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 638-647, 656-657 - The Resurrection of Jesus

clock December 25, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today's Catechism sections discuss the Resurrection. Supporting material comes from St. Justin Martyr.

Paragraph 2. ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD

638 "We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this day he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus."488 The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross:

Christ is risen from the dead!
Dying, he conquered death;
To the dead, he has given life.489

I. THE HISTORICAL AND TRANSCENDENT EVENT

639 The mystery of Christ's resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness. In about A.D. 56 St. Paul could already write to the Corinthians: "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. . ."490 The Apostle speaks here of the living tradition of the Resurrection which he had learned after his conversion at the gates of Damascus.491

The empty tomb

640 "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen."492 The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ's body from the tomb could be explained otherwise.493 Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection. This was the case, first with the holy women, and then with Peter.494 The disciple "whom Jesus loved" affirmed that when he entered the empty tomb and discovered "the linen cloths lying there", "he saw and believed".495 This suggests that he realized from the empty tomb's condition that the absence of Jesus' body could not have been of human doing and that Jesus had not simply returned to earthly life as had been the case with Lazarus.496

The appearances of the Risen One

641 Mary Magdalene and the holy women who came to finish anointing the body of Jesus, which had been buried in haste because the Sabbath began on the evening of Good Friday, were the first to encounter the Risen One.497 Thus the women were the first messengers of Christ's Resurrection for the apostles themselves.498 They were the next to whom Jesus appears: first Peter, then the Twelve. Peter had been called to strengthen the faith of his brothers,499 and so sees the Risen One before them; it is on the basis of his testimony that the community exclaims: "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!"500

642 Everything that happened during those Paschal days involves each of the apostles - and Peter in particular - in the building of the new era begun on Easter morning. As witnesses of the Risen One, they remain the foundation stones of his Church. The faith of the first community of believers is based on the witness of concrete men known to the Christians and for the most part still living among them. Peter and the Twelve are the primary "witnesses to his Resurrection", but they are not the only ones - Paul speaks clearly of more than five hundred persons to whom Jesus appeared on a single occasion and also of James and of all the apostles.501

643 Given all these testimonies, Christ's Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact. It is clear from the facts that the disciples' faith was drastically put to the test by their master's Passion and death on the cross, which he had foretold.502 The shock provoked by the Passion was so great that at least some of the disciples did not at once believe in the news of the Resurrection. Far from showing us a community seized by a mystical exaltation, the Gospels present us with disciples demoralized ("looking sad"503) and frightened. For they had not believed the holy women returning from the tomb and had regarded their words as an "idle tale".504 When Jesus reveals himself to the Eleven on Easter evening, "he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen."505

644 Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus the disciples are still doubtful, so impossible did the thing seem: they thought they were seeing a ghost. "In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering."506 Thomas will also experience the test of doubt and St. Matthew relates that during the risen Lord's last appearance in Galilee "some doubted."507 Therefore the hypothesis that the Resurrection was produced by the apostles' faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.

The condition of Christ's risen humanity

645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion.508 Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ's humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father's divine realm.509 For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.510

646 Christ's Resurrection was not a return to earthly life, as was the case with the raisings from the dead that he had performed before Easter: Jairus' daughter, the young man of Naim, Lazarus. These actions were miraculous events, but the persons miraculously raised returned by Jesus' power to ordinary earthly life. At some particular moment they would die again. Christ's Resurrection is essentially different. In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus' Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is "the man of heaven".511

The Resurrection as transcendent event

647 O truly blessed Night, sings the Exsultet of the Easter Vigil, which alone deserved to know the time and the hour when Christ rose from the realm of the dead!512 But no one was an eyewitness to Christ's Resurrection and no evangelist describes it. No one can say how it came about physically. Still less was its innermost essence, his passing over to another life, perceptible to the senses. Although the Resurrection was an historical event that could be verified by the sign of the empty tomb and by the reality of the apostles' encounters with the risen Christ, still it remains at the very heart of the mystery of faith as something that transcends and surpasses history. This is why the risen Christ does not reveal himself to the world, but to his disciples, "to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people."513

IN BRIEF

656 Faith in the Resurrection has as its object an event which as historically attested to by the disciples, who really encountered the Risen One. At the same time, this event is mysteriously transcendent insofar as it is the entry of Christ's humanity into the glory of God.

