PART I : THE CREED
In preparing and instructing men in the teachings of Christ the Lord, the Fathers began by explaining the meaning of faith. Following their example, we have thought it well to treat first what pertains to that virtue.
Though the word faith has a variety of meanings in the Sacred Scriptures, we here speak only of that faith by which we yield our entire assent to whatever has been divinely revealed.
Necessity Of Faith
That faith thus understood is necessary to salvation no man can reasonably doubt, particularly since it is written: Without faith it is impossible to please God. For as the end proposed to man as his ultimate happiness is far above the reach of human understanding, it was therefore necessary that it should be made known to him by God. This knowledge, however, is nothing else than faith, by which we yield our unhesitating assent to whatever the authority of our Holy Mother the Church teaches us to have been revealed by God; for the faithful cannot doubt those things of which God, who is truth itself, is the author. Hence we see the great difference that exists between this faith which we give to God and that which we yield to the writers of human history.
Unity Of Faith
Faith differs in degree; for we read in Scripture these words: O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt; and Great is thy faith; and Increase our faith. It also differs in dignity, for we read: Faith without works is dead; and, Faith that worketh by charity. But although faith is so comprehensive, it is yet the same in kind, and the full force of its definition applies equally to all its varieties. How fruitful it is and how great are the advantages we may derive from it we shall point out when explaining the Articles of the Creed.
Now the chief truths which Christians ought to hold are those which the holy Apostles, the leaders and teachers of the faith, inspired by the Holy Ghost' have divided into the twelve Articles of the Creed. For having received a command from the Lord to go forth into the whole world, as His ambassadors, and preach the Gospel to every creature, they thought it advisable to draw up a formula of Christian faith, that all might think and speak the same thing, and that among those whom they should have called to the unity of the faith no schisms would exist, but that they should be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment.
This profession of Christian faith and hope, drawn up by themselves, the Apostles called a symbol; either because it was made up of various parts, each of which was contributed by an Apostle, or because by it, as by a common sign and watchword, they might easily distinguish deserters from the faith and false brethren unawares brought in, adulterating the word of God, from those who had truly bound themselves by oath to serve under the banner of Christ.
Division Of The Creed
Christianity proposes to the faithful many truths which, either separately or in general, must be held with an assured and firm faith. Among these what must first and necessarily be believed by all is that which God Himself has taught us as the foundation and summary of truth concerning the unity of the Divine Essence, the distinction of Three Persons, and the actions which are peculiarly attributed to each. The pastor should teach that the Apostles, Creed briefly comprehends the doctrine of this mystery.
For, as has been observed by our predecessors in the faith, who have treated this subject with great piety and accuracy, the Creed seems to be divided into three principal parts: one describing the First Person of the Divine Nature, and the stupendous work of the creation; another, the Second Person, and the mystery of man's redemption; a third, the Third Person, the head and source of our sanctification; the whole being expressed in various and most appropriate propositions. These propositions are called Articles, from a comparison frequently used by the Fathers; for as the members of the body are divided by joints (articuli), so in this profession of faith, whatever is to be believed distinctly and separately from anything else is rightly and suitably called an Article.
ARTICLE I : "I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH"
Meaning Of This Article
The meaning of the above words is this: I believe with certainty, and without a shadow of doubt profess my belief in God the Father, the First Person of the Trinity, who by His omnipotence created from nothing and preserves and governs the heavens and the earth and all things which they contain; and not only do I believe in Him from my heart and profess this belief with my lips, but with the greatest ardour and piety I tend towards Him, as the supreme and most perfect good.
Let this serve as a brief summary of this first Article. But since great mysteries lie concealed under almost every word, the pastor must now give them a more careful consideration, in order that, as far as God has permitted, the faithful may approach, with fear and trembling, to contemplate the glory of His majesty.
The word believe does not here mean to think, to suppose, lo be of opinion; but, as the Sacred Scriptures teach, it expresses the deepest conviction, by which the mind gives a firm and unhesitating assent to God revealing His mysterious truths. As far, therefore, as regards use of the word here, he who firmly and without hesitation is convinced of anything is said to believe.
Faith Excludes Doubt
The knowledge derived through faith must not be considered less certain because its objects are not seen; for the divine light by which we know them, although it does not render them evident, yet suffers us not to doubt them. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath himself shone in our hearts, that the gospel be not hidden to us, as to those that perish.
Faith Excludes Curiosity
From what has been said it follows that he who is gifted with this heavenly knowledge of faith is free from an inquisitive curiosity. For when God commands us to believe He does not propose to us to search into His divine judgments, or inquire into their reason and cause, but demands an unchangeable faith, by which the mind rests content in the knowledge of eternal truth. And indeed, since we have the testimony of the Apostle that God is true; and every man a liar, and since it would argue arrogance and presumption to disbelieve the word of a grave and sensible man affirming anything as true, and to demand that he prove his statements by arguments or witnesses, how rash and foolish are those, who, hearing the words of God Himself, demand reasons for His heavenly and saving doctrines? Faith, therefore, must exclude not only all doubt, but all desire for demonstration.
Faith Requires Open Profession
The pastor should also teach that he who says, I believe, besides declaring the inward assent of the mind, which is an internal act of faith, should also openly profess and with alacrity acknowledge and proclaim what he inwardly and in his heart believes. For the faithful should be animated by the same spirit that spoke by the lips of the Prophet when he said: I believe; and therefore did I speak, and should follow the example of the Apostles who replied to the princes of the people: We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. They should be encouraged by these noble words of St. Paul: I am not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; and likewise by those other words; in which the truth of this doctrine is expressly confirmed: With the heart we believe unto justice; but with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
From these words we may learn how exalted are the dignity and excellence of Christian wisdom, and what a debt of gratitude we owe to the divine goodness. For to us it is given at once to mount as by the steps of faith to the knowledge of what is most sublime and desirable.
Knowledge Of God More Easily Obtained Through Faith Than Through Reason
There is a great difference between Christian philosophy and human wisdom. The latter, guided solely by the light of nature, advances slowly by reasoning on sensible objects and effects, and only after long and laborious investigation is it able at length to contemplate with difficulty the invisible things of God, to discover and understand a First Cause and Author of all things. Christian philosophy, on the contrary, so quickens the human mind that without difficulty it pierces the heavens, and, illumined with divine light, contemplates first, the eternal source of light, and in its radiance all created things: so that we experience with the utmost pleasure of mind that we have been called, as the Prince of the Apostles says, out of darkness into his admirable light, and believing we rejoice with joy unspeakable.
