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Catechism of the Catholic Church
Many persons on opening a book, skip the Preface. It would be very unfortunate to do so with the new catechism, for the Preface is by Pope John Paul II. At the start, the Pope says: "To guard the deposit of faith, such is the mission which the Lord has confided to His Church, and which it accomplishes in all ages.... At these sessions, Pope John XXIII assigned as the principal task [of the Council] to guard better and explain better the precious deposit of Christian doctrine, to make it more accessible to the faithful of Christ and to all men of good will." Right after that comes a most significant statement: "For that, the Council, in its approach, was not to condemn the errors of the age, but it was to strive before all to show serenely the force and the beauty of the doctrine of the faith."
The full original text from the speech itself said: "The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She considers she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnation."
Some had said that Vatican II so changed our theology that one who was trained before it would not know much any more. This is clearly a foolish statement. The Council did make numerous and large changes in liturgy, but in doctrine, it did not reverse even one previous teaching. (Cf. Wm. Most, Catholic Apologetics Today). To do that would be to say the promises of Christ have failed or are failing. It did make some theological progress by giving decisions on currently debated points in theology. But these are few indeed, less than a dozen, and they are so small that most person would not even notice them. For example before the council there was a debate: when person dies and goes to heaven, is he still a member of the Mystical Body? The Council said yes - which is obviously true.
But if we look for a notable change in theology, the preface tells us where and what it is. Really, it is not so much a change in theology as in tactics or policy. It is departure from the policy of the Church ever since the beginning. In saying this we do not mean to say that the present policy is obviously wrong. We must ask: Have the dispositions and temperaments of humans changed so much today - especially in the direction of intellectual pride - that a different approach commends itself?
What is certain is the Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II have largely followed this policy of not condemning errors, at least in that very few theologians have been disciplined for false doctrine.
In considering the question, we need to keep clearly in mind a distinction of three categories of things: 1) doctrine -we must believe it because of the promises of Christ; 2) legislation or commands - if a command is immoral, we must not obey. To order textbooks for Catholic Schools that do not convey the faith or even contradict the faith is certainly not a good decision; 3) prudence or good judgment - there is no promise of Christ, no claim by the Church to protection in prudence. The past history of the Church shows all too many lapses in prudence. So if one would think the present policy is less prudent, he is not automatically breaking with the Church.
It is of great importance to make clear these distinctions to our people. So many today find themselves unable to acquiesce in some new things, chiefly in liturgy. They think they are breaking with the Church if they think some things less good, less prudent. But if they do not know the lines, the three classes of things, they may well drift over the line of dissent on prudence into dissent on doctrine or obedience. This is tragic.
We are going to go through the doctrinal part of the CCC. We will not comment on everything. We will single out things that are especially fine, and there is much of that. We will also point out spots where clarity is not all one might desire. And we will add some fill-ins that could be useful in catechetical work or even in our own understanding.
We hope we may be pardoned in imitating the French by saying only man when we mean both men and women. The French homme is so clearly inclusive just in itself that when the CCC wants to say only men can be ordained in §1577 it twice adds vir/viri in parentheses so all will know only men are meant since homme in itself covers both. Even in English there are times when man would be clearly inclusive. For if I were in a house with a feminist and said: "There is a man-eating tiger outside," would she feel safe in going out?
§1. It opens thus: "God, infinitely Perfect and happy in Himself, in a design of pure goodness, freely created man to make him a sharer in His own happiness. Hence at all times and places, He has come close to man. He has called Him, helped him to search for Him and to know and love Him with all his strength." We are reminded of the fine line of St. Irenaeus (4. 14. 1): "In the beginning , God formed Adam, not because He stood in need of man, but that He might have someone to receive His benefits."
Here begins a considerable stretch of the CCC which helps to bring out both the goodness and the greatness of God. It is essential for us to realize both aspects. For there are as it were two poles in our relationship to God: first, the pole of love, closeness and warmth, second the pole of a sense of infinite majesty, incomprehensible greatness. God is infinite in both of these aspects, so we cannot overdo either one. Yet the picture can be unbalanced and almost distorted if we cultivate one without the other. So many today are inclined to stress the pole of love and warmth, and to omit the other. The CCC in this first stretch helps us to gain an appreciation of His greatness. If someone said to me: "Joe Doaks who lives three blocks from here, loves you," I might reply: "Who is that? Why should I be interested?" Similarly if we hear of the love of God and know but little of His immense greatness, it will not register as it should.
In speaking of loving God with all one's strength, the CCC takes for granted that all will know what it means to love God. A bit of fill-in would be helpful. To love in general is to will good to another for the other's sake. But we cannot as it were turn to God and say: I hope you are well off, I hope you get what you need! Of course not. So we must adjust the sense (analogical sense). Scripture pictures Him as pleased when we obey, displeased when we do not. This does not of course mean that He gains anything from our "service". No, He gains nothing from anyone or anything. But yet He does want us to obey, and for two reasons: First, He loves everything that is good, objective goodness. That objective order directs that creatures should serve their Creator, children their Father. Second, He wants to give to us. But that will be in vain if we are not open to receive. So His commandments merely tell us how to be open. Obeying these also steers us away from the evils or penalties that lie in the very nature of things.
In practice, then, to love God is to obey Him. Hence John 14:15: "If you love me, keep my commands." and again in 14:21: "He who obeys my commandments is the one who loves me."
We said that to love in general is to will good to another for the other's sake. We creatures need a starter, i.e., we need to see something fine in another to be moved to will good to the other, as if we said: "So fine a person, I hope he is well off." God alone can love without a starter. When He made us, He saw no good in us. We would later have only what good He would give us, as 1 Cor 4:7 says: "What have you that you have not received? And if you have received it, why boast as if you had not received it?" that is, as if you had produced it yourself.
So when God says in 1 Tim 2:4 that He wills all men to be saved, this really means, that He loves us, He wills us strictly divine happiness. How far from the truth then are those theologians of the past who denied that God meant it when He said He willed all to be saved. For that will and His love are identical.
§1 adds that we become inheritors of His happy life. Well said. For children inherit from their parents. We must become as little children towards Him, knowing that our reward is given without our earning it - though we could earn to lose it, as Rom 6:23 indicates: "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life."
§27 tells us what Augustine said so well: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and restless are our hearts until they rest in you." God has made us capable of sharing the divine life. Hence nothing else can possibly fully satisfy us.
Within the first section there are many other valuable things. We will single out just some of the very special items.
The CCC stresses the need of revelation even for things which the human mind is capable of discovering by reason alone. For the history of philosophy shows how often the best minds have erred in the realm of reason. It also quotes the sage comment of Pius XII (§37) that some can fail to see the truth of the Church even when it is presented to them clearly because of a subconscious block: they perceive that to accept would mean giving up some things quite dear to them, e.g., contraception and divorce.
§42 in line with the goal of bringing out the infinite majesty of God, tells us that between Creator and creature in spite of the resemblance, the differences are still greater. Hence the young man in the Gospel was told: " Why do you call me good - one is good: God." It meant that the word good as applied to God and as applied to all others has something in common, but far greater differences.
§56-58 bring out that God took care even of those outside the chosen people: the covenant with Noah applied to all.
§70 tells us that in Gen 3:15 even after the fall, God gave a hope of salvation. The problem raised by that text in LG 55 is not taken up - the latter indicates we are not sure the human writer of Genesis understood what the Church now sees in his words. DV 3 speaks more strongly, saying that by Gen 3:15 God lifted up their hope. - how make this fit with LG 55, which indicates perhaps the human author of Genesis did not understand that text? We suggest: God did make it clear to the minds of Adam and Eve, but later by the time Genesis was written, perhaps that knowledge had faded out of human minds.
§90 speaks, with UR 11, of a hierarchy of truths of faith. This is obviously true, namely, some are more basic than others. It would have been good to add: This does not permit us to deny even the smallest truth in that hierarchy - for some have been suggesting we could let Protestants or others enter the Church without accepting the perpetual virginity of Mary or the Immaculate Conception. Thus John P. Meier, in CBQ Jan 1982, p. 28, and Avery Dulles, in Origins, Dec. 26, 1974. Shortly, in §82, the CCC repeated LG 12, which tells us that if the whole Church, authorities and people together, have ever accepted a truth as revealed, that belief is infallible. So the perpetual virginity, believed since the earliest creeds, which speak of "ever-virgin" is infallible, and cannot be dropped on the pretext that it is not high on the hierarchy of truths. We can say the same about the existence of angels.
§105 says "God is the author of Holy Scripture." This is not new, but it is good to repeat it. Vatican I had said the same, and Pius XII in Divino afflante Spiritu said the statement of Vatican I was a solemn definition. Yet so many today, including the NJBC insist that the Church at least probably turned the corner in DV 11, in saying that there can be errors of all kinds in Scripture, in science, history and even religion. Only things needed for salvation are protected. But if God is the author, every kind of error is ruled out. DV §11 in underlined part is not restrictive: "Scripturae libri veritatem quam Deus nostrae salutis causa Litteris Sacris consignari voluit, firmiter, fideliter et sine errore profitendi sunt."
In defending the inerrancy of Scripture, we often need to use the approach via literary genres. It tells us that only the things the human author, and so the Holy Spirit, meant to affirm are protected. This solves many a difficulty.
§112-14 give us, wisely, three criteria from DV 12: In interpreting Scripture we must pay attention to the content and unity of all of Scripture - naturally, since the chief author of all parts is the Holy Spirit; we must consider the living teaching of the Church; and the analogy of faith. This means that if we think up any interpretation that would clash even indirectly with other parts of Scripture or with the whole body of the teachings of the Church, such an interpretation is ruled out in advance.
Hence such horrors as we now find in studying Mk 3:20-35 are to be rejected vehemently. There are three segments to that passage: "those about Him" think Him mad, go out to take Him by force; scribes charge He casts out devils by the devil; His Mother and relatives come to a crowd where He is speaking. He responds: Those who do the will of the Father are brother and sister and mother to me. Some, e.g., Wilfrid Harrington in the Glazier commentary on Mark, say they are certain His Mother was in the group of the first segment - so she did not believe in Him!. So she was "outside the sphere of salvation"! But Luke pictures her as the fist believer, so this is ruled out on that ground alone.
