Christ’s whole earthly life—his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking—is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him!” Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest God’s love…among us.
Catechism of the Catholic Church 516
Posts Tagged With: catechism
Spiritual direction went way better yesterday than I expected it would. In fact, I felt pretty guilty about some of the thoughts and things I’ve said about my frustrations over direction with Fr. Wilhelm. After talking to some other people, I realize what a true blessing it is to have him for a spiritual director because there are many people who want him but cannot get him to take them on.
During our meeting he gave me a new spiritual exercise to do before we meet the next time. I am going to look at the Catechism and find every paragraph that references the Sacred Heart of Jesus and then I will prayerfully meditate on each one. Then I will meditate on each of the paragraphs that each of those paragraphs reference and so on and so forth as I thread my way through the Catechism in prayer.
The reason I must this is that my heart’s identity is found only I’m the heart of God. And looking in the heart of God is the only place I will discover who I am, who God created me to be. And I cannot possibly know my vocation with any certainty without knowing who I am In God’s eyes.
The thing I really like, though, is that Fr. Wilhelm will be doing the exact same thing as I am doing. So he will know exactly what I have been meditating on. I never would have thought to do this kind of exercise, but as I told Fr. Wilhelm, I know that this is exactly what my Soul needs right now.
This is not a post to demoralize Protestants, but this comes from my own experience. I was raised by parents who grew up in a Protestant background, and though I would hardly even consider my upbringing Christian in the least, it was closer to Protestantism than it was to Catholicism. Considering that the first two years of being a Christian were spent as a Protestant, I know that during that time I had no idea exactly what I was Protesting. I mean, I thought I knew, but I didn’t actually know. So here is my proposal:
All Protestants should read the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church. One can’t truly protest something unless they actually know what they are protesting, so it would only make sense to read the Catechism. Once you read it and get a full knowledge of what the Church is, you will be better equipped to protest it, and will be more solid in your faith in God for it.
You can get the Catechism from so many places online that within two minutes from you could have your very own copy on its way to you and for a pretty great price, only around $10 to $15. Just something to consider. And if you really don’t want to shell out the money for it, but are curious nonetheless, send me an email (email@example.com) with your address and I’ll make sure that you are able to get a copy.
The first statement in the Apostle’s Creed is “I believe in God.” It is perhaps the most fundamental moment in the Creed because all of the remaining articles depend on this belief in God. But we don’t just believe in God, “we believe in one God,” the first statement in the Nicene Creed. Throughout the Old Covenant, the revelation of God continues to confirm that the LORD God is one Lord (CCC 201). God is unique and he is the only God, there are no other gods but him. Unique to Christianity is the belief that Jesus Christ is God. This, and our profession of the Holy Spirit as God, does not undermine our belief in one God. The council of Toledo sums it up like this:
We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal, infinite (immensus) and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty, and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple.
In history, God has revealed his name to us. He progressively revealed his identity through the Old Covenant by different names, but to Moses he revealed his divine and mysterious name YHWH (I AM WHO I AM). In this name we find what is perhaps even more mystery surrounding God, not any real question about who God is being answered here. Though it is quite fitting in that it shows that God is above all things that can be understood. He is a hidden God, yet he draws near to man. And by revealing his name, God reveals his faithfulness as “The God of your fathers” and “I will always be with you”. He expresses his unchanging presence to his people (CCC207). Faced with God’s fascinating mysteriousness, we find our own insignificance, expressed in the words and actions of some of the prophets:
Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.
Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
God’s name also reveals his mercy, for if his name expresses faithfulness, it also expresses mercy, for men are rarely faithful. Despite Israel’s sin of the golden calf, Moses intercedes before God and God agrees to show mercy and forgiveness to the sinful people. As time goes on, the people of God have discovered the deep mystery of God’s great mercy, ultimately expressed in the the death of Jesus Christ.