Justly, therefore, do the faithful profess first to believe in God, whose majesty, with the Prophet Jeremias, we declare incomprehensible. For, as the Apostle says, He dwells in light inaccessible, which no man hath seen, nor can see; as God Himself, speaking to Moses, said: No man shall see my face and live. The mind cannot rise to the contemplation of the Deity, whom nothing approaches in sublimity, unless it be entirely disengaged from the senses, and of this in the present life we art naturally incapable.
Knowledge Of God Obtained Through Faith Is Clearer
But while this is so, yet God, as the Apostle says, left not himself without testimony, doing good from heaven, giving rains and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. Hence it is that the philosophers conceived no mean idea of the Divinity, ascribed to Him nothing corporeal, gross or composite. They considered Him the perfection and fullness of all good, from whom, as from an eternal, inexhaustible fountain of goodness and benignity, flows every perfect gift to all creatures. They called Him the wise, the author and lover of truth, the just, the most beneficent, and gave Him also many other appellations expressive of supreme and absolute perfection. They recognised that His immense and infinite power fills every place and extends to all things
These truths the Sacred Scriptures express far better and much more clearly, as in the following passages: God is a spirit; Be ye perfect, even as also your heavenly Father is perfect; All things are naked and open to his eyes; O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! God is true; I am the way, the truth, and the life; Thy right hand is full of justice; Thou openest thy hand, and fillest with blessing every living creature; and finally: Whither shall go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I descend into hell, thou art there. If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, etc., and Do I not fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?
Knowledge Of God Obtained Through Faith Is More Certain
These great and sublime truths regarding the nature of God, which are in full accord with Scripture, the philosophers were able to learn from an investigation of God's works. But even here we see the necessity of divine revelation if we reflect that not only does faith, as we have already observed, make known clearly and at once to the rude and unlettered, those truths which only the learned could discover, and that by long study; but also that the knowledge obtained through faith is much more certain and more secure against error than if it were the result of philosophical inquiry.
Knowledge Of God Obtained Through Faith Is More Ample And Exalted
But how much more exalted must not that knowledge of the Deity be considered, which cannot be acquired in common by all from the contemplation of nature, but is peculiar to those who are illumined by the light of faith ?
This knowledge is contained in the Articles of the Creed, which disclose to us the unity of the Divine Essence and the distinction of Three Persons, and show also that God Himself is the ultimate end of our being, from whom we are to expect the enjoyment of the eternal happiness of heaven, according to the words of St. Paul: God is a rewarder of them that seek Him. How great are these rewards, and whether they are such that human knowledge could aspire to their attainment, we learn from these words of Isaias uttered long before those of the Apostle: From the beginning of the world they have not heard, nor perceived with the ears: the eye hath not seen besides thee, O God, what things thou hast prepared for them that wait for thee.
The Unity Of Nature In God
From what is said it must also be confessed that there is but one God, not many gods. For we attribute to God supreme goodness and infinite perfection, and it is impossible that what? is supreme and most perfect could be common to many. If a being lack anything that constitutes supreme perfection, it is therefore imperfect and cannot have the nature of God.
The unity of God is also proved from many passages of Sacred Scripture. It is written: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; again the Lord commands: Thou shalt not have strange gods before me; and further He often admonishes us by the Prophet: I am the first, and I am the last, and besides me there is no God. The Apostle also openly declares: One Lord, one faith, one baptism.
It should not, however, excite our surprise if the Sacred Scriptures sometimes give the name of God to creatures. For when they call the Prophets and judges gods, they do not speak according to the manner of the Gentiles, who, in their folly and impiety, formed to themselves many gods; but express, by a manner of speaking then in use, some eminent quality or function conferred on such persons by the gift of God.
The Trinity Of Persons In God
The Christian faith, therefore, believes and professes, as is declared in the Nicene Creed in confirmation of this truth, that God in His Nature, Substance and Essence is one.- But soaring still higher, it so understands Him to be one that it adores unity in trinity and trinity in unity. Of this mystery we now proceed to speak, as it comes next in order in the Creed.
As God is called Father for more reasons than one, we must first determine the more appropriate sense in which the word is used in the present instance.
God Is Called Father Because He Is Creator And Ruler
Even some on whose darkness the light of faith never shone conceived God to be an eternal substance from whom all things have their beginning, and by whose Providence they are governed and preserved in their order and state of existence. Since, therefore, he to whom a family owes its origin and by whose wisdom
derived from human things these persons gave the name Father to God, whom they acknowledge to be the Creator and Governor of the universe. The Sacred Scriptures also, when they wish to show that to God must be ascribed the creation of all things, supreme power and admirable Providence, make use of the same name. Thus we read: Is not he thy Father, that hath possessed thee, and made thee and created thee? And: Have we not all one Father? hath not one God created us?
God Is Called Father Because He Adopts Christians Through Grace
But God, particularly in the New Testament, is much more frequently, and in some sense peculiarly, called the Father of Christians, who have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but have received the spirit of adoption of sons (of God), whereby they cry: Abba (Father). For the Father hath bestowed upon us that manner of charity that we should be called, and be the sons of God, and if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, who is the first-born amongst many brethren, and is not ashamed to call us brethren. Whether, therefore, we look to the common title of creation and Providence, or to the special one of spiritual adoption, rightly do the faithful profess their belief that God is their Father.
The Name Father Also Discloses The Plurality Of Persons In God
But the pastor should teach that on hearing the word Father, besides the ideas already unfolded, the mind should rise to more exalted mysteries. Under the name Father, the divine oracles begin to unveil to us a mysterious truth which is more abstruse and more deeply hidden in that inaccessible light in which God dwells, and which human reason and understanding could not attain to, nor even conjecture to exist.
