Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 490-494 – The Immaculate Conception of Mary

clock December 8, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the Immaculate Conception of Mary. No, it was not planned this way! God is great! Anyway, supporting material comes from the Encyclical that declared the Immaculate Conception as an infallible teaching of the Church – “Ineffabilis Deus” by Pope Pius IX and also from “Against Heresies” by St. Irenaeus.

The Immaculate Conception

490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role."132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace".133 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God,134 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.135

492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son".136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love".137

493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia), and celebrate her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature".138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.
"Let it be done to me according to your word. . ."

494 At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that "with God nothing will be impossible": "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word."139 Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God's grace:140

As St. Irenaeus says, "Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race."141 Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. . .: "The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith."142 Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary "the Mother of the living" and frequently claim: "Death through Eve, life through Mary."143

In his encyclical, “Ineffabilis Deus”, Pope Pius IX declared on December 8, 1854 solemnly and infallibly that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin.

The Definition

Wherefore, in humility and fasting, we unceasingly offered our private prayers as well as the public prayers of the Church to God the Father through his Son, that he would deign to direct and strengthen our mind by the power of the Holy Spirit. In like manner did we implore the help of the entire heavenly host as we ardently invoked the Paraclete. Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."[29]

Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should are to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he think in his heart.

St. Irenaeus in “Against Heresies” (3, 22, 4) explores the connection between Eve and Mary, who is the “New Eve”:

4. In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin (for in Paradise they were both naked, and were not ashamed, (Genesis 2:25) inasmuch as they, having been created a short time previously, had no understanding of the procreation of children: for it was necessary that they should first come to adult age, and then multiply from that time onward), having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race. And on this account does the law term a woman betrothed to a man, the wife of him who had betrothed her, although she was as yet a virgin; thus indicating the back-reference from Mary to Eve, because what is joined together could not otherwise be put asunder than by inversion of the process by which these bonds of union had arisen; so that the former ties be cancelled by the latter, that the latter may set the former again at liberty. And it has, in fact, happened that the first compact looses from the second tie, but that the second tie takes the position of the first which has been cancelled. For this reason did the Lord declare that the first should in truth be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:30), Matthew 20:16 And the prophet, too, indicates the same, saying, instead of fathers, children have been born unto you. For the Lord, having been born the First-begotten of the dead, (Revelation 1:5) and receiving into His bosom the ancient fathers, has regenerated them into the life of God, He having been made Himself the beginning of those that live, as Adam became the beginning of those who die. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22) Wherefore also Luke, commencing the genealogy with the Lord, carried it back to Adam, indicating that it was He who regenerated them into the Gospel of life, and not they Him. And thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary set free through faith.


132 LG 56.
133 ⇒ Lk 1:28.
134 ⇒ Lk 1:28.
135 Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854): DS 2803.
136 LG 53, 56.
137 Cf. ⇒ Eph 1:3-4.
138 LG 56.
139 ⇒ Lk 1:28-38; cf. ⇒ Rom 1:5.
140 Cf. LG 56.
141 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.
142 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.
143 LC 56; St. Epiphanius, Panarion 2, 78, 18: PG 42, 728CD-729AB; St. Jerome, Ep. 22, 21: PL 22, 408.

Introduction to the Catholic Understanding of Purgatory

clock December 7, 2012 11:50 by author John |
An Angel Frees the Souls of Purgatory by Lodovico Carracci (1555–1619)
An Angel Frees the Souls of Purgatory by Lodovico Carracci (1555–1619)

This article is the first in a series on the subject of Purgatory.

Part 1: Introduction to the Catholic Understanding of Purgatory
Part 2: What is Purgatory Like? The Catholic Understanding of the Pains of Purification
Part 3: How to Avoid Purgatory: 8 Specific Ways to Reduce or Eliminate Your Time in Purgatory
Part 4: How to Help the Poor Souls in Purgatory
Part 5: Indulgences - Definition and Meaning: The God's Mercy Dispensed Through the Catholic Church

When our life comes to a close there will be 4 last things. These are death, judgment, Heaven and Hell. These are the things that all of us must face when we die. We will all pass through the darkness of death, and at last stand before the Almighty God to render an account of our deeds, both good and evil. As Catholics, we believe that if we have died unrepentant for mortal sins on our soul, we will be exiled to the prison of fire, known as Hell. However, if we have confessed these sins and have been forgiven, we shall enter into the eternal ecstasy known as Heaven.

If we are forgiven our sins, but we have not made atonements for those sins, or we are in some way still attached to sinfulness, we must be purified before we can enter the gates of Heaven. When we are forgiven for our sins, we can be at peace that our relationship with God has been restored, but we must still suffer punishment for those sins. The easiest way to understand this concept is to think about forgiveness and atonement in human terms. If Bob spreads rumors about Sally and then asks Sally for forgiveness, and she gives him forgiveness, then the relationship is restored. However, there is still a problem in that Sally's reputation has been harmed and people who heard the rumors may have an unfavorable opinion of Sally. Bob must do everything he can to repair Sally's reputation. Until her reputation is restored, justice has not been satisfied. Purgatory is the place where unfulfilled justice is dispensed by the All-Just God.

It would be a violation of God's perfect justice to claim that everyone who dies without mortal sins on their soul goes straight to Heaven. While they may have been forgiven of their mortal sins, it is unlikely that they have perfectly restored justice to those that have been harmed by their sins, particularly if the Object of their sins is God Himself - which is always the case, as sins are offensive to God's love for us. The Catholic Church gives us an opportunity to remove the punishment due for our sins by making indulgences available to us, and we will talk about that in a future article, but rare is the person who dies with justice perfectly fulfilled on their account.

Receiving forgiveness does not mean that we escape justice for our sins. Purgatory is a way to make up for our sins. All atonement that has not been made for our sins while on earth will be made in purgatory when we die. Though it may seem terrible, it is a blessing to us as imperfect humans because if there was no purgatory, we would be subjected to the perfect justice of God. This means that we would either be destined for Heaven (in which case we would have to already be free of atonement due to our sins) or Hell (if we had any sin or attachment to it on our soul). Since no person aside from our Mother Mary, and her Son, Jesus were born without original sin, none of us would be likely to go straight to Heaven upon death.

Purgatory is truly a place where God’s infinite mercy allows us to be purified before we enter into Heaven. The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen described it in this way...

“Purgatory is the place where the love of God tempers the justice of God and where the love of man tempers the injustice of man.”

Here is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Purgatory...

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611

Other articles you may like:

What Does it Mean to Mention Sins in "Number and Kind" in Confession

How Often Should Catholics Go to Confession?