657 The empty tomb and the linen cloths lying there signify in themselves that by God's power Christ's body had escaped the bonds of death and corruption. They prepared the disciples to encounter the Risen Lord.

The following excerpt comes from St. Justin Martyr’s “On the Resurrection”.

If He had no need of the flesh, why did He heal it? And what is most forcible of all, He raised the dead. Why? Was it not to show what the resurrection should be? How then did He raise the dead? Their souls or their bodies? Manifestly both. If the resurrection were only spiritual, it was requisite that He, in raising the dead, should show the body lying apart by itself, and the soul living apart by itself. But now He did not do so, but raised the body, confirming in it the promise of life. Why did He rise in the flesh in which He suffered, unless to show the resurrection of the flesh? And wishing to confirm this, when His disciples did not know whether to believe He had truly risen in the body, and were looking upon Him and doubting, He said to them, You have not yet faith, see that it is I; Luke 24:32, etc. and He let them handle Him, and showed them the prints of the nails in His hands. And when they were by every kind of proof persuaded that it was Himself, and in the body, they asked Him to eat with them, that they might thus still more accurately ascertain that He had in verity risen bodily; and He ate honey-comb and fish. And when He had thus shown them that there is truly a resurrection of the flesh, wishing to show them this also, that it is not impossible for flesh to ascend into heaven (as He had said that our dwelling-place is in heaven), He was taken up into heaven while they beheld, Acts 1:9 as He was in the flesh. If, therefore, after all that has been said, any one demand demonstration of the resurrection, he is in no respect different from the Sadducees, since the resurrection of the flesh is the power of God, and, being above all reasoning, is established by faith, and seen in works.

Footnotes

488 ⇒ Acts 13:32-33.
489 Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion of Easter.
490 ⇒ I Cor 15:3-4.
491 Cf. ⇒ Acts 9:3-18.
492 ⇒ Lk 24:5-6.
493 Cf. ⇒ Jn 20:13; ⇒ Mt 28:11-15.
494 Cf. ⇒ Lk 24:3, ⇒ 12, ⇒ 22-23.
495 ⇒ Jn 20:2, 6, 8.
496 Cf. ⇒ Jn 11:44; ⇒ 20:5-7.
497 ⇒ Mk 16:1; ⇒ Lk 24:1; ⇒ Jn 19:31, ⇒ 42.
498 Cf ⇒ Lk 24:9-10; ⇒ Mt 28:9-10; ⇒ Jn 20:11-18.
499 Cf I Cor 15:5; ⇒ Lk 22:31-32.
500 ⇒ Lk 24:34, ⇒ 36.
501 ⇒ I Cor 15:4-8; cf. ⇒ Acts 1:22.
502 Cf. ⇒ Lk 22:31-32.
503 1 ⇒ Lk 24:17; cf. ⇒ Jn 20:19.
504 ⇒ Lk 24:11; cf. ⇒ Mk 16:11, ⇒ 13.
505 ⇒ Mk 16:14.
506 ⇒ Lk 24:38-41.
507 Cf ⇒ Jn 20:24-27; ⇒ Mt 28:17.
508 Cf. ⇒ Lk 24:30, ⇒ 39-40, ⇒ 41-43; ⇒ Jn 20:20, ⇒ 27; ⇒ 21:9, ⇒ 13-15.
509 Cf. ⇒ Mt 28:9, ⇒ 16-17; ⇒ Lk 24:15, ⇒ 36; ⇒ Jn 20:14, ⇒ 17, ⇒ 19, ⇒ 26; ⇒ 21:4.
510 Cf. ⇒ Mk 16:12; ⇒ Jn 20:14-16; ⇒ 21:4, 7.
511 Cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 15:35-50.
512 O vere beata nox, quae sola meruit scire tempus et horam, in qua Christus ab inferis resurrexit!
513 ⇒ Acts 13:31; cf. ⇒ Jn 14:22.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 624-630 – Jesus Christ was Buried

clock December 23, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the burial of Jesus. Supporting material comes from St. John of Damascus.