§108 therefore is right in saying Catholicism is not a "religion of the Book". No, it depends on the living teaching handed down from Christ Himself, as interpreted by those to whom He gave that commission. So § 126 points out the three stages in the development of the Gospels: the words and acts of Christ; the way the Apostles and others of the first generation reported these -perhaps adapting their language to the current audience; some individuals in the Church, under inspiration, wrote down some part of that ongoing teaching, which became the Gospels. Therefore: the Church has something more basic than the Gospels, her own ongoing teaching.
§144. Here is the first of several entries on the Blessed Virgin. It is a strong point of the CCC that it mentions her at so many points, where the truth about her naturally fits. Here and in §§ 149 &149, she is proposed as the perfect model of faith. In 150 we see the correct definition of faith, really in line with that of Vatican I. It is the total adherence of a person to God. This truth is much needed today when so many are attracted by a simplistic and false notion of faith, which they think will give them infallible salvation, even if they sin wholesale.
§156 briefly mentions that the miracles of Christ and the saints, the prophecies, and the spread and holiness of the Church are signs or proofs of the truth of the Church. It would have been very good here to give a sketch of apologetics. Here is a sketch: I. We begin with the Gospels, but do not look on them as inspired, for that still is to be proved. We give them many kinds of checking until we see we can get from them a few truths of such simple structure that there is no room for the fear that every report is tainted by subjectivity (e.g., when the leper asks to be healed, and Jesus says: Be healed. There is no room for subjectivity in reporting that). II. We look for and find six facts that are of that simple structure: 1) there was man named Jesus, 2) He claimed to be sent from God, 3) He did enough by miracles worked with a tie to the claim(as in Mk 2) to prove that, 4) in the crowds he had an inner circle 5) and told them to continue His teaching. 6) he promised divine protection:
He who hears you, hears me." Then we have before us a group or Church, commissioned to teach by a messenger sent from God, and promised divine protection. Then we should believe what it teaches - on the inspiration of the Scriptures, on the divinity of Christ, and on a host of other things. This tactic makes a bypass around the quibbles of leftish critics.
§§158-59 adds that faith naturally seeks deeper understanding, and that it cannot conflict with natural science: all truth originates in God.
§152 urges prayer for perseverance. This is right. But it would be good to add that St. Paul 3 times promises God will offer that grace to each one - though a person could still reject it and so not have it: The promises are in: 1 Th 5:23-24; Phil 1:6; 1 Cor 1: 7-9.
§221: "God has revealed His most intimate secret: God is love." Could we make even a beginning at showing how this is true? To love is to will good to another for the other's sake. The Father wills the infinite good of divine nature to the Son. That will is effective. Both will that good to the Holy Spirit. Again it is effective. In §234: The Holy Trinity is the most fundamental and essential in the "hierarchy of truths."
§249: mentions that the rule of baptismal faith, formulated in the preaching, the catechesis and the prayer of the Church. Very true, but it also comes from the lips of Christ Himself.
§254: The Three Persons are really distinct among themselves by reason of their relations of origin. Very true. We observe this is more profound theology than the CCC give us at most places. And in §255: "The Father is entirely in the Son, entirely in the Holy Spirit." In §258: Even though all works of the Three Persons outside the Divine Nature, yet "each Person works the common work according to His personal property."
§271: "In God the power and the essence, the will and the intelligence, the wisdom and the justice are one and the same thing." Could we make an approach to seeing how this can be true? A person who sins much become more and more blind: this is justice for His sins, but it is also mercy that he is blinded - for the more clearly a person sees divine truths, the greater is his responsibility. So in one and the same act we find both mercy and justice. Similarly, if one lives strenuously according to faith which says the things of this world are worth little compared to those of eternity - hie ability to see grows. This is, in a way, justice, but more basically it is also mercy for no creature by its own power can establish a claim on God.
§283: The question of the origin of the world and of man is the object of numerous scientific researches which have magnificently enriched our knowledge of the age and the dimensions of the cosmos, the future of living things, t he appearance of man." This need not be favor to any type of evolution, though it could be. Pius XII in Humani generis, 1950, said we may consider bodily evolution if we do not consider it certain and do not make it atheistic. Independently of that, to study the marvels of the universe does contribute to our perception of the infinite greatness of God.
§289: "From the literary point of view, these texts (Genesis 1-3) can have various sources." John Paul II, in his catecheses on Genesis did show favor to the documentary theory, without imposing it on the Church. Today, even many on the left are pulling back from that theory. Cf. Blenkinsopp in CBQ Jan 1989 on Whybray, The Making of the Pentateuch.
§293: God created for His own glory. St. Bonaventure is quoted: "not to increase His glory, but to manifest and communicate it". For His goodness is such that He seeks His own glory only through benefits to us. Hence in §294 we read from St. Irenaeus: "For the glory of God is the living man." Vatican I in theol. commission said purpose was finis operis, not operantis.
§295: "It [creation] was not produced by any necessity, by any blind destiny, or by chance." This hardly favors quantum physics in which, as Einstein put it, "God rolls dice."
§301. We could intensify our realization of this dependence with the help of text of St. Paul: 2 Cor 3:5 (we cannot get a good thought without Him); Phil 2:13 (we cannot make a good decision or carry it out without Him). Yet somehow, we do control whether grace comes to us in vain or not:2 Cor 6:1. The line of GS 36. 3 could also be added: "The creature without God vanishes". In §304 we need to add a distinction between the moral and ontological orders. God is the cause of all in the second, not of evil in the first.
§309: The handling of the problem of evil is specially good. We must consider so many things: the goodness of creation, the drama of sin, the patient love of God and His covenants, the redemptive Incarnation, the gift of the Spirit, the Church, the power of the Sacraments, the call to a happy life to all free creatures. Very apt is the citation of the story of Joseph in §312.
In the whole of the treatment of Providence there is no mention of Predestination. It could be done, if done rightly.
§§328-354: The long treatment of angels is especially suitable for our times in which many deny their very existence.
§363: The treatment of the sense of the Scriptural words, especially that of OT nefesh is well done.
§369:speaks of "the perfect equality inasmuch as they are persons, of men and women." This of course is true. But there is no treatment of the picture St. Paul paints at Col 3:18-20 and Eph 6:21-33 or of their interpretation as given by Pius XI, in his Encyclical on Marriage.
§§374-78 on the state of Adam & Eve in paradise is very good in that it brings out the hierarchy of subordination from animals to body of man to spirit of man to God. But it would have been good to bring out more clearly the three levels of gifts God had given: Natural, preternatural and supernatural. §376 contains much of this information but less clearly.
§§386-89: This brings out well, that to understand the evil of sin, we need to meditate on the relation of man to God, broken, violated by sin, It is an abuse of the freedom God gave. And especially the evil of sin is seen in what it cost to make up for it: the terrible death of Christ.
Paul VI, in the doctrinal introduction to his constitution on indulgences of Jan, 1967 brought out well a dimension of sin which is not covered by the CCC and which most theologians today seem to prefer to pass by in silence: the relation to the objective order. (AAS 59. 5): "For the correct understanding of this doctrine... it is necessary that we recall certain truths which the universal Church, illumined by the word of God, has always believed." This is a significant statement. Paul VI tells us that what he is about to present is part of the universal belief of the Church. But that belief is infallible (cf. LG § 12). On p. 6. 2: "As we are taught by divine revelation, penalties follow on sin, inflicted by the divine Holiness and justice...." It is important to note that Holiness is put in the first place. The old theory of St. Anselm on the redemption unfortunately said God had to provide satisfaction for sin. Of course not! God does not have to do anything. Further Anselm focuses on the justice of God. Now that is not wrong, but the more basic consideration is His holiness, put in first place by the text of Paul VI. For if we center our thought on justice, some objectors may say: "When someone offends me, I do not always demand full justice. Why cannot God just be nice about it?" The answer is, that even though He could do that way, His love of what is objectively right urges Him to provide that rebalance.
So Paul VI continues: "For every sin bring with it a disturbance of the universal order, which God arranged in unspeakable wisdom and infinite love." In other words, God being Holiness itself, loves everything that is right. This was a striking idea when it first broke on the world. For the gods of Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome were not just immoral but a moral -they acted as if there were no morality at all. But Psalm 11:7 told the world: "God is sadiq [morally righteous] and He loves the things that are morally right." Hence the notion that sin is a debt which the Holiness of God wants paid. This concept is found all over the OT, the intertestamental literature (where Hebrew & Aramaic hobah, directly meaning debt, is often used for sin), the NT (cf. the correct translation of the Our Father: "Forgive us our debts", in Rabbinic literature, and in the Fathers of the Church.
Against this background Paul VI continued (p. 7): "Therefore it is necessary for the full remission and reparation of sins... not only that by a sincere conversion of mind friendship with God be restored, and that the offenses against His wisdom and goodness be expiated, but also that all the goods, both personal and social, which pertain to the universal order itself, which were diminished or destroyed by sin, be fully restored, either through voluntary reparation... or through enduring penalties established by the just and most holy Wisdom of God."
Some scholars, following the lead of S. Lyonnet, S.J. of the Pontifical Biblical Institute had been saying that since sin cannot touch God, all that is needed is to restore friendship. That does need to be restored, but Lyonnet overlooked completely the objective moral order of which Paul VI spoke.
Since the chief topic of this constitution was that of indulgences, which depend on the "treasury of the Church" Paul VI put the redemption into that background. He said the "treasury of the Church is the infinite and inexhaustible price which the expiations and merits of Christ the Lord has before God...."
A help to realize this concept comes from a Jewish Rabbi, Simeon ben Eleazar, who wrote about 170 A.D. and said he was quoting Rabbi Meir , from the first part of the same century (Tosefta, Kiddushin 1. 14):" He [anyone] has committed a transgression. Woe to him. He has tipped the scales to the side of debt for himself and for the world." The imagery is that of a two pan scales. The sinner takes from one pan what he has no right to take. So the scale is out of balance. The holiness of God wants it rebalanced. If the sinner stole property, he begins to rebalance by giving it back. If he stole a pleasure, he begins to rebalance by giving up some corresponding pleasure. But these things are only a beginning - for the imbalance from even one mortal sin is infinite, since an Infinite Person is offended. So if the Father willed a full rebalance - He was not obliged as we said - the only way to get it would be to send a divine Person, His Son, to become man. He then could generate an infinite value or weight to put into the scales.