This name implies that in the one Essence of the Godhead is proposed to our belief, not only one Person, but a distinction of persons; for in one Divine Nature there are Three Persons-the Father, begotten of none; the Son, begotten of the Father before all ages; the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the likewise, from all eternity
The Doctrine Of The Trinity
In the one Substance of the Divinity the Father is the First Person, who with His Only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, is one God and one Lord, not in the singularity of one Person, but in the trinity of one Substance. These Three Persons, since it would be impiety to assert that they are unlike or unequal in any thing, are understood to be distinct only in their respective properties. For the Father is unbegotten, the Son begotten of the Father, and the Holy Ghost proceeds from both. Thus we acknowledge the Essence and the Substance of the Three Persons to be the same in such wise that we believe that in confessing the true and eternal God we are piously and religiously to adore distinction in the Persons, unity in the Essence, and equality in the Trinity.
Hence, when we say that the Father is the First Person, we are not to be understood to mean that in the Trinity there is anything first or last, greater or less. Let none of the faithful be guilty of such impiety, for the Christian religion proclaims the same eternity, the same majesty of glory in the Three Persons. But since the Father is the Beginning without a beginning, we truly and unhesitatingly affirm that He is the First Person, and as He is distinct from the Others by His peculiar relation of paternity, so of Him alone is it true that He begot the Son from eternity. For when in the Creed we pronounce together the words God and Father, it means that He was always both God and Father.
Practical Admonitions Concerning The Mystery Of The Trinity
Since nowhere is a too curious inquiry more dangerous, or error more fatal, than in the knowledge and exposition of this, the most profound and difficult of mysteries, let the pastor teach that the terms nature and person used to express this mystery should be most scrupulously retained; and let the faithful know that unity belongs to essence, and distinction to persons.
But these are truths which should not be made the subject of too subtle investigation, when we recollect that he who is a searcher of majesty shall be overwhelmed by glory. We should be satisfied with the assurance and certitude which faith gives us that we have been taught these truths by God Himself, to doubt whose word is the extreme of folly and misery. He has said: Teach ye all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and again, there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.
Let him, however, who by the divine bounty believes these truths, constantly beseech and implore God and the Father, who made all things out of nothing, and ordereth an things sweetly, who gave us power to become the sons of God, and who made known to the human mind the mystery of the Trinity -- let him, I say, pray unceasingly that, admitted one day into the eternal tabernacles, he may be worthy to see how great is the fecundity of the Father, who contemplating and understanding Himself, begot the Son like and equal to Himself, how a love of charity in both, entirely the same and equal, which is the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, connects the begetter and the begotten by an eternal and indissoluble bond; and that thus the Essence of the Trinity is one and the distinction of the Three Persons perfect.
The Sacred Scriptures, in order to mark the piety and devotion with which the most holy name of God is to be adored, usually express His supreme power and infinite majesty in a variety of ways; but the pastor should, first of all, teach that almighty power is most frequently attributed to Him. Thus He says of Himself: I am the almighty Lord and again, Jacob when sending his sons to Joseph thus prayed for them: May my almighty God make him favourable to you. In the Apocalypse also it is written: The Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the almighty; and in another place the last day is called the great day of the almighty God. Sometimes the same attribute is expressed in many words; thus: No word shall be impossible with God; Is the hand of the Lord unable? Thy power is at hand when thou wiIt, and so on.
Meaning Of The Term Almighty"
From these various modes of expression it is clearly perceived what is comprehended under this single word almighty. By it we understand that there neither exists nor can be conceived in thought or imagination anything which God cannot do. For not only can He annihilate all created things, and in a moment summon from nothing into existence many other worlds, an exercise of power which, however great, comes in some degree within our comprehension; but He can do many things still greater, of which the human mind can form no conception.
But though God can do all things, yet He cannot lie, or deceive, or be deceived; He cannot sin, or cease to exist, or be ignorant of anything. These defects are compatible with those beings only whose actions are imperfect; but God, whose acts are always most perfect, is said to be incapable of such things, simply because the capability of doing them implies weakness, not the supreme and infinite power over all things which God possesses. Thus we so believe God to be omnipotent that we exclude from Him entirely all that is not intimately connected and consistent with the perfection of His nature.
Why Omnipotence Alone Is Mentioned In The: Creed
The pastor should point out the propriety and wisdom of having omitted all other names of God in the Creed, and of having proposed to us only that of almighty as the object of our belief. For by acknowledging God to be omnipotent, we also of necessity acknowledge Him to be omniscient, and to hold all things in subjection to His supreme authority and dominion. When we do not doubt that He is omnipotent, we must be also convinced of everything else regarding Him, the absence of which would render His omnipotence altogether unintelligible.
Besides, nothing tends more to confirm our faith and animate our hope than a deep conviction that all things are possible to God; for whatever may be afterwards proposed as an object of faith, however great, however wonderful, however raised above the natural order, is easily and without hesitation believed, once the mind has grasped the knowledge of the omnipotence of God. Nay more, the greater the truths which the divine oracles announce, the more willingly does the mind deem them worthy of belief. And should we expect any favour from heaven, we are not discouraged by the greatness of the desired benefit, but are cheered and confirmed by frequently considering that there is nothing which an omnipotent God cannot effect.
Advantages Of Faith In God's Omnipotence
With this faith, then, we should be specially fortified whenever we are required to render any extraordinary service to our neighbour or seek to obtain by prayer any favour from God. Its necessity in the one case we learn from the Lord Himself, who, when rebuking the incredulity of the Apostles, said: If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain: Remove from hence thither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you; and in the other case, from these words of St. James: Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, which is moved and carried about by the wind. Therefore let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
This faith brings with it also many advantages and helps. It forms us, in the first place, to all humility and lowliness of mind, according to these words of the Prince of the Apostles: Be you humbled therefore under the mighty hand of God. It also teaches us not to fear where there is no cause of fear, but to fear God alone, in whose power we ourselves and all that we have are placed; for our Saviour says: I will shew you whom you shall fear; fear ye him, who after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. This faith is also useful to enable us to know and exalt the infinite mercies of God towards us. For he who reflects on the omnipotence of God, cannot be so ungrateful as not frequently to exclaim: He that is mighty, hath done great things to me.
Not Three Almighties But One Almighty
When, however, in this Article we call the Father almighty, let no one be led into the error of thinking that this attribute is so ascribed to Him as not to belong also to the Son and the Holy Ghost. As we say the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Ghost is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God; so in like manner we confess that the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty, and yet there are not three almighties but one almighty.
