Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1010-1014 – The Meaning of Christian Death

clock February 9, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the meaning of death. Supporting material comes from the “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas Kempis.

The meaning of Christian death

1010 Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."574 "The saying is sure: if we have died with him, we will also live with him.575 What is essentially new about Christian death is this: through Baptism, the Christian has already "died with Christ" sacramentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ's grace, physical death completes this "dying with Christ" and so completes our incorporation into him in his redeeming act:

It is better for me to die in (eis) Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. Him it is I seek - who died for us. Him it is I desire - who rose for us. I am on the point of giving birth .... Let me receive pure light; when I shall have arrived there, then shall I be a man.576

1011 In death, God calls man to himself. Therefore the Christian can experience a desire for death like St. Paul's: "My desire is to depart and be with Christ. "577 He can transform his own death into an act of obedience and love towards the Father, after the example of Christ:578

My earthly desire has been crucified; . . . there is living water in me, water that murmurs and says within me: Come to the Father.579
I want to see God and, in order to see him, I must die.580
I am not dying; I am entering life.581

1012 The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church:582

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.583

1013 Death is the end of man's earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When "the single course of our earthly life" is completed,584 we shall not return to other earthly lives: "It is appointed for men to die once."585 There is no "reincarnation" after death.

1014 The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: "From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord";586 to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us "at the hour of our death" in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.

Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience .... Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren't fit to face death today, it's very unlikely you will be tomorrow ....587

Praised are you, my Lord, for our sister bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe on those who will die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they who will be found in your most holy will,
for the second death will not harm them.588

Thomas Kempis meditates on the reality of death in “Imitation of Christ” (1,23,6-7).

6. Oh, dearly beloved, from what danger thou mightest free thyself, from what great fear, if only thou wouldst always live in fear, and in expectation of death! Strive now to live in such wise that in the hour of death thou mayest rather rejoice than fear. Learn now to die to the world, so shalt thou begin to live with Christ. Learn now to contemn all earthly things, and then mayest thou freely go unto Christ. Keep under thy body by penitence, and then shalt thou be able to have a sure confidence.

7. Ah, foolish one! why thinkest thou that thou shalt live long, when thou art not sure of a single day? How many have been deceived, and suddenly have been snatched away from the body! How many times hast thou heard how one was slain by the sword, another was drowned, another falling from on high broke his neck, another died at the table, another whilst at play! One died by fire, another by the sword, another by the pestilence, another by the robber. Thus cometh death to all, and the life of men swiftly passeth away like a shadow.

Footnotes

574 ⇒ Phil 1:21.
575 ⇒ 2 Tim 2:11.
576 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom., 6, 1-2: Apostolic Fathers, II/2, 217-220.
577 ⇒ Phil 1:23.
578 Cf. ⇒ Lk 23:46.
579 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom., 6, 1- 2: Apostolic Fathers, II/2, 223-224.
580 St. Teresa of Avila, Life, chap. 1.
581 St. Therese of Lisieux, the Last Conversations.
582 Cf. I Thess 4:13-14.
583 Roman Missal, Preface of Christian Death I.
584 LG 48 # 3.
585 ⇒ Heb 9:27.
586 Roman Missal, Litany of the saints.
587 The Imitation of Christ, 1, 23, 1.
588 St. Francis of Assisi Canticle of the Creatures.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1005-1009, 1017-1019 – Death

clock February 8, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the reality of human death. Supporting material comes from the Pastoral Constitution, “Gaudium et Spes”.

II. Dying in Christ Jesus

1005 To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must "be away from the body and at home with the Lord."562 In that "departure" which is death the soul is separated from the body.563 It will be reunited with the body on the day of resurrection of the dead.564

Death

1006 "It is in regard to death that man's condition is most shrouded in doubt."565 In a sense bodily death is natural, but for faith it is in fact "the wages of sin."566 For those who die in Christ's grace it is a participation in the death of the Lord, so that they can also share his Resurrection.567

1007 Death is the end of earthly life. Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change, grow old and, as with all living beings on earth, death seems like the normal end of life. That aspect of death lends urgency to our lives: remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfillment:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, . . . before the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.568

1008 Death is a consequence of sin. The Church's Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man's sin.569 Even though man's nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin.570 "Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned" is thus "the last enemy" of man left to be conquered.571

1009 Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father's will.572 The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.573

IN BRIEF

1017 "We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess" (Council of Lyons II: DS 854). We sow a corruptible body in the tomb, but he raises up an incorruptible body, a "spiritual body" (cf ⇒ 1 Cor 15:42-44).

