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Montanism

It has nothing to do with the state of Montana. It is a heresy or, better yet, a schism caused by the prophet, Montanus, and two prophetesses, Maximilla and Prisca (Priscilla) in Phrygia during the late second century. As witnessed in the Acts of the Apostles, the exterior gifts of the Holy Spirit (e.g. praying in tongues & prophecy) were common in the infant Church. But St. Paul already in his First Epistle to the Corinthians warns Christians that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit are not as important as the interior gifts of sanctity. "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,... And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries... but have not love, I am nothing". [1 Cor. 13:1-2] Such exterior gifts need to be tempered by humility and obedience to the Church, since Satan can more easily counterfeit them. Unfortunately Montanus and his followers, called Montanists, did not remain loyal to the Church but broke away. At first, their prophecies were not heretical but simply extravagant. The early prophecies called for penance and strict fasts on certain days. But unlike the prophets of the Old Testament who spoke as messengers of God: "Thus says the Lord", Montanus claimed to be possessed by God and spoke as God: "I am the Lord God omnipotent, who has descended into man." These prophecies also occurred during mad ecstasies. This concerned certain holy Churchmen, who tried to exorcise them. Later Montanus claimed that Christ's redemption was still not complete; therefore, God possessed him in order to fulfill the salvation for all men. The Montanists highly valued chastity, virginity and martyrdom. They also disapproved of second marriages. Due to their emotional and rigorous nature, they attracted Christians, who thought that the Church was too secular and lax. Due to his extreme personality, the famous Tertullian also joined them and defended their cause. The sect survived the death of Montanus for a few centuries, but eventually became small and secret before disappearing altogether.

Printed with permission from A Catholic Response, Inc.

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