Today's Catechism sections discuss the mysteries of Christ's life as oriented toward His birth and death. Supplemental material comes from St. Irenaeus' "Against Heresies".

Paragraph 3. THE MYSTERIES OF CHRIST'S LIFE

512 Concerning Christ's life the Creed speaks only about the mysteries of the Incarnation (conception and birth) and Paschal mystery (passion, crucifixion, death, burial, descent into hell, resurrection and ascension). It says nothing explicitly about the mysteries of Jesus' hidden or public life, but the articles of faith concerning his Incarnation and Passover do shed light on the whole of his earthly life. "All that Jesus did and taught, from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven",171 is to be seen in the light of the mysteries of Christmas and Easter.

513 According to circumstances catechesis will make use of all the richness of the mysteries of Jesus. Here it is enough merely to indicate some elements common to all the mysteries of Christ's life (I), in order then to sketch the principal mysteries of Jesus' hidden (II) and public (III) life.

I. CHRIST'S WHOLE LIFE IS MYSTERY

514 Many things about Jesus of interest to human curiosity do not figure in the Gospels. Almost nothing is said about his hidden life at Nazareth, and even a great part of his public life is not recounted.172 What is written in the Gospels was set down there "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name."173

515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith174 and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus' life was a sign of his mystery.175 His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily."176 His humanity appeared as "sacrament", that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission

Characteristics common to Jesus' mysteries

516 Christ's whole earthly life - his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking - is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father", and the Father can say: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"177 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father's will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest "God's love. . . among us".178

517 Christ's whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross,179 but this mystery is at work throughout Christ's entire life: -already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;180 - in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;181 - in his word which purifies its hearers;182- in his healings and exorcisms by which "he took our infirmities and bore our diseases";183 - and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.184

518 Christ's whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation:

When Christ became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in himself the long history of mankind and procured for us a "short cut" to salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam, that is, being in the image and likeness of God, we might recover in Christ Jesus.185 For this reason Christ experienced all the stages of life, thereby giving communion with God to all men.186

Our communion in the mysteries of Jesus

519 All Christ's riches "are for every individual and are everybody's property."187 Christ did not live his life for himself but for us, from his Incarnation "for us men and for our salvation" to his death "for our sins" and Resurrection "for our justification".188 He is still "our advocate with the Father", who "always lives to make intercession" for us.189 He remains ever "in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing before him all that he lived and suffered for us."190

520 In all of his life Jesus presents himself as our model. He is "the perfect man",191 who invites us to become his disciples and follow him. In humbling himself, he has given us an example to imitate, through his prayer he draws us to pray, and by his poverty he calls us to accept freely the privation and persecutions that may come our way.192

521 Christ enables us to live in him all that he himself lived, and he lives it in us. "By his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man."193 We are called only to become one with him, for he enables us as the members of his Body to share in what he lived for us in his flesh as our model:

We must continue to accomplish in ourselves the stages of Jesus' life and his mysteries and often to beg him to perfect and realize them in us and in his whole Church. . . For it is the plan of the Son of God to make us and the whole Church partake in his mysteries and to extend them to and continue them in us and in his whole Church. This is his plan for fulfilling his mysteries in us.194

IN BRIEF

561 "The whole of Christ's life was a continual teaching: his silences, his miracles, his gestures, his prayer, his love for people, his special affection for the little and the poor, his acceptance of the total sacrifice on the Cross for the redemption of the world, and his Resurrection are the actualization of his word and the fulfillment of Revelation" John Paul II, CT 9).

In “Against Heresies” (3, 18, 7), St, Irenaeus comments on the life and works of Christ as directed toward His birth and death.

7. Therefore, as I have already said, He caused man (human nature) to cleave to and to become, one with God. For unless man had overcome the enemy of man, the enemy would not have been legitimately vanquished. And again: unless it had been God who had freely given salvation, we could never have possessed it securely. And unless man had been joined to God, he could never have become a partaker of incorruptibility. For it was incumbent upon the Mediator between God and men, by His relationship to both, to bring both to friendship and concord, and present man to God, while He revealed God to man. For, in what way could we be partaken of the adoption of sons, unless we had received from Him through the Son that fellowship which refers to Himself, unless His Word, having been made flesh, had entered into communion with us? Wherefore also He passed through every stage of life, restoring to all communion with God. Those, therefore, who assert that He appeared putatively, and was neither born in the flesh nor truly made man, are as yet under the old condemnation, holding out patronage to sin; for, by their showing, death has not been vanquished, which reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression. Romans 5:14 But the law coming, which was given by Moses, and testifying of sin that it is a sinner, did truly take away his (death's) kingdom, showing that he was no king, but a robber; and it revealed him as a murderer. It laid, however, a weighty burden upon man, who had sin in himself, showing that he was liable to death. For as the law was spiritual, it merely made sin to stand out in relief, but did not destroy it. For sin had no dominion over the spirit, but over man. For it behooved Him who was to destroy sin, and redeem man under the power of death, that He should Himself be made that very same thing which he was, that is, man; who had been drawn by sin into bondage, but was held by death, so that sin should be destroyed by man, and man should go forth from death. For as by the disobedience of the one man who was originally molded from virgin soil, the many were made sinners, Romans 5:19 and forfeited life; so was it necessary that, by the obedience of one man, who was originally born from a virgin, many should be justified and receive salvation. Thus, then, was the Word of God made man, as also Moses says: God, true are His works. Deuteronomy 32:4 But if, not having been made flesh, He did appear as if flesh, His work was not a true one. But what He did appear, that He also was: God recapitulated in Himself the ancient formation of man, that He might kill sin, deprive death of its power, and vivify man; and therefore His works are true.

Footnotes

171
172 Cf. ⇒ Jn 20:30.
173 ⇒ Jn 20:31.
174 Cf. ⇒ Mk 1:1; ⇒ Jn 21:24.
175 Cf ⇒ Lk 2:7; ⇒ Mt 27: 48; ⇒ Jn 20:7.
176 ⇒ Col 2:9.
177 ⇒ Jn 14:9; ⇒ Lk 9:35; cf. ⇒ Mt 17:5; ⇒ Mk 9:7, "my beloved Son".
178 ⇒ Jn 4:9[ETML:C/].
179 Cf. ⇒ Eph 1:7; ⇒ Col 1:13-14; ⇒ 2 Pt 1:18-19.
180 Cf. ⇒ 2 Cor 8:9.
181 Cf. ⇒ Lk 2:51.
182 Cf. ⇒ Jn 15:3.
183 ⇒ Mt 8:17; cf. ⇒ Is 53:4.
184 Cf. ⇒ Rom 4:25.
185 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 18, 1: PG 7/1, 932.
186 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 18, 7: PG 7/1, 937; cf. 2, 22, 4.
187 John Paul II, RH II.
188 I Cor 15:3; ⇒ Rom 4:25.
189 I ⇒ Jn 2:1 ⇒ Heb 7:25.
190 ⇒ Heb 9:24.
191 GS 38; cf. Rom 1 5:5; ⇒ Phil 2:5.
192 Cf. ⇒ Jn 13:15; ⇒ Lk 11:1; ⇒ Mt 5:11-12.
193 GS 22 # 2.
194 St. John Eudes: LH, week 33, Friday, OR.