1018 As a consequence of original sin, man must suffer "bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned" (GS # 18).

1019 Jesus, the Son of God, freely suffered death for us in complete and free submission to the will of God, his Father. By his death he has conquered death, and so opened the possibility of salvation to all men.

The Pastoral Constitution, “Gaudium et Spes” (18) discusses the reality of death.

18. It is in the face of death that the riddle a human existence grows most acute. Not only is man tormented by pain and by the advancing deterioration of his body, but even more so by a dread of perpetual extinction. He rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the utter ruin and total disappearance of his own person. He rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to sheer matter. All the endeavors of technology, though useful in the extreme, cannot calm his anxiety; for prolongation of biological life is unable to satisfy that desire for higher life which is inescapably lodged in his breast.

Although the mystery of death utterly beggars the imagination, the Church has been taught by divine revelation and firmly teaches that man has been created by God for a blissful purpose beyond the reach of earthly misery. In addition, that bodily death from which man would have been immune had he not sinned(14) will be vanquished, according to the Christian faith, when man who was ruined by his own doing is restored to wholeness by an almighty and merciful Saviour. For God has called man and still calls him so that with his entire being he might be joined to Him in an endless sharing of a divine life beyond all corruption. Christ won this victory when He rose to life, for by His death He freed man from death. Hence to every thoughtful man a solidly established faith provides the answer to his anxiety about what the future holds for him. At the same time faith gives him the power to be united in Christ with his loved ones who have already been snatched away by death; faith arouses the hope that they have found true life with God.

Footnotes

562 ⇒ 2 Cor 5:8.
563 Cf. ⇒ Phil 1:23.
564 Cf. Paul VI, CPG # 28.
565 GS 18.
566 ⇒ Rom 6:23; cf. ⇒ Gen 2:17.
567 Cf. ⇒ Rom 6:3-9; ⇒ Phil 3:10-11.
568 ⇒ Eccl 12:1, 7.
569 Cf. ⇒ Gen 2:17; ⇒ 3:3; ⇒ 3:19; ⇒ Wis 1:13; ⇒ Rom 5:12; ⇒ 6:23; DS 1511.
570 Cf. ⇒ Wis 2:23-24.
571 GS 18 # 2; cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 15:26.
572 Cf. ⇒ Mk 14:33-34; ⇒ Heb 5:7-8.
573 Cf. ⇒ Rom 5:19-21.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 997-1005, 1015-1016 – Resurrection of the Dead, Risen with Christ

clock February 7, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the resurrection of the dead and rising to new life with Christ. Supporting material comes from St. Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies”.

How do the dead rise?

997 What is "rising"? In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus' Resurrection.

998 Who will rise? All the dead will rise, "those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment."550

999 How? Christ is raised with his own body: "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself";551 but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, "all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear," but Christ "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body," into a "spiritual body":552

But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel ....What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.... the dead will be raised imperishable.... For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.553

1000 This "how" exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith. Yet our participation in the Eucharist already gives us a foretaste of Christ's transfiguration of our bodies:

Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God's blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection.554

1001 When? Definitively "at the last day," "at the end of the world."555 Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ's Parousia:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.556

Risen with Christ

1002 Christ will raise us up "on the last day"; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. For, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, Christian life is already now on earth a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ:

And you were buried with him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead .... If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.557

1003 United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains "hidden with Christ in God."558 The Father has already "raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus."559 Nourished with his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ. When we rise on the last day we "also will appear with him in glory."560

1004 In expectation of that day, the believer's body and soul already participate in the dignity of belonging to Christ. This dignity entails the demand that he should treat with respect his own body, but also the body of every other person, especially the suffering:

The body [is meant] for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? .... You are not your own; .... So glorify God in your body.561

IN BRIEF

1015 "The flesh is the hinge of salvation" (Tertullian, De res. 8, 2: PL 2, 852). We believe in God who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh.

1016 By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives forever, so all of us will rise at the last day.

St. Irenaeus discusses the resurrection in “Against Heresies” (4,18,5).