The Father, in particular, we call almighty, because He is the Source of all being; as we also attribute wisdom to the Son, because He is the eternal Word of the Father; and goodness to the Holy Ghost, because He is the love of both. These, however, and similar appellations, may be given indiscriminately to the Three Persons, according to the teaching of Catholic faith.
The necessity of having previously imparted to the faithful a knowledge of the omnipotence of God will appear from what we are now about to explain with regard to the creation of the world. The wondrous production of so stupendous a work is more easily believed when all doubt concerning the immense power of the Creator has been removed.
For God formed the world not from materials of any sort, but created it from nothing, and that not by constraint or necessity, but spontaneously, and of His own free will. Nor was He impelled to create by any other cause than a desire to communicate His goodness to creatures. Being essentially happy in Himself He stands not in need of anything, as David expresses it: I have said to the Lord, thou art my God, for thou hast no need of my goods.
As it was His own goodness that influenced Him when He did all things whatsoever He would, so in the work of creation He followed no external form or model; but contemplating, and as it were imitating, the universal model contained in the divine intelligence, the supreme Architect, with infinite wisdom and power-attributes peculiar to the Divinity -- created all things in the be ginning. He spoke and they were made: he commanded and they were created.
"Of Heaven and Earth"
The words heaven and earth include all things which the heaven's and the earth contain; for besides the heavens, which the Prophet has called the works of his fingers, He also gave to the sun its brilliancy, and to the moon and stars their beauty; and that they might be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years. He so ordered the celestial bodies in a certain and uniform course, that nothing varies more than their continual revolution, while nothing is more fixed than their variety.
Creation Of The World Of Spirits
Moreover, He created out of nothing the spiritual world and Angels innumerable to serve and minister to Him; and these He enriched and adorned with the admirable gifts of His grace and power.
That the devil and the other rebel angels were gifted from the beginning of their creation with grace, clearly follows from these words of the Sacred Scriptures: He (the devil) stood not in the truth. On this subject St. Augustine says: In creating the Angels He endowed them with good will, that is, with pure love that they might adhere to Him, giving them existence and adorning them with grace at one and the same time. Hence we are to believe that the holy Angels were never without good will, that is, the love of God.
As to their knowledge we have this testimony of Holy Scripture: Thou, my Lord, O king, art wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to understand all things upon earth.' Finally, the inspired David ascribes power to them, saying that they are mighty in strength, and execute his word; and on this account they are often called in Scripture the powers and the armies of the Lord.
But although they were all endowed with celestial gifts, very many, having rebelled against God, their Father and Creator, were hurled from those high mansions of bliss, and shut up in the darkest dungeon of earth, there to suffer for eternity the punishment of their pride. Speaking of them the Prince of the Apostles says: God spared not the angels that sinned, but delivered them, drawn by infernal ropes to the lower hell, unto torments, to be reserved unto judgment.
Formation Of The Universe
The earth also God commanded to stand in the midst of the world, rooted in its own foundation, and made the mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which he had founded for them. That the waters should not inundate the earth, He set a bound which they shall not pass over; neither shall they return to cover the earth. He next not only clothed and adorned it with trees and every variety of plant and flower, but filled it, as He had already filled the air and water, with innumerable kinds of living creatures.
Production Of Man
Lastly, He formed man from the slime of the earth, so created and constituted in body as to be immortal and impassible, not, however, by the strength of nature, but by the bounty of God. Man's soul He created to His own image and likeness; gifted him with free will, and tempered all his motions and appetites so as to subject them, at all times, to the dictates of reason. He then added the admirable gift of original righteousness, and next gave him dominion over all other animals. By referring to the sacred history of Genesis the pastor will easily make himself familiar with these things for the instruction of the faithful.
"Of all Things Visible and Invisible"
What we have said, then, of the creation of the universe is to be understood as conveyed by the words heaven and earth, and is thus briefly set forth by the Prophet: Thine are the heavens, and thine is the earth: the world and the fullness thereof thou hast founded. Still more briefly the Fathers of the Council of Nice expressed this truth by adding in their Creed these words: of all things visible and invisible. Whatever exists in the universe, whatever we confess to have been created by God, either falls under the senses and is included in the word visible, or is an object of mental perception and intelligence and is expressed by the word invisible.
God Preserves, Rules And Moves All Created Things
We are not, however, to understand that God is in such wise the Creator and Maker of all things that His works, when once created and finished, could thereafter continue to exist unsupported by His omnipotence. For as all things derive existence from the Creator's supreme power, wisdom, and goodness, so unless preserved continually by His Providence, and by the same power which produced them, they would instantly return into their nothingness. This the Scriptures declare when they say: How could anything endure if thou wouldst not? or be preserved, if not called by thee?
Not only does God protect and govern all things by His Providence, but He also by an internal power impels to motion and action whatever moves and acts, and this in such a manner that, although He excludes not, He yet precedes the agency of secondary causes. For His invisible influence extends to all things, and, as the Wise Man says, reaches from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly. This is the reason why the Apostle, announcing to the Athenians the God whom, not knowing, they adored, said: He is not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and are.
Creation Is The Work Of The Three Persons
Let so much suffice for the explanation of the first Article of the Creed. It may not be superfluous, however, to add that creation is the common work of the Three Persons of the Holy and undivided Trinity, -- of the Father, whom according to the doctrine of the Apostles we here declare to be Creator of heaven and earth; of the Son, of whom the Scripture says, all things were made by him; and of the Holy Ghost, of whom it is written: The spirit of God moved over the waters, and again, By the word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth.
ARTICLE II : "AND IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD"
Advantages Of Faith In This Article
That wonderful and superabundant are the blessings which flow to the human race from the belief and profession of this Article we learn from these words of St. John: Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God; and also from the words of Christ the Lord, proclaiming the Prince of the Apostles blessed for the confession of this truth: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. For this Article is the most firm basis of our salvation and redemption.
But as the fruit of these admirable blessings is best known by considering the ruin brought on man by his fall from that most happy state in which God had placed our first parents, let the pastor be particularly careful to make known to the faithful the cause of this common misery and calamity.