And through his name, we discover that God alone IS. He alone transcends time. He has no origin, no end. All other things have their existence in him, but he exists in nothing else. He alone is the fullness of being, and whereas all other things will pass, will wear out like an old garment, God never will pass, never fade, never become corrupted.
God is truth and he is love. Jesus Christ expresses the need for truth in knowing God, for God is truth. The Apostle John echoes this sentiment in his first epistle: “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ,” (1 John 5:20). God is truth and in him there is no lie. God is also love. Israel came to discover that the only reason for God’s faithfulness to them was his love for them. The Scripture overflows with descriptions of his love, from the infamous John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son” to this beautiful word from the Prophet Jeremiah:
I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
God’s love is everlasting, as he is everlasting. His love for his people will never ever end.
So what are the implications of believing in one God?
1.It means coming to know God’s greatness and majesty.
2.It means living in thanksgiving.
3.It means knowing the true unity and dignity of all men.
4.It means making good use of created things.
5.It means trusting God in every circumstance.
Let nothing trouble you.
Let nothing frighten you.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all.
Whoever has God wants for nothing.
God alone is enough.
St Teresa of Avila
Our communion of faith needs a common language of faith, a common confession for all (CCC 185). Since the beginning of the Church, the confession has been passed on in brief formulas from generation to generation. These have commonly been called Creeds, from the Latin word, Credo, which means “I believe”, typically the first word in such statements. These symbolon or symbols of faith become a sign of recognition and unity between believers.
The first creed that a believer makes is the Baptismal creed. Since Baptism is made in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, the two important creeds out of many (including the Athanasian, council professions at Lateran, Lyons, Toledo and Trent) are made in three parts, each addressing one of the Divine persons that make our indivisible God. The two that hold a special place in the Church are the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed. The Catechism outlines, in depth, the twelve articles of the Apostle’s Creed, and so that is is what the next many Catechetical posts will be covering.
The Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son, he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
As we learn more deeply about the Apostle’s Creed and its implications, the Catechism will make reference to the Nicene Creed, which as one might be able to tell is much more in depth, at times, than the Apostle’s Creed. And remember that when we say the Creed with faith, we enter into a type of communion with God and into the Holy Church (CCC 197) for:
This Creed is the spiritual seal, our heart’s meditation and an ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul.
Man submits himself to God, who has invited us to become his friends, through what St. Paul calls, “the obedience of faith”, in Romans.
The Latin for “to obey” is ob-audire, to “hear or listen to”. So for us as Christian, it means to submit to the truth that God has revealed to us because it is guaranteed to be true since God himself is Truth (CCC 144). Scripture reveals to us many examples of God’s faithful ones, the most notorious being Abraham, who, out of faith, was willing to sacrifice his own son, and Mary, the most perfect example, accepting God’s call to carry him in her womb. Mary, whose faith never wavered, from the Conception by the Holy Spirit to the prophecy of Holy Simeon to the Crucifixion, is the perfect embodiment of faith in God and therefore the Church venerates this Most Faithful One.
One important aspect of faith is to have faith in God alone. God is trustworthy and therefore it makes sense to give ourselves wholly and freely to him, and faith is given freely, it is not forced upon us, but is an act of our free will. As we place our faith in God, we must place faith in the One whom he has sent, Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God, and his Holy Spirit who has revealed these things to us (CCC 151, 152).
But what exactly is faith? According to Christ it is a gift from “my Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 16:17). It is a grace from God. Man must be properly disposed to hear and accept the revelations of the Holy Spirit in his heart before he can accept the truth in faith. Only God can provide this grace. At the same time, it is a human act, it is a submission to believe what God tells us. We act in accordance with God’s grace. We can either freely accept his revelation, or freely reject it (CCC 154).
Faith is something, too, that goes beyond understanding. There are many things of God’s revelation that are far beyond human reasoning and understanding, but we believe them because they are the very Word of God, and come from the mouth of God, who cannot lie. So no matter how difficult some aspect of revelation is to understand, we have faith that it is true because we trust God. At the same time, we desire more and more to know the one we have faith in and thus desire to understand the revelations of truth more deeply. St. Augustine says:
I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.
