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Prophecy - Middle Ages

joachim prophetic prophecies god

Saint Augustine (354–430) considered the Psalms of David to be prophetic songs inspired by the Holy Spirit. He made reference to Christ's command: "It is necessary that all things be fulfilled which have been written in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms about me" (Luke 24:44). He also noted "The more open [the Psalm] seems, the more profound it is accustomed to be seen." His belief that God spoke through his prophet David in the Psalms is quite clear in De civitate dei (The city of God). He accepted David's authorship of all the Psalms "because the prophetic spirit was able to reveal even the names of future prophets to King David as he was prophesying, so that anything which could be appropriate to their person could be sung prophetically." To Augustine the Psalms seemed to contain all the prophetic ideas found in the Law and Prophets individually. In a gloss on Psalm 18:15, when the psalmist wrote "the foundations of the world have been revealed," Augustine made clear the significance of prophets: "And the Prophets have been revealed, who were not being understood, upon whom the world, believing in God, would be built." Tertullian and Jerome also ascribed prophetic mysteries to the Psalms.

As Rome waned and life in Europe became very difficult, prophecies began to abound. In fact, prophecy is often seen as a major, if not the major, theme in the literature of the Middle Ages. It is difficult to present even a small fraction of the "visions of the end," as Bernard McGinn has aptly described them. A text called The Tiburtine Sibyl appeared in the fourth century and became an important prophetic voice that attempted to relate events of the Christian empire to a new apocalyptic vision. This work was renewed in the early eleventh century and had a continuing influence, since its universalism and the universalism of the Christian message transcended historical boundaries. Prophecies abounded about the antipope, who led the people of God away from his calling. The antipope would ultimately be replaced by an angelic pope, who would restore the church to its pristine purity and unity. The Great Schism and the Black Death were events that prompted prophetic utterances.

The influence of Joachim of Fiore (c. 1135–1202) was very significant in the Middle Ages and continued into the Renaissance. His prophetic admonitions for reform of the church were influential in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, especially in Venice. There was a tradition that Joachim had a small room in the upper section of the Basilica of San Marco, in which he designed the mosaics of the basilica. His prophecies were known from those designs and also from beautiful editions of his works, many of which were published in Venice. An important book of prophecies, Expositio magni prophete Ioachim in librum beati Cirilli de magnis tribulationibus et statu Sancte Matris Ecclesie (Exposition of the great prophet Joachim on the book of the blessed Cyril about the greatest tribulations and the state of the Holy Mother Church), was published in Venice in 1516. Although this work contains the prophecies of Telesphorus of Cosenza, John of Paris, Ubertino of Casale, and the author of the so-called Mestre prophecy, it is Abbot Joachim's likeness that is seen on the title page. The heading "Abbas Ioachim magnus propheta" appears above a beautiful woodcut showing Joachim seated at his desk with head turned slightly and with his left hand held to this ear, while with his right hand he records the prophecies from God. In the Expositio Joachim expresses great expectations of an angelic pope, chosen by God for his sanctity. Joachim wrote that the patriarch of the Venetians would warn the flock about their sins and that the Venetians would be reformed from their iniquities. The reform would continue until the Day of Judgment, so much so that "not such good men among all nations of Christians will be found, as Merlin says in his own revelations." Joachim also noted that before the Antichrist should come, a certain man, chosen by God, would come forth in Italy, though he was not an Italian, and would help to free Italy from her servitude to Lombardy. The prophecies of John of Paris contain the famous Mestre prophecy, which is filled with political overtones about France and Germany and the need to reform the church and follow in the train of Joachimite prophecy.

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