Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

The MOST Theological Collection: A Basic Catholic Catechism

"Part III: The Apostles' Creed II-V"


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Second Article: "Jesus Christ His Only Son, Our Lord"

The Incarnation

This article teaches that Jesus is the Redeemer promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, the only Son of God, and by that very fact, Lord of all Creation. He is the second Person of the Holy Trinity, sent to the world by the Father to become man and save us from our sins. So St. Peter said in Matthew 15:16: "You are the Christ, the son of the Living God". The name Jesus means Savior, as we see from Matthew 1:2. The name Christ means the Anointed one (cf. Acts 10:38).

We can easily see He was not the same as other great religious teachers. He not only worked miracles that could be authenticated, but worked them in contexts such that there was a tie established between the miracle and the claim, as we see in the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2. He foretold His own resurrection; He lived a life of such holiness that He could challenge people: "Which of you can convict me of sin?" (John 8:46). Hardly anyone else would dare to give such a challenge! His teaching rested not on human reasoning but on the divine authority which He claimed, e.g., when He said several times over: "You have heard it was said to them of old... but I say to you" (Matthew 5:27-44). He inspired His followers to follow Him even to dreadful deaths. If someone objects: other religions have had martyrs too - correct. But not one of them can provide the solid support of data that we can, as shown in our sketch of apologetics in part one.

He founded a Church whose doctrine can and does develop in the same line, that is, without reversing any previous teaching, over all centuries. He made clear this was the divinely given means of getting peace in this life and eternal salvation in the world to come.

"And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" wrote St. John (1:14). So the Second Person of the Holy Trinity assumed human nature, He who "In the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1)

He became man to redeem us from sin, that is, to pay the debt of our sins, as Leo the Great said (Letter to Flavian, June 13, 449). We read in the Epistle to the Ephesians (2:4-5): "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive again together with Christ."

The Council of Chalcedon in 451 brought to the climax the long debates about the make-up of Jesus: He is one Person, a Divine Person, having two natures, divine and human, in such a way that these two natures remain distinct after the union in the one Person. We call this union "hypostatic union" from the Greek "hypostasis" which means person - two natures joined in one Person.

His human nature is the same as ours except that He was without sin, even though He was tempted as we are (Hebrews 4:15). However, this does not mean that He had within Him disorderly passions. The Second Council of Constantinople in 553 defined this truth against "impious Theodore of Mopsuestia".

His divine nature is the same as that of the Father. The Council of Nicea in 325 defined that He is "one in substance [homoousios] with the Father".

The Church has repeatedly taught, e. g, in the Encyclicals of Pius XII on the Mystical body and on the Sacred Heart, that from the first instant of His conception, Jesus' human mind had the vision of God, in which all knowledge is available. This was reaffirmed at least implicitly in the Encyclical Sempiternus Rex of Pius XII, and in the Letter of the Holy Office under Paul VI, of July 24, 1966 which complained: "There creeps forth a certain Christological humanism in which Christ is reduced to the condition of a mere man, who gradually acquired consciousness of His divine sonship." Pius XII in his Encyclical, Humani generis, in 1950, pointed out that "if the Popes in their Acta pass judgment on a matter thus far debated, it is clear to all that according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, the question cannot be considered any more open to free discussion among theologians." He added that these statements come under the promise of Christ, "He who hears you, hears me" (Luke 10:16). Of course, that promise cannot fail.

Really, theological reasoning even without the help of the Church can reach the same conclusion thus: Any soul has the vision of God if, besides grace, the divinity joins itself directly to the human mind, without even an image in between (no image could represent God). Now since Jesus has a true humanity but it is joined to the divinity in such a way that there is only one Person (the hypostatic union), it is obvious that His human soul and mind was joined to the divinity directly, even more closely than an ordinary soul is joined in the vision, i n which the soul remains one person, while God is a different Person. But in Jesus there was only one Person. So He not only happened to have the vision: it could not have been otherwise.