What is the "Culture of Death"


Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 484-489, 508 – Jesus’ Conception and Birth (Part 1)

clock December 7, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today we begin a discussion of Jesus’ Conception by the Power of the Holy Spirit and His Birth of the Virgin Mary. Supplemental material comes from St. Gregory Thaumaturgus’ “Homily on the Annunciation to the holy Virgin Mary”.



484 The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates "the fullness of time",119 The time of the fulfillment of God's promises and preparations. Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the "whole fullness of deity" would dwell "bodily".120 The divine response to her question, "How can this be, since I know not man?", was given by the power of the Spirit: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you."121

485 The mission of the Holy Spirit is always conjoined and ordered to that of the Son.122 The Holy Spirit, "the Lord, the giver of Life", is sent to sanctify the womb of the Virgin Mary and divinely fecundate it, causing her to conceive the eternal Son of the Father in a humanity drawn from her own.

486 The Father's only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is "Christ", that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.123 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power."124


487 What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.

Mary's predestination

488 "God sent forth his Son", but to prepare a body for him,125 He wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, "a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary":126

The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life.127

489 Throughout the Old Covenant the mission of many holy women prepared for that of Mary. At the very beginning there was Eve; despite her disobedience, she receives the promise of a posterity that will be victorious over the evil one, as well as the promise that she will be the mother of all the living.128 By virtue of this promise, Sarah conceives a son in spite of her old age.129 Against all human expectation God chooses those who were considered powerless and weak to show forth his faithfulness to his promises: Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah; Ruth; Judith and Esther; and many other women.130 Mary "stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from him. After a long period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the exalted Daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation is established."131


508 From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of his Son. "Full of grace", Mary is "the most excellent fruit of redemption" (SC 103): from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life.

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus discusses the Annunciation, Conception, and Virginity of Mary in his “Homily on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary”.

Today is the illustrious and ineffable mystery of Christians, who have willingly set their hope like a seal upon Christ, plainly declared to us. Today did Gabriel, who stands by God, come to the pure virgin, bearing to her the glad annunciation, Hail, thou that art highly favoured! And she cast in her mind what manner of salutation this might be. And the angel immediately proceeded to say, The Lord is with you: fear not, Mary; for you have found favour with God. Behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever: and of His kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?  Shall I still remain a virgin? Is the honour of virginity not then lost by me? And while she was yet in perplexity as to these things, the angel placed shortly before her the summary of his whole message, and said to the pure virgin, The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God. For what it is, that also shall it be called by all means. Meekly, then, did grace make election of the pure Mary alone out of all generations. For she proved herself prudent truly in all things; neither has any woman been born like her in all generations. She was not like the primeval virgin Eve, who, keeping holiday alone in paradise, with thoughtless mind, unguardedly hearkened to the word of the serpent, the author of all evil, and thus became depraved in the thoughts of her mind; and through her that deceiver, discharging his poison and refusing death with it, brought it into the whole world; and in virtue of this has arisen all the trouble of the saints. But in the holy Virgin alone is the fall of that (first mother) repaired. Yet was not this holy one competent to receive the gift until she had first learned who it was that sent it, and what the gift was, and who it was that conveyed it. While the holy one pondered these things in perplexity with herself, she says to the angel, Whence have you brought to us the blessing in such wise? Out of what treasure-stores is the pearl of the word dispatched to us? Whence has the gift acquired its purpose toward us? From heaven you have come, yet you walk upon earth! You exhibit the form of man, and (yet) you are glorious with dazzling light. These things the holy one considered with herself, and the archangel solved the difficulty expressed in such reasonings by saying to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you. Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God. And fear not, Mary; for I am not come to overpower you with fear, but to repel the subject of fear. Fear not, Mary, for you have found favour with God. Question not grace by the standard of nature. For grace does not endure to pass under the laws of nature. You know, O Mary, things kept hidden from the patriarchs and prophets. You have learned, O virgin, things which were kept concealed till now from the angels. You have heard, O purest one, things of which even the choir of inspired men was never deemed worthy. Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and Daniel, and all the prophets, prophesied of Him; but the manner they knew not. Yet you alone, O purest virgin, are now made the recipient of things of which all these were kept in ignorance, and you learn the origin of them. For where the Holy Spirit is, there are all things readily ordered. Where divine grace is present, all things are found possible with God. The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall; overshadow you. Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God. And if He is the Son of God, then is He also God, of one form with the Father, and co-eternal; in Him the Father possesses all manifestation; He is His image in the person, and through His reflection the (Father's) glory shines forth. And as from the ever-flowing fountain the streams proceed, so also from this ever-flowing and ever-living fountain does the light of the world proceed, the perennial and the true, namely Christ our God. For it is of this that the prophets have preached: The streams of the river make glad the city of God. And not one city only, but all cities; for even as it makes glad one city, so does it also the whole world. Appropriately, therefore, did the angel say to Mary the holy virgin first of all, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with you;inasmuch as with her was laid up the full treasure of grace. For of all generations she alone has risen as a virgin pure in body and in spirit; and she alone bears Him who bears all things on His word. Nor is it only the beauty of this holy one in body that calls forth our admiration, but also the innate virtue of her soul. Wherefore also the angels addressed her first with the salutation, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with you, and no spouse of earth; He Himself is with you who is the Lord of sanctification, the Father of purity, the Author of incorruption, and the Bestower of liberty, the Curator of salvation, and the Steward and Provider of the true peace, who out of the virgin earth made man, and out of man's side formed Eve in addition. Even this Lord is with you, and on the other hand also is of you. Come, therefore, beloved brethren, and let us take up the angelic strain, and to the utmost of our ability return the due meed of praise, saying, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with you! For it is yours truly to rejoice, seeing that the grace of God, as he knows, has chosen to dwell with you—the Lord of glory dwelling with the handmaiden; He that is fairer than the children of men  with the fair virgin; He who sanctifies all things with the undefiled. God is with you, and with you also is the perfect man in whom dwells the whole fullness of the Godhead. Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the fountain of the light that lightens all who believe upon Him! Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the rising of the rational Sun, and the undefiled flower of Life! Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the mead of sweet savour! Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the ever-blooming vine, that makes glad the souls of those who honour you? Hail, thou that art highly favoured!—the soil that, all untilled, bears bounteous fruit: for you have brought forth in accordance with the law of nature indeed, as it goes with us, and by the set time of practice, and yet in a way beyond nature, or rather above nature, by reason that God the Word from above took His abode in you, and formed the new Adam in your holy womb, and inasmuch as the Holy Ghost gave the power of conception to the holy virgin; and the reality of His body was assumed from her body. And just as the pearl comes of the two natures, namely lightning and water, the occult signs of the sea; so also our Lord Jesus Christ proceeds, without fusion and without mutation, from the pure, and chaste, and undefiled, and holy Virgin Mary; perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, in all things equal to the Father, and in all things consubstantial with us, apart from sin.