An important note the the Catechism makes here, is that faith and reason can never contradict each other. The same God has created both and therefore, all methodical study of all branches of knowledge, provided that they are conducted in a truly scientific manner can never contradict any moral laws or divine revelation since they both come from God who cannot lie (CCC 159).
Christ, who freely gave his life up for us, and who called men to repentance, but never coerced them, allows the same for us. We are given a free choice to follow him or to follow ourselves. We are presented with the truth and can either choose it or reject it. Though God has the power to impose faith on us, he does not do so. We know from the prophet Ezekiel that God desires all men to be saved, yet we know that not all men are or will be. This is a clear sign of our freedom to place our faith in Christ or to place it elsewhere.
Faith is necessary for our salvation, for without faith, one cannot please God (Mark 16: 16; Dei filius). This faith must be persevering so that we do not lose eternal life and make a shipwreck of our faith. Our faith must work through charity and be rooted in the Church (Galatians 5:6). Our faith is the beginning of eternal life, as we begin to taste what is to come and walk with the Lord, learning more and more about him and who he is (CCC 164).
While faith is a personal thing, it is not an isolated thing. We have received the faith from others and must pass the faith onto others. Together we profess the faith through two different but identical creeds, the Apostle’s Creed (I believe) and the Nicene Creed (We believe). Our salvation comes from God alone, but is revealed by the Church and therefore the Church is our Mother. We do not believe in the Church in the same way we believe in God as Author of Salvation, but rather, we see the Church as the teacher of our faith. We do not believe in formulas, but in what they express. We do not believe in the creeds, but in the realities that they summarize. The creeds allow us to express the faith and to hand it on. And it is the Church which has protected this faith faithfully from the beginning by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We believe that there is one faith, in as much as the Church is scattered throughout the world, across cultures, and languages, we have one faith, transmitted to us by a common baptism. As St. Irenaeus of Lyons declares:
Indeed, the Church, though scattered throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, having received the faith from the apostles and their disciples…guards with care, as dwelling in but a single house, and similarly believes as if having but one soul and a single heart, and preaches, teaches, and hands on this faith with a unanimous voice, as if possessing only one mouth.
No matter where you go in the world, the Church has no other faith, no other Tradition, whether it be in the US, Argentina, Germany, or China. The faith must be identical, because it is transmitted to us by the Truth, that is God. And the Church, under the care of the Holy Spirit, works diligently to protect and transmit the deposit of faith.
The Catholic Church has the highest veneration for Sacred Scripture, and “has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body,” (CCC 103). We hang on to the Scriptures as the Word of God, not as the words of men. In Scripture we find nourishment and strength. God is the author of Sacred Scripture, who, through the Holy Spirit, moved the human authors to write what he wanted them to write, nothing more and nothing less. Therefore, the Scriptures teach truth without error. The Scriptures are not simply books, but the always living, always breathing Word of God.
In order to interpret Sacred Scripture, the reader must be attentive to the time, culture, and literary genres in use at the time of writing. It is of no use interpreting the language of old with the idioms and cultures of today. To understand the Scriptures we must understand what the authors were trying to convey. Of course, if we are not attentive to the Holy Spirit, who is the true author of Scripture, we may as well consider all that we read dead. (CCC 111). Vatican II gave three guidelines for interpreting Scripture:
1. Be attentive to the content and unity of the whole Scripture.
2. Read Scripture in context of the Living Tradition of the Whole Church.
3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith.
There are 4 senses to Scripture, the first being the literal sense, the act of interpreting Scripture through sound exegesis. The other three sense hang on this, being: allegorical (ie, the Crossing of the Red Sea being a sign of Baptism), moral, and anagogical (that is viewing the eternal significance of the realities presented in Scripture, to lead us to our heavenly homeland). These four senses may be summed up in this medieval couplet:
The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith;
The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny.