Paragraph 3. JESUS CHRIST WAS BURIED

624 "By the grace of God" Jesus tasted death "for every one".459 In his plan of salvation, God ordained that his Son should not only "die for our sins"460 but should also "taste death", experience the condition of death, the separation of his soul from his body, between the time he expired on the cross and the time he was raised from the dead. The state of the dead Christ is the mystery of the tomb and the descent into hell. It is the mystery of Holy Saturday, when Christ, lying in the tomb,461 reveals God's great Sabbath rest462 after the fulfilment463 of man's salvation, which brings peace to the whole universe.464

Christ in the tomb in his body

625 Christ's stay in the tomb constitutes the real link between his passible state before Easter and his glorious and risen state today. The same person of the "Living One" can say, "I died, and behold I am alive for evermore":465

God [the Son] did not impede death from separating his soul from his body according to the necessary order of nature, but has reunited them to one another in the Resurrection, so that he himself might be, in his person, the meeting point for death and life, by arresting in himself the decomposition of nature produced by death and so becoming the source of reunion for the separated parts.466

626 Since the "Author of life" who was killed467 is the same "living one [who has] risen",468 The divine person of the Son of God necessarily continued to possess his human soul and body, separated from each other by death:

By the fact that at Christ's death his soul was separated from his flesh, his one person is not itself divided into two persons; for the human body and soul of Christ have existed in the same way from the beginning of his earthly existence, in the divine person of the Word; and in death, although separated from each other, both remained with one and the same person of the Word.469

"You will not let your Holy One see corruption"

627 Christ's death was a real death in that it put an end to his earthly human existence. But because of the union his body retained with the person of the Son, his was not a mortal corpse like others, for "divine power preserved Christ's body from corruption."470 Both of these statements can be said of Christ: "He was cut off out of the land of the living",471 and "My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption."472 Jesus' Resurrection "on the third day" was the proof of this, for bodily decay was held to begin on the fourth day after death.473

"Buried with Christ. . ."

628 Baptism, the original and full sign of which is immersion, efficaciously signifies the descent into the tomb by the Christian who dies to sin with Christ in order to live a new life. "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."474

IN BRIEF

629 To the benefit of every man, Jesus Christ tasted death (cf ⇒ Heb 2:9). It is truly the Son of God made man who died and was buried.

630 During Christ's period in the tomb, his divine person continued to assume both his soul and his body, although they were separated from each other by death. For this reason the dead Christ's body "saw no corruption" (⇒ Acts 13:37).

St. John of Damascus discusses the death of Christ in relation to the Hypostatic Union in Book III of his work, “Exposition of the Orthodox Faith” (27):

Since our Lord Jesus Christ was without sin (for He committed no sin, He Who took away the sin of the world, nor was there any deceit found in His mouth ) He was not subject to death, since death came into the world through sin. (Romans 5:12) He dies, therefore, because He took on Himself death on our behalf, and He makes Himself an offering to the Father for our sakes. For we had sinned against Him, and it was meet that He should receive the ransom for us, and that we should thus be delivered from the condemnation. God forbid that the blood of the Lord should have been offered to the tyrant. Wherefore death approaches, and swallowing up the body as a bait is transfixed on the hook of divinity, and after tasting of a sinless and life-giving body, perishes, and brings up again all whom of old he swallowed up. For just as darkness disappears on the introduction of light, so is death repulsed before the assault of life, and brings life to all, but death to the destroyer.

Wherefore, although He died as man and His Holy Spirit was severed from His immaculate body, yet His divinity remained inseparable from both, I mean, from His soul and His body, and so even thus His one hypostasis was not divided into two hypostases. For body and soul received simultaneously in the beginning their being in the subsistence of the Word, and although they were severed from one another by death, yet they continued, each of them, having the one subsistence of the Word. So that the one subsistence of the Word is alike the subsistence of the Word, and of soul and body. For at no time had either soul or body a separate subsistence of their own, different from that of the Word, and the subsistence of the Word is for ever one, and at no time two. So that the subsistence of Christ is always one. For, although the soul was separated from the body topically, yet hypostatically they were united through the Word.