So there are alternatives of redemption the Father could have (1) forgiven without any reparation but that would not satisfy His love of holiness, nor would it be so good for us. He (2) could have appointed any mere human to offer an animal sacrifice, and accepted that. It would be finite, not sufficient, but He could have accepted it. (3) He could have sent His Son to be born in a palace, and then almost at once to ascend. For the mere fact of the incarnation was infinitely meritorious, and infinitely satisfactory (what a come-down for the Divine Person!). The Greek Fathers especially recognized this fact in their theory of physical mystical solidarity. That would have been infinite. But His love of Holiness and His love of us - He always keeps the two together - wanted to go beyond infinity (the incarnation in a palace would have been of infinite worth). (4) So He went beyond the palace to the stable, beyond a mere incarnation (perhaps with a short prayer) to the terrible death of the cross. Sin has been lavishly committed. He wanted to be able to forgive lavishly - as any priest knows when in seconds he frees a sinner from a load of 50 years of sin or even more. At His very first appearance after rising, Jesus at once - as if He could hardly wait to give out what He had bought so dearly - gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins.
These truths, already taught as infallible truth (cf. the opening words of Paul VI) help much to fill in that which the CCC has given very well.
We add: Simeon ben Eleazar cited above says that scales is tipped not just for the one but for the world. This is much like St. Paul: "If one member suffers, all the members suffer (1 Cor 12:26).
§396: Says God 's permission of temptation by the devil is a mystery. Right, but we can help. When God decided to create men and angels, He gave free will. If He had created beings the same except for free will, they would not have been humans or angels. So that permission is a consequence of His original decision, for which there was and is excellent reason.
§§ 404-05: Vatican II in UR §6 pointed out that if any wording in older documents is less good, it could be improved in the future. Obviously true. Paul VI, in Mysterium fidei pointed out that we must not say the older wording is false, just in need of improvement. In view of that, much improvement has been made in the language on original sin today, especially by John Paul II. In a General Audience of Oct. 1, 1986: "... it is evident that original sin in Adam's descendants has not the character of personal guilt. It is the privation of sanctifying grace in a nature which, through the fall of the first parents, has been diverted from its supernatural end. It is a 'sin of nature' only analogically comparable to 'personal sin'". A week later he added, in speaking of the weakening of will and darkening of mind: " ... according to the Church's teaching, it is a case of relative and not an absolute deterioration, not intrinsic to human faculties... not of a loss of their essential capacities even in relation to knowledge and love of God."
So original sin is us is merely a privation, not something positive. It is transmitted by heredity in the sense of the non-transmission of grace.
§404 says : "the whole human race is in Adam, 'like one body of one man'" Note 3 sends us to St. Thomas, De malo. 4. 1 for the source of this quote. A bit farther on in the same work, in 4. 3, we read: "Carnal semen, just as it is the instrumental cause of the transmission of human nature into the offspring, so it is the instrumental cause of the transmission of original sin." Here we are far from the presentation of John Paul II, cited above. Rather we are closer to the opinion which seems to be present in St. Augustine (Retractations 1. 5. 2): "The guilt [reatus] of concupiscence is taken away in Baptism, but the weakness remains." This seems to mean that concupiscence is part of original sin, for it is "guilt". The whole thought seems to stem from the Latin of Rom 5. 12 used by St. Augustine and St. Thomas: "in quo omnes peccaverunt: In whom all have sinned."-- a translation not at all supported by the Greek and the Greek Fathers of the Church.
Surely, here is a place to invoke the principle of UR § 6 cited above instead of going back to the unfortunate view of Augustine and Thomas.
§410: Definitely supports the interpretation that sees Gen 3:15 as a prophecy of the Messiah. Vatican II on this in LG §55 had been cagey, saying that the Church now, with the light of later revelation, gradually has come to see this truth. But it carefully abstained from saying that the human writer of Gen 3:15 saw it. So then we have a problem. DV §3 says flatly :"After their fall, He lifted them up into the hope of salvation by the promise of redemption." So we seem to have the human author not understanding, while Adam did understand. This could work out if Adam did indeed understand, but by the time of the writing of Gen 3:15 that knowledge had been lost. §411 adds that many Fathers and doctors of the Church see Our Lady in this text, and that she is the New Eve. (Several official texts clearly say she is in the text: cf. Munificentissimus Deus esp. AAS 42. 768. ) Numerous Fathers do speak of her as the New Eve. However usually the put it in the context of the annunciation, comparing her faith to the lack of faith of Eve. And what they mean is uniformly this: Just as the first Eve really contributed to bring the damage of original sin, so the New Eve really contributed to removing that damage, i.e., cooperated in the redemption.
§423: Jesus was born at Bethlehem. J. P. Myers, A Marginal Jew, is sure it was at Nazareth!
§§471-74: "His knowledge could not be unlimited.... That is why the Son of God was able to accept, in becoming man, 'to grow in wisdom and age and grace", and even to need to inquire about the human condition what needed to be acquired in an experimental manner.... 'The human nature of the Son of God, not of itself, but by union with the Word, [italics in original] knew and manifested in it all that was proper to God' [note 6 to St. Maximus the Confessor, qu. dub. 66]…. From union with the divine Wisdom in the person of the incarnate Word, the human knowledge of Christ enjoyed fully the knowledge of the designs of God which He had come to reveal. That which He said He did not know in that sphere [note 20 referring to Mk. 13:32], He declared elsewhere that it was not His mission to reveal [note 11 to Acts 1:7]."
One would have a hard time indeed to learn what the Church actually teaches on the human knowledge of Christ from the above statements: DS 419, 475-76, 3432. 3434-35, 3812, 3905, 3924, and AAS. 20. 174 and Decree of the Doctrinal Congregation of July 24, 1966.
Yes, it is true that His human knowledge was not infinite, simply because His human mind was a created thing, and so could not contain infinite knowledge. Yet since the documents insist that His human soul saw the vision of the divinity from the first instant of conception, all knowledge was available to Him there.
The CCC seems to favor the view that He really did advance in wisdom, according to LK 2. 52. The Fathers of the Church wrestled long with this text -- cf. W. Most, The Consciousness of Christ (Christendom, 1980 pp. 95 -102. Until St. Athanasius, most of them made two kinds of statements, one kind affirming a deficiency in wisdom, the other denying it. St. Athanasius solved the problem by distinguishing between real growth and growth in manifestation of what was always there. If, for example, at age 5 He had shown the knowledge inside Him, it would have been staggering!
The second text with which the Fathers wrestled led again to two kinds of statements, up to Pope St. Gregory the Great, who solved the problem of Mk 13:32 in which He says He does not know the day of the end. Gregory said "He knew it in His humanity, but not from His humanity", that is, the information registered on His human mind, even though the human mind was not the source of His information.
Again, the quote from St. Maximus the Confessor at note 6 does not quote the significant part of the latter's words in the same sentence:"... the humanity of the Lord, inasmuch as it was united to the Word, knew all things, and manifested things divinely suitable. But inasmuch as the human nature is [thought of as] not united with the divine, it is said not to know." This is really the same thought as that of St. Gregory the Great.
The comment at note 4 that He had to learn some things experimentally is in a way true: His senses would first report something at a certain time. But He also knew the same things by way of the vision. The reference given, Mk 6:38 ("How many loaves do you have?") does not mean He really did not know - it was the way teachers ask questions to bring out responses. Similarly when He asked them what people were saying about Him, and when He asked where the body of Lazarus was. He knew by the vision, also acquired experimental knowledge at the time.
Whenever anything is taught repeatedly on the Ordinary level, it is infallible. This doctrine that His human soul saw that vision was taught clearly in 5 texts. Further, Humani generis, 1950 in DS 3884-85 taught that when the Popes in their acta explicitly take a position on something currently being debated in theology, it is removed from debate, and falls under the promise of Christ:" He who hears you, hear me." Of course that promise cannot fail. Now the statement Pius XII in Mystici corporis, 1943, fits that requirement. For the modern disturbance over the human knowledge of Christ really stems from a book of P. Galtier, L'unité du Christ, Etre, Personne, Conscience, Paris, 1939. The book appeared in 1939, Pius XII reacted against it soon, in 1943, and repeated his insistence in 1951 and 1956, clearly showing the intent to make it definitive.
Still further, theological reasoning without the help of the magisterium gives the same conclusion. For any soul to have that vision of God, two things are needed: the power to see must be elevated by grace, and the divinity would need to join itself directly to the human mind without even an image in between (DS 1000 - no image, being finite, could let us really know God, who is infinite). Now ordinarily if we put together a human soul and human body, it automatically becomes a human person. This did not happen in Christ (to say so would be Nestorianism) since His entire humanity was assumed, taken over, by the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, in view of His structure, that vision did not just happen to be there, it could not have been otherwise. In fact, it was super- vision, for the union of His human soul to the divinity was closer than that of any ordinary soul in the vision, since the ordinary soul remains a separate person, while the soul of Christ was not a separate person.
This is a most rich doctrine. It lets us see the tremendous suffering Jesus endured from conception on. For that vision showed Him mercilessly all He would suffer. We say "mercilessly" since if we suspect an evil is coming we may take refuge saying: Perhaps it won't come, perhaps it won't be that bad. But the vision showed Him every hideous detail infallibly.
He let us see inside Him, as it were, in Lk 12:50,"I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished." That is, I must be plunged into deep suffering. I am in a tight spot, cannot be comfortable until I get it over with." And in John 12. 27 a few days before His death, He interrupted His discourse to the crowd to interject: "Now is my heart troubled. What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But that is why I came...." Finally in Gethsemani the nightmare caught up with Him. When we have a nightmare we can scream and wake up before some hideous thing grabs us. But He could only wake up to find it was there, that which He had so long dreaded. No wonder the interior tension was so great as to produce what is medically called hematidrosis: the blood vessels near the sweat glands rupture from the impossible interior tension, and pour out their red cargo though those pores.
From this we can see that those who worry now, if they handle it properly, can use that as a means of likeness to Christ. It shows also that reparation is needed for the widespread insults to His intelligence that run today.