What of the words of Luke 2:51 that He advanced in wisdom? St. Athanasius in the 4th century found the answer. In his Third Oration Against the Arians he said: "Gradually as the body grew and the Word manifested itself in it, He is acknowledged first by Peter, then by all." In other words: There was no real growth in wisdom, only a growth in manifestation. If at age 3 for example He had shown His full wisdom, it would have been overwhelming. Rather, He chose a gradual self-revelation. Only late in His public life did he say such things as,"I and the Father are one" (John 10:30) and, "Before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:57). As to His saying that even the Son did not know the day of the end (Mark 13:32), Pope Gregory the Great gave us the answer in his Epistle to Eulogius: "... in the nature of His humanity He knew the day... but not from the nature of humanity did He know it." That is, it registered on His human mind, but His humanity was not the source of that knowledge.

Finally , Plato, the great Greek philosopher, in his Symposium 203, wrote: "No god associates with men". Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics 8. 7 wrote that friendship of a god with a man is impossible, the distance is too great. What would they have thought had they learned that God actually became man, and even, that He willed for our sake to submit to a horrible and shameful death? In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 21:23 says: "Cursed be everyone who hangs on the wood". No wonder St. Paul told the Corinthians (I. 1:23) that the doctrine of the cross is folly to the Greeks, and a scandal to the Jews!

Third Article: "Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary"

The Blessed Virgin Mary: Her Privileges and Relation to Christ and His Church

According to a late tradition, the parents of Our Lady were St. Joachim and St. Anne, natives of Bethlehem who lived in Nazareth.

Her most fundamental privilege is that of being the Mother of God. We do not mean she produced the divine nature, of course. But her Son is God, so she is the Mother of God. Similarly, Mrs. Jones shares only in the production of the body of her son John, not at all in the making of his soul. Yet we do not say she is mother of the body of John Jones, but of John Jones, the person. Pius XI quoted St. Thomas Aquinas with approval in saying that "From the fact that she is the Mother of God, she has a sort of infinite dignity from the infinite good that God is. (Lux veritatis, Dec. 25, 1931, citing Summa I. 25. 6. ad 4).

She conceived her son by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). The Archangel first told her that her Son was to be the Son of the Most High. However, any devout Jew could be called a son of God. But there was more: the angel told her He would reign over the house of Jacob forever: right then she would know He was to be the Messiah, for Jews then commonly believed the Messiah would reign forever. Finally, the angel said He would be conceived when the Holy Spirit would "overshadow" her. That word, she would know, was the one use to describe the Divine Presence filling the ancient Tabernacle in the desert (Exodus 40:35). Her Son was to be called Son of God "for this reason". So that He was the Son of God in a unique sense. From this alone she likely knew of His divinity, especially when she would add the words of Isaiah 9. 5-6 that the Messiah would be "God the Mighty". Even though the Jews found that text hard, she, full of grace, would readily grasp it.

So this was a virginal conception, that is, without the intervention of a man. Both Matthew and Luke make this clear. If we believe the Gospels, we will understand that readily. The teaching of the Church, already in the oldest creeds which call her "ever-virgin" tells us she remained a virgin during and after His birth. Some have tried to say the teaching on her virginity was not physical, but just a way of expressing her holiness. But it is more than that: Vatican II (LG § 57) wrote that His birth "did not diminish, but consecrated her virginal integrity." That word "integrity" refers to physical condition.

Therefore when the Gospels speak of the "brothers and sisters" of Jesus, they do not mean other children of Mary. The Hebrew words were very broad, could cover any sort of relationship. For that matter, modern English uses these words even more broadly for members of fraternities and sororities.

As a result of this Divine Motherhood, because it was fitting for Her Son, she obtained the great grace of the Immaculate Conception, defined by Pius IX in 1854. This means that from the first instant of conception her soul had sanctifying grace, in anticipation of the future merits of her Son.

Vatican II, Pope John Paul II and others understand the Greek of Luke 1:28, kecharitomene, to mean "full of grace". The Greek perfect participle is very strong, the root verb means to put someone in the state of grace/favor. And especially, the word is used instead of her name. This is like saying someone is Mr. Tennis - the ultimate in tennis. So she is Miss Grace, the ultimate in grace. Pius IX, in defining the Immaculate Conception, said that even at the start, her holiness was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it"!