Footnotes

459 ⇒ Heb 2:9.
460 ⇒ I Cor 15:3.
461 Cf. ⇒ Jn 19:42.
462 Cf. ⇒ Heb 4:7-9.
463 Cf. ⇒ Jn 19:30.
464 Cf ⇒ Col 1: 18-20.
465 ⇒ Rev 1:18.
466 St. Gregory of Nyssa, Orat. catech. 16: PG 45, 52D.
467 ⇒ Acts 3:15.
468 ⇒ Lk 24:5-6.
469 St. John Damascene, De fide orth. 3, 27: PG 94, 1097.
470 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 51, 3.
471 ⇒ Is 53:8.
472 ⇒ Acts 2:26-27; cf. ⇒ Ps 16:9-10.
473 Cf. ⇒ I Cor 15:4; ⇒ Lk 24:46; ⇒ Mt 12:40; ⇒ Jon 2:1; ⇒ Hos 6:2; cf. ⇒ Jn 11:39.
474 ⇒ Rom 6:4; cf. ⇒ Col 2:12; ⇒ Eph 5:26.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 612-618, 623 – Jesus’ Agony in the Garden and Crucifixion

clock December 22, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss Jesus’ agony in the Garden and His crucifixion. Supporting material comes from St. Leo the Great.

The agony at Gethsemani

612 The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper, is afterwards accepted by him from his Father's hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani,434 making himself "obedient unto death". Jesus prays: "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. . ."435 Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of death.436 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the "Author of life", the "Living One".437 By accepting in his human will that the Father's will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive, for "he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree."438

Christ's death is the unique and definitive sacrifice

613 Christ's death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world",439 and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the "blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins".440

614 This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices.441 First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.442

Jesus substitutes his obedience for our disobedience

615 "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous."443 By his obedience unto death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the suffering Servant, who "makes himself an offering for sin", when "he bore the sin of many", and who "shall make many to be accounted righteous", for "he shall bear their iniquities".444 Jesus atoned for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father.445

Jesus consummates his sacrifice on the cross

616 It is love "to the end"446 that confers on Christ's sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life.447 Now "the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died."448 No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons, and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all.

617 The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ's sacrifice as "the source of eternal salvation"449 and teaches that "his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for us."450 And the Church venerates his cross as she sings: "Hail, O Cross, our only hope."451

Our participation in Christ's sacrifice

618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the "one mediator between God and men".452 But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, "the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery" is offered to all men.453 He calls his disciples to "take up [their] cross and follow (him)",454 for "Christ also suffered for (us), leaving (us) an example so that (we) should follow in his steps."455 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.456 This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.457 Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.458

IN BRIEF

623 By his loving obedience to the Father, "unto death, even death on a cross" (⇒ Phil 2:8), Jesus fulfils the atoning mission (cf ⇒ Is 53:10) of the suffering Servant, who will "make many righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities" (⇒ Is 53:11; cf. ⇒ Rom 5:19).

St. Leo the Great comments on the redemptive nature of Jesus’ Passion in his “Sermon 67”.

V. Christ's Passion was for our Redemption by mystery and example

The fact, therefore, that at the time appointed, according to the purpose of His will, Jesus Christ was crucified, dead, and buried was not the doom necessary to His own condition, but the method of redeeming us from captivity. For the Word became flesh in order that from the Virgin's womb He might take our suffering nature, and that what could not be inflicted on the Son of God might be inflicted on the Son of Man. For although at His very birth the signs of Godhead shone forth in Him, and the whole course of His bodily growth was full of wonders, yet had He truly assumed our weaknesses, and without share in sin had spared Himself no human frailty, that He might impart what was His to us and heal what was ours in Himself. For He, the Almighty Physician, had prepared a two-fold remedy for us in our misery, of which the one part consists of mystery and the other of example, that by the one Divine powers may be bestowed, by the other human weaknesses driven out. Because as God is the Author of our justification, so man is a debtor to pay Him devotion.