119 ⇒ Gal 4:4.
120 ⇒ Col 2:9.
121 Lk 1:34-35 (Greek).
122 Cf. ⇒ Jn 16:14-15.
123 Cf. ⇒ Mt 1:20; ⇒ 2:1-⇒ 12; ⇒ Lk 1:35; ⇒ 2:8-20; ⇒ Jn 1:3 ⇒ 1-34; ⇒ 2:11.
124 ⇒ Acts 10:38.
125 ⇒ Gal 4:4; ⇒ Heb 10:5.
126 ⇒ Lk 1:26-27.
127 LG 56; cf. LG 61.
128 Cf. ⇒ Gen 3:15, ⇒ 20.
129 Cf. ⇒ Gen 18:10-14; ⇒ 21:1-2.
130 Cf. ⇒ I Cor 1:17; ⇒ I Sam 1.
131 LG 55.

Who Was St. Nicholas? The History and Pious Catholic Legend of a Great Saint

clock December 6, 2012 14:27 by author John |

St. NicholasSt. Nicholas is one of the most popular saints in the Catholic Church and his feast day is December 6th. Traditionally, Catholics leave their shoes out on the eve of his feast day and find treats in them the next morning in the same manner as we look forward to Christmas presents from this Saint on Christmas morning.

Nicholas was born in the city of Patara in Lyrica, a port on the Mediterranean Sea in Asia Minor, about the middle of the third century. He was of Greek heritage and his parents, Epiphanius and Johanna (also known as Theophanes and Nonna) were devout Christians and wealthy. Nicholas was deeply attached to his faith as a child, only eating a single small portion in the evenings on Wednesdays and Fridays, which were days of penance at the time. His parents died from an epidemic while he was still young, so he went to live with an uncle, who was a bishop and also named Nicholas. His uncle raised him in the faith and later ordained him as a priest. Later, when the bishop of his district died, he was made Bishop of Myra. Nicholas became renowned for his extraordinary piety and zeal and performed many great miracles.

Nicholas was known for his generosity and his love for children. He gave freely of his wealth to the poor, widows, and orphans. He famously helped a poor man who had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. Without a dowry, they would remain unmarried and probably would have to become prostitutes. Nicholas heard about this tragic situation and decided to help him, but through his modesty as well as discretion for the man’s situation, he went to his house at night and threw three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the man's house. In some versions of the story, Nicholas does this on three separate occasions, and the man becomes curious after the first two occasions about the identity of the benefactor and tries to watch Nicholas in the act of giving the third time. Supposedly, Nicholas learned of the poor man's plan and dropped the third bag down the chimney instead. One version claims that the daughter had washed her stockings that evening and hung them over the embers to dry, and that the bag of gold fell into the stocking.

Popularization of this story led to the tradition of giving gifts on St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th. Variations in saying his name resulted in the popular name, Santa Claus.

A great famine struck Myra in 311 and a ship was anchored at the port loaded with wheat for the Emperor in Constantinople. Nicholas asked the crew to unload a part of the wheat to help the people through the famine. The crew at first objected to the request, because the wheat had to be weighed before being delivered to the Emperor. Nicholas assured them that they would arrive at their destination with the full load and the sailors agreed to give Nicholas the portion. When they arrived later in the capital, they found just what Nicholas had promised: the weight of the load had not changed, even though the wheat removed in Myra was enough for two full years and could even be used for sowing.

According to Greek historians, he imprisoned and tortured for his faith and made a glorious confession near the end of the great persecution ordered by the emperor, Diocletian. When the Christian Emperor Constantine assumed the throne, the captives, including Nicholas were released.

St. Methodius writes in his biography of Nicholas that "thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas the metropolis of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy, which it firmly rejected as death-dealing poison”. He is also claimed to have been present at the Council of Nicaea and there condemned Arianism. Some accounts state that he went so far as to slap Arius in the face. These accounts are disputed in some cases.

Another story of St. Nicholas is also very famous. The governor Eustathius had taken a bribe to three innocent men to death. On the day of their execution, Nicholas went to them and stayed the hands of the executioner, and they were released. Then he turned to Eustathius and rebuked him until he admitted his guilt and sorrow for his actions. Three officers were present to witness this while they were on their way to duty in Phrygia. Later, when they were in Constantinople, the prefect Ablavius became jealous with them and ordered them imprisoned on false charges and an order for their death was obtained from the Emperor Constantine. The officers remembered the incident they witnessed and they prayed to God that they would be saved through Nicholas. That night St. Nicholas appeared in a dream to Constantine, and told him with threats to release the three innocent men, and Ablavius experienced the same thing. In the morning the Emperor and the prefect told each other of their dreams. The emperor asked the three men about the dream and when they had confirmed that they asked for the help of Nicholas, who had appeared to him, Constantine set them free and sent them to Nicholas with a letter asking him not to threaten him anymore but to pray for the peace of the world. This was for a very long time, the most famous miracle of St. Nicholas, and at the time of St. Methodius was the only thing generally known about him.

He died at Myra, and was buried in his cathedral, though some of his relics were later taken during the crusades either by thieves or pious Christians trying to preserve them and brought to Venice.  His relics are still preserved in the church of San Nicola in Bari, and also in Venice’s Lido.  An oily substance, called the “Manna di S. Nicola”, which smells of roses and is known for its healing powers, is said to flow from the relics in Bari. Scientific study has confirmed that the relics in Venice and Bari came from the same person.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 470-478, 482-483 – How is the Son of Man God?

clock December 6, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections address the human nature and attributes of Christ. Supporting material comes from St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologica”.


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

The Son of God therefore communicates to his humanity his own personal mode of existence in the Trinity. In his soul as in his body, Christ thus expresses humanly the divine ways of the Trinity:98

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

Christ's soul and his human knowledge

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

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

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

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

Christ's human will

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

Christ's true body

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

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

The heart of the Incarnate Word

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


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

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

In his “Summa Theologica” (3, 14), St. Thomas Aquinas addresses the “Defects” of Christ’s human body:

Article 1. Whether the Son of God in human nature ought to have assumed defects of body?

Objection 1. It would seem that the Son of God ought not to have assumed human nature with defects of body. For as His soul is personally united to the Word of God, so also is His body. But the soul of Christ had every perfection, both of grace and truth, as was said above (7, 9; 9, seqq.). Hence, His body also ought to have been in every way perfect, not having any imperfection in it.

Objection 2. Further, the soul of Christ saw the Word of God by the vision wherein the blessed see, as was said above (Question 9, Article 2), and thus the soul of Christ was blessed. Now by the beatification of the soul the body is glorified; since, as Augustine says (Ep. ad Dios. cxviii), "God made the soul of a nature so strong that from the fullness of its blessedness there pours over even into the lower nature" (i.e. the body), "not indeed the bliss proper to the beatific fruition and vision, but the fullness of health" (i.e. the vigor of incorruptibility). Therefore the body of Christ was incorruptible and without any defect.