One of the oldest teachings of the Church is that she is the New Eve: just as the first Eve really contributed to the disaster of original sin, so Mary the New Eve really contributed to removing it, that is, to redeeming us. Every Pope since Leo XIII, and Vatican II, in seventeen documents have said that her role in redeeming us extends even to a part in the great sacrifice of Calvary itself! It is a general principle, that if something is taught repeatedly by the Church, even on a level less than a definition, the teaching is infallible.

Vatican II, echoing earlier papal teaching, tells us that at the cross she was asked even to "consent" to the death of her Son (LG § 58). Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical, The Mother of the Redeemer, set out to further deepen that teaching (as he tells us in his Guardian of the Redeemer [on St. Joseph]). He showed that this was the "deepest self-emptying in history" for her and her Son. That she in it practiced "the obedience of faith". Now since all perfection lies in positively willing what God wills whenever we know His positive will, she was called on to positively will that He die, die so horribly. All this in spite of a love so great that "only God can comprehend it"- for Pius IX had said, as we saw above that her holiness was that great even at the start. But holiness and love of God are interchangeable words. So her suffering was such that "no one but God could comprehend it."

As we would expect, having shared at immense cost in earning all graces, she shares similarly in distributing all of them as Mediatrix of all graces. This truth too has been taught numerous times by a long series of Popes, everyone from Leo XIII through John XXIII.

Pius XII, in defining the Assumption, explained that "Just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and final sign of this victory [over sin and death by Calvary] so that struggle [Calvary] which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her Son, had to be closed by the glorification of her virginal body". That is, the struggle, a work common to the two was a common cause. It brought Him glorification; it had to bring the same to her. (In all this it is understood she is subordinate to Him, and really depends on Him for all her ability to do anything at all).

As a result, just as He is now King of the Universe, she is Queen of the Universe. "And her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion" (Pius XII, Bendito seia, May 13, 1946).

Chapter 8 of the Vatican II Constitution on the Church is entirely on her. In it the Council goes through in detail her association with Him. She is eternally joined with Him in the eternal decree for the Incarnation. She will remain eternally joined to Him as Queen in His Kingdom. And the council went through in detail every one of the mysteries of His life and death, showing in each case her close association with Him. The place the Father gave her is really all-pervading, in His approach to us. In writing this, Vatican II wrote more extensively about her, went farther theologically than all previous Councils combined! In spite of talk that it downgraded her, it was the opposite. Vatican II could really be called the Marian Council.

On the floor of the Council, Paul VI declared her Mother of the Church. This was not entirely new. Pius XII, in a message to the Marian Congress of Ottawa, Canada, on July 19, 1947 said: "When the little maid of Nazareth uttered her fiat to the message of the angel... she became not only the Mother of God in the physical order of nature, but also in the supernatural order of grace, she became the Mother of all, who... would be made one under the Headship of her Son. The Mother of the Head would be the Mother of the members."

Fourth Article: "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried" crucified, died, and was buried"

When Jesus died, His body and soul were separated, for that is what death means. They remained separated until the Resurrection, but His divinity remained united to both His body and His soul.

How did His death produce the effect of Redemption? Sinners had, as it were, taken from one pan of a two-pan scales - an image to represent the moral order - what they had no right to take. The Holiness of the Father, loving all that is morally right, wanted the scales of the moral order righted, wanted the debt to be paid. Further, the imbalance was infinite, so that only a divine Person incarnate could rectify it, by giving up satisfactions He could have lawfully had, and by suffering things He did not owe. Pope Paul VI wrote (Constitution on Indulgences, Jan 9, 1967): "It is necessary... for the full remission and... reparation of sins, not only that friendship with God be reestablished... and amends be made for the offense against His wisdom and goodness, but also that all the personal as well as social values, and those of the universal order, diminished or destroyed by sin, be fully restored, ... through voluntary reparation.... Indeed Christ, 'who committed no sin, ' suffered for us, 'was wounded for our iniquities, bruised for our sins.... by His bruises we are healed. ' Thus there was established as it were a treasury of 'the infinite and inexhaustible value the expiation and the merits of Christ our Lord have before God."

