Do know what “Maranatha” is in the Catholic Church? Really?

What passed through my mind when I read this… I’ll say, below.

From NASA:

Watch Live as NASA Spacecraft Collides With Far-Off Asteroid

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the world’s first mission to test technology for defending Earth against potential asteroid or comet hazards, will impact its target asteroid—which poses no threat to Earth—at 7:14 p.m. EDT on Monday, Sept. 26.

DART’s target is the binary near-Earth asteroid Didymos and its moonlet, Dimorphos. Launched in November 2021, the mission will see if intentionally crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid is an effective way to change its course, should an Earth-threatening asteroid be discovered in the future. This test will also show that a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it in a way that can be measured using telescopes on Earth.

You can tune in for our live broadcast coverage of DART’s impact with Dimorphos starting Monday, Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. EDT on NASA TV, the agency’s?website, and on Facebook,?Twitter,?or?YouTube.

The phrase, “What could go wrong?”, occurred to me when I read this. Wouldn’t it be a kick if, in changing the course of this asteroid, it became the danger to Earth that they are trying to figure out how to avert?

Quod Deus avertat!”, and all that.

And yet, some are praying for The Meteor… or the return of the Lord.


That word has been used both for “come”, as in “come Lord”, and in formulas of excommunication and pronounced anathemas, as in “go away”.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says:

Anathema remains a major excommunication which is to be promulgated with great solemnity.  A formula for this ceremony was drawn up by Pope Zachary (741-52) in the chapter Debent duodecim sacerdotes, Cause xi, quest. iii. The Roman Pontifical reproduces it in the chapter Ordo excommunicandi et absolvendi, distinguishing three sorts of excommunication: minor excommunication, formerly incurred by a person holding communication with anyone under the ban of excommunication; major excommunication, pronounced by the Pope in reading a sentence; and anathema, or the penalty incurred by crimes of the gravest order, and solemnly promulgated by the Pope. In passing this sentence, the pontiff is vested in amice, stole, and a violet cope, wearing his mitre, and assisted by twelve priests clad in their surplices and holding lighted candles. He takes his seat in front of the altar or in some other suitable place, amid pronounces the formula of anathema which ends with these words: “Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of the Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive N– himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment.” [Sound familar?] Whereupon all the assistants respond: “Fiat, fiat, fiat.” The pontiff and the twelve priests then cast to the ground the lighted candles they have been carrying, and notice is sent in writing to the priests and neighbouring bishops of the name of the one who has been excommunicated and the cause of his excommunication, in order that they may have no communication with him. Although he is delivered to Satan and his angels, he can still, and is even bound to repent. The Pontifical gives the form for absolving him and reconciling him with the Church. The promulgation of the anathema with such solemnity is well calculated to strike terror to the criminal and bring him to a state of repentance, especially if the Church adds to it the ceremony of the Maranatha.

Yes, there’s more! Continuing from the Encyclopedia:

At the end of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, xvi, 22, St. Paul says, “If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maranatha,” which means, “The Lord is come.” But commentators have regarded this expression as a formula of excommunication very severe among the Jews. This opinion, however, is not sustained by Vigouroux, “Dict. de la Bible” (s.v. Anathème). In the Western Church, Maranatha has become a very solemn formula as anathema, by which the criminal is excommunicated, abandoned to the judgment of God, and rejected from the bosom of the Church until the coming of the Lord. An example of such an anathema is found in these words of Pope Silverius (536-38): “If anyone henceforth deceives a bishop in such a manner, let him be anathema maranatha before God and his holy angels.” Benedict XIV (1740-58–De Synodo dioecesana X, i) [“walking together”] cites the anathema maranatha formulated by the Fathers of the Fourth Council of Toledo against those who were guilty of the crime of high treason: “He who dares to despise our decision, let him be stricken with anathema maranatha, i.e. may he be damned at the coming of the Lord, may he have his place with Judas Iscariot, he and his companions. Amen.” There is frequent mention of this anathema maranatha in the Bulls of erection for abbeys and other establishments. Still the anathema maranatha is a censure from which the criminal may be absolved; although he is delivered to Satan and his angels, the Church, in virtue of the Power of the Keys, can receive him once more into the communion of the faithful. More than that, it is with this purpose in view that she takes such rigorous measures against him, in order that by the mortification of his body his soul may be saved on the last day. The Church, animated by the spirit of God, does not wish the death of the sinner, but rather that he be converted and live. This explains why the most severe and terrifying formulas of excommunication, containing all the rigours of the Maranatha have, as a rule, clauses like this: Unless he becomes repentant, or gives satisfaction, or is corrected.

Let’s have a poll.  Anyone can vote, but only registered users can post comments.

Did you know that the "Maranatha" was a solemn ceremony of severe excommunication? Honestly?

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BTW… I looked up the solemn anathema in the Pontificale Romanum and, yep, there it is!