Objection 3. Further, penalty is the consequence of fault. But there was no fault in Christ, according to 1 Peter 2:22: "Who did no guile." Therefore defects of body, which are penalties, ought not to have been in Him.

Objection 4. Further, no reasonable man assumes what keeps him from his proper end. But by such like bodily defects, the end of Incarnation seems to be hindered in many ways. First, because by these infirmities men were kept back from knowing Him, according to Isaiah 53:2-3: "[There was no sightliness] that we should be desirous of Him. Despised and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity, and His look was, as it were, hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed Him not." Secondly, because the de. sire of the Fathers would not seem to be fulfilled, in whose person it is written (Isaiah 51:9): "Arise, arise, put on Thy strength, O Thou Arm of the Lord." Thirdly, because it would seem more fitting for the devil's power to be overcome and man's weakness healed, by strength than by weakness. Therefore it does not seem to have been fitting that the Son of God assumed human nature with infirmities or defects of body.

On the contrary, It is written (Hebrews 2:18): "For in that, wherein He Himself hath suffered and been tempted, He is able to succor them also that are tempted." Now He came to succor us. hence David said of Him (Psalm 120:1): "I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me." Therefore it was fitting for the Son of God to assume flesh subject to human infirmities, in order to suffer and be tempted in it and so bring succor to us.

I answer that, It was fitting for the body assumed by the Son of God to be subject to human infirmities and defects; and especially for three reasons. First, because it was in order to satisfy for the sin of the human race that the Son of God, having taken flesh, came into the world. Now one satisfies for another's sin by taking on himself the punishment due to the sin of the other. But these bodily defects, to wit, death, hunger, thirst, and the like, are the punishment of sin, which was brought into the world by Adam, according to Romans 5:12: "By one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death." Hence it was useful for the end of Incarnation that He should assume these penalties in our flesh and in our stead, according to Isaiah 53:4, "Surely He hath borne our infirmities." Secondly, in order to cause belief in Incarnation. For since human nature is known to men only as it is subject to these defects, if the Son of God had assumed human nature without these defects, He would not have seemed to be true man, nor to have true, but imaginary, flesh, as the Manicheans held. And so, as is said, Philippians 2:7: "He . . . emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man." Hence, Thomas, by the sight of His wounds, was recalled to the faith, as related John 20:26. Thirdly, in order to show us an example of patience by valiantly bearing up against human passibility and defects. Hence it is said (Hebrews 12:3) that He "endured such opposition from sinners against Himself, that you be not wearied. fainting in your minds."

Reply to Objection 1. The penalties one suffers for another's sin are the matter, as it were, of the satisfaction for that sin; but the principle is the habit of soul, whereby one is inclined to wish to satisfy for another, and from which the satisfaction has its efficacy, for satisfaction would not be efficacious unless it proceeded from charity, as will be explained (XP, 14, 2). Hence, it behooved the soul of Christ to be perfect as regards the habit of knowledge and virtue, in order to have the power of satisfying; but His body was subject to infirmities, that the matter of satisfaction should not be wanting.

Reply to Objection 2. From the natural relationship which is between the soul and the body, glory flows into the body from the soul's glory. Yet this natural relationship in Christ was subject to the will of His Godhead, and thereby it came to pass that the beatitude remained in the soul, and did not flow into the body; but the flesh suffered what belongs to a passible nature; thus Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii, 15) that, "it was by the consent of the Divine will that the flesh was allowed to suffer and do what belonged to it."

Reply to Objection 3. Punishment always follows sin actual or original, sometimes of the one punished, sometimes of the one for whom he who suffers the punishment satisfies. And so it was with Christ, according to Isaiah 53:5: "He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins."

Reply to Objection 4. The infirmity assumed by Christ did not impede, but greatly furthered the end of Incarnation, as above stated. And although these infirmities concealed His Godhead, they made known His Manhood, which is the way of coming to the Godhead, according to Romans 5:1-2: "By Jesus Christ we have access to God." Moreover, the ancient Fathers did not desire bodily strength in Christ, but spiritual strength, wherewith He vanquished the devil and healed human weakness.


97 GS 22 # 2.
98 Cf. ⇒ Jn 14:9-10.
99 GS 22 # 2.
100 Cf. Damasus 1: DS 149.
101 ⇒ Lk 2:52.
102 Cf. ⇒ Mk 6 38; ⇒ 8 27; ⇒ Jn 11:34; etc.
103 ⇒ Phil 2:7.
104 Cf. St. Gregory the Great, "Sicut aqua" ad Eulogium, Epist. Lib. 10, 39 PL 77, 1097 Aff.; DS 475.
105 St. Maximus the Confessor, Qu. et dub. 66 PG 90, 840A.
106 Cf. ⇒ Mk 14:36; ⇒ Mt 11:27; ⇒ Jn 1:18; 8:55; etc.
107 Cf. ⇒ Mk 2:8; ⇒ Jn 2 25; ⇒ 6:61; etc.
108 Cf. ⇒ Mk 8:31; ⇒ 9:31; ⇒ 10:33-34; ⇒ 14:18-20, ⇒ 26-30.
109 Cf. ⇒ Mk 13:32, ⇒ Acts 1:7.
110 Cf. Council of Constantinople III (681): DS 556-559.
111 Council of Constantinople III: DS 556.
112 Cf. Council of the Lateran (649): DS 504.
113 Cf. Cal 3:1; cf. Council of Nicaea II (787): DS 600-603.
114 Roman Missal, Preface of Christmas I.
115 Council of Nicaea II: DS 601.
116 Cal 2:20.
117 Cf. ⇒ Jn 19:34.
118 Pius XII, Enc. Haurietis aquas (1956): DS 3924; cf. DS 3812.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 464-469, 480-481 – Jesus Christ: True God and True Man

clock December 5, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today's Catechism sections discuss the Hypostatic Union, that is, the union of the Human and Divine in the Person of Christ. Supporting material comes from St. Thomas Aquinas' "Summa Theologica".


464 The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man.

During the first centuries, the Church had to defend and clarify this truth of faith against the heresies that falsified it.

