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Catechism of the Catholic Church

IV. HOW IS THE SON OF GOD MAN?

470 Because "human nature was assumed, not absorbed", 97 in the mysterious union of the Incarnation, the Church was led over the course of centuries to confess the full reality of Christ's human soul, with its operations of intellect and will, and of his human body. In parallel fashion, she had to recall on each occasion that Christ's human nature belongs, as his own, to the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it. Everything that Christ is and does in this nature derives from "one of the Trinity". The Son of God therefore communicates to his humanity his own personal mode of existence in the Trinity. In his soul as in his body, Christ thus expresses humanly the divine ways of the Trinity: 98

The Son of God. . . worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin. 99

Christ's soul and his human knowledge

471 Apollinarius of Laodicaea asserted that in Christ the divine Word had replaced the soul or spirit. Against this error the Church confessed that the eternal Son also assumed a rational, human soul. 100

472 This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, "increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man", 101 and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience. 102 This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking "the form of a slave". 103

473 But at the same time, this truly human knowledge of God's Son expressed the divine life of his person. 104 "The human nature of God's Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God." 105 Such is first of all the case with the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of his Father. 106 The Son in his human knowledge also showed the divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts. 107

474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal. 108 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal. 109

Christ's human will

475 Similarly, at the sixth ecumenical council, Constantinople III in 681, the Church confessed that Christ possesses two wills and two natural operations, divine and human. They are not opposed to each other, but co-operate in such a way that the Word made flesh willed humanly in obedience to his Father all that he had decided divinely with the Father and the Holy Spirit for our salvation. 110 Christ's human will "does not resist or oppose but rather submits to his divine and almighty will." 111

Christ's true body

476 Since the Word became flesh in assuming a true humanity, Christ's body was finite. 112 Therefore the human face of Jesus can be portrayed; at the seventh ecumenical council (Nicaea II in 787) the Church recognized its representation in holy images to be legitimate. 113

477 At the same time the Church has always acknowledged that in the body of Jesus "we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see." 114 The individual characteristics of Christ's body express the divine person of God's Son. He has made the features of his human body his own, to the point that they can be venerated when portrayed in a holy image, for the believer "who venerates the icon is venerating in it the person of the one depicted". 115

The heart of the Incarnate Word

478 Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony and his Passion, and gave himself up for each one of us: "The Son of God. . . loved me and gave himself for me." 116 He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, 117 "is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that. . . love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings" without exception. 118

IN BRIEF:

479 At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word, that is, the Word and substantial Image of the Father, became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed human nature.

480 Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in the unity of his divine person; for this reason he is the one and only mediator between God and men.

481 Jesus Christ possesses two natures, one divine and the other human, not confused, but united in the one person of God's Son.

482 Christ, being true God and true man, has a human intellect and will, perfectly attuned and subject to his divine intellect and divine will, which he has in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

483 The Incarnation is therefore the mystery of the wonderful union of the divine and human natures in the one person of the Word.

Notes:

97 GS 22 § 2.

98 Cf. Jn 14:9-10.

99 GS 22 § 2.

100 Cf. Damasus 1: DS 149.

101 Lk 2:52.

102 Cf. Mk 6:38; 8:27; Jn 11:34; etc.

103 Phil 2:7.

104 Cf. St. Gregory the Great, "Sicut aqua" ad Eulogium, Epist. Lib. 10, 39 PL 77, 1097 Aff.; DS 475.

105 St. Maximus the Confessor, Qu. et dub. 66 PG 90, 840A.

106 Cf. Mk 14:36; Mt 11:27; Jn 1:18; 8:55; etc.

107 Cf. Mk 2:8; Jn 2:25; 6:61; etc.

108 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:18-20, 26-30.

109 Cf. Mk 13:32, Acts 1:7.

110 Cf. Council of Constantinople III (681): DS 556-559.

111 Council of Constantinople III: DS 556.

112 Cf. Council of the Lateran (649): DS 504.

113 Cf. Gal 3:1; cf. Council of Nicaea II (787): DS 600-603.

114 Roman Missal, Preface of Christmas I.

115 Council of Nicaea II: DS 601.

116 Gal 2:20.

117 Cf. Jn 19:34.

118 Pius XII, Enc. Haurietis aquas (1956): DS 3924; cf. DS 3812.

English Translation of the Cathechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America © 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

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