The faithful are to aid the Church in interpreting Sacred Scripture, but all is subject to the judgment of the Church which “exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God,” (CCC 119). As Augustine says:
But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me.
The Canon of Scripture includes 46 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books for a total of 73 books, a higher number than the Protestant canon which had 7 Old Testament books removed at the time of the Reformation. The Old Testament books are held to be the Word of God and have not been nullfied by the New Testament as the Marconian heresy once proclaimed. The New Testament is comprised of the Gospels, the epistles, and the book of Revelation. The four Gospels were formed during three stages, the first being the life and teachings of Christ, the second being the oral tradition, and the last being the actual writing down of the Gospels.
The Church holds that there is a unity in Scripture, especially between the Old and the New Testaments the former being a typology, and prefigurement to what God would accomplish in the latter, through Jesus Christ. As such, the Scriptures hold an important place in the life of the Church. She urges the faithful to carefully study the Scriptures, she uses them in her liturgies, in her prayers, and in everything that she does. As St. Jerome says:
Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
In conclusion, Sacred Scripture is the inspired Word of God, transmitted through human lips without error. The authority of the Church given by Christ enables her to make judgment on the interpretation of Scripture, and to set the canon of what is and is not the inspired Word of God. The Word of God is living, unifying, and important to the very heart of the Church and her members.
God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth.
1 Timothy 2:3b-4
The truth that is spoken of here is none other than Jesus Christ. The Church maintains that Christ must be preached to all nations and to all individuals, for that is the desire of God. At the end of the Gospel according to Matthew, Christ entrusts the gospel message of salvation to his apostles to protect and to preach. Through the ages, the Church has continuously passed this gospel on in two ways. The first is through oral tradition from the moment of Christ’s Ascension, and secondly in writing, many years later, as the New Testament was produced (CCC 76). Both oral tradition (referred to from here on as Tradition, with a capital ‘T’) and Sacred Scripture have been maintained through apostolic succession. That is, the Apostles appointed Bishops to take their places after death, giving them a teaching authority. This line of succession allows the Church to give everything that she is from one generation to the next, and is preserved through the Holy Spirit as God “continues to converse with the Spouse of his beloved Son” (CCC 79).
Sacred Scripture and Tradition both have a single source, that is from the Divine mouth of the Holy Spirit. Through the voice of the Spirit, the authors of the Sacred Scripture, preserved in truth the word of God. But before this occurred, the Spirit passed on the entirety of faith, through succession of the Apostles. Therefore the Church cannot know all that is true from Sacred Scripture alone, but must be reconciled with Tradition, which is held to be equal to Sacred Scripture. The Catechism here is sure to note the difference between Tradition and tradition. The former is that which is handed down through Apostolic Succession. An example is the Immaculate Conception. The latter is would be a disciplinary thing, such as priestly celibacy. These traditions are always under the influence of Tradtion, but may be changed, modified or altogether abandoned by the Magisterium.
The interpretation of this heritage of Tradition and Sacred Scripture has been handed onto the entire Church through the successors to the Apostles. The proper interpretation of these Revelations is left to the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, and to the Bishops who remain in communion with him. The Church here has no authority to teach, however, that which has not been handed down to her through Tradition and Sacred Scripture. For example, the Eucharist as a mere symbol is not a teaching which the Church has received, therefore the Church can never teach such a thing. Our submission to the Church’s Magisterium comes from obedience to Christ when he says to the Apostles, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me and he who rejects me rejects the one who sent me,” (Luke 10:16).
The Church exercises her teaching authority through dogmatic definitions, binding on all of the faithful. These dogmas are arranged hierarchically from the base, built upon each other supernaturally. All of the faithful have received the Holy Spirit at Baptism and have the ability to understand these truths when opened to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we are guided in a Spirit of Truth by the Magisterium, we open ourselves to be penetrated more deeply by the supernatural faith, to know God more fully.