When Adam had departed from the obedience due to God and had violated the prohibition, of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat, for in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death, he fell into the extreme misery of losing the sanctity and righteousness in which he had been placed, and of becoming subject to all those other evils which have been explained more fully by the holy Council of Trent.
Wherefore, the pastor should not omit to remind the faithful that the guilt and punishment of original sin were not confined to Adam, but justly descended from him, as from their source and cause, to all posterity. The human race, having fallen from its elevated dignity, no power of men or Angels could raise it from its fallen condition and replace it in its primitive state. To remedy the evil and repair the loss it became necessary that the Son of God, whose power is infinite, clothed in the weakness of our flesh, should remove the infinite weight of sin and reconcile us to God in His blood.
Necessity Of Faith In This Article
The belief and profession of this our redemption, which God declared from the beginning, are now, and always have been, necessary to salvation. In the sentence of condemnation pronounced against the human race immediately after the sin of Adam the hope of redemption was held out in these words, which announced to the devil the loss he was to sustain by man's redemption: I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait f or her heel.
The same promise God again often confirmed and more distinctly manifested to those chiefly whom He desired to make special objects of His favour; among others to the Patriarch Abraham, to whom He often declared this mystery, but more explicitly when, in obedience to His command, Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Because, said God, thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only-begotten son f or my sake; I win bless thee, and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the sea shore. Thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice. From these words it was easy to infer that He who was to deliver mankind from the ruthless tyranny of Satan was to be descended from Abraham; and that while He was the Son of God, He was to be born of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh.
Not long after, to preserve the memory of this promise, God renewed the same covenant with Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. When in a vision Jacob saw a ladder standing on earth, and its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending by it, as the Scriptures testify, he also heard the Lord, who was leaning on the ladder, say to him: I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; the land, wherein thou sleepest, I will give to thee and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth. Thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south; and in thee and thy seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.
Nor did God cease afterwards to excite in the posterity of Abraham and in many others, the expectation of a Saviour, by renewing the recollection of the same promise; for after the establishment of the Jewish State and religion it became better known to His people. Types signified and men foretold what and how great blessings the Saviour and Redeemer, Christ Jesus, was to bring to mankind. And indeed the Prophets, whose minds were illuminated with light from above, foretold the birth of the Son of God, the wondrous works which He wrought while on earth, His doctrine, character, life, death, Resurrection, and the other mysterious circumstances regarding Him, and all these they announced to the people as graphically as if they were passing before their eyes. With the exception that one has reference to the future and the other to the past, we can discover no difference between the predictions of the Prophets and the preaching of the Apostles, between the faith of the ancient Patriarchs and that of Christians.
But we are now to speak of the several parts of this Article.
Jesus is the proper name of the God-man and signifies Saviour: a name given Him not accidentally, or by the judgment or will of man, but by the counsel and command of God. For the Angel announced to Mary His mother: Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He afterwards not only commanded Joseph, who was espoused to the Virgin, to call the child by that name, but also declared the reason why He should be so called. Joseph, son of David, said the Angel, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son and thou shalt call his name Jesus. For he shall save his people from their sins.
In the Sacred Scriptures we meet with many who were called by this name. So, for example, was called the son of Nave, who succeeded Moses, and, by special privilege denied to Moses, conducted into the land of promise the people whom Moses had delivered from Egypt; and also the son of Josedech, the priest. But how much more appropriate it is to call by this name our Saviour, who gave light, liberty and salvation, not to one people only, but to all men, of all ages to men oppressed, not by famine, or Egyptian or Babylonian bondage, but sitting in the shadow of death and fettered by the galling chains of sin and of the devil who purchased for them a right to the inheritance of heaven and reconciled them to God the Father! In those men who were designated by the same name we see foreshadowed Christ the Lord, by whom the blessings just enumerated were poured out on the human race.
All other names which according to prophecy were to be given by divine appointment to the Son of God, are comprised in this one name Jesus; for while they partially signified the salvation which He was to bestow upon us, this name included the force and meaning of all human salvation.
To the name Jesus is added that of Christ, which signifies the anointed. This name is expressive of honour and office, and is not peculiar to one thing only, but common to many; for in the Old Law priests and kings, whom God, on account of the dignity of their office, commanded to he anointed, were called christs. For priests commend the people to God by unceasing prayer, offer sacrifice to Him, and turn away His wrath from mankind. Kings are entrusted with the government of the people; and to them principally belong the authority of the law, the protection of innocence and the punishment of guilt. As, therefore, both these functions seem to represent the majesty of God on earth, those who were appointed to the royal or sacerdotal office were anointed with oil. Furthermore, since Prophets, as the interpreters and ambassadors of the immortal God, have unfolded to us the secrets of heaven and by salutary precepts and the prediction of future events have exhorted to amendment of life, it was customary to anoint them also.
When Jesus Christ our Saviour came into the world, He assumed these three characters of Prophet, Priest and King, and was therefore called Christ, having been anointed for the discharge of these functions, not by mortal hand or with earthly ointment, but by the power of His heavenly Father and with a spiritual oil; for the plenitude of the Holy Spirit and a more copious effusion of all gifts than any other created being is capable of receiving were poured into His soul. This the Prophet clearly indicates when he addresses the Redeemer in these words: Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. The same is also more explicitly declared by the Prophet Isaias: The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me: he hath sent me to preach to the meek.
Jesus Christ, therefore, was the great Prophet and Teacher, from whom we have learned the will of God and by whom the world has been taught the knowledge of the heavenly Father. The name prophet belongs to Him preeminently, because all others who were dignified with that name were His disciples, sent principally to announce the coming of that Prophet who was to save all men.
Christ was also a Priest, not indeed of the same order as were the priests of the tribe of Levi in the Old Law, but of that of which the Prophet David sang: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech. This subject the Apostle fully and accurately develops in his Epistle to the Hebrews.