465 The first heresies denied not so much Christ's divinity as his true humanity (Gnostic Docetism). From apostolic times the Christian faith has insisted on the true incarnation of God's Son "come in the flesh".87 But already in the third century, the Church in a council at Antioch had to affirm against Paul of Samosata that Jesus Christ is Son of God by nature and not by adoption. The first ecumenical council of Nicaea in 325 confessed in its Creed that the Son of God is "begotten, not made, of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father", and condemned Arius, who had affirmed that the Son of God "came to be from things that were not" and that he was "from another substance" than that of the Father.88

466 The Nestorian heresy regarded Christ as a human person joined to the divine person of God's Son. Opposing this heresy, St. Cyril of Alexandria and the third ecumenical council, at Ephesus in 431, confessed "that the Word, uniting to himself in his person the flesh animated by a rational soul, became man."89 Christ's humanity has no other subject than the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it and made it his own, from his conception. For this reason the Council of Ephesus proclaimed in 431 that Mary truly became the Mother of God by the human conception of the Son of God in her womb: "Mother of God, not that the nature of the Word or his divinity received the beginning of its existence from the holy Virgin, but that, since the holy body, animated by a rational soul, which the Word of God united to himself according to the hypostasis, was born from her, the Word is said to be born according to the flesh."90

467 The Monophysites affirmed that the human nature had ceased to exist as such in Christ when the divine person of God's Son assumed it. Faced with this heresy, the fourth ecumenical council, at Chalcedon in 451, confessed:

Following the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach and confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, composed of rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father as to his divinity and consubstantial with us as to his humanity; "like us in all things but sin". He was begotten from the Father before all ages as to his divinity and in these last days, for us and for our salvation, was born as to his humanity of the virgin Mary, the Mother of God.91

We confess that one and the same Christ, Lord, and only-begotten Son, is to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, change, division or separation. the distinction between the natures was never abolished by their union, but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis.92

468 After the Council of Chalcedon, some made of Christ's human nature a kind of personal subject. Against them, the fifth ecumenical council, at Constantinople in 553, confessed that "there is but one hypostasis [or person], which is our Lord Jesus Christ, one of the Trinity."93 Thus everything in Christ's human nature is to be attributed to his divine person as its proper subject, not only his miracles but also his sufferings and even his death: "He who was crucified in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, is true God, Lord of glory, and one of the Holy Trinity."94

469 The Church thus confesses that Jesus is inseparably true God and true man. He is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother: "What he was, he remained and what he was not, he assumed", sings the Roman Liturgy.95 and the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom proclaims and sings: "O only-begotten Son and Word of God, immortal being, you who deigned for our salvation to become incarnate of the holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, you who without change became man and were crucified, O Christ our God, you who by your death have crushed death, you who are one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us!"96


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

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

In his “Summa Theologica” (3, 2), St. Thomas Aquinas explains the hypostasis of body and Soul in Christ:

Article 5. Whether in Christ there is any union of soul and body?

Objection 1. It would seem that in Christ there was no union of soul and body. For from the union of soul and body in us a person or a human hypostasis is caused. Hence if the soul and body were united in Christ, it follows that a hypostasis resulted from their union. But this was not the hypostasis of God the Word, for It is eternal. Therefore in Christ there would be a person or hypostasis besides the hypostasis of the Word, which is contrary to 2,3.

Objection 2. Further, from the union of soul and body results the nature of the human species. But Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii, 3), that "we must not conceive a common species in the Lord Jesus Christ." Therefore there was no union of soul and body in Him.

Objection 3. Further, the soul is united to the body for the sole purpose of quickening it. But the body of Christ could be quickened by the Word of God Himself, seeing He is the fount and principle of life. Therefore in Christ there was no union of soul and body.

On the contrary, The body is not said to be animated save from its union with the soul. Now the body of Christ is said to be animated, as the Church chants: "Taking an animate body, He deigned to be born of a Virgin" [Feast of the Circumcision, Ant. ii, Lauds]. Therefore in Christ there was a union of soul and body.

I answer that, Christ is called a man univocally with other men, as being of the same species, according to the Apostle (Philippians 2:7), "being made in the likeness of a man." Now it belongs essentially to the human species that the soul be united to the body, for the form does not constitute the species, except inasmuch as it becomes the act of matter, and this is the terminus of generation through which nature intends the species. Hence it must be said that in Christ the soul was united to the body; and the contrary is heretical, since it destroys the truth of Christ's humanity.

Reply to Objection 1. This would seem to be the reason which was of weight with such as denied the union of the soul and body in Christ, viz. lest they should thereby be forced to admit a second person or hypostasis in Christ, since they saw that the union of soul and body in mere men resulted in a person. But this happens in mere men because the soul and body are so united in them as to exist by themselves. But in Christ they are united together, so as to be united to something higher, which subsists in the nature composed of them. And hence from the union of the soul and body in Christ a new hypostasis or person does not result, but what is composed of them is united to the already existing hypostasis or Person. Nor does it therefore follow that the union of the soul and body in Christ is of less effect than in us, for its union with something nobler does not lessen but increases its virtue and worth; just as the sensitive soul in animals constitutes the species, as being considered the ultimate form, yet it does not do so in man, although it is of greater effect and dignity, and this because of its union with a further and nobler perfection, viz. the rational soul, as has been said above (2, ad 2).

Reply to Objection 2. This saying of Damascene may be taken in two ways: First, as referring to human nature, which, as it is in one individual alone, has not the nature of a common species, but only inasmuch as either it is abstracted from every individual, and considered in itself by the mind, or according as it is in all individuals. Now the Son of God did not assume human nature as it exists in the pure thought of the intellect, since in this way He would not have assumed human nature in reality, unless it be said that human nature is a separate idea, just as the Platonists conceived of man without matter. But in this way the Son of God would not have assumed flesh, contrary to what is written (Luke 24:39), "A spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see Me to have." Neither can it be said that the Son of God assumed human nature as it is in all the individuals of the same species, otherwise He would have assumed all men. Therefore it remains, as Damascene says further on (De Fide Orth. iii, 11) that He assumed human nature "in atomo," i.e. in an individual; not, indeed, in another individual which is a suppositum or a person of that nature, but in the Person of the Son of God.

Secondly, this saying of Damascene may be taken not as referring to human nature, as if from the union of soul and body one common nature (viz. human) did not result, but as referring to the union of the two natures Divine and human: which do not combine so as to form a third something that becomes a common nature, for in this way it would become predicable of many, and this is what he is aiming at, since he adds: "For there was not generated, neither will there ever be generated, another Christ, Who from the Godhead and manhood, and in the Godhead and manhood, is perfect God and perfect man."

Reply to Objection 3. There are two principles of corporeal life: one the effective principle, and in this way the Word of God is the principle of all life; the other, the formal principle of life, for since "in living things to be is to live," as the Philosopher says (De Anima ii, 37), just as everything is formally by its form, so likewise the body lives by the soul: in this way a body could not live by the Word, Which cannot be the form of a body.