Footnotes

434 Cf. ⇒ Mt 26:42; ⇒ Lk 22:20.
435 ⇒ Phil 2:8; ⇒ Mt 26:39; cf. ⇒ Heb 5:7-8.
436 Cf. ⇒ Rom 5:12; ⇒ Heb 4:15.
437 Cf. ⇒ Acts 3:15; ⇒ Rev 1:17; ⇒ Jn 1:4; ⇒ 5:26.
438 2 Pt 224; cf. ⇒ Mt 26:42.
439 ⇒ Jn 1:29; cf. ⇒ 8:34-36; ⇒ 1 Cor 5:7; ⇒ 2 Pt 1:19.
440 ⇒ Mt 26:28; cf. ⇒ Ex 24:8; ⇒ Lev 16:15-16; ⇒ 2 Cor 11:25.
441 Cf. ⇒ Heb 10:10.
442 Cf. ⇒ Jn 10:17-18; ⇒ 15:13; ⇒ Heb 9:14; ⇒ 1 Jn 4:10.
443 ⇒ Rom 5:19.
444 ⇒ Is 53:10-12.
445 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1529.
446 ⇒ Jn 13:1.
447 Cf. ⇒ Gal 2:20; ⇒ Eph 5:2, ⇒ 25.
448 ⇒ 2 Cor 5:14.
449 ⇒ Heb 5:9.
450 Council of Trent: DS 1529.
451 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis.
452 1 Tim 2:5.
453 GS 22 # 5; cf. # 2.
454 ⇒ Mt 16:24.
455 I Pt 2:21.
456 Cf ⇒ Mk 10:39; ⇒ Jn 21:18-19; ⇒ Col 1:24.
457 Cf. ⇒ Lk 2:35.
458 St. Rose of Lima: cf. P. Hansen, Vita mirabilis (Louvain, 1668).



How to Avoid Purgatory: 8 Specific Ways to Reduce or Eliminate Your Time in Purgatory

clock December 10, 2012 09:42 by author John |

PurgatoryThis is the third article in a series on the Catholic understanding 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
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

Purgatory is the state in which we make reparation for all of our sins which have not been satisfactorily atoned for during our earthly life. The punishment of purgatory is avoidable to varying extents based on how we atone for our sins in this life. Indeed, it is even possible to remove all temporal punishment for our sins before we die and immediately join our Lord in Heaven upon our death. Not only is this possible, but it should be our goal.

How is it possible to reduce or eliminate the pains of purgatory? There are several ways, which when combined, practically assure us of removing most if not all of the debt we have incurred for our sins. If we strive to achieve all of these goals, we will certainly enjoy eternal reward at the moment of our death. I have listed 8 specific ways to avoid Purgatory.

1. Avoid Sin

The first and best way to avoid Purgatory is to avoid the thing that causes us to find ourselves there in the first place: Sin. This is an incredibly difficult proposition, and is not entirely possible, since we are imperfect creatures. We can reduce the number and severity of the sins we commit through concerted effort to live by the commandments and by asking for the assistance of Divine grace.

It is not possible to completely avoid venial sins. On the other hand, it is possible to totally eliminate mortal sin in our lives. If we die in a state of mortal sin, we will suffer eternal damnation in Hell. If we die with confessed mortal sin that we have not done sufficient penance for, we suffer the most severe punishment in purgatory. We must strive to eliminate all mortal sin in our lives.

The next most dreadful cause of Purgatorial suffering is venial sin that is committed deliberately. The only thing separating deliberate venial sins from mortal sins is the severity of the sin. Deliberate venial sins show callousness toward God’s law and the people harmed by those sins. Similarly, we must strive to eliminate lesser venial sins, because punishment will be given for them as well. While we cannot completely eliminate venial sins, we can drastically reduce their frequency in our lives by avoiding near occasions of sin and making better decisions when tempted. The graces given to us by the reception of the sacraments are very helpful in reforming our lives.