What of the fact that the manuscript evidence for the authenticity of Lk 22:44, on the sweat of blood, is almost evenly divided for and against authenticity?. We reply: Similarly the account of His mercy to the woman taken in adultery in John is missing in some of the great manuscripts. The reason is clear: they thought it just too much. Similarly here, some copyists would think it just too much. Furthermore, if we follow the trajectory, we see more clearly: it began with the vision in His human soul at conception, which showed Him everything He had to suffer in horrid detail, infallibly. We go next to Lk 12:50 and John 12:27, which we saw above. We can see that the anticipation of this suffering was eating on Him all His life long. That would generate the interior tension that would regularly produce hematidrosis, a sweat of blood. So there is no reasonable doubt about the text.
In brief: The Church teaches His human soul saw the vision of divinity from conception, in which He knew all He would suffer. Lk 2:52 saying He grew in wisdom refers to the manifestation, not to an actual growth. Mk 13:32 tells us the source of His knowledge of the day was not His humanity, even though the day did register in His humanity.
§478: "He loved us with a human heart." God told us in Isaiah 55:9: "As far as the heavens are above the earth, so are my ways above your ways." On hearing that we might wonder: How can we know what to do, how He will react? But He has taken on a human heart which we can understand. If someone says: But He is still a divine Person we reply: But the heart of His Mother is in perfect unison with His, and she is only a human person.
It is good to add too, from Haurietis aquas, that He had a threefold love: 1) the love He had as a divine Person; 2) the love of His human heart when it wills good, eternal life, to us, even at the cost to Him of a terrible death; 3) the human resonance in His human feelings.
§488: "The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation be preceded by the acceptance on the part of the predestined Mother, so that just as a woman contributed to death, s o a woman should contribute to life." This citation from LG 56 builds on the teaching of St. Thomas (III. 30. 1) and Leo XIII (ASS 29 206). The words "just as a woman contributed to death" recall the words of St. Irenaeus (III. 22. 4), cited in LG 56: "By obeying, she became a cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race."
§489: Recalls beautifully that she is the daughter of Zion par excellence, the perfect one of the anawim.
§490: Here the CCC adopts the translation "full of grace." Of course, this is usual in official texts as a result of St. Jerome's Vulgate translation. §721 even expands it "heaped up with grace" (comblée). But it can be supported well linguistically too. The word in Luke is kecharitomene . This is the perfect passive participle - a rare form - of the verb charitoo. The verbs in -oo generally mean to put a person or thing in the state indicated by the root. The root here is charis, grace or favor. But if we use the translation favor at anytime, we must keep in mind that it does not mean that God as it were just sits there and smiles, while the human does the thing by his/her own power. No, God gives the power. Else we would have Pelagianism. Further the kecharitomene is used in place of her personal name. This is like the English expression in which we would say, "He is Mr. Tennis", meaning he is the ultimate in the category of tennis. So this means she is "Miss Grace", the ultimate in the category of grace.
§494:At the annunciation, Our Lady's reply was in "the obedience of faith", i.e., the obedience that faith is, a phrase taken from Rom 1:5. For she, "embracing the saving will of God with full heart, slowed by no sin, totally dedicated herself as the slave-girl of the Lord to the person and work of her Son, under Him and with Him, by the grace of almighty God, serving the mystery of redemption." Here the CCC substantially quotes this sentence taken from LG 56." CCC continues: "As St. Irenaeus said, 'by her obedience, she became a cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.' So with him (St. Irenaeus] many of the ancient Fathers said: 'The knot of the disobedience of Eve was untied by the obedience of Mary.'" We notice two things here:
1) the stress LG puts on obedience. This is very significant. In LG §3 it had said: "By His obedience He brought about redemption." For obedience on Calvary, as at Sinai, was the covenant condition. Had His death taken place without obedience, it would have been a tragedy, not a redemption." LG here in §56 twice speaks of her obedience, which it will also stress in LG 61. So her cooperation in the redemption was by way of obedience, it was cooperating with Him by sharing in the covenant condition of obedience. 2) The comparison of untying a knot made by St. Irenaeus is remarkable. Although in context he is speaking of the annunciation, yet we know that the knot of sin was not untied then, but only in the great Sacrifice. Hence, without realizing it, St. Irenaeus seems to imply that her obedience was also a cooperation in the great Sacrifice itself, which got its value through obedience. In this connection we may recall that in LG §55 the Council said that the Church now, with fuller light, has gradually come to see her presence in Gen 3:15, even though, as the same text implied, we are not certain that the human author of Gen 3:15 understood all that the Church now sees. Not strangely, a writer in the hands of Divine Providence may say more than he realizes he is saying.
LG §61, cited rather fully, agrees with the implication which St. Irenaeus probably did not see: "... in suffering with Him as He died on the Cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior, in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith, hope, and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls. As a result, she is our Mother in the order of grace." -- This last sentence explains why she is our spiritual Mother - of which CCC §501 speaks. An ordinary mother should, 1) share in bringing a new life to being - Our Lady did that for the greater life of the soul; 2) should care for the new life so long as she is needed, willing, and able - our Lady is always needed, since grace is always needed, and all grace come through her (cf. LG §62). She is never unwilling or unable.
§497:"The Church sees there [in Is 7:14] the fulfillment of the divine promise given by the prophet Isaiah: 'Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son'... according to the Greek translation of Mt 1:25."
Is 7:14 is remarkable text. As a promise given to Achaz before 700 B.C. a fulfillment 7 centuries later would not serve as much of a sign to Achaz. Yet St. Matthew does take it that way and further, since the child of 7:14 is clearly the same as the child of 9:5-6, the description of the child given in 9:5-6 is much too grandiose for the son of Achaz. So, it seems we have here a prophecy that goes through more than once: partially in Hezekiah son of Achaz, fully in Christ. (St. Augustine in City of God 17. 3 notes that such a pattern can occur). We may wonder, however, in the light of what we have seen of Gen 3:15 and in the light of the remarks of Vatican II on both Gen 3:15 and this text in LG § 55, if this is not a case of the kind LG §55 seems to have in mind, namely, one in which the human author may not have seen in a text all that the Church now sees.
This could account for why Isaiah here uses almah for the girl instead of betulah. (Almah means a girl of marriageable age, who should be a virgin; betulah is more precise.)
(Interestingly, the ancient Aramaic Targum marks Is 9:5-6 as messianic, but does not so mark 7:14 even though all admit today that the child is the same in both texts. Actually, we know that Hillel, one of the great teachers at the time of Christ, did think 7:14 messianic. But Jacob Neusner a great Jewish scholar of today, in Messiah in Context, p. 190, says that when the Jews saw Christians using 7:14, they pulled back and no longer wanted to say it was messianic).
§499 speaks of her virginal integrity. That word is important for it shows that her virginity is not just a symbol, a theologoumenon, but is physical as well.
§500 insists that the "brothers of Jesus" are not blood siblings as some are claiming today. 1) the word brother in Hebrew, ah , is very broad, covers cousins and more. Hebrew has no word for cousins, nor does Aramaic; 2) Some then object that Greek does have such words. True, but often we must look to the underlying Hebrew to understand the Greek, e.g., Rom 9:13, 1 Cor 1:17, Rom 5:19. 3) If Jesus had four brothers plus some sisters, it would be much out of place to ask John, when He was dying, to take care of her; 4) There was a rabbinic tradition, beginning with Philo, that Moses after his first encounter with God, never again had sex with his wife. But Our Lady had carried the God-man in her womb 9 months! And Joseph, knowing Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit - would he dare to intrude? As for the words "until" and "first born" in Mt 1:25: "until" often indicates no change after the point mentioned, e.g., Mt 22:42-46; Dt. 34:6; 2 Sam 6:23. "First born" indicates just a special status in the Hebrew family, e.g., a Greek tomb inscription at Tel el Yaoudieh for a woman who died in childbirth: "In the pain of delivering my firstborn child, destiny brought me to the end of life." So there is no valid objection to believing the teaching of the Church on this point.
§515 speaks of the humanity of Christ as a sacrament. This is true in that it is a means of grace. But is it a good idea to use that word for more than the seven? It took 12 centuries to make it precise, now to make it loose again, we wonder.
§517 says all the life of Christ is the mystery of the Redemption. This is true. It was brought out beautifully in LG 61, part of which was cited above. Speaking of Our Lady : "In conceiving Christ, in bringing Him forth, in feeding Him, in presently Him in the temple, is suffering with her Son as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls." All the mysteries of His life are part of the redemption. This text indicates that she cooperated in all of them.
This reminds us of the explanation much liked by the Greek Fathers for the redemption: physical mystical solidarity. It goes this way: all humanity forms a unit, a solidarity. In the incarnation, His humanity becomes part of that solidarity. But in Him, it is joined in one Person to the divinity. So a power or force spreads out over His humanity to the rest of humanity to heal it. (Cf. St. Athanasius, 2nd Oration against Arians 70; St. Gregory of Nyssa, Catechetical Oration 32). Really, the mere fact of becoming Man was infinitely meritorious and also (as a come-down) infinite in making satisfaction. The Father could have accepted that alone, but He went so far as the stable and the cross, so that the titles provided for redeeming us become lavish, so He can forgive lavishly.
The resurrection does not fit in the category of merit, but in the category of the Mystical Body: where the Head has gone, the members must go too: cf. 1 Cor 15.
§518 speaks of recapitulation, the central theme in the theology of St. Irenaeus, who is also cited here. St. Irenaeus used recapitulation for the incarnation, the redemption, the New Eve theme, the antichrist (as the new head of the forces of evil) and even for the restoration of the world to it primeval state.
§529: The presentation in the temple included the continuation and expression of His "behold I come to do your will O God" (Heb. 10:7). The fact that from the first instant of conception His human soul saw the vision of God (cf §§ 471-74 above) made possible this expression of His will to obedience from the start. At the presentation, when most children were bought back from the service of God, He was actually turned over. This was as it were the offertory of the great Sacrifice. Similarly, His Mother's fiat continued and was expressed again, in pain, especially from the prophecy of Simeon. Really, she had known of His sufferings from the day of the annunciation, for as soon as Gabriel said He would reign over the house of Jacob forever, she could not help knowing He was the Messiah - and Isaiah 53 and other prophecies would apply. Cf. Zech 12:10 (look on me whom they have pierced") and Psalm 22 (pierced my hands and my feet... divided my garments)
§530 recalls that the return from Egypt points to Him as the New Moses in the Exodus. Matthew's Gospel especially presents this theme.