5. Then, again, how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body of the Lord and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life? Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion, or cease from offering the things just mentioned. But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we offer to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit. For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity.

Footnotes

550 ⇒ Jn 5:29; cf. ⇒ Dan 12:2.
551 ⇒ Lk 24:39.
552 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 801; ⇒ Phil 3:21; 2 Cor 15:44.
553 ⇒ 1 Cor 15:35-37, ⇒ 42, ⇒ 52, ⇒ 53.
554 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4, 18, 4-5: PG 7/1, 1028-1029.
555 ⇒ Jn 6: 39-40, ⇒ 44, ⇒ 54; ⇒ 11:24; LG 48 # 3.
556 ⇒ 1 Thess 4:16.
557 ⇒ Col 2:12; ⇒ 3:1.
558 ⇒ Col 3:3; cf. ⇒ Phil 3:20.
559 ⇒ Eph 2:6.
560 ⇒ Col 3:4.
561 ⇒ 1 Cor 6:13-15, ⇒ 19-20.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 992-996 – The Progressive Revelation of the Resurrection

clock February 6, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the “progressive revelation of the Resurrection. Supporting material comes from St. Augustine’s “Expositions on the Psalms”.

I. Christ's Resurrection and Ours

The progressive revelation of the Resurrection

992 God revealed the resurrection of the dead to his people progressively. Hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole man, soul and body. The creator of heaven and earth is also the one who faithfully maintains his covenant with Abraham and his posterity. It was in this double perspective that faith in the resurrection came to be expressed. In their trials, the Maccabean martyrs confessed:

The King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.538 One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him.539

993 The Pharisees and many of the Lord's contemporaries hoped for the resurrection. Jesus teaches it firmly. To the Sadducees who deny it he answers, "Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?"540 Faith in the resurrection rests on faith in God who "is not God of the dead, but of the living."541

994 But there is more. Jesus links faith in the resurrection to his own person: "I am the Resurrection and the life."542 It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood.543 Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life,544 announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order. He speaks of this unique event as the "sign of Jonah,"545 The sign of the temple: he announces that he will be put to death but rise thereafter on the third day.546

995 To be a witness to Christ is to be a "witness to his Resurrection," to "[have eaten and drunk] with him after he rose from the dead."547 Encounters with the risen Christ characterize the Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with him, and through him.

996 From the beginning, Christian faith in the resurrection has met with incomprehension and opposition.548 "On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body."549 It is very commonly accepted that the life of the human person continues in a spiritual fashion after death. But how can we believe that this body, so clearly mortal, could rise to everlasting life?

St. Augustine comments on the resurrection in his “Expositions on the Psalms” (88, 5).

4. Free among the dead Psalm 87:5. In these words our Lord's Person is most clearly shown: for who else is free among the dead but He who though in the likeness of sinful flesh is alone among sinners without sin? Romans 8:3 ...He therefore, free among the dead, who had it in His power to lay down His life, and again to take it; from whom no one could take it, but He laid it down of His own free will; who could revive His own flesh, as a temple destroyed by them, at His will; who, when all had forsaken Him on the eve of His Passion, remained not alone, because, as He testifies, His Father forsook Him not; John 8:29 was nevertheless by His enemies, for whom He prayed, who knew not what they did, ...counted as one who has no help; like them that are wounded, and lie in the grave. But he adds, Whom thou dost not yet remember: and in these words there is to be remarked a distinction between Christ and the rest of the dead. For though He was wounded, and when dead laid in the tomb, Matthew 27:50, 60 yet they who knew not what they were doing, or who He was, regarded Him as like others who had perished from their wounds, and who slept in the tomb, who are as yet out of remembrance of God, that is, whose hour of resurrection has not yet arrived. For thus the Scripture speaks of the dead as sleeping, because it wishes them to be regarded as destined to awake, that is, to rise again. But He, wounded and asleep in the tomb, awoke on the third day, and became like a sparrow that sits alone on the housetop, that is, on the right hand of His Father in Heaven: and now dies no more, death shall no more have dominion over Him. Romans 6:9 Hence He differs widely from those whom God has not yet remembered to cause their resurrection after this manner: for what was to go before in the Head, was kept for the Body in the end. God is then said to remember, when He does an act: then to forget, when He does it not: for neither can God forget, as He never changes, nor remember, as He can never forget. I am counted then, by those who know not what they do, as a man that has no help: while I am free among the dead, I am held by these men like them that are wounded, and lie in the grave. Yet those very men, who account thus of Me, are further said to be cut away from Your hand, that is, when I was made so by them, they were cut away from Your hand; they who believed Me destitute of help, are deprived of the help of Your hand: for they, as he says in another Psalm, have dug a pit before me, and are fallen into the midst of it themselves. I prefer this interpretation to that which refers the words, they are cut away from Your hand, to those who sleep in the tomb, whom God has not yet remembered: since the righteous are among the latter, of whom, even though God has not yet called them to the resurrection, it is said, that their souls are in the hands of God, Wisdom 3:1 that is, that they dwell under the defence of the Most High; and shall abide under the shadow of the God of Heaven. But it is those who are cut away from the hand of God, who believed that Christ was cut off from His hand, and thus accounting Him among the wicked, dared to slay Him.