2. Do Penance

The second way to lessen our punishment in purgatory is to do penance. Penance most commonly involves fasting, prayer and almsgiving. The more healthy penance we are able to do in this life, the less punishment we will suffer in purgatory. We can make any unpleasant experience into a penance by offering our pain, discomfort, or stress to God.

Penance helps us in 2 ways. First, it repays the debt incurred by our sinfulness. It is believed that the penance we do while still alive will be easier than the penance required of us after death.  Secondly, it helps us to comprehend the severity of our sins and thereby focuses us on avoiding sin the next time we are tempted. Why not be proactive and make penance a part of our daily routine?

3. Embrace Suffering

The third means to avoid purgatorial punishment is to embrace our suffering. This does not necessarily mean we should seek it out, but we should accept the suffering that we cannot avoid and bear it without complaint. Everyone has to face many and varied sorrows and pains in life. These result from both physical pains as wells as emotional distress.

We all have our crosses to bear. These pains are God's greatest graces, which so many of us neglect to embrace and in doing so, lose many of the graces offered to us. They are an opportunity for us to share in Christ’s Passion in our own way, however small and dissimilar to the agony He endured for our salvation.

4. Receive the Eucharist Worthily and Confess Your Sins

The fourth method of reducing or eliminating our time in purgatory is by making frequent reception of the sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist. We should confess our sins on a regular basis, not just when we have a mortal sin on our soul. Frequently confessing our sins provides us with grace to avoid those sins in the future.

We should strive to receive the Eucharist every day at mass in order to receive the graces that it bestows upon us. These graces cleanse us of our venial sins and also dispose us to avoid evil. Attending daily mass is easier for some than others due to working schedules and the availability of the sacrament, but the more we receive the Eucharist, the more graces we receive from God to live in more perfect conformity with His Will for us.

5. Ask God Specifically to Save You from Purgatory

The fifth way to avoid purgatory is to specifically pray to God for that purpose. Asking God for the grace necessary to avoid purgatory and be happy with Him in Heaven is an especially powerful method. When asking for this grace, if we do so with faith and perseverance, we will receive it. We should therefore pray daily that God will free us from purgatory. We ask God for so many other things, why not ask Him for something as important as avoiding the fires of Purgatory?

6. Resign Yourself to Your Own Death

The sixth way to avoid purgatory is by resignation to death. Pope St. Pius X granted a plenary indulgence to those who after receiving the Holy Eucharist at the hour of death, say the following prayer: “Eternal Father, from this day forward, I accept with a joyful and resigned heart the death it will please You to send me, with all its pains and sufferings.” The usual conditions of course apply to this plenary indulgence: Confession, prayer for the intentions of the Pope, and detachment from all sin. What better way to exit this life than with a “Get out of Jail Free Card” for the punishments in Purgatory.

Beyond the obvious impact of the plenary indulgence, resignation to death is something we should be living with anyway, since we will more carefully consider our actions if the reality of our own death is always present in our consciousness.

7. Receive the Anointing of the Sick (Last Rights/Extreme Unction)

The seventh means of reducing our suffering in purgatory is to receive the anointing of the sick (also known as Last Rights or Extreme Unction). This sacrament prepares us to bypass the pains of purgatory and immediately enter Heaven. We must properly prepare for the sacrament so that we can receive it while we have full use of all of our faculties. We must understand exactly what we are receiving to obtain its full graces. This is why it is important that others know of our desire to have the Anointing of the Sick when the end of our life is in sight.

8. Gain Indulgences

The final means of avoiding Purgatory is to make use of the generous indulgences that the Catholic Church has made available to us. Indulgences are specific ways to directly reduce or remove our suffering in Purgatory. There are two types of indulgence: partial and plenary. Partial indulgences remove part of the suffering due for our sins in purgatory, while plenary indulgences remove all of our due suffering. We should strive to make use of these opportunities for grace before we face the punishment of purgatory. Indulgences will be covered in the 5th article in this series.