§532 stresses His obedience to His foster Father. Obedience was the great theme of His life, that without which His death would not have been a redemption but a tragedy.
§534 mentions that Mary and Joseph did not understand His words when they found Him in the temple. This need not mean they did not know who He was - as we said above, as soon as Gabriel said He would reign forever, she knew He was to be the Messiah. But what they did not understand was the sudden change of pattern from a compliant, humble child to the image they saw at this time.
§536 speaks of Jesus at His baptism being willing to be counted among sinners, We compare especially 2. Cor 5. 21: "Him who did not know sin, He [the Father] caused to be sin, for our sakes." "To fulfill everything that is right." reflects the Father's and His love of good order, as expressed in Summa I. 19. 5. c which in paraphrase means: In His love of all that is right and good order, the Father likes to have one thing in place to serve as the title or reason for giving the second thing, even though that title does not move Him.
§§541-47: Here the CCC speaks of the kingdom. For some reason, Vatican II did not speak with full clarity on the meaning of this phrase. Part of the reason is this: ancient words and expressions commonly have a rather broad span of possible meanings. That is true of the kingdom. It can mean final salvation, as in 1 Cor 5:9-10 and Gal 5:21. It can have vague meanings as in Rom 14:17: "The kingdom of God is not food and drink - probably means membership does not depend on what you do or do not eat.
But it can and does often mean the Church in this world and/or in the next. Thus Mt 21:43: "The kingdom will taken away form you and given to a nation that will yield a rich harvest" -it means the Pharisees will no longer be part of the People of God: it will go to the Gentiles who will profit by it. In a similar sense we read the parable of the net, the parable of the weeds in the wheat, the parable of the mustard seed etc.
Quite a few commentators who are not thought of as conservative agree, e.g., David M. Stanley and John L. McKenzie in the fist edition of the Jerome Biblical Commentary. Much the same was W. F. Albright, in his Anchor Bible commentary on Matthew. Even R. Brown admits this in a large sense in The Churches the Apostles left behind, pp. 51-52. In fact Brown even says, in Responses to Questions on the Bible, p. 12 that it is regrettable that when the manuscripts of translators came to the editor, they were often changed. He mentions a change from kingdom of God to reign of God as specially unfortunate. We gladly agree, and add that the original Jerome Biblical Commentary commonly changed the wording of the New American Bible from reign to kingdom.
Vatican II, not with utmost clarity, but yet really, does make the Church the same as the kingdom at times. Thus LG §8 says that "the Church on earth, and the Church endowed with heavenly good things are not to be considered two things, but form one complex reality." But, the kingdom in heaven is mentioned in LG§ 5 in saying that the Church now "longs for the consummated kingdom", the Church in heaven. So we gather an identification, valid at times.
§574. We are happy to see that the CCC abstains from an error so common today, namely, of saying that the debates with the Pharisees did not happen during the life of Jesus, but only later in the century, and were retrojected to an earlier point. Such retrojection is illicit, since in such a case, Jesus Himself would not at all have said the things attributed to Him. Further, new discoveries in the Dead Sea scrolls have shown that "the reports of the religious laws... attributed to the Pharisees in the later talmudic texts are basically accurate." (Bible Review, June 1992, pp. 30-33). Jacob Neusner, in Torah (Fortress, 1983) p. 75 says that the Talmud says "the ones [laws] handed on orally are the more precious." Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 11. 3 said "It is a worse thing to go against the words of the Scribes than the words of the [written] law." The Palestinian Targum on Dt. 32. 4 said that God Himself spends three hours per day in studying the Law. Studying the Law means chiefly solving cases. B. Talmud, Beza 1. 1 tells us that at the time of Christ the rival schools debated whether it was permitted to eat an egg laid by a hen on a feast day coming after the Sabbath. Shammai said it was permitted, Hillel said no. Yigal Yadin in Biblical Archaeology Review, Sept-Oct. 1984, p. 45 tells us that since Dt 23:12-14 ordered the latrine to be built outside the camp during the desert period, some Essenes took this to apply to all of Jerusalem. So they made a latrine outside the city 3000 cubits away - too far for anyone to be permitted to walk there on the Sabbath!
§602: "In sending His own Son in the condition of a slave [cf. Phil 2:7 that of a fallen humanity, destined to death because of sin, 'God made sin for us, Him who did not know sin, so that we might become justice for God.'" this is a most powerful line. As CCC takes it, it is verified in that Christ came in the form of slave, in a fallen humanity. At His baptism by John, John protested, and Jesus replied: "It is right for us to fulfill everything that is right." At His death He was considered a criminal, the chief of the other two criminals.
Yet, § 603 continues, saying, "Jesus did not know reprobation as if He Himself had sinned. But in the love that always united Him to the Father, He assumed the separation of our sin in relation to God, to the point of being able to say on the Cross: 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'"
The thought is not fully clear. Much better was the explanation of John Paul II (General Audience of Nov. 30, 1988): "If Jesus feels abandoned by the Father, He knows, however, that it is not really so. He Himself said: 'I and the Father are one. '.... dominant in His mind Jesus has the clear vision of God and the certainty of His union with the Father. But in the sphere bordering on the senses, and therefore more subject to the impressions, emotions and influence of the internal and external experiences of pain, Jesus' human soul is reduced to a wasteland, and He no longer feels [emphasis added] the 'presence' of the Father.... However, Jesus knew that by this ultimate phase of His sacrifice, reaching the intimate core of His being, He completed the work of reparation which was the purpose of His sacrifice for the expiation of sins." (On the different levels, cf. St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God 9. 3).
§605: "He said 'He was giving His life for the many'. This last term is not restrictive....' There is not and there never will be a human for whom Christ did not suffer. '" [Council of Quiersy in 853 AD. DS 624.
Two comments: 1) the reason for the word many is the underlying Hebrew rabbim, first attested in Isaiah 53, where parallels show it means all. It specifies that the all are many. Hence the Latin "pro multis" in the Mass is not restrictive either. It means for all. Every time St. Paul uses polloi, many as a substantive, he always means all, as a look at a Greek concordance will reveal, cf. e.g., Rom 5:19.
2) we compare Gal 2:20: "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." As GS §22 tells us "Each one of us can say with the Apostle: The Son of God loved me, and gave HImself for me." So the infinite price of redemption generated an infinite objective title to forgiveness and grace for each individual human.
§606: "From the first moment of the Incarnation, the Son embraced the divine plan of salvation." This clearly implies that His human soul saw the vision of God from the first instant, as a result of which He could know the plan of redemption in His human soul. This is, we are pleased to say, much clearer than what we saw in §§ 472-74. It is implied in Hebrews 10: 5-7.
§612 speaks of the agony in the garden. Here Jesus even experienced fear. One foolish commentator wrote that He should not have feared, for He knew He would rise on the third day. But that knowledge would not keep the nails and scourges from hurting! An unprotected human nature would naturally shrink back in fear before such horrible suffering. Jesus in Phil 2:7 had emptied Himself - would not use His divine resources for His own comfort. So His humanity was unprotected. Hence the fear.
§§ 613-16: His death was the "sacrifice of the New Covenant." These, sacrifice and covenant, are actually two aspects of this great reality. It was a sacrifice since it included both external sign and interior disposition, obedience. It was the making of the New Covenant in which the essential condition was obedience, just as obedience had been the critical condition of the old covenant: Ex 19:5. This was to repair our disobedience - by providing an obedience greater than all our disobediences.
But even when we have said His death was a sacrifice, and the making of the new covenant, we must still ask about that obedience which was central in both aspects. Namely, we ask: Why did the Father call for an obedience so terribly difficult? The answer is in a neglected part of theology. Paul VI (cited in §§ 389-90 above) repeated the oft-taught truth that sin is a debt, which the Holiness of God wants to have paid.
The thought that sin is a debt is all over the Old Testament, intertestamental literature, New Testament, rabbinic writings, and Patristic writings. The doctrine of Paul VI was much needed, for it was about that time, 1967, that theologians somehow no longer wanted to teach this truth of a debt to be paid, of a rebalance of the objective order. So we meet some writings today that profess not to understand how the redemption operates or produces its effect. No wonder. (There was a revulsion against the mistakes of St. Anselm, who said the Father had to demand satisfaction, in justice, and had to provide the incarnation).
If the Father wanted full rebalance, a work by an Infinite Person was needed. But why go to such a degree of difficulty? As we saw above on p. 10, There were several options open to the Father. First, He could have forgiven without any rebalance or satisfaction. But that would not satisfy His love of objective goodness. Secondly, He could have accepted a religious action of any ordinary person. But His love wanted much more. Thirdly, He could have been content with the infinite merit and infinite satisfaction of the incarnation itself, even if the Son were born in a palace and never suffered or died. That would have been infinite. The Eastern Fathers loved to speak of physical mystical solidarity, i.e., all humanity formed a unit , a solidarity. The humanity of Jesus became part of that solidarity. But in Him, humanity was joined in one Person to the divinity itself. So a force or power spread out from the divinity, through His humanity, and healed all humanity. So again, an incarnation in a palace, without suffering and death, would have been infinite in merit and in satisfaction.
Yet, such was the intensity of His and the Father's desire for all holiness and for our well-being - both are inseparably joined by His will - that He was not satisfied with any lesser measure, but went even to the stable and the cross. Then He could not only forgive, but forgive lavishly - as He does in the confessional through the priest, who can wipe out decades of horrid sin at one stroke: "I absolve you."
As we shall see later, it pleased the Father to join the cooperation of the Blessed Mother to the already infinite-beyond -infinity - the incarnation in a palace would have been infinite, but He went far beyond that.
(For a proposed simple way of presenting the redemption, please see addendum to §§963-70, on note page 34).
No wonder then that St. Paul insists 5 times over, in Rom 5:12-19, that the redemption is superabundant, more so than the fall.
