Ad kalendas Graecas! And other impossibilities
The Romans had a phrase ‘ad kalendas Graecas’. The kalends were part the Roman monthly calendar but there was no equivalent in Ancient Greece so ‘Ad kalendas Graecas’ meant an event that will never occur. There are lots of other examples – ‘Pigs might fly’ or the Witches in Macbeth prophesying that the villainous Macbeth cannot be defeated by anyone born of woman and only when Birnam Wood marches to fight him at Dunsinane Hill – obvious impossibilities.
The first reading records Jeremiah’s prophesy to the shattered Jews exiled in Babylon with no hope of return. God is going to rescue such that their descendants will recall the deliverance even more strongly than the hearers spoke of the Mosaic deliverance from Pharaoh. In the Gospel, the Lord appears to the dreaming Joseph and echoes Isaiah’s prophesy of a virgin giving birth to the Messiah. Two “Greek kalends / Pigs might fly impossibilities but as the Archangel has already told Mary “nothing is impossible to God!”
A brief look across salvation history reveals a whole lot of seeming impossibilities – the worst period of Roman persecution of the faith suddenly reversed by Emperor Constantine in 312AD, French Revolutionary Terror driving the Church underground and the murder of Priests and Nuns culminating in the desecration of Notre Dame being replaced within a few years with the spiritual revival that saw an wave of missionary zeal that in the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the Marists and the Society of St Vincent de Paul even washed the shores of Australia and the Pacific.
The readings remind us that God has continually acted in history and will do so again. What kalends events of deliverance, as yet unimaginable to us, will our grandchildren take for granted?
In our own lives what is God about to do as long as we like Joseph and Mary are obedient to His will