Christ not only as God, but also as man and partaker of our nature, we acknowledge to be a King. Of Him the Angel testified: He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end. This kingdom of Christ is spiritual and eternal, begun on earth but perfected in heaven. He discharges by His admirable Providence the duties of King towards His Church, governing and protecting her against the assaults and snares of her enemies, legislating for her and imparting to her not only holiness and righteousness, but also the power and strength to persevere. But although the good and the bad are found within the limits of this kingdom, and thus all men by right belong to it, yet those who in conformity with His commands lead unsullied and innocent lives, experience beyond all others the sovereign goodness and beneficence of our King. Although descended from the most illustrious race of kings, He obtained this kingdom not by hereditary or other human right, but because God bestowed on Him as man all the power, dignity and majesty of which human nature is capable. To Him, therefore, God delivered the government of the whole world, and to this His sovereignty, which has already commenced, all things shall be made fully and entirely subject on the day of judgment.
"His Only Son"
In these words, mysteries more exalted with regard to Jesus are proposed to the faithful as objects of their belief and contemplation; namely, that He is the Son of God, and true God, like the Father who begot Him from eternity. We also confess that He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, equal in all things to the Father and the Holy Ghost; for in the Divine Persons nothing unequal or unlike should exist, or even be imagined to exist, since we acknowledge the essence, will and power of all to be one. This truth is both clearly revealed in many passages of Holy Scripture and sublimely announced in the testimony of St. John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
But when we are told that Jesus is the Son of God, we are not to understand anything earthly or mortal in His birth; but are firmly to believe and piously to adore that birth by which, from all eternity, the Father begot the Son, a mystery which reason cannot fully conceive or comprehend, and at the contemplation of which, overwhelmed, as it were, with admiration, we should exclaim with the Prophet: Who shall declare his generation? On this point, then, we are to believe that the Son is of the same nature, of the same power and wisdom, with the Father, as we more fully profess in these words of the Nicene Creed: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, his Only-begotten Son, born of the Father before all ages, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made.
Among the different comparisons employed to elucidate the mode and manner of this eternal generation that which is borrowed from the production of thought in our mind seems to come nearest to its illustration, and hence St. John calls the Son the Word. For as our mind, in some sort understanding itself, forms an image of itself, which theologians express by the term word, so God, as far as we may compare human things to divine, understanding Himself, begets the eternal Word. It is better, however, to contemplate what faith proposes, and in the sincerity of our souls to believe and confess that Jesus Christ is true God and true Man, as God, begotten of the Father before all ages, as Man, born in time of Mary, His Virgin Mother.
While we thus acknowledge His twofold Nativity; we believe Him to be one Son, because His divine and human natures meet in one Person. As to His divine generation He has no brethren or coheirs, being the Only-begotten Son of the Father, while we mortals are the work of His hands. But if we consider His birth as man, He not only calls many by the name of brethren, but treats them as such, since He admits them to share with Him the glory of His paternal inheritance. They are those who by faith have received Christ the Lord, and who really, and by works of charity, show forth the faith which they profess in words. Hence the Apostle calls Christ, the first-born amongst many brethren.
Of our Saviour many things are recorded in Sacred Scripture. Some of these, it is evident, apply to Him as God and some as man, because from His two natures He received the different properties which belong to both. Hence we say with truth that Christ is Almighty, Eternal, Infinite, and these attributes He has from His Divine Nature; again, we say of Him that He suffered, died, and rose again, which are properties manifestly that belong to His human nature.
Besides these terms, there are others common to both natures; as when in this Article of the Creed we say our Lord. If, then, this name applies to both natures, rightly is He to be called our Lord. For as He, as well as the Father, is the eternal God, so is He Lord of all things equally with the Father; and as He and the Father are not the one, one God, and the other, another God, but one and the same God, so likewise He and the Father are not the one, one Lord, and the other, another Lord.
As man, He is also for many reasons appropriately called our Lord. First, because He is our Redeemer, who delivered us from sin, He deservedly acquired the power by which He truly is and is called our Lord. This is the doctrine of the Apostle:
He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. And of Himself He said, after His Resurrection: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
He is also called Lord because in one Person both natures, the human and the divine, are united; and even though He had not died for us, He would have yet deserved, by this admirable union, to be constituted common Lord of all created things, particularly of the faithful who obey and serve Him with all the fervour of their souls.
Duties Owed To Christ Our Lord
It remains, therefore, that the pastor remind the faithful that: from Christ we take our name and are called Christians; that we cannot be ignorant of the extent of His favours, particularly since by His gift of faith we are enabled to understand all these things. We, above all others, are under the obligation of devoting and consecrating ourselves forever, like faithful servants, to our Redeemer and our Lord.
This indeed, we promised at the doors of the church when about to be baptised; for we then declared that we renounced the devil and the world, and gave ourselves unreservedly to Jesus Christ. But if to be enrolled as soldiers of Christ we consecrated ourselves by so holy and solemn a profession to our Lord, what punishments should we not deserve if after our entrance into the Church, and after having known the will and laws of God and received the grace of the Sacraments, we were to form our lives upon the precepts and maxims of the world and the devil, just as though when cleansed in the waters of Baptism, we had pledged our fidelity to the world and to the devil, and not to Christ the Lord and Saviour!
What heart so cold as not to be inflamed with love by the kindness and good will exercised toward us by so great a Lord, who, though holding us in His power and dominion as slaves ransomed by His blood, yet embraces us with such ardent love as to call us not servants, but friends and brethren? This, assuredly, supplies the most just, and perhaps the strongest, claim to induce us always to acknowledge, venerate, and adore Him as our Lord.
ARTICLE III : "WHO WAS CONCEIVED BY THE HOLY GHOST, BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY"
Importance Of This Article
From what has been said in the preceding Article, the faithful can understand that in bringing us from the relentless tyranny of Satan into liberty, God has conferred a singular and surpassing blessing on the human race. But if we place before our eyes also the plan and means by which He deigned chiefly to accomplish this, then, indeed, we shall see that there is nothing more glorious or magnificent than this divine goodness and beneficence towards us.
First Part of this Article:
"Who was Conceived,'
The pastor, then, should enter on the exposition of this third Article by developing the grandeur of this mystery, which the Sacred Scriptures very frequently propose for our consideration as the principal source of our eternal salvation. Its meaning he should teach to be that we believe and confess that the same Jesus Christ, our only Lord, the Son of God, when He assumed human flesh for us in the womb of the Virgin, was not conceived like other men, from the seed of man, but in a manner transcending the order of nature, that is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; so that the same Person, remaining God as He was from eternity, became man, what He was not before.