Footnotes

538 ⇒ 2 Macc 7:9.
539 ⇒ 2 Macc 7:14; cf. ⇒ 7:29; ⇒ Dan 12:1-13.
540 ⇒ Mk 12:24; cf. In 11:24; ⇒ Acts 23:6.
541 ⇒ Mk 12:27.
542 ⇒ Jn 11:25.
543 Cf. ⇒ Jn 5:24-25; ⇒ 6:40, ⇒ 54.
544 Cf. ⇒ Mk 5:21-42; ⇒ Lk 7:11-17; ⇒ Jn 11.
545 ⇒ Mt 12:39.
546 Cf. ⇒ Mk 10:34; ⇒ Jn 2:19-22.
547 ⇒ Acts 1:22; ⇒ 10:41; cf. ⇒ 4:33.
548 Cf. ⇒ Acts 17:32; ⇒ 12Cor 15:12-13.
549 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 88, 5: PL 37, 1134.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 988-991 – The Resurrection of the Body

clock February 5, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the resurrection of the body. Supporting material comes from Tertullian’s “On the Resurrection of the Flesh”.

Article 11

"I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY"

988 The Christian Creed - the profession of our faith in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and in God's creative, saving, and sanctifying action - culminates in the proclamation of the resurrection of the dead on the last day and in life everlasting.

989 We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives forever, so after death the righteous will live forever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.532 Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.533

990 The term "flesh" refers to man in his state of weakness and mortality.534 The "resurrection of the flesh" (the literal formulation of the Apostles' Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our "mortal body" will come to life again.535

991 Belief in the resurrection of the dead has been an essential element of the Christian faith from its beginnings. "The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live."536
How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.... But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.537

The following excerpt comes from Tertullian’s “On the Resurrection of the Flesh”.

The resurrection of the dead is the Christian's trust. By it we are believers. To the belief of this (article of the faith) truth compels us— that truth which God reveals, but the crowd derides, which supposes that nothing will survive after death. And yet they do honour to their dead, and that too in the most expensive way according to their bequest, and with the daintiest banquets which the seasons can produce, on the presumption that those whom they declare to be incapable of all perception still retain an appetite. But (let the crowd deride): I on my side must deride it still more, especially when it burns up its dead with harshest inhumanity, only to pamper them immediately afterwards with gluttonous satiety, using the selfsame fires to honour them and to insult them. What piety is that which mocks its victims with cruelty? Is it sacrifice or insult (which the crowd offers), when it burns its offerings to those it has already burnt? But the wise, too, join with the vulgar crowd in their opinion sometimes. There is nothing after death, according to the school of Epicurus. After death all things come to an end, even death itself, says Seneca to like effect. It is satisfactory, however, that the no less important philosophy of Pythagoras and Empedocles, and the Plantonists, take the contrary view, and declare the soul to be immortal; affirming, moreover, in a way which most nearly approaches (to our own doctrine), that the soul actually returns into bodies, although not the same bodies, and not even those of human beings invariably: thus Euphorbus is supposed to have passed into Phythagoras, and Homer into a peacock. They firmly pronounced the soul's renewal to be in a body, (deeming it) more tolerable to change the quality (of the corporeal state) than to deny it wholly: they at least knocked at the door of truth, although they entered not. Thus the world, with all its errors, does not ignore the resurrection of the dead.