§618 speaks of our participation in the sacrifice of Christ. Here it would help to sum up the Pauline syn Christo theology: We are saved and made holy if and to the extent that we are members of Christ and like Him, - like Him even in this difficult work of rebalancing the objective order. This comes to a focus in the Mass where there is an opening - that is why He ordered, "Do this in memory of me" - for us to present our acts of obedience to the will of the Father to fuse as it were into one great offering of the obedience of the whole Christ.
We offer our efforts not just for ourselves alone, but we want to share with Him in making up for all. It is true, we cannot begin to make enough reparation for our own sins. How then can we help others? The answer is: The desire to help them is an act of charity/love, which multiplies the value, and makes it count twice, once for others, once for ourselves. So -since to love is to will good to another for the other's sake - our willing to make up for others is love. And in an analogous sense it is love of God, by working to make it possible for Him to have the pleasure of giving to others.
§632-33 tells that Christ descended to the realm of the dead to announce liberation to the just there. For according to the very common patristic view, heaven was closed until His death. The CCC gives a reference to 1 Pet 3:18-19. But the special problem lies in the next verses, 19-21, where Christ preached to those who did not believe in the time of Noah. Probably the genre is that of an ancient story, designed to harmonize two truths: There is no salvation without Christ, but the salvation through Him extends to all times and places.
It is clear that the just waited in a sort of limbo, and that conditions there were very different from those of the afterlife now, after Christ. In this way we can account for many otherwise puzzling texts of the Old Testament, e.g., Sirach 14:16-17 and 38:21.
Just a few of the Fathers imagined a baptism for the dead who had been just but had not receive baptism: e.g., Shepherd of Hermas, Similitudes 9. 16 and Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 2. 9.43-44. , where the Apostles after their own deaths gave them "the seal", i.e., Baptism.
§639 speaks of the resurrection of Christ as a real event which had historical manifestations. §643 speaks of the resurrection as "an historical fact". Interesting in view of the fact that some today say it is not to be called historical since there were no witnesses.
§646. It is strange that no description of the risen bodies of all Christians is given - it would be like that of Christ.
§654 adds "By His death He delivered us from sin, by His resurrection He opens for us access to a new life." If we think only in the category of merit, then only the death of Christ would be part of the process of redemption. But when we add the Mystical Body aspect, then since our Head has risen, we His members must rise too, as St. Paul stresses in 1 Cor 15.
§655: It would have been good to speak of His words: "All power is given me in heaven and on earth." He always had had that power, but in emptying Himself, He resolved not to use it for Himself. But now all restriction is gone.
§687 brings us a strange thing, a mistranslation of Scripture, John 16:13. It seems the writers used only a French translation of Scripture which would be ambiguous like the English:
"He will not speak of Himself". But had they checked the Greek they would have known the real sense: It does not say that the Holy Spirit will not talk about Himself "in divine modesty!". No it means that the Holy Spirit will not take His teachings from Himself, but from the Father and the Son, much as Jesus Himself said He spoke what the Father gave Him to speak: John 7:16.
§721. The heading is "Rejoice, heaped full (comblée) of grace." The text adds: "Mary, the completely holy Mother of God, ever virgin, is the masterpiece of the mission of the Son and of the Spirit in the fullness of time." This recalls LG §65: "While the Church in the most Blessed Virgin has already reached the perfection in which it is without spot or wrinkle (cf. Eph 5, 27) the Christian faithful still strive to conquer sin and grow in holiness; and so they lift up their eyes to Mary, who gleams like the model of virtues for the whole community of the elect. The Church, devoutly thinking of her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made flesh, enters reverently more deeply into the supreme mystery of the Incarnation."
§738:" And so the mission of the Church is not added to that of Christ and the Spirit, but it is the sacrament thereof." Inasmuch as the Church is the channel through which all the graces come, this is very true. But we wonder about the advisability of using the word sacrament here in view of the fact that it took 12 centuries to make that word precise in the first place, so as to be limited to the Seven Sacraments.
§760 cites Hermas: "The world was created in view of the Church." That had at first perhaps been a reply to the Jews who said it was created for them. Cf. A. Marmorstein, The Doctrine of Merits in Old Rabbinical Literature (Ktav, 1968) pp. 10-11, 27.
§§761-62: God made a long preparation for the Church. Part of it was the election of Israel to be the People of God - but in Christ, all are called to be members of the People of God.
§767:Because of this intention of God to include all, the Church is essentially missionary. It will have its consummation in glory (§ 768).
§771 says the Church is both visible and invisible. LG §25 says the same, and begins to show there are possibilities of membership for some who do not explicitly join, especially baptized non-Catholics: Cf. On Ecumenism § 3. This seems to be implied in the noted text where the Kingdom "subsists" in the Catholic Church (LG § 8) St. Paul in Rom 2. 15 speaks of gentiles who do not have the revealed law, but yet they 'show the work of the law written on their hearts." It is written by the spirit of Christ. (All works of the Three Persons, done outside the divine nature, are common to all Three: Cf. DS 800). Now from Rom 8. 9 we gather that if someone does have and follows the Spirit, he "belongs to Christ." St. Justin Martyr, First Apology 46 says that some who in the past were thought to be atheists were really Christians, since they followed the Logos. He mentions Socrates as one of these. So it seems Socrates belonged to Christ, and had a substantial, even though incomplete, membership in the Church. - not by formal adherence, but substantially. Since we have a definition that there is no salvation outside the Church, we need to broaden the concept of membership in this way. Pius IX in Quanto conficiamur moerore (Aug 10, 1863) said that "God... in His supreme goodness... by no means allows anyone to be punished with eternal punishments who does not have the guilt of voluntary fault". John Paul II, in Redemptoris missio §10 affirms the same: "The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church... a grace which while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally [emphasis added] part of the Church."
It interesting to compare the above with two statements in UR §3: "Those who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are established in a certain communion with the Catholic Church, even though it is not complete.... Nonetheless being justified in baptism, they are incorporated in Christ." We agree there can be members of the People of God who do not formally adhere to the Catholic Church. The texts given above seem to say these include not only those who are baptized, but still others, who meet the criteria given above, e.g., Socrates.
§773: " Mary precedes all of us in the holiness which is the mystery of the Church as 'the Spouse without stain or wrinkle (Eph. 5. 27) " This is why 'the marial dimension of the Church precedes the petrine dimension. '" (citing Mulieris dignitatem 27).
§785: Here the CCC reviews for us a most important teaching of LG §12 that if the whole Church, people and authorities together has ever believed [accepted as revealed] anything, that belief is infallible. This is called passive infallibility. It covers a host of things, e.g., the existence of angels, so often denied today.
What if the present generation denies what a previous generation believed? We reply: what was once stamped as infallible by this universal belief, cannot be undone, cannot be made false.
CCC speaks of this as part of the prophetic role of the people. True. We should add that that prophetic role also includes bringing the principles of Christ into the world of their work. So a politician cannot say he must conform to this world. (Cf. LG § 36 and Redemptoris missio § 37). St. Paul taught (Rom 12:2): "Be not conformed to this world." That does not include taking the lead in promoting favor to abortion and homosexuality.
§786: The participation in the kingship of Christ includes the ability to control self, and not to be a slave to passions or attachments.
§800 speaks of charisms. But we should add that there are two basic kinds, 1) ordinary - such as the gift of being a good parent, a good teacher etc. These are given widely to all. 2) extraordinary, such as tongues , gift of healing, gift of working miracles etc. Here it is important to notice, with LG §12 that it is for the Bishops to judge the genuineness of such gifts. Too many who think they have such gifts just say it sounds like what we find in St. Paul. No, each case needs checking individually, for the phenomena may come from a good spirit, evil spirit, or suggestion, which is not rare. LG § 12 tells us not to desire the extraordinary things -- may lead to autosuggestion or other dangers. Furthermore it is important not to forget Mt 7:22-23: "Many will say to me on that day: Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and driven out devils in your name, and worked many miracles in your name. And then I will confess to them: I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of iniquity." LG § 12 says do not pray for extraordinary charisms.
§816-18 cites UR §3. That is a very interesting paragraph. On the one hand it says that "Those who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are established in a certain communion with the Catholic Church, even though it is not complete.... Nonetheless, being justified in baptism, they are incorporated in Christ." So someone can be a member of Christ, by baptism, and still be only in a "certain communion with the Catholic Church, even though it is not complete." Cf. comments on §771 above.
§823 speaks of the"saints" and of the Church as holy. It would have been good to notice that the Scriptural use of "saints" and related words reflects the Hebrew qadosh, which does not basically mean high moral perfection, but being set aside for God through the Covenant. That status calls for high moral holiness, but it may or may not be verified in each person.
Especially significant is the use of "holy" in 1 Cor 7:14-15.
§829: cites LG § 65: "The Church in the most Blessed Virgin has already reached the perfection in which it is without spot or wrinkle (cf. Eph 5, 27). The Christian faithful still strive to conquer sin and grow in holiness; and so they lift up their eyes to Mary"... The text adds, well, "in her the Church is already all holy."
§839: Peoples who have not received the Gospel are still ordered to the Church. "The Church, the People of God in the New Covenant discovers, in examining its own mystery, its bond with the Jewish people, 'to whom God spoke first' [Good Friday liturgy]. Different from other nonchristian religions, the Jewish faith is already a response to the revelation of God in the Old Covenant. It is the Jewish People to whom 'belong the adoption of sons, the glory, the covenants, the legislation, the cult, the promises and the patriarchs, from whom was born, according to the flesh, the Christ (Rom 9:4-5) for 'the gifts and call of God are without repentance' (Rom 11. 29)". Unfortunately the CCC does not take up the question of whether or not Jews need to accept Christ in order to be saved.
Eugene J. Fisher, Director of the Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in Biblical Archaeology Review, March, 1991, p. 58 wrote:"... the Jewish 'no' is properly understood as a 'yes' to God's continuing call to them. Jewish refusal to convert to Christianity is not to be understood as anything less than a faithful witness to God."
Vatican II, in Nostra aetate §4 wrote on the Jews that they "still remain very dear to God because of the patriarchs. Along with the Prophets and the same Apostle [Paul] the Church awaits the day known to God alone in which all peoples with one voice will invoke the Lord and serve Him with one accord."