87 Cf. ⇒ I Jn 4:2-3; ⇒ 2 ⇒ Jn 7.
88 Council of Nicaea I (325): DS 130, 126.
89 Council of Ephesus (431): DS 250.
90 Council of Ephesus: DS 251.
91 Council of Chalcedon (451): DS 301; cf. ⇒ Heb 4:15.
92 Council of Chalcedon: DS 302.
93 Council of Constantinople II (553): DS 424.
94 Council of Constantinople II (553): DS 432; cf. DS 424; Council of Ephesus, DS 255.
95 LH, 1 January, Antiphon for Morning Prayer; cf. St. Leo the Great, Sermo in nat. Dom. 1, 2; PL 54, 191-192.
96 Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Troparion O monogenes.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 456 – 463, 479: The Incarnation of Christ

clock December 4, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the Incarnation of Christ. Supplemental material comes from St. Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies”.

Article 3




456 With the Nicene Creed, we answer by confessing: "For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man."

457 The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God, who "loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins": "the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world", and "he was revealed to take away sins":70

Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Saviour; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state?71

458 The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God's love: "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him."72 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."73

459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me." "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me."74 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: "Listen to him!"75 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: "Love one another as I have loved you."76 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.77

460 The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature":78 "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."79 "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."80 "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."81


461 Taking up St. John's expression, "The Word became flesh",82 The Church calls "Incarnation" the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. In a hymn cited by St. Paul, the Church sings the mystery of the Incarnation:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. and being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.83

462 The Letter to the Hebrews refers to the same mystery:

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, Lo, I have come to do your will, O God."84

463 Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God."85 Such is the joyous conviction of the Church from her beginning whenever she sings "the mystery of our religion": "He was manifested in the flesh."86


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

In his great work, “Against Heresies” (3, 19, 1), St. Irenaeus discusses the Incarnation of Christ:

1. But again, those who assert that He was simply a mere man, begotten by Joseph, remaining in the bondage of the old disobedience, are in a state of death having been not as yet joined to the Word of God the Father, nor receiving liberty through the Son, as He does Himself declare: If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:36) But, being ignorant of Him who from the Virgin is Emmanuel, they are deprived of His gift, which is eternal life; (Romans 6:23) and not receiving the incorruptible Word, they remain in mortal flesh, and are debtors to death, not obtaining the antidote of life. To whom the Word says, mentioning His own gift of grace: I said, You are all the sons of the Highest, and gods; but you shall die like men. He speaks undoubtedly these words to those who have not received the gift of adoption, but who despise the incarnation of the pure generation of the Word of God, defraud human nature of promotion into God, and prove themselves ungrateful to the Word of God, who became flesh for them. For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God. For by no other means could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality, unless we had been united to incorruptibility and immortality. But how could we be joined to incorruptibility and immortality, unless, first, incorruptibility and immortality had become that which we also are, so that the corruptible might be swallowed up by incorruptibility, and the mortal by immortality, that we might receive the adoption of sons?


70 I ⇒ Jn 4:10; ⇒ 4:14; ⇒ 3:5.
71 St. Gregory of Nyssa, Orat. catech 15: PG 45, 48B.
72 ⇒ I Jn 4:9.
73 ⇒ Jn 3:16.
74 ⇒ Mt 11:29; ⇒ Jn 14:6.
75 ⇒ Mk 9:7; cf. Dt 6:4-5.
76 ⇒ Jn 15:12.
77 Cf. ⇒ Mk 8:34.
78 ⇒ 2 Pt 1:4.
79 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939.
80 St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.
81 St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4.
82 ⇒ Jn 1:14.
83 ⇒ Phil 2:5-8; cf. LH, Saturday, Canticle at Evening Prayer.
84 ]⇒ Heb 10:5-7, citing  Ps 40:6-8 (7-9 LXX).
85 I ⇒ Jn 4:2.
86 1 Tim 3:16.

Tuesday Ear Tickler: National Catholic Reporter Adopts Official Heterodox Position on Ordination of Women

clock December 3, 2012 21:14 by author John |

The Tuesday Ear Tickler award is Solemn Charge’s weekly recognition of teachers who “Tickle the Ears” of those who “no longer endure sound doctrine”. In the spirit of 2 Timothy 4 2-4, this award serves to identify theological or doctrinal errors, dissent or hostility toward the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, or writing that undermines the purpose of each human soul – to know love and serve God so as to enjoy eternal happiness with Him in Heaven. I make no judgment of the writer’s intentions. Usually the winner of this award was raised in the 60’s so that right there is a mitigating factor toward their culpability for their actions. I do judge concrete actions and the quality of ideas, however…
Today’s winner is the National Catholic Reporter editorial staff. No longer pretending to be Roman Catholic, NCR has appointed themselves Pope and dispensed with the truth in favor of popular opinion. Roman Catholics follow the teachings of the Church, as guided by the Magisterium in Rome. You might recall that last week, John McCarthy from the same beleaguered organization called for the overturning of the Church's infallible teaching on contraception. This week, another liberal favorite is championed - Women's ordination. Rather than quietly undermine the dogmas of the Church in their usual nuanced manner, NCR this week has decided to officially and loudly endorse a heterodox position and call the Church's actions "unjust". (NCR’s comments in the red quote boxes, my comments in black.)

The story from NCR makes use of over 1200 words to convey what can easily be expressed in 5 words: “We are no longer Catholic.” While most of the faithful Roman Catholic community has known the heterodox positions of this offensive publication for a long time, rarely have they been so vociferous as this article. I will pull out a few paragraphs to highlight the erroneous garbage in this article, but I will leave the majority of the piece be because it is rather redundant…

The call to the priesthood is a gift from God. It is rooted in baptism and is called forth and affirmed by the community because it is authentic and evident in the person as a charism. Catholic women who have discerned a call to the priesthood and have had that call affirmed by the community should be ordained in the Roman Catholic church. Barring women from ordination to the priesthood is an injustice that cannot be allowed to stand.

The call to the priesthood is rooted in the call Jesus made to His 12 disciples – all of whom were men. Jesus had several female followers. Many of them were very close and provided great aid to Christ in His mission. They were not chosen as His priests, however. This is how Jesus saw fit to establish His earthly Church. To assume that the role Jesus gave to women is inferior or an “injustice” is an arrogant position that smacks of the magisterium of “me”, rather than the submission to the Divine Will that the saints throughout the centuries exhibited in following His example.

What do they intend to express by using the phrase “Cannot be allowed to stand”? It shows how the NCR feels it has the authority to rebuke the Catholic Church in the same manner that heretics throughout the history of the Church have done. The Church has a pretty high winning percentage against heretics. In fact, it is undefeated. Guided by the Holy Spirit, as Christ promised in giving Peter the “Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” and assuring him that “The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18-19)

Let's review the history of Rome's response to the call of the faithful to ordain women:

In April 1976 the Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded unanimously: "It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate." In further deliberation, the commission voted 12-5 in favor of the view that Scripture alone does not exclude the ordination of women, and 12-5 in favor of the view that the church could ordain women to the priesthood without going against Christ's original intentions.

