Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 12, 1956
NUMBER 35, PAGE 6,9b

Roman Catholic Questions . . . And The Answers Given

Luther W. Martin, St. James, Missouri

Most of the Roman publications with which I have come in contact, devote space to questions submitted by readers. The answers to those questions, are, of course, accurate and' authentic, as far as Roman Catholic doctrine and practice are concerned. Therefore, when we copy and criticize these replies, we are making use of accurate information. There can be no misrepresentation of Catholic teaching and practice by such a procedure.

(1) QUESTION: "How far back has the Church, founded by Christ, been called the Catholic Church?"

ANSWER: "The word was used as early as the close of the first century to indicate one of the marks of the Church, catholic or universal. For many centuries, the word was used in just that sense and its place might have been taken by one of the other words indicating the four marks---'Apostolic' or "Holy' or 'One.' There was a tendency to use the word catholic as the distinguishing epithet of the Church, which became common custom in England in the 16th century. Now the title 'Catholic Church' designates to entire embodiment of the faithful of both Eastern and Western Rites under the authority of the Pope at Rome. Except for a small body of High Anglicans, no other Christians use the name as a distinguishing title." (The Tablet, Oct. 29th, 1955.)

COMMENT: Another priest, B. L. Conway, writes: "The name Catholic as a name is not applied to the Catholic Church in the Bible .... St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing to the Christians of Smyrna about the year 110 A.D., is the first to use the name." (The Question Box, page 132.) The word 'catholicon' was applied in early centuries to general or universal drugs which were held to be efficacious in the treatment of numerous diseases. These became known as 'catholicons.' Peter taught, and Luke wrote: Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for THERE IS NONE OTHER NAME UNDER HEAVEN GIVEN AMONG MEN, WHEREBY WE MUST BE SAVED." (Acts 4:10-12.)

(2) QUESTION: "I think a good explanation of the meaning of Ember Days would help people to show more respect for them. What is the origin of Ember Days? Why do we fast and abstain on these days ?"

ANSWER: "Ember Days are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of a week at the beginning of each season. The origin of the name is not known but the practice is almost as old as the Church. It grew out of a practice observed by the heathens at Rome who, in their agricultural life, held pagan religious services at the beginning of each important season; in June for a bountiful harvest, in September for a rich vintage and in December for the seeding. The Church, when converting heathen nations, has always tried to utilize any practices which could be sanctified or Christianized. So, she borrowed this custom and held fasts in June, September and December as early as the end of the second century, adding a fourth season a century or two later.

"Now, by law fixed by Pope Gregory VII in the eleventh century, the Ember Days are observed on the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after December 13 (St. Lucy), after Ash Wednesday, after Pentecost and after September 14 (Exaltation of the Cross). The observance of fast and abstinence on these days, begun in Rome, was taken to each newly evangelized part of the Western Church, so it is one of the oldest disciplinary practices we have. The purpose of this act of mortification and penance is the special sanctification of the four seasons, still retaining the notion of asking God's blessing on the goods of the earth, but especially for obtaining God's blessing on the clergy, for whose ordination the Saturdays of Ember week are set apart.

"The regulations for Ember Days at present require that all the faithful over 21 and under 60 years of age (past the 59th birthday) observe the fast by taking only one full meal and two light meals and in addition, all over 7 years (without any upper age limit) abstain from meat excepting at the principal meal." (The Tablet, Oct. 15, 1955.)

COMMENT: "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain." (Gal. 4:10-11.) Here is yet another practice of the Roman Catholics which they themselves admit, has no basis or foundation in Holy Scripture. In fact, in this above-given answer, they admit taking it from heathen practices . . . . making it 'Christianized' as they express it. Paul said .... "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you . . . . I declared ALL of God's counsel." (Acts 20:20 and 27.) Paul failed to mention EMBER DAYS!

(3) QUESTION: "Was December 25 the exact date of Christ's birth? If so, where in the Scriptures can one find proof of this?"

ANSWER: "It is not known that December 25 was the exact date of the Divine Savior's birth; and nowhere in the New Testament is there any clue to the correct month and day of the Nativity. Because of the obscurity of the Gospels on this point, there is no month of the year not assigned by some writer as that of Christ's birth.

"By the year 385 A.D., one finds St. John Chrysostom urging that December 25 be observed as the Feast of Christ's Birth, and saying that the day had already been noted in the West for some time.

"The December 25 date may have been chosen to coincide with pagan and Jewish feasts held on the same day so that people's minds would be taken off these religions and focused on the true religion.

"The opinion of St. Thomas Aquinas provides an interesting sidelight on the matter. He remarked that it was fittings for Christ to be born on the 25th of December, for this is just after the time when the light of day begins to lengthen, thus symbolizing the Light of the World, who comes to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.' Summa III, q. art. viii. This, of course, is merely an argument of convenience and does not prove the point." (St. Louis Register. Nov. 11, 1955.)

COMMENT: It appears that the whole observance is based upon an 'argument of convenience and does not prove the point.' The Encyclopedia Britannica states: "Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church, and before the 5th century there was no general consensus of opinion as to when it should come in the calendar, whether on January 6th, March 25th or December 25th." (Vol. 5, Page 641.) Other historians have assigned such dates as May 29th, April 19th or 20th, while Clement of Alexandria set the date as November 17th.

"In Britain, December 25th was a festival long before the conversion to Christianity, for Bede relates that the ancient peoples of the Anglii began the year on December 25th, when we now celebrate the birthday of the Lord; and the very night which is now so holy to us, they called in their tongue 'modranecht,' that is, mother's night, by reason we suspect of the ceremonies which in that nightlong vigil they performed. In England, the observance of Christmas was forbidden by act of Parliament in 1644; Charles II, revived the feast, but the Scots adhered to the Puritan view." (Encyc. Britt., page 642.)

"As late as 245 A.D., Origen repudiated the idea of keeping the birthday of Christ, 'as if he were a king Pharaoh." (Ibid. page 642.)

The holly, mistletoe, the Yule log and the wassail are relics of pre-Christian times. In the 5th century, the Western Church (later known as Roman Catholic) ordered Christmas to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol (the Sun-god of Roman mythology) December 25th. The Eastern Church (Greek Orthodox) selected January 6th as the date for the celebration.

"The custom of making presents at Christmas is derived from ancient usage: but it has become consecrated by ages, and contributes greatly to make this festival an interesting event to families." (Encyclopedia Americana, pp. 623.)

"The sending of Christmas cards by way of friendly greeting and remembrance has grown up since about 1860." (Ibid. pp. 623.)

"The Christmas tree has been traced back to the Romans. It went from Germany to Great Britain, and is almost universal in the United States, where the customs of so many nationalities meet and gradually blend into common usage." (Ibid.)

THE BIBLE IS COMPLETELY SILENT CONCERNING SUCH AN OBSERVANCE. If God had desired that the physical birth-date of His Son be reverenced, He would have revealed the exact date in the Bible. Therefore, those persons interested only in following Divine Authority, must refrain from attaching any spiritual or religious significance to the date of December 25th.

Romanism's observances and celebration thereof is merely another instance of her resorting to heathen feasts and celebrations and making them "Christianized."