Footnotes

532 Cf. ⇒ Jn 6:39-40.
533 ⇒ Rom 8:11; cf. ⇒ 1 Thess 4:14; ⇒ 1 Cor 6:14; ⇒ 2 Cor 4:14; ⇒ Phil 3:10-11.
534 Cf. ⇒ Gen 6:3; ⇒ Ps 56:5; ⇒ Isa 40:6.
535 ⇒ Rom 8:11.
536 Tertullian, De res, 1,1: PL 2, 841.
537 ⇒ 1 Cor 15:12-14.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 981-987 – The Power of the Keys – Forgiveness of sins

clock February 4, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the power Christ gave in the “Keys to the Kingdom”, particularly, the forgiveness of sins. Supporting material comes from St. Ambrose’s “Concerning Repentance”.

II. The Power of the Keys

981 After his Resurrection, Christ sent his apostles "so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations."524 The apostles and their successors carry out this "ministry of reconciliation," not only by announcing to men God's forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith; but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, and reconciling them with God and with the Church through the power of the keys, received from Christ:525

[The Church] has received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven so that, in her, sins may be forgiven through Christ's blood and the Holy Spirit's action. In this Church, the soul dead through sin comes back to life in order to live with Christ, whose grace has saved us.526

982 There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. "There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest.527 Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin.528

983 Catechesis strives to awaken and nourish in the faithful faith in the incomparable greatness of the risen Christ's gift to his Church: the mission and the power to forgive sins through the ministry of the apostles and their successors:

The Lord wills that his disciples possess a tremendous power: that his lowly servants accomplish in his name all that he did when he was on earth.529
Priests have received from God a power that he has given neither to angels nor to archangels .... God above confirms what priests do here below.530
Were there no forgiveness of sins in the Church, there would be no hope of life to come or eternal liberation. Let us thank God who has given his Church such a gift.531

984 The Creed links "the forgiveness of sins" with its profession of faith in the Holy Spirit, for the risen Christ entrusted to the apostles the power to forgive sins when he gave them the Holy Spirit.

985 Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of the forgiveness of sins: it unites us to Christ, who died and rose, and gives us the Holy Spirit.

986 By Christ's will, the Church possesses the power to forgive the sins of the baptized and exercises it through bishops and priests normally in the sacrament of Penance.

987 "In the forgiveness of sins, both priests and sacraments are instruments which our Lord Jesus Christ, the only author and liberal giver of salvation, wills to use in order to efface our sins and give us the grace of justification" (Roman Catechism, I, 11, 6).

The following except comes from St. Ambrose’s work, “Concerning Repentance”. (1,1)

1. If the highest end of virtue is that which aims at the advancement of most, gentleness is the most lovely of all, which does not hurt even those whom it condemns, and usually renders those whom it condemns worthy of absolution. Moreover, it is the only virtue which has led to the increase of the Church which the Lord sought at the price of His own Blood, imitating the loving kindness of heaven, and aiming at the redemption of all, seeks this end with a gentleness which the ears of men can endure, in presence of which their hearts do not sink, nor their spirits quail.

2. For he who endeavours to amend the faults of human weakness ought to bear this very weakness on his own shoulders, let it weigh upon himself, not cast it off. For we read that the Shepherd in the Gospel Luke 15:5 carried the weary sheep, and did not cast it off. And Solomon says: Be not overmuch righteous; Ecclesiastes 7:17 for restraint should temper righteousness. For how shall he offer himself to you for healing whom you despise, who thinks that he will be an object of contempt, not of compassion, to his physician?

3. Therefore had the Lord Jesus compassion upon us in order to call us to Himself, not frighten us away. He came in meekness, He came in humility, and so He said: Come unto Me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Matthew 11:28 So, then, the Lord Jesus refreshes, and does not shut out nor cast off, and fitly chose such disciples as should be interpreters of the Lord's will, as should gather together and not drive away the people of God. Whence it is clear that they are not to be counted among the disciples of Christ, who think that harsh and proud opinions should be followed rather than such as are gentle and meek; persons who, while they themselves seek God's mercy, deny it to others, such as are the teachers of the Novatians, who call themselves pure.