St. Paul has two kinds of texts in Romans 11. In 11:1: "God has not rejected His people, has He?" In 11:29:"The gifts and the call of God are without repentance." Yet the same Paul looks forward to their conversion to Christ in 11:14 -24. In 11:25-26 he foretells their final conversion, In 11:23 Paul even speaks of the Jews who reject Christ as being in "faithlessness" [apistia], And in 11:17-24 he gives a comparison of two olive trees. The tame olive tree is the original People of God. The wild olive tree is the gentiles. Many branches fell off from the tame olive, and in their places gentiles were ingrafted. This means many Jews fell out of the original People of God, by their "faithlessness". Paul hopes to get them back. When he says that God has not rejected them, and that His call to them still stands, he means that God still wants them to be part of His people. But if they reject, and remain in "faithlessness", they are for the time being not part of the People of God. (Speaking of them as dear to God means God loves them. But when God loves, He wills good to them, "that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim 2:4). So God loves them in the sense that He desires their final salvation, and wants it to be by coming to the knowledge of the truth, the truth of Christ.
In Rom 9:25-26 Paul had cited Hosea 2:23-25 where God said that after infidelity, they were "Lo-ammi", not my People. But He was going to restore them and again call them, "my people," they would against be part of His people.
So Eugene Fisher's view is unfaithful to St. Paul. It would imply that Jews do not need Christ to redeem them. Does he mean they can redeem themselves? Paul hopes for them to be saved. In context, "saved" means entry into the Church. Paul knows, from his own words in Rom 2:14-16 that anyone can reach final salvation by following the Spirit of Christ, even though he may not know that that is what he is following. (cf. comments on §771) The whole context of chapters 8-11 speaks of the Church and entry into it. §§846-48 deals with the axiom: No salvation outside the Church. It does not take up the difficult case of L. Feeney, really, not so suitable for a catechism. But we may fill in a bit.
The axiom extra ecclesiam was defined by the Council of Florence DS 1351. Yet just as we avoid private interpretation of Scripture, so we must also avoid private interpretation of texts of the Church, as the Holy Office said in the Feeney case: DS 3866. There are many official texts showing a broad interpretation of membership in the Church. Pius IX (DS 2866) taught: "God... in His supreme goodness and clemency by no means allows anyone to be punished with eternal punishment who does not have the guilt of voluntary fault." (This rules out the damnation of infants). Pius XII (DS 3821) said one who do not formally enter the Church can be "ordered to the Church by a certain desire and wish of which he is not aware. ' that is, one contained in the dispositions of obeying God in general. Vatican II in LG §16: "They who without their own fault do not know of the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but yet seek God with sincere heart, and try, under the influence of grace, to carry out His will in practice, known to them through the dictate of conscience, can attain eternal salvation." John Paul II said the same in Redemptoris Missio §10.
The Fathers of the Church show a similarly broad view, even though at other times they seem stringent. E. g. , St. Augustine in his Retractations 1. 13. 3 wrote: "This very things which is now called the Christian religion existed among the ancients, nor was it lacking from the beginning of the human race, until Christ Himself came in the flesh, whence the true religion that already existed began to be called Christian." For an abundant collection of Patristic and official texts, cf. Wm. Most, Our Father's Plan, pp. 241-69.
§§880-87 deals with collegiality, a topic which some in the theological commission at Vatican II had literally plotted to use to cut the power of the Pope, by inserting deliberately ambiguous lines, which they would later say held the true meaning in the weaker understanding, so that the Pope could be dependent on the Bishops for much. In contrast, the CCC tells the truth, that the Pope has supreme immediate power over each one in the Church, Bishops included. The College of Bishops can do nothing without him. He without consulting them can issue commands, can even give a solemn definition. Historically, most major decisions have been taken in a collegial manner. Yet the Pope retains the power.
At the end in §887 there is a word saying episcopal conferences can have much value. But it does not say they have teaching authority. Individual Bishops have that in their own dioceses, but the body as such does not have it.
§892 tells us that some statements of the Magisterium are not presented as definitive - if they are presented as definitive, they are all infallible, regardless of the form in which they are presented. But even the nondefinitive teachings require "religious submission of mind and of will". The assent is made with the realization that there is a far-out chance of error. But it is farther out than the possibility that a can of food we have just opened has Botulism, or that a mistake will be made by the jury in the matter of a life in prison or death. For the judge tells the jury to call the man guilty they must be sure, "beyond reasonable doubt." Not every small doubt need be excluded.
§§898-900. Describes beautifully the role of lay persons: the proper vocation of the laity is to seek the kingdom of God precisely in the management of the temporal things that they deal with, so as to inject the spirit of Christ into temporal affairs. Before Vatican II, the lay apostolate was usually described as a participation in the apostolate of the hierarchy. That is still part of their role. But Vatican II added that they by Baptism and Confirmation are already deputed to an apostolate, and that they have the right to do initiate certain things in the apostolate on their own. This does not mean that they must join some formal movement, though that is to be encouraged. Redemptoris missio §37 compares their work to that of St. Paul on the Areopagus, and gives many suggestions.
§§901-03 on the participation of persons in the Mass says well, citing LG §34: "All their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, their life in marriage and the family, their daily work, their relaxation of mind and body, if carried out in the Spirit, also the troubles of life, if patiently borne become spiritual offerings... which most devoutly are offered along with the offering of the Lord's Body, to the Father." The framework for this theology is clearest in Pius XII, Mediator Dei. He says that the participation of the people in the Mass is most essentially interior: (1) They offer from the fact that the priest at the altar represents Christ, whose members they are, and (2) that they join their dispositions --their "spiritual offerings" along with the dispositions of the Heart of Christ on the altar, to as to form the offering of the whole Christ, Head and members.
We fear that often the laity get the impression that "active participation" means only making the responses and singing etc. They do not suspect the interior things. If they do not do more than the externals, God will again say what He once said through Isaiah 29:13:"This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. "The people at the time of this complaint were very good at externalism, but that was all. The section on the role of the laity in the liturgy in part II of the CCC is weak in regard to bringing out this interior, though it speaks in great detail of the exterior.
LG §34 spoke of married life. Paul VI, in an address to the National Congress of the Italian Feminine Center on Feb. 12, 1966 (The Pope Speaks 11, 1966, p. 10) said: "Christian marriage and the Christian family demand a moral commitment. They are not an easy way of Christian life, even though the most common, the one which the majority of the children of God are called to travel. Rather it is a long path toward sanctification." Very true. After the initial emotional jag wears off, the partners find that male and female psychology are greatly different. So each one, even in a fine combination, can honestly say: I need to give in most the time to make this work. To do that is greatly helpful to spiritual development. And sacrifices for children are also a large part of this. If baby fusses at 3 AM and a parent must be up for indefinite time, that, if seen as part of our Father's plan, can be called a holy hour.
Sadly, so many grow up today following what is sometimes called the New Spirituality, which says: to give up any creature or pleasure, voluntarily (in contrast to accepting providentially sent things) does one no good. A person who has lived that way is apt to be incapable of the permanent commitment which marriage must be.
§915 speaks of the value of the three counsels, poverty, chastity, and obedience. The New Spirituality of which we have just spoken considers them useless: to give up anything voluntarily does one no good. No wonder few want to enter religious life, or stay in it.
§916 speaks of the value of the counsels as showing what the world to come will be like, when they do not marry or give in marriage. This is true. But not many will want to make sacrifices just to make such an image. They should add the motivation coming from Mt 6:21: "Where your treasure is, there is your heart also." In the narrow sense the treasure might be a box of coins. But really, we can put our treasure in almost anything: large meals, gourmet meals, sex, travel, study, even of theology. All these are lower than God Himself, some more so than others. That is one factor. The other is: how much does a person let himself be pulled by creatures: only as far as imperfection, or as far as occasional venial sin, or habitual venial sin, or occasional mortal sin, or habitual mortal sin? In proportion to these two factors it is that much less easy for thoughts and heart to rise to the level of God. To free oneself in actuality from things of the world helps much in this respect.
We should add too: the work of rebalancing the objective order by self-denial is valuable and needed (see comments on §§386-89). So Vatican II in the Decree on Religious Life §7 said that entirely contemplative institutes are needed, even when their is great need of active apostolate. These provide the spiritual power needed in activity. So the cloistered St. Therese of Lisieux is named Patroness of the Missions.
§951. Here let us recall our comments on charisms in §800.
§958: prayers for the dead. We can see this need also, in addition, to usual arguments from noting Mal 3:2: "He is like a refiner's fire, and who can stand when He appears." St. Paul in 1 Cor 13:12 says those in heaven see God face to face. God has no face, and the soul has no eyes. We see Him more directly than when I see a human before me. To see the human, I take in an image of him. That works, since an image though finite can show what the human is like. But no image can show us God. So we have a definition (DS 1000) that there is no image in the process. Instead, God joins Himself directly to the human soul or mind, and by that means the soul knows Him as He is. Of course He will not do that to someone who is totally corrupt, or even having lesser stains. For He is like a refiner's fire.
§§963-70: The general heading for this section is: "The motherhood of Mary towards the Church." There are three subheadings: 1) Completely united with her Son; 2) also in her Assumption; 3) She is our mother in the order of grace. --We mention these headings since they are significant in making clear, or not clear, the teaching contained.
Under the first heading, "completely united with her Son" the CCC cites LG §58:"The blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, keeping faithfully her union with her Son even to the Cross, where, not without divine design, she stood, suffering cruelly with her only Son, associated with a motherly heart with His sacrifice, giving her consent of love to the immolation of the Victim born of her flesh so that she was given at last by the same Jesus Christ dying on the cross, as his mother to the disciple in these words, 'Woman behold your son. '" The comment after the passage said: "After the Ascension of her Son, Mary 'assisted at the birth of the Church with her prayers' (LG §69). In union with the Apostles and some women 'we see Mary by her prayers calling for the gift of the Spirit who, at the annunciation had already taken her under His overshadowing." (LG §59).
Under the second heading, "also in her Assumption" we find a citation from LG §59 saying she was assumed into heaven, made Queen of the Universe."