In conclusion, “it is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others, ” (CCC 95). Go ahead and try it. Try using Scripture without the guidance of the Magisterium and Tradtion. Each will come to his own conclusion and our own conclusion are nothing but opinions and do not reflect Christ, who is Truth, not an opinion.
God, in his infinite love has chosen to reveal himself to us, so that we may understand the Father’s will, and through Jesus Christ, partake in the divine. From the beginning he has revealed himself through the realities of creation, and even manifested himself to our parents, Adam and Eve, allowing them into intimate communion with him. Despite their sin, he has never taken away that revelation, but has promised redemption. Through covenants with Noah and with Abraham, he has formed himself a nation, giving them the gift of the prophets and the patriarchs, forming them into a promise of salvation. Through Jesus Christ, the Son, God in the flesh, all public revelation has been made complete and has ended. That is not to say, however, that the task of understanding the significance of the revelation is complete. Throughout time, certain individuals have claimed private revelation, but that is not to be added to the deposit of faith. It’s purpose is to aid people in a certain place and time to live the life worthy of our calling, to bring sinners to repentance, and to form a more holy Church. The Church can take hold of revelations that aim to overturn or correct revelations of Christianity. Therefore non-Christian religions and even sects that build them off of such revelations hold no true bearing on the deposit of faith.
In conclusion, God has met man, through his creation, through his covenants, through his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. All of this is done through his love, so that we may partake in Christ to partake in the divinity of God. This revelation has been made complete at the Ascension of Christ, yet it continues to be understood more deeply throughout the ages.
Through an email conversation with a friend, I got the idea of going through the different parts of the Catechism here on the good old blog. The first part of the Catechism elaborates on the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds and really emphasizes the nature of God. It is a good starting point, I think for dialogue with non-Catholics, because it can be easier to agree on the nature of God before we’ll agree on the nature of the Church. If that sounds silly it kind of is, because the Church is going to be a lot less difficult to grasp than the infinite God of the universe. At the same time, though, the Church’s identity is rolled up in Christ, the Eternal Lord, so it should really be just as difficult to grasp.
That aside, the first part of the catechism is the longest of four, and is about one-third of the entire document. The very beginning of this section acknowledges that the Church needs a creed to define who we are and what we believe, that is our faith response to God’s revelation to us.
CHAPTER 1: MAN’S CAPACITY FOR GOD
This first chapter of the the profession describes our affinity for God. Essentially the human heart is made by God and for God. In the depths of our heart, the name of God is written and so we desire him and search for him. This is evident within all of the world’s religions. No matter what theistic religion one belongs to, the rites, beliefs, ceremonies, and morals are an expression of our thirst for the God who created us. At the same time, it is possible and evident that men can forget God or even actively deny the existence of God. Sometimes this is because of the allure of the riches of the world or the bad example of the religious around him. Nevertheless God never ceases to call man towards him. In order for one to come to search for God, he must make every effort with his intellect, have a sound will, an upright heart, and the witness of others who teach him.
Man comes to know God in two fundamental ways, first being the world, or creation. The beauty and the complexities, the serenity and the chaos, the grand and the microscopic are all testimonies to the existence of and the glory of God. The second way is through man himself. His openness to truth and beauty, his moral compass, his longings for something greater are all beginnings of faith in God. It opens man up to the possibility of knowing God. The Church teaches that God can be known through reason, that right and wrong can be known naturally from man’s conscience. God can be known from his works and from the light shed by human reason.
Of course, no matter how deeply God has revealed himself to us, our language is limited in describing a limitless God. Yet, since all things resemble their Creator in a certain sense, we can begin to look at the perfections of certain natural things and apply them to God, though we know that they are incomplete at describing the nature of God.
In conclusion, man desires God for he was created by God. Man can know that God exists through his works and from reason. And although we can hardly describe the majesty of God with our words, we can begin to fathom certain attributes of God by looking at the perfections that exist in the world surrounding us.