 

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What is Purgatory Like? The Catholic Understanding of the Pains of Purification

clock December 8, 2012 21:59 by author John |
Purgatory
The Trinity with the Holy Souls in Purgatory By Corrado Giaquinto

This article is the second in a series on the Catholic understanding 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

Purgatory is a place of atonement for the sins we have committed throughout our lives, for which we have not yet been satisfactorily purified. It is also the means by which any lingering attachment to sin is broken after we have completed our earthly journey. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Purgatory as “A state of final purification after death and before entrance into Heaven for those who died in God’s friendship, but were only imperfectly purified; a final cleansing of human imperfection before one is able to enter the joy of Heaven.”

How will this purification take place? There are two forms of atonement that will cleanse us of our impurities before we can enter Heaven. The first is the pain of loss and separation from the Beatific Vision. The second is the physical suffering of fire. In his "Summa Theologica", St. Thomas Aquinas describes these methods of purification:

“In Purgatory there will be a twofold pain; one will be the pain of loss, namely the delay of the divine vision, and the pain of sense, namely punishment by corporeal fire. With regard to both the least pain of Purgatory surpasses the greatest pain of this life. For the more a thing is desired the more painful is its absence. And since after this life the holy souls desire the Sovereign Good with the most intense longing--both because their longing is not held back by the weight of the body, and because, had there been no obstacle, they would already have gained the goal of enjoying the Sovereign Good--it follows that they grieve exceedingly for their delay.”

These torments are tempered only by the existence of hope within our consciousness. That glimmer of light distracting us from our anguish is the knowledge that our separation is only temporary. We know that all those in Purgatory will attain their release after their final debt has been satisfied. That thought is perhaps the only thing which separates the torments of Hell from those of Purgatory.

While hope sustains the souls in Purgatory, the source of that hope is also the source of their pains of separation. They in some way have received at least a small taste of the ultimate joy which is the experience of God’s loving embrace, whether that stems from their experiences on earth or at their particular judgment, for without knowing what they hope for, they cannot entertain hope. Without knowing what they are separated from, they cannot suffer the pain of longing for it.

The following excerpt explaining the punishment in purgatory is from the book, "Read Me or Rue it" by Fr. Paul O’Sullivan:

"How Comes it that the Pains of Purgatory are So Severe?

1. The fire we see on Earth was made by the goodness of God for our comfort and well-being. Still, when used as a torment, it is the most dreadful one we can imagine.

2. The fire of Purgatory, on the contrary, was made by the Justice of God to punish and purify us and is, therefore, incomparably more severe.

3. Our fire, at most, burns this gross body of ours, made of clay; whereas, the fire of Purgatory acts on the spiritual soul, which is unspeakably more sensitive to pain.

4. The more intense our fire is, the more speedily it destroys its victim, who therefore ceases to suffer; whereas, the fire of Purgatory inflicts the keenest, most violent pain, but never kills the soul nor lessens its sensibility.

5. Unsurpassingly severe as is the fire of Purgatory, the pain of loss or separation from God, which the souls also suffer in Purgatory, is far more severe. The soul separated from the body craves with all the intensity of its spiritual nature for God. It is consumed with an intense desire to fly to Him. Yet it is held back. No words can describe the anguish of this unsatisfied craving."

“Read Me or Rue it” is not an official Church document, and we are not bound to believe everything it says about Purgatory, however, the descriptions of Purgatory it contains are well-founded among the writings of the Church Fathers. Given these terrible images of the suffering in Purgatory, we must logically consider how we can avoid this punishment, and how we can help those who are subjected to it presently. These subjects will be discussed in the next 2 articles in this series.

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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

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What is All Souls Day? (The Catholic Meaning)

clock November 2, 2012 10:47 by author John |

All Souls DayAll Souls Day is a Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed

All Souls Day is a commemoration of all the souls who having faith in God departed this life and now suffer in Purgatory. The Church holds that souls who have died and have not been cleansed of the temporal punishment due to them as a result of their sins or who have retained attachment to sin cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven without first being sanctified. These souls can be helped toward the reward of Heaven through the prayer and sacrifices of the Church Militant, that is to say, the faithful who are still living in the world.