4. What can show more pride than this, since the Scripture says: No one is free from sin, not even an infant of a day old; and David cries out: Cleanse me from my sin. Are they more holy than David, of whose family Christ vouchsafed to be born in the mystery of the Incarnation, whose descendant is that heavenly Hall which received the world's Redeemer in her virgin womb? For what is more harsh than to inflict a penance which they do not relax, and by refusing pardon to take away the incentive to penance and repentance? Now no one can repent to good purpose unless he hopes for mercy.

Footnotes

524 ⇒ Lk 24:47.
525 ⇒ 2 Cor 5:18.
526 St. Augustine, Sermo 214, 11: PL 38, 1071-1072.
527 Roman Catechism I, 11, 5.
528 Cf. ⇒ Mt 18:21-22.
529 Cf. St. Ambrose, De poenit. I, 15: PL 16, 490.
530 John Chrysostom, De sac. 3, 5: PG 48, 643.
531 St. Augustine, Sermo 213, 8: PL 38,1064.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 976-980 – The Forgiveness of Sins

clock February 3, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the forgiveness of sins in the Catholic Church. Supporting material comes from St. Gregory Nazianzen’s “Orations”.

Article 10

"I BELIEVE IN THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS"

976 The Apostle's Creed associates faith in the forgiveness of sins not only with faith in the Holy Spirit, but also with faith in the Church and in the communion of saints. It was when he gave the Holy Spirit to his apostles that the risen Christ conferred on them his own divine power to forgive sins: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."518

(Part Two of the catechism will deal explicitly with the forgiveness of sins through Baptism, the sacrament of Penance, and the other sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Here it will suffice to suggest some basic facts briefly.)

I. One Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins

977 Our Lord tied the forgiveness of sins to faith and Baptism: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved."519 Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, so that "we too might walk in newness of life."520

978 "When we made our first profession of faith while receiving the holy Baptism that cleansed us, the forgiveness we received then was so full and complete that there remained in us absolutely nothing left to efface, neither original sin nor offenses committed by our own will, nor was there left any penalty to suffer in order to expiate them.... Yet the grace of Baptism delivers no one from all the weakness of nature. On the contrary, we must still combat the movements of concupiscence that never cease leading us into evil "521

979 In this battle against our inclination towards evil, who could be brave and watchful enough to escape every wound of sin? "If the Church has the power to forgive sins, then Baptism cannot be her only means of using the keys of the Kingdom of heaven received from Jesus Christ. The Church must be able to forgive all penitents their offenses, even if they should sin until the last moment of their lives."522

980 It is through the sacrament of Penance that the baptized can be reconciled with God and with the Church:

Penance has rightly been called by the holy Fathers "a laborious kind of baptism." This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn.523

St. Gregory Nazianzen writes about the “laborious baptism” in his “Orations” (39,17).

XVII. Now, since our Festival is of Baptism, and we must endure a little hardness with Him Who for our sake took form, and was baptized, and was crucified; let us speak about the different kinds of Baptism, that we may come out thence purified. Moses baptized Leviticus xi but it was in water, and before that in the cloud and in the sea. 1 Corinthians 10:2 This was typical as Paul says; the Sea of the water, and the Cloud of the Spirit; the Manna, of the Bread of Life; the Drink, of the Divine Drink. John also baptized; but this was not like the baptism of the Jews, for it was not only in water, but also unto repentance. Still it was not wholly spiritual, for he does not add And in the Spirit. Jesus also baptized, but in the Spirit. This is the perfect Baptism. And how is He not God, if I may digress a little, by whom you too are made God? I know also a Fourth Baptism— that by Martyrdom and blood, which also Christ himself underwent:— and this one is far more august than all the others, inasmuch as it cannot be defiled by after-stains. Yes, and I know of a Fifth also, which is that of tears, and is much more laborious, received by him who washes his bed every night and his couch with tears; whose bruises stink through his wickedness; and who goes mourning and of a sad countenance; who imitates the repentance of Manasseh Ninevites Jonah 3:7-10 upon which God had mercy; who utters the words of the Publican in the Temple, and is justified rather than the stiff-necked Pharisee; Luke 18:13 who like the Canaanite woman bends down and asks for mercy and crumbs, the food of a dog that is very hungry. Matthew 15:27

Footnotes

518 ⇒ Jn 20:22-23.
519 ⇒ Mk 16:15-16.
520 ⇒ Rom 6:4; Cf. ⇒ 4:25.
521 Roman Catechism I, 11,3.
522 Roman Catechism I, 11,4.
523 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1672; Cf. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 39,17: PG 36,356.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 971-975 – Devotion to the Blessed Virgin

clock February 2, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Supporting material comes from the Dogmatic Constitution, “Lumen Gentium”.

II. DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN

971 "All generations will call me blessed": "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship."513 The Church rightly honors "the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of 'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs.... This very special devotion ... differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration."514 The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.515

III. MARY - ESCHATOLOGICAL ICON OF THE CHURCH

972 After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary. In her we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own "pilgrimage of faith," and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey. There, "in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity," "in the communion of all the saints,"516 The Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother.

In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God.517

IN BRIEF

973 By pronouncing her "fiat" at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body.

974 The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son's Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body.

975 "We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ" (Paul VI, CPG # 15).

The Dogmatic Constitution, “Lumen Gentium” discusses the honor given to Mary, the Mother of God.

69. It gives great joy and comfort to this holy and general Synod that even among the separated brethren there are some who give due honor to the Mother of our Lord and Saviour, especially among the Orientals, who with devout mind and fervent impulse give honor to the Mother of God, ever virgin.(24*) The entire body of the faithful pours forth instant supplications to the Mother of God and Mother of men that she, who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers, may now, exalted as she is above all the angels and saints, intercede before her Son in the fellowship of all the saints, until all families of people, whether they are honored with the title of Christian or whether they still do not know the Saviour, may be happily gathered together in peace and harmony into one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity.

Footnotes

513 ⇒ Lk 1:48; Paul VI, MC 56.
514 LG 66.
515 Cf. Paul VI, MC 42; SC 103.
516 LG 69.
517 LG 68; Cf. ⇒ 2 Pet 3 10.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 963-970 – The Blessed Mother and the Church

clock February 1, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss Mary and her role in the Church. Supporting material comes from the Dogmatic Constitution, “Lumen Gentium”.

Paragraph 6. MARY - MOTHER OF CHRIST, MOTHER OF THE CHURCH

963 Since the Virgin Mary's role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated, it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. "The Virgin Mary . . . is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer.... She is 'clearly the mother of the members of Christ' ... since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head."500 "Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church."501

I. MARY'S MOTHERHOOD WITH REGARD TO THE CHURCH

Wholly united with her Son . . .

964 Mary's role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. "This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to his death";502 it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion:

Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim, born of her: to be given, by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: "Woman, behold your son."503

965 After her Son's Ascension, Mary "aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers."504 In her association with the apostles and several women, "we also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation."505

. . . also in her Assumption

966 "Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death."506 The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians:

In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death.507

. . . she is our Mother in the order of grace

967 By her complete adherence to the Father's will, to his Son's redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church's model of faith and charity. Thus she is a "preeminent and . . . wholly unique member of the Church"; indeed, she is the "exemplary realization" (typus)508 of the Church.

968 Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. "In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior's work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace."509

969 "This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix."510

970 "Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it."511 "No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source."512

The Dogmatic Constitution, “Lumen Gentium” discusses the Blessed Mother and the Church.

III. On the Blessed Virgin and the Church

60. There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the apostle, "for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all".(298) The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no wise obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power. For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.

61. Predestined from eternity by that decree of divine providence which determined the incarnation of the Word to be the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin was on this earth the virgin Mother of the Redeemer, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ. She presented Him to the Father in the temple, and was united with Him by compassion as He died on the Cross. In this singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Saviour in giving back supernatural life to souls. Wherefore she is our mother in the order of grace.

Footnotes

500 LG 53; cf. St. Augustine, De virg. 6: PL 40,399.
501 Paul VI, Discourse, November 21,1964.
502 LG 57.
503 LG 58; cf. ⇒ Jn 19:26-27.
504 LG 69.
505 LG 59.
506 LG 59; cf. Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus (1950): DS 3903; cf. ⇒ Rev 19:16.
507 Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion, Feast of the Dormition, August 15th.
508 LG 53; 63.
509 LG 61.
510 LG 62.
511 LG 60.
512 LG 62.