That such is the meaning of the above words is clear from the Creed of the Holy Council of Constantinople, which says: Who for us men, and for our salvation,, came down from heaven, and became incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. The same truth we also find unfolded by St. John the Evangelist, who imbibed from the bosom of the Lord and Saviour Himself the knowledge of this most profound mystery. For when he had declared the nature of the Divine Word as follows: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, he concluded: And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
The Word, which is a Person of the Divine Nature, assumed human nature in such a manner that there should be one and the same Person in both the divine and human natures. Hence this admirable union preserved the actions and properties of both natures; and as Pope St. Leo the Great said: The lowliness of the inferior nature was not consumed in the glory of the superior, nor did the assumption of the inferior lessen the glory of the superior.
"By the Holy Ghost"
As an explanation of the words in which this Article is expressed is not to be omitted, the pastor should teach that when we say that the Son of God was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, we do not mean that this Person alone of the Holy Trinity accomplished the mystery of the Incarnation. Although the Son only assumed human nature, yet all the Persons of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, were authors of this mystery.
It is a principle of Christian faith that whatever God does outside Himself in creation is common to the Three Persons, and that one neither does more than, nor acts without another. But that one emanates from another, this only cannot be common to all; for the Son is begotten of the Father only, and the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son. Anything, however, which proceeds from them extrinsically is the work of the Three Persons without difference of any sort, and of this latter description is the Incarnation of the Son of God.
Of those things, nevertheless, that are common to all, the Sacred Scriptures-often attribute some to one person, some to another. Thus, to the Father they attribute power over all things ; to the Son, wisdom; to the Holy Ghost, love. Hence, as the mystery of the Incarnation manifests the singular and boundless love of God towards us, it is therefore in some sort peculiarly attributed to the Holy Ghost.
In The Incarnation Some Things Were Natural, Others Supernatural
In this mystery we perceive that some things were done which transcend the order of nature, some by the power of nature. Thus, in believing that the body of Christ was formed from the most pure blood of His Virgin Mother we acknowledge the operation of human nature, this being a law common to the formation of all human bodies, that they should be formed from the blood of the mother.
But what surpasses the order of nature and human comprehension is, that as soon as the Blessed Virgin assented to the announcement of the Angel in these words, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word, the most sacred body of Christ was immediately formed, and to it was united a rational soul enjoying the use of reason; and thus in the same instant of time He was perfect God and perfect man. That this was the astonishing and admirable work of the Holy Ghost cannot be doubted; for according to the order of nature the rational soul is united to the body only after a certain lapse of time.
Again -- and this should overwhelm us with astonishment -- as soon as the soul of Christ was united to His body, the Divinity became united to both; and thus at the same time His body was formed and animated, and the Divinity united to body and soul.
Hence, at the same instant He was perfect God and perfect man, and the most Holy Virgin, having at the same moment conceived God and man, is truly and properly called Mother of God and man. This the Angel signified to her when he said: Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High. The event verified the prophecy of Isaias: Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son. Elizabeth also declared the same truth when" being filled with the Holy Ghost, she understood the Conception of the Son of God, and said: Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
As the body of Christ was formed of the pure blood of the immaculate Virgin without the aid of man, as we have already said, and by the sole operation of the Holy Ghost, so also, at the moment of His Conception, His soul was enriched with an overflowing fullness of the Spirit of God, and a superabundance of all graces. For God gave not to Him, as to others adorned with holiness and grace, His Spirit by measure, as St. John testifies but poured into His soul the plenitude of all graces so abundantly that of his fullness we all have received.
Although possessing that Spirit by which holy men attain the adoption of sons of God, He cannot, however, be called the adopted son of God; for since He is the Son of God by nature, the grace, or name of adoption, can on no account be deemed applicable to Him.
How To Profit By The Mystery Of The Incarnation
These truths comprise the substance of what appears to demand explanation regarding the admirable mystery of the Conception. To reap from them abundant fruit for salvation the faithful should particularly recall, and frequently reflect, that it is God who assumed human flesh; that the manner in which He became man exceeds our comprehension, not to say our powers of expression; and finally, that He vouchsafed to become man in order that we men might be born again as children of God. When to these subjects they shall have given mature consideration, let them, in the humility of faith, believe and adore all the mysteries contained in this Article, and not indulge a curious inquisitiveness by investigating and scrutinising them -- an attempt scarcely ever unattended with danger.
Second Part Of This Article: "Born Of The Virgin Mary"
These words comprise another part of this Article. In its exposition the pastor should exercise considerable diligence, because the faithful are bound to believe that Jesus the Lord was not only conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, but was also born of the Virgin Mary. The words of the Angel who first announced the happy tidings to the world declare with what joy and delight of soul this mystery of our faith should be meditated upon. Behold, said the Angel, I bring you good tidings of great joy" that shall be to all the people. The same sentiments are clearly conveyed in the song chanted by the heavenly host: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will. Then began the fulfilment of the splendid promise made by God to Abraham" that in his seed all the nations of the earth should one day be blessed; for Mary" whom we truly proclaim and venerate as Mother of God, because she brought forth Him who is at once God and man, was descended from King David.
The Nativity Of Christ Transcends The Order Of Nature
But as the Conception itself transcends the order of nature, so also the birth of our Lord presents to our contemplation nothing but what is divine.
Besides, what is admirable beyond the power of thoughts or words to express, He is born of His Mother without any diminution of her maternal virginity, just as He afterwards went forth from the sepulchre while it was closed and sealed, and entered the room in which His disciples were assembled, the doors being shut; or, not to depart from every-day examples, just as the rays of the sun penetrate without breaking or injuring in the least the solid substance of glass, so after a like but more exalted manner did Jesus Christ come forth from His mother's womb without injury to her maternal virginity. This immaculate and perpetual virginity forms, therefore, the just theme of our eulogy. Such was the work of the Holy Ghost, who at the Conception and birth of the Son so favoured the Virgin Mother as to impart to her fecundity while preserving inviolate her perpetual virginity.
Christ Compared to Adam" Mary to Eve
The Apostle sometimes calls Jesus Christ the second Adam, and compares Him to the first Adam; for as in the first all men die, so in the second all are made alive: and as in the natural order Adam was the father of the human race, so in the supernatural order Christ is The author of grace and of glory.