In Inter Insigniores (dated Oct. 15, 1976, but released the following January), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said: "The Church, in fidelity to the example of the Lord, does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination." That declaration, published with the approval of Pope Paul VI, was a relatively modest "does not consider herself authorized."

Pope John Paul II upped the ante considerably in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (May 22, 1994): "We declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." John Paul had wanted to describe the ban as "irreformable," a much stronger stance than "definitively held." This met substantial resistance from high-ranking bishops who gathered at a special Vatican meeting in March 1995 to discuss the document, NCR reported at the time. Even then, bishops attuned to the pastoral needs of the church had won a concession to the possibility of changing the teaching.

Despite the certainty with which Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and the responsum were issued they did not answer all the questions on the issue.

Many have pointed out that to say that the teaching is "founded on the written Word of God" completely ignored the 1976 findings of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

Others have noted that the doctrinal congregation did not make a claim of papal infallibility -- it said what the pope taught in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was that which "has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium." This too, however, has been called into question because at the time there were many bishops around the world who had serious reservations about the teaching, though few voiced them in public.

So what? The opinion of a handful of the bishops has never been a reliable guide in matters of the faith. Some of the most notorious heretics in history have been bishops. At the First Council of Nicaea twenty-two bishops, led by Eusebius of Nicomedia, came as supporters of the heresiarch Arius.

Our message is that we believe the sensus fidelium is that the exclusion of women from the priesthood has no strong basis in Scripture or any other compelling rationale; therefore, women should be ordained. We have heard the faithful assent to this in countless conversations in parish halls, lecture halls and family gatherings. It has been studied and prayed over individually and in groups. The brave witness of the Women's Ordination Conference, as one example, gives us assurance that the faithful have come to this conclusion after prayerful consideration and study -- yes, even study of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

NCR joins its voice with Roy Bourgeois and calls for the Catholic church to correct this unjust teaching.

Ignoring the priesthood as established by Jesus Christ and the first members of it does not provide for a sound argument. Throughout the Old Testament and the New, every priest has been male. Jesus’ example is “strong” enough evidence for faithful Catholics. Calling the dogmas of the Church unjust while still professing to be a member of it is hypocritical. I call on NCR to remove the word “Catholic” from their title.

I hereby award the Tuesday Ear Tickler Award for Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 to the Nation Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff.

Ear Tickler Award for the National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 446-455 – Jesus Christ’s Lordship

clock December 2, 2012 15:04 by author John |

Today we read about Jesus’ Lordship over creation in our Catechism sections. Supplemental material comes from St. Athanasius.

IV. Lord

446 In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the ineffable Hebrew name YHWH, by which God revealed himself to Moses,59 is rendered as Kyrios, "Lord". From then on, "Lord" becomes the more usual name by which to indicate the divinity of Israel's God. The New Testament uses this full sense of the title "Lord" both for the Father and - what is new - for Jesus, who is thereby recognized as God Himself.60

447 Jesus ascribes this title to himself in a veiled way when he disputes with the Pharisees about the meaning of Psalm 110, but also in an explicit way when he addresses his apostles.61 Throughout his public life, he demonstrated his divine sovereignty by works of power over nature, illnesses, demons, death and sin.

448 Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as "Lord". This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing.62 At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, "Lord" expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus.63 In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: "My Lord and my God!" It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: "It is the Lord!"64

449 By attributing to Jesus the divine title "Lord", the first confessions of the Church's faith affirm from the beginning that the power, honour and glory due to God the Father are due also to Jesus, because "he was in the form of God",65 and the Father manifested the sovereignty of Jesus by raising him from the dead and exalting him into his glory.66

450 From the beginning of Christian history, the assertion of Christ's lordship over the world and over history has implicitly recognized that man should not submit his personal freedom in an absolute manner to any earthly power, but only to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Caesar is not "the Lord".67 "The Church. . . believes that the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of man's history is to be found in its Lord and Master."68

451 Christian prayer is characterized by the title "Lord", whether in the invitation to prayer ("The Lord be with you"), its conclusion ("through Christ our Lord") or the exclamation full of trust and hope: Maranatha ("Our Lord, come!") or Maranatha ("Come, Lord!") - "Amen Come Lord Jesus!"69


452 The name Jesus means "God saves". the child born of the Virgin Mary is called Jesus, "for he will save his people from their sins" (⇒ Mt 1:21): "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (⇒ Acts 4:12).

453 The title "Christ" means "Anointed One" (Messiah).Jesus is the Christ, for "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power" (⇒ Acts 10:38). He was the one "who is to come" (⇒ Lk 7:19), the object of "the hope of Israel" (⇒ Acts 28:20).

454 The title "Son of God" signifies the unique and eternal relationship of Jesus Christ to God his Father: he is the only Son of the Father (cf ⇒ Jn 1:14, ⇒ 18; ⇒ 3:16, ⇒ 18); he is God himself (cf ⇒ Jn 1:1). To be a Christian, one must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (cf ⇒ Acts 8:37; ⇒ 1 Jn 2:23).

455 The title "Lord" indicates divine sovereignty. To confess or invoke Jesus as Lord is to believe in his divinity. "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit'" (⇒ I Cor 12:3).

In his “Sermon on Luke 10:22 and Matthew 12:17”, St. Athanasius discusses the Lordship of Jesus Christ:

On Luke 10:22 and Matthew 11:27

§ 1. This text refers not to the eternal Word but to the Incarnate.

All things were delivered to Me by My Father. And none knows Who the Son is, save the Father; and Who the Father is, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son wills to reveal Him.

And from not perceiving this they of the sect of Arius, Eusebius and his fellows, indulge impiety against the Lord. For they say, if all things were delivered (meaning by 'all' the Lordship of Creation), there was once a time when He had them not. But if He had them not, He is not of the Father, for if He were, He would on that account have had them always, and would not have required to receive them. But this point will furnish all the clearer an exposure of their folly. For the expression in question does not refer to the Lordship over Creation, nor to presiding over the works of God, but is meant to reveal in part the intention of the Incarnation (τῆς οἰκονομίας). For if when He was speaking they 'were delivered' to Him, clearly before He received them, creation was void of the Word. What then becomes of the text in Him all things consist Colossians 1:17? But if simultaneously with the origin of the Creation it was all 'delivered' to Him, such delivery were superfluous, for 'all things were made by Him' John 1:3, and it would be unnecessary for those things of which the Lord Himself was the artificer to be delivered over to Him. For in making them He was Lord of the things which were being originated. But even supposing they were 'delivered' to Him after they were originated, see the monstrosity. For if they 'were delivered,' and upon His receiving them the Father retired, then we are in peril of falling into the fabulous tales which some tell, that He gave over [His works] to the Son, and Himself departed. Or if, while the Son has them, the Father has them also, we ought to say, not 'were delivered,' but that He took Him as partner, as Paul did Silvanus. But this is even more monstrous; for God is not imperfect , nor did He summon the Son to help Him in His need; but, being Father of the Word, He makes all things by His means, and without delivering creation over to Him, by His means and in Him exercises Providence over it, so that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father Matthew 10:29, nor is the grass clothed without God Matthew 6:30, but at once the Father works, and the Son works hitherto cf. John 5:17. Vain, therefore, is the opinion of the impious. For the expression is not what they think, but designates the Incarnation.