Here is some of the Latin, animi caussa!


Igitur quia mónita nostra, crebrásque exhortatiónes contémpsit, quia tértio secúndum Domínicum præceptum vocátus, ad emendatiónem, et pæniténtiam venire despéxit, quia culpam suam nec cogitávit, nec conféssus est, nec missa legatióne, excusatiónem áliquam præténdit, nec véniam postulávit, sed diábolo cor eius induránte, in incépta malítia perséverat, iuxta quod Apóstolus dicit: Secúndum durítiam suam et cor impǽnitens thesaurízat sibi iram in die irae: idcírco eum cum univérsis complícibus, fautoribúsque suis, iudício Dei omnipoténtis Patris, et Fílii, et Spíritus Sancti, et beáti Petri príncipis Apostolórum, et ómnium Sanctórum, necnon et mediocritátis nostræ auctoritáte, et potestáte ligándi et solvéndi in cedo et in terra nobis divínitus coláta, a pretiósi Córporis et Sánguinis Dómini perceptióne, et a societáte ómnium Christianórum separámus, et a limínibus sanctæ matris Ecclésiæ in cælo et in terra exclúdimus, et excommunicátum et anathematizátum esse decérnimus; et damnátum cum diábolo, et ángelis eius, et ómnibus réprobis in ignem ætérnum iudicámus: donec a diáboli láqueis resipíscat, et ad emendatiónem, et pæniténtiam rédeat, et Ecclésiæ Dei, quam læsit, satisfáciat: tradéntes eum sátanæ in intéritum carnis, ut spíritus ejus salvus fiat in die iudícii.

Et omnes respondent: Fiat. Fiat. Fiat.

Quo facto, tam Pontifex, quam Sacerdotes debent proiicere in terram candelas ardentes, quas in manibus tenebant.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. ex seaxe says:

    Apologies, Father, for not following your instructions correctly; try again.

    I can’t find “marantha” in the Pontificale Romanum, and it is not in the passage you cite.

    According to Middle Liddle :-
    μαρὰν ἀθά, Syriac phrase, = ὁ Κύριος ἥκει, NTest.
    I.† ἀνάθημα, Theocr., Anth.
    2.esp anything devoted to evil, an accursed thing, NTest.
    II.a curse, Id=NTest.

  2. ajf1984 says:

    I did not know that Maranatha had such a meaning, but agree that it is worth recovering! I recall the words of Our Blessed Lord according to Matthew, “Therefore every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven, is like to a man that is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure new things and old.”

    Anathemas, interdicts, anathema maranatha…these remedies were used in the past to good effect in many high profile cases (viz. Emperor Henry and Pope Gregory VII). We’ve surely had plenty of “things new” brought out of the storehouse lately; maybe it’s time to bring out some of those “things old” now?

  3. APX says:

    I always thought it was related to some folky guitar singing group called the Maranatha Singers. I think the real question here is do THEY know??

  4. JPCahill says:

    My opinion about it is much like my opinion about the death penalty. In theory, I’m in favour.

    But when I consider who in this year of Our Lord 2022 is in charge of pronouncing said sentence and whom they are likely to pronounce it against . . . my support starts fading away.

  5. Unfinished says:

    Honestly the first time I saw that scene from Becket years ago I thought the Church could use with more formal excommunications like that. Seems the Church has forgotten that she is here to teach, not just synodally listen.

    Glad to learn today that is was based off a real ritual. I expect to see Rome using it again any day now.

  6. Pingback: MONDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  7. TonyO says:

    I would settle for the Church bothering with just plain punishing the people who violate its rules, as is (obviously) envisioned by the penal canons. There are many priests and bishops who should have been punished for their various heresies and acts of sodomy and other abuse, and if the Church had done so we would have a clergy that is vastly different from what it looks like today. The appropriate punishments include excommunication, and – in extreme cases – perhaps anathema maranatha.

    we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment…

    In the Western Church, Maranatha has become a very solemn formula as anathema, by which the criminal is excommunicated, abandoned to the judgment of God, and rejected from the bosom of the Church until the coming of the Lord…

    He who dares to despise our decision, let him be stricken with anathema maranatha, i.e. may he be damned at the coming of the Lord, may he have his place with Judas Iscariot, he and his companions. Amen.

    Is it just me, or is the last version a considerably more totalizing version of condemnation than the former ones? It seems to urge his final condemnation at the Last Judgment, rather than just a (hopefully) temporary judgment that holds until he repents or Christ comes. Admittedly, the entry from the Encyclopedia goes on to note the possibility of the condemnation being retracted (if the sinner repents), but in form it seems to call for final condemnation. Maybe I am just misreading it.

  8. Brian64 says:

    Imagine those members of the Apostolic succession who were closer to the original punishing sinners and working for their reconciliation! How much smarter and pastoral (and weak!) we are now that we are further down the line, further removed from the original Apostles and their understanding of the faith.

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