Under the third heading "she is our Mother in the order of grace" we read that she by her complete adherence to the will of the Father, to the redeeming work of her Son, to every movement of the Holy Spirit, she is for the Church the model of faith and love.... she is the 'exemplary realization', the type of the Church. [italics in original]. - At once at the start of the next paragraph we read: "But her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still farther. She gave to the work of the Savior a cooperation absolutely without parallel by her obedience, her faith, her hope, her burning love, so that supernatural life might be given to souls. It is for this reason that she became for us, our Mother in the order of grace" (citing LG §61).
The next paragraph says her motherhood continues without interruption even to the final consummation of all the elect. After her Assumption, her role was not interrupted. By her repeated intercession she continues to obtain the gifts that assure our eternal salvation. It is for this reason that the blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of advocate, auxiliatrix, helper and mediatrix." (LG § 62).
We presented the above with special care and fullness to make it easier to see how the CCC compares with Vatican II at this point. For the sake of clarity, let us review a few special terms.
We distinguish the once for all earning of all graces on Calvary, also called objective redemption, from the distribution of these graces throughout all ages, also called subjective redemption.
In regard to Our Lady's cooperation we ask about remote and immediate cooperation. Remote consisted in agreeing, in faith, to be the Mother of the Redeemer, furnishing the humanity in which He could die. Immediate cooperation means some sort of share in the great sacrifice itself, on Calvary. By about 1959 all Mariologists had come to see that the Church had clearly taught an immediate cooperation: there are 17 texts of every Pope, Leo XIII to the present, and Vatican II that say this. But there is a further question: In what did that cooperation consist. There were two proposals at the start of Vatican II: 1) the Germans said her role was only "active receptivity". I put out my hand, that is active, and pick up something I had no share in producing, that is mere receptivity. 2) Cardinal Santos and numerous others said her role a share in earning a title to all graces and forgiveness. Vatican II in LG §54 said it did not intend to settle debates.
What of the passage from CCC on these matters? First, the division under the three headings does not help the clarity. Still more, the opening part of the citation from LG §61 is missing, and makes a large difference. The full text reads: "In conceiving Christ, in bringing Him forth, in presenting Him in the temple, and in suffering with her Son as He died on the Cross, she cooperated it he work of the Savior, in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls. as a result she is our Mother in the order of grace.
The first part of the text says she shared in His meriting from the start of His life to His death. For His whole life was meritorious. But the addition of "and" shows a new phase in saying "in suffering with Him as He died on the Cross." Those words are omitted by CCC, and instead, the shorter quote is put under the heading "she is our Mother in the order of grace." But LG §61 said that it is as a result of her role on Calvary that she is our Mother in the order of grace.
The full text, when not obscured by the heading, says she cooperated in the redemption on Calvary, and did so by obedience, faith, hope and burning love. We note obedience is mentioned first. In LG §3 we read: "By His obedience He brought about redemption." In LG § 56 there are two texts from St. Irenaeus on her obedience: "By obeying, she became a cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race" and "thus then the knot of the disobedience of Eve was untied through the obedience of Mary. St. Irenaeus had compared all sin to a complex knot, and said to untie it we take the end of the rope back through every turn that was taken in tying it. Then he adds that she shared in untying it. But the untying was not done at the annunciation (St. Irenaeus in context has only that in mind) but it was on Calvary. So he seems to have written more than he realized - under divine Providence of course.
So her cooperation on Calvary was chiefly by obedience. But obedience was the covenant condition, it was that condition without which His death would have been only a tragedy, not a redemption. So she shared in that which gave the value to His death. This is more than mere receptivity, picking up what she had no share in producing.
So there is reason to think the Council taught more than it realized. St. Irenaeus, we saw, did that. In LG 55 the Council indicates that perhaps the human author of Gen 3:15 and Is 7:14 did not see in the texts all that the Church now sees. So a Council in the hand of Providence obviously might write more than it realized. In stressing her obedience, sharing in the covenant condition, in that which gave the value to His death, it did indicate that she shared in generating a title to all forgiveness and grace. (We note in the text from LG §58 that she was present not merely like St. John, but as the one appointed by divine Providence to cooperate. The Patristic title of New Eve indicates the same thing).
Is it too much to ask that the section be clarified, or would that take too long? Not at all. Let us offer three ways to do this, anyone of which will suffice. And perhaps someone else may find a still clearer and better way:
1) New covenant; Centuries ago God made a covenant, an agreement with the Hebrew people. He said: "If you really listen to me, and keep this agreement, you will be special to me." That is, you will be my people and get special favor.
In the New Covenant we again see the People of God, which we are. They get favor by obedience. Whose obedience? The obedience of Jesus, who became obedient even to death, to death on the cross.
His Mother joined in that obedience: When the angel came to her at the annunciation, she said : "Be it done to me according to your word". So she obeyed the Father then. On Calvary she continued to obey. The Father wanted His Son to die then. She had to agree, to want Him to die. How terribly hard that was. Yet He wanted, to save us. So she too in her love for Him, in her love for us. wanted Him to die.
It was obedience in both old and new covenant that won favor. In the New covenant, it is the obedience even to death of Jesus to which her obedience was joined. Vatican II wrote: "in suffering with Him as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior... by obedience, faith, hope and burning love, to get back supernatural life for souls."
We too must join our acts of obedience to His and hers. We do that in the Mass.
2) Sacrifice: In the OT testament sacrifices animals were offered in obedience to the command of God. In the New Testament sacrifice it is no longer the blood of animals, but the precious body and blood of Jesus, God's Son who is offered. It was because He obeyed that His sacrifice was priceless, that it won all grace for us. His Mother too obeyed . When the angel came at the annunciation, she said: "Be it done to me as you say". At the great sacrifice, she still obeyed. She knew the Father wanted His Son to die then. So she had to agree, to want it.
3) Make-up for sin: Sinners take pleasures and other things they have no right to take. The Holiness of God wants everything made up. He wants that straightened, put back. Jesus gave up in His terrible suffering more than all sinners had taken. So in that way there was a makeup, as the Father asked. His Mother too gave up her claims to Him, was willing to see Him die so horribly. She too gave up so very much. This giving up by both of them, melting into one, made up for sin.
Is one or more of these too long? Let us compare the very long stretch on liturgy which asks: "who celebrates" "How to celebrate?" "When to celebrate" "Where to celebrate"-- pp. 249-61 in the French. Our suggestion is much less. The part on the liturgy is mostly giving data that is obvious and well known. Our proposal is less well known.
What is the teaching on her role in the subjective redemption, the giving out of all graces? The council simply says she is Mediatrix. It did not add the words "of all graces". However we know why. Protestant observers there had given notice that if the Council went far, dialogue would be broken off. Further, 1) it gave a footnote sending us to several Popes who had taught she is Mediatrix of all graces; 2) the mere fact that she shared in earning all, means that at least in that sense, she is Mediatrix of all.
§971. It is good to see the CCC citing Paul VI (Marialis cultus), saying Marian devotion is intrinsic to Christianity. Of course, once we know the role the Father has given her, to decide we would give her no role in our response to Him would be terribly out of place. For Vatican II in chapter 8 of LG went through every one of the mysteries of the life and death of Jesus in detail, showing her cooperation in all. Before that, it taught she was joined to Him in the same eternal decree - for all decrees of God are eternal. When He decreed the incarnation, He necessarily picked the Mother through whom it was to be done. After the end of time, she is eternally Queen with Christ the King. So strictly, from eternity to eternity, and at all points in between, in every one of the mysteries of His life and death, she is, as Pius XII put it, "always sharing His lot." What Pius XII said so briefly, Vatican II filled in in rich detail. No other council in history wrote so extensively about her, went so far theologically as Vatican II.
After the splendid doctrinal teaching about her, it added as to devotion, in LG §67: The most holy Synod... urges all the sons of the Church to generously foster devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and to consider all the practices and exercises of piety that have been recommended about her by the Magisterium, as of great importance."
A favorite Protestant charge is that Catholics "worship" Mary. To reply, we notice Mt 7:1,"Do not judge". We need to distinguish two things: 1) the objective rating of an action; 2) the interior dispositions of the one who does it. There is no objection at all to stating the first, the objective rating, e.g., that murder is gravely sinful. But to state the second - we should not, since at least ordinarily we cannot know the interior dispositions.
To apply this to Marian devotion. As to 1) We do have statues, candles lit etc. But none of this is objectively worship, i.e., giving her the kind of honor due to God alone. We even point to the eternal flame at the grave of JFK. As to 2) When we tell them what our interior dispositions are, it is the height of determined rash judgment to say: "O But you do worship." So we reply: these people are in violation of the command of Christ in Mt 7:1.
§1002 brings out that the life of Christians should be a participation in the life and resurrection of Christ. This is the syn Christo theme of St. Paul which means, we must be not only members of Him, but also like Him. In His life two phases, first a hard life, suffering and death, second eternal glory. The more we are like Him in phase I, the more in phase II. If we collect things from all over St. Paul we see that we die with Him, are buried with HIm, rise with Him, ascend with Him. Part of this is literal and sacramental even now. Part of it urges us to live our lives with the attitude and outlook we shall have when on the last day we all emerge from the graves. How different all things of time will appear then!
Luther missed this theme entirely, in thinking Christ has done all, so we do nothing. (This sounds much like "active receptivity"). We do not add to His work, but as a condition of receiving what He has done, we must be like Him. cf. Rom 8:17;""We are heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with Him, so we may also be glorified with Him."
§1011 makes the beautiful suggestion that we each make our own death an act of obedience and love to the Father.
§1035 in speaking of hell does not comment on the fire. The most recent statement of the Doctrinal Congregation this point, of May 17, 1979, said it will "have a repercussion on the whole being of the sinner." It means, it seems, that the fire is not rapid oxidation, which could not affect a spirit, but that the suffering caused is comparable to that caused by the fire we know now.
§1040. Here the subject of the Father alone (Mk 13:32) knowing the day of the end comes up. Please see our comments on §§471-74.
§1136-39: One could mistake this for a crudely literal reading of the heavenly liturgy in the Apocalypse.
§1993: Actual grace: So large a topic receives only 8 lines.--Contrast the expansive treatment of liturgical celebration in §§1136-58, including: Who celebrates? How to celebrate? When to celebrate? Where to celebrate?--And in §1140: "It is the whole Community, the Body of Christ, united to its Head, which celebrates.