The Virgin Mother we may also compare to Eve, making the second Eve, that is, Mary, correspond to the first, as we have already shown that the second Adam, that is, Christ, corresponds to the first Adam. By believing the serpent, Eve brought malediction and death on mankind, and Mary, by believing the Angel, became the instrument of The divine goodness in bringing life and benediction to the human race. From Eve we are born children of wrath; from Mary we have received Jesus Christ, and through Him are regenerated children of grace. To Eve it was said: In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children. Mary was exempt from this law, for preserving her virginal integrity inviolate she brought forth Jesus the Son of God without experiencing, as we have already said, any sense of pain.
Types and Prophecies of the Conception and Nativity
The mysteries of this admirable Conception and Nativity being, therefore, so great and so numerous, it accorded with the plan of divineProvidence to signify them by many types and prophecies. Hence the holy Fathers understood many things which we meet in the Sacred Scriptures to refer to these mysteries, particularly that gate of the sanctuary which Ezechiel saw closed; the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, which became a great mountain and filled the universe, of which we read in Daniel; the rod of Aaron, which alone budded of all the rods of the princes of Israel; and the bush which Moses saw burr without being consumed.'
The holy Evangelist describes in detail the history of the birth of Christ; but, as the pastor can easily recur to the Sacred Volume, it is unnecessary for us to say more on the subject.
Lessons which this Article Teaches
The pastor should labor to impress deeply on the minds and hearts of the faithful these mysteries, which were written for our learning; first, that by the commemoration of so great a benefit they may make some return of gratitude to God, its author, and next, in order to place before their eyes, as a model for imitation, this striking and singular example of humility.
Humility And Poverty Of Christ
What can be more useful, what better calculated to subdue the pride and haughtiness of the human heart, than to reflect frequently that God humbles Himself in such a manner as to assume our frailty and weakness, in order to communicate to us His glory; that God becomes man, and that He at whose nod, to use the words of Scripture, the pillars of heaven tremble and are affrighted bows His supreme and infinite majesty to minister to man; that He whom the Angels adore in heaven is born on earth ! When such is the goodness of God towards us, what, I ask, should we not do to testify our obedience to His will? With what willingness and alacrity should we not love, embrace, and perform all the duties of humility ?
The faithful should also consider the salutary lessons which Christ at His birth teaches before He begins to speak. He is born in poverty; He is born a stranger under a roof not His own; He is born in a lonely crib; He is born in the depth of winter ! For St. Luke writes as follows: And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Could the Evangelist have described under more humble terms the majesty and glory that filled the heavens and the earth ? He does not say, there was no room in the inn, but there was no room for him who says, the world is mine, and the fullness thereof. As another Evangelist has expressed it: He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
Elevation And Dignity Of Man
When the faithful have placed these things before their eyes, let them also reflect that God condescended to assume the lowliness and frailty of our flesh in order to exalt man to the highest degree of dignity. This single reflection, that He who is true and perfect God became man, supplies sufficient proof of the exalted dignity conferred on the human race by the divine bounty; since we may now glory that the Son of God is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, a privilege not given to Angels, for nowhere, says the Apostle, doth he take hold of the Angels: but of the seed of Abraham he taketh hold.
Duty Of Spiritual Nativity
We must also take care lest to our great injury it should happen that just as there was no room for Him in the inn at Bethlehem, in which to be born, so likewise now, after He has been born in the flesh, He should find no room in our hearts in which to be born spiritually. For since He is most desirous of our salvation, this spiritual birth is the object of His most earnest solicitude.
As, then, by the power of the Holy Ghost, and in a manner superior to the order of nature, He was made man and was born, was holy and even holiness itself, so does it become our duty to be born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God; to walk as new creatures in newness of spirit, and to preserve that holiness and purity of soul which so much becomes men regenerated by the Spirit of God. Thus shall we reflect some faint image of the holy Conception and Nativity of the Son of God, which are the objects of our firm faith, and believing which we revere and adore the wisdom of God in a mystery which is hidden.
ARTICLE IV : "SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DEAD, AND BURIED'"
Importance Of This Article
How necessary is a knowledge of this Article, and how assiduous the pastor should be in stirring up in the minds of the faithful the frequent recollection of our Lord's Passion" we learn from the Apostle when he says that he knows nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.' The pastor, therefore, should exercise the greatest care and pains in giving a thorough explanation of this subject" in order that the faithful" being moved by the remembrance of so great a benefit" may give themselves entirely to the contemplation of the goodness and love of God towards us.
First Part of this Article: '"Suffered Under Pontius Pilate, was Crucified,,
The first part of this Article (of the second we shall treat hereafter) proposes for our belief that when Pontius Pilate governed the province of Judea" under Tiberius Caesar" Christ the Lord was nailed to a cross. Having been seized" mocked, outraged and tortured in various forms" He was finally crucified.
It cannot be a matter of doubt that His soul" as to its inferior part" was sensible of these torments; for as He really assumed human nature" it is a necessary consequence that He really, and in His soul, experienced a most acute sense of pain. Hence these words of the Saviour: My soul is sorrowful even unto death.
Although human nature was united to the Divine Person, He felt the bitterness of His Passion as acutely as if no such union had existed" because in the one Person of Jesus Christ were preserved the properties of both natures" human and divine; and therefore what was passible and mortal remained passible and mortal; while what was impassible and immortal, that is, His Divine Nature, continued impassible and immortal.
"Under Pontius Pilate"
Since we find it here so diligently recorded that Jesus Christ suffered when Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea, the pastor should explain the reason. By fixing the time, which we find also done by the Apostle Paul, so important and so necessary an event is rendered more easily ascertainable by all. Furthermore those words show that the Saviour's prediction was really verified: They shall deliver him to the Gentiles, to be mocked and scourged and crucified.
The fact that He suffered death precisely on the wood of the cross must also be attributed to a particular counsel of God, which decreed that life should return by the way whence death had arisen The serpent who had triumphed over our first parents by the wood (of a tree) was vanquished by Christ on the wood of the cross.
Many other reasons which the Fathers have discussed in detail might be