All Souls Day is not a Holy Day of Obligation (but You Should Go to Mass Anyway)

In the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, All Souls Day is celebrated on November 2nd. In the extraordinary form, the feast is normally on November 2nd, but if the 2nd falls on a Sunday, the feast is transferred to November 3rd. It is not a holy day of obligation, but you should go to mass anyway, since our prayers, (particularly the mass) are efficacious for the poor souls in Purgatory. Our prayers and sacrifices for them help them reach the reward of Heaven more expediently. Those souls in Purgatory, grateful for our aid will pray for us as well.

Origin of All Souls Day

All Souls Day was originally commemorated during the Easter season. The feast was moved to October by the 10th century and eventually St. Odilo of Cluny ordered that it be commemorated on November 2nd in every Benedictine monastery under his direction. Eventually all of the Benedictines and also the Carthusians followed suit. This was then adopted by the Church as a whole in the 13th century.

Indulgence for Visiting a Cemetery

In her mercy, the Church has established a plenary indulgence (removal of all the temporal punishment due for your sins) for visiting a cemetery between November 1 - November 8 and a partial indulgence the rest of the year. To obtain the plenary indulgence on November 1-November 8, you must meet the following conditions:

1. Visit a cemetery and pray for the departed (even if only mentally)
2. Receive Communion on the day in which the indulgence is to be gained
3. Make a sacramental Confession within a the week of the indulgence
4. Rid yourself of all attachment to sin
5. Pray for the intentions of the Pope (one Our Father and one Hail Mary) on the day in which the indulgence is to be gained

 

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What is the Culture of Death? (The Catholic Meaning)

clock October 19, 2012 19:29 by author John |

Skulls by Paul CézanneThe term “culture of death” is frequently tossed around in Catholic conversation. It has such a striking sound to it and describes so succinctly the attitudes of secular culture, that it has been picked up and used by the general population in recent years. While we may use the term and feel confident that it conveys our thoughts, we should pause a minute and define what the term actually encompasses.

Where did the Term “Culture of Death” Originate?

The actual term “Culture of Death” first entered common use after Pope John Paul II mentioned it several times in the 1993 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae. Evangelium Vitae was one of the timeliest and influential writings John Paul II produced during his pontificate. Evangelium Vitae is Latin for “the Gospel of Life”. In this encyclical, John Paul II wrote about the intrinsic value of every human life, which must be welcomed and loved from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Here is a quote from this great encyclical:

This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the "culture of death" and the "culture of life". We find ourselves not only "faced with" but necessarily "in the midst of" this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.

John Paul II may have developed the phrases “Culture of Life” and “Culture of Death” from the Didache, a first or second century text of the Church. The Didache explains the “Way of Life” and the “Way of Death”.

What does “Culture of Death” Mean?

The Culture of Death is a very broad term, which describes evil behavior. It goes beyond the mere evil acts, however. In the deepest sense, it describes the attraction our culture has with sin, lust, and death. Our culture not only permits, but promotes abortion, euthanasia, murder, revenge, suicide (assisted or otherwise), war, capital punishment, contraception, human cloning, human sterilization, embryonic stem cell and fetal research, In Vitro Fertilization, homosexuality, promiscuity, infidelity, and divorce.

These proclivities lead to the destruction of life and its natural origins. They devalue human life, leading to an explosion of all types of sins. When we do not value human life, we do not value people. This leads us to sin by harming ourselves and others since we do not see the face of God in others. Here is what the Didache says about the “Way of Death”:

And the way of death is this: First of all it is evil and full of curse: murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rapines, false witnessings, hypocrisies, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness; persecutors of the good, hating truth, loving a lie, not knowing a reward for righteousness, not cleaving to good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for that which is good, but for that which is evil; from whom meekness and endurance are far, loving vanities, pursuing requital, not pitying a poor man, not laboring for the afflicted, not knowing Him that made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him that is in want, afflicting him that is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners. Be delivered, children, from all these.

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