59 Cf. Ex 3:14.
60 Cf. ⇒ I Cor 2:8.
61 Cf. ⇒ Mt 22:41-46; cf. ⇒ Acts 2:34-36; ⇒ Heb 1:13; ⇒ Jn 13:13.
62 Cf ⇒ Mt 8:2; ⇒ 14:30; ⇒ 15:22; et al.
63 Cf. ⇒ Lk 1:43; ⇒ 2:11.
64 ⇒ Jn 20:28, ⇒ 21:7.
65 Cf. ⇒ Acts 2:34 - 36; ⇒ Rom 9:5; ⇒ Titus 2:13; ⇒ Rev 5:13; ⇒ Phil 2:6.
66 Cf. ⇒ Rom 10:9; ⇒ I Cor 12:3; ⇒ Phil 2:9-11.
67 Cf. ⇒ Rev 11:15; ⇒ Mk 12:17; ⇒ Acts 5:29.
68 GS 10 # 3; Cf. 45 # 2.
69 ⇒ I Cor 16:22; ⇒ Rev 22:20.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 441-445 – The Only Son of God

clock December 2, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss Jesus’ title of  “The Only Son of God”. Supporting material comes from St. Augustine’s “Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed”.

III. The Only Son of God

441 In the Old Testament, "son of God" is a title given to the angels, the Chosen People, the children of Israel, and their kings.44 It signifies an adoptive sonship that establishes a relationship of particular intimacy between God and his creature. When the promised Messiah-King is called "son of God", it does not necessarily imply that he was more than human, according to the literal meaning of these texts. Those who called Jesus "son of God", as the Messiah of Israel, perhaps meant nothing more than this.45

442 Such is not the case for Simon Peter when he confesses Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the living God", for Jesus responds solemnly: "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven."46 Similarly Paul will write, regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus, "When he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles..."47 "and in the synagogues immediately [Paul] proclaimed Jesus, saying, 'He is the Son of God.'"48 From the beginning this acknowledgment of Christ's divine sonship will be the centre of the apostolic faith, first professed by Peter as the Church's foundation.49

443 Peter could recognize the transcendent character of the Messiah's divine sonship because Jesus had clearly allowed it to be so understood. To his accusers' question before the Sanhedrin, "Are you the Son of God, then?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am."50 Well before this, Jesus referred to himself as "the Son" who knows the Father, as distinct from the "servants" God had earlier sent to his people; he is superior even to the angels.51 He distinguished his sonship from that of his disciples by never saying "our Father", except to command them: "You, then, pray like this: 'Our Father'", and he emphasized this distinction, saying "my Father and your Father".52

444 The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his "beloved Son".53 Jesus calls himself the "only Son of God", and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence.54 He asks for faith in "the name of the only Son of God".55 In the centurion's exclamation before the crucified Christ, "Truly this man was the Son of God",56 that Christian confession is already heard. Only in the Paschal mystery can the believer give the title "Son of God" its full meaning.

445 After his Resurrection, Jesus' divine sonship becomes manifest in the power of his glorified humanity. He was "designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead".57 The apostles can confess: "We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."58

St. Augustine discusses the “Father Almighty’s Only Son, our Lord” in his “Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed”:

3. For this reason we believe also in His Son, that is to say, God the Father Almighty's, His Only Son, our Lord. When you hear of the Only Son of God, acknowledge Him God. For it could not be that God's Only Son should not be God. What He is, the same did He beget, though He is not that Person Whom He begot. If He be truly Son, He is that which the Father is; if He be not that which the Father is, He is not truly Son. Observe mortal and earthly creatures: what each is, that it engenders. Man besets not an ox, sheep besets not dog, nor dog sheep. Whatever it be that begets, that which it is, it begets. Hold ye therefore boldly, firmly, faithfully, that the Begotten of God the Father is what Himself is, Almighty. These mortal creatures engender by corruption. Does God so beget? He that is begotten mortal generates that which himself is; the Immortal generates what He is: corruptible begets corruptible, Incorruptible begets Incorruptible: the corruptible begets corruptibly, Incorruptible, Incorruptibly: yea, so begets what Itself is, that One begets One, and therefore Only. You know, that when I pronounced to you the Creed, so I said, and so you are bounden to believe; that we believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ His Only Son. Here too, when you believe that He is the Only, believe Him Almighty: for it is not to be thought that God the Father does what He will, and God the Son does not what He will. One Will of Father and Son, because one Nature. For it is impossible for the will of the Son to be any whit parted from the Father's will. God and God; both one God: Almighty and Almighty; both One Almighty.


44 Cf. Dt 14:1; (LXX) 32:8; ⇒ Job 1:6; Ex 4:22; ⇒ Hos 2:1; ⇒ 11:1; ⇒ Jer 3:19; ⇒ Sir 36:11; Wis 18:13; 2 Sam 7:14; ⇒ Ps 82:6.
45 Cf. I Chr 17:13; ⇒ Ps 2:7; ⇒ Mt 27:54; ⇒ Lk 23:47.
46 ⇒ Mt 16:16-17.
47 ⇒ Gal 1:15-16.
48 ⇒ Acts 9:20.
49 Cf. I Th 1:10; ⇒ Jn 20:31; ⇒ Mt 16:18.
50 ⇒ Lk 22:70; cf. ⇒ Mt 26:64; ⇒ Mk 14:61-62.
51 Cf. ⇒ Mt 11:27; ⇒ 21:34-38; ⇒ 24:36.
52 ⇒ Mt 5:48; ⇒ 6:8-9; ⇒ 7:21; ⇒ Lk 11:13; ⇒ Jn 20:17.
53 Cf. ⇒ Mt 3:17; cf. ⇒ 17:5.
54 ⇒ Jn 3:16; cf. ⇒ 10:36.
55 ⇒ Jn 3:18.
56 ⇒ Mk 15:39.
57 ⇒ Rom 1:3; cf. ⇒ Acts 13:33.
58 ⇒ Jn 1:14.