the sacred curtain that veils God’s presence. The woven Tabernacle veil is fulfilled in human flesh.
Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant was the “footstool” and throne from which God ruled and spoke in the Tabernacle. The early Church gave Mary the title of “Ark of the New Covenant” because of the numerous scriptural parallels between her and the Old Testament Ark. We can welcome God’s protection and direction in our lives especially by welcoming Mary. The Tabernacle Ark is fulfilled in Mary.
Fulfilled, Not “Faulty”
In Fulfilled we explore how Jesus gave the Old Testament – the tabernacle; liturgical schedule; institutional priesthood; sacrificial altar; perpetual altar fire; ritual washings; light; Presence bread; incense; and ark – new life.
Just as a cathedral is the manifestation of its blueprint; just as Jesus’ physical body was “fulfilled” and yet remains; the Old Testament was fulfilled and yet remains in His mystical body, the Church.
Old Testament worship and practice was not faulty. It fulfilled its purpose as the template for the New. Like Jesus’ almost unrecognizable resurrected body (Joh 20:14), the old practices and prescriptions, in Him, are dead and resurrected, transformed and filled with supernatural saving grace.
The Old Testament tabernacle was prescribed by God Himself to instruct His people in proper worship. The tabernacle foreshadowed worship in the Church and in heaven.
Fulfilled, Uncovering the Biblical Foundation of Catholicism equips you to understand and share your faith concisely in this way. You will discover the Old Testament tabernacle as the perfectly packaged biblical model for conveniently understanding and explaining seemingly arbitrary Catholic beliefs and practices – practices that can baffle and frustrate both fallen-away and non-Catholics.
As you work through the Fulfilled study, you will acquire a thorough knowledge of the tabernacle’s design, facilities, and function as the blueprint for the fullness of faith; you will know clearly how they refer to Christ and the Church and come to appreciate why the Catholic Church must show you how to practice it anew as its plenitude in Christ; and you will survey the landscape with amazement that your own faith is fulfilled more completely as you begin to evangelize confidently.
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Copyright 2018 Sonja Corbitt