54 Day Novena

Fun Facts

This is a little section of the website, which I'd like to dedicate to interesting religious facts I've learnt.

I haven't learnt much but I wish to change that, so if I think the fact is interesting/fun, I'll make sure to post it here.

1.  St Mark (as in the guy who wrote one of the gospels) is actually called John Mark.  Mark is his last name.  Acts 12:12, Acts 12:25.

2.  We're not really sure how many magi there were who visited Jesus when he was born.  We always say three, but that's only because there were three gifts.  It doesn't say anywhere in the Holy Bible that there were specifically three magi (review Matthew 2).  However, we have venerated them by giving them names -> Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior.

3.  Jesus was not the only figure in the Holy Bible to fast for 40 days.  Moses (Exodus 34:28-29) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:7-9), also fasted for 40 days.

4. The number 144000 in the Book of Revelation always worried me, admittedly because I never thought I'd make it into the top 144000 people who ever lived. It quickly became apparent to me though that my understanding was flawed, as it's absurd to think that only 144000 people who ever lived would make it into Heaven.

So, I researched what this actually meant. It was a surprise to me to find out that there were many theories about what this number actually was but the common consensus and the theory that made most sense to me can be summarised as follows: In the past, most theologians were also mathematicians and at that time, mathematicians did not have a clear and concise concept of infinite (as we understand it today). As such, combining their skills in theology and mathematics, the common number used for an uncountable amount was 144000.

Why was this so? Well if we break down the number 144000 it becomes 12 x 12 x 1000. Each one of these numbers is theologically significant. The first 12 represent the twelve tribes of Israel ("the old"). The second 12 represent the twelve Apostles ("the new" 12 tribes of Israel) and 1000 represents the number of "abundance".

So 144000 literally meant          ->            "the old"     x     "the new"     x     "abundance"
which in those days represented a theological infinite (the best they could describe it at the time). If any mathematician/theologian heard you say the number 144000, they automatically understood it to have that meaning.

So an uncountable number of people would make it into Heaven (makes more sense to me and greatly improves my ability to sleep).

5.  It takes one bishop to ordain a priest but it takes three bishops to ordain one bishop.

6.  A bishop is the highest order of ordination in the Catholic Church.  To explain this point more clearly, the stages of ordination are simply: deacon, priest and lastly, bishop.  All the titles held in between and above are merely "job titles".  Take a cardinal for instance or the Pope of Rome.  They are technically not higher in ordinational power than a bishop.  The Pope is in effect the Bishop of Rome.  Of course, they are conferred with more administrative power and responsibility but they are not technically any higher.

7.  One of the most quoted proofs about God is found in St Thomas Aquinas' unfinished masterpiece Summa Theologica.  I was surprised to discover that this very often quoted proof is only one and a half pages from a book that is over 4100 pages long.  The only explanation I could think of for why he didn't concentrate on such an important point is because he was writing this text in a society with practically no atheists.  I don't think he ever thought it would be of such critical importance today -> He must've been thinking - Does God exist? Nah duh!

8.  Jesus fasted for 40 days. However, Lent runs across 7 weeks, making it 49 days. For Roman Catholics and associated denominations, it starts on Wednesday (Ash Wednesday), so 47 days to be exact. Why the difference? Well technically, you only fast for 40 days, because all the Sundays are non-fasting days (you are not supposed to fast on a day of glory -> Sunday). For Maronites and any other similar Catholic denominations that start on Monday, so 49 days of Lent, there are 9 days of no fasting instead of just 7. The Sundays are non-fasting days and the Feast of the Annunciation and the Feast of St Joseph are also non-fasting days. No matter which way you slice it in any Catholic Rite, the number of fasting days is always 40, even though the span of Lent may be 47 or 49 days, depending on which Catholic Rite you adhere to.

9.  I have always thought that the English language was very secular. For instance in the Arabic language, whenever someone is leaving, you say "Allah ma3ak", which when translated, means: "God be with you". I was surprised to discover that the English word Goodbye is actually a contraction of the phrase: "God be with ye".  It was shortened to "Godbwye" and then through being mixed with such phrases as "good day" and "good night", it evolved to the word "Goodbye" as we know it today.

10. In the 'Our Father', the line which says: "on Earth, as it is in Heaven" actually refers to all three previous supplications and not just the supplication that immediately precedes this line. So, it's not just "Thy will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven", it's actually "Hallowed be Thy Name" - on Earth, as it is in Heaven and "Thy kingdom come" - on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Due to the way the 'Our Father' is said, most Catholics associate it only with the line: "Thy will be done" but it's actually for all three.

11.  Confession does not remove the temporal punishment due to sin. This means that if you were to go to confession and then immediately die after you finished, you would not go straight to heaven. This is because confession only does two things: forgives mortal/venial sins and removes the Hell aspect of mortal sins. You still have to pay the debt of your venial sins and parts of your mortal sins in purgatory. This is to satisfy God's divine justice. This can be done through: prayer; attending Mass; fasting; almsgiving; the works of mercy; the patient endurance of sufferings; and indulgences.