One extra throne

Question: Jesus tells the apostles in Mt 19:28 that they will sit on 12 thrones and judge the 12 tribes of Israel. There are lots of reasons to believe that Judas won’t be in the lineup for this job. What does the Church teach us about who is sitting on that 12th throne?

Paul VanHoudt, Erie, Colorado

Answer: Matthias would be the most likely candidate. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that he was elected to fill the office left vacant by Judas. “During those days, Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place). He said, ‘My brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas.... For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ... “May another take his office.” Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.’ So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. ... Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:16ff).

St. Paul was not, strictly speaking, numbered among the Twelve. St. Paul says of himself: “For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor 15:8-9). The term “apostle” fell away from use as the number of those who met the criteria established by St. Peter dwindled. The office of apostle continued in the office of bishop and took up this new terminology. So we also see that the first apostles moved about as evangelizers and founded many local churches, but bishops, though successors to the apostles, had a more settled duty of overseeing a local church.

Mary’s fiat

Question: Did Mary’s consent occur before she conceived by the Holy Spirit? In the Angelus prayer, “She conceived of the Holy Spirit” comes before “Be it done unto me according to thy word.” Shouldn’t the order be the other way around?

Name withheld, Florida

Answer: Liturgical prayer accesses chronological time with reference to the fullness of time. Thus at Christmas, though referencing Jesus’ infancy, we still gather with him in the upper room, and at the foot of the cross, and celebrate him as risen, glorified Lord, at Christmas Mass. Though we focus on one aspect of his temporal work, we always have the whole in mind. Content and context trump chronology.

The same can be said for the Angelus prayer. We are not simply declaring the event of the Incarnation in a strict, chronological way, but in a way that theologically expresses all the components understood wholly: God’s initiative, Mary’s assent, and the fact of the Word becoming flesh.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at