We willed to suffer so much also "to draw all things to Himself" (John 12:32) by proving (cf. Romans 5:8) the immense love of His Heart, which went to such lengths to make eternal happiness open to all.

Further, since as St. Paul tells us (cf. Romans 8:17), we are saved and sanctified to the extent that we are not only members of Christ, but are like Him, therefore we too must share in this work of reparation. Jesus wanted to draw us to imitate Him in His work of satisfaction.

So we might join with Him, He commanded "Do this in memory of me." So it is precisely in the Mass that we bring our offering of whatever obedience to the Father we have carried out since the last Mass, and we present too our penance of reparation, to be joined with the obedience and reparation of Jesus and His Mother at the double consecration, when He Himself, using a human priest to carry out the same dramatic sign He used in the Upper Room, presents again His willingness to obey the Father, to make reparation for sin. We might note: Even though in the U. S. we have a dispensation from Friday abstinence, the Church cannot dispense us from this obligation of penance, in union with the sufferings of Jesus and His most holy Mother.

Fifth Article: "He descended into hell, the third day He rose again from the dead"

1. Christ's Descent into Limbo and His Resurrection

After His death, the soul of Jesus, still united to the divinity, descended into the realm of the dead, which the Creed calls "hell", in the old English usage. It dos not mean at all the hell of the damned. He visited what is called the Limbo of the Fathers. For the just, who had died in the state of grace, and had paid all the debt of their sins, were still not admitted to the vision of God until Jesus had died.

When a soul reaches the vision of God, by that vision, it knows all that pertains to it on earth. But without that vision, it would not know any of these things, unless God might decide to give a special revelation. Of course, then, the afterlife was very different then from what it is now. So we can understand some otherwise strange texts in the Old Testament. Job 7. 9-10 says that the dead one "does not return to his house." Of course not, the resurrection will be not a return to the present mode of life. Psalm 6:6 asks "who in Sheol can praise you?" Sheol is the realm of the dead. The Psalmist is thinking of the grand liturgical praise of God, which the Hebrews really loved. That liturgical praise of course is not found in Sheol. In Isaiah 38:19 we read that "those who go down to the pit cannot hope for God's fidelity." The "fidelity" means God's faithful keeping of His covenant promises. Those in Sheol cannot appeal to the covenant. Qoheleth 9:10 says there is no work in Sheol - of course not. It says there is no knowledge - that is, of what goes on on earth.

Jesus came to take them out of that drab and dull place. Then there was fulfilled what St. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:9-10: "God exalted Him and gave to Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth." This can also refer to the power of Jesus over satan. The passage is poetic, and so need not mean that Sheol is under the earth.

Jesus rose from the dead, as He had foretold in John 2:19-22, and elsewhere. Sometimes Scripture says He rose, that is, by His own power. In as much as He is God, this is true. It also says the Father raised Him: this is true, thinking of His human nature.

So many witnesses saw Him after this resurrection, for example we have an enumeration of them in First Corinthians 15:5-8.

How can we arrange in plausible order the events after His resurrection? In more than one way, e.g.: 1) Magdalen and other women come to the tomb at dawn, and see it is empty; 2) In excitement she or they run to the Apostles (Matthew here, between 20:8 &9, omits the visit of Peter and John, our item 3); 3) Peter and John do not believe but do run to the tomb, and see it empty. They do not see Jesus; 4) Peter and John leave, Magdalen then sees Him, takes Him for the gardener; He makes self known; 5) Jesus appears to Peter; 6) He appears to two men on road to Emmaus; 7) They go back to the Apostles, hear Peter had seen Him; 8) He appears to the Eleven; gives them the power to forgive sins; 9) Thomas was absent, Jesus comes again; 10) Further appearances at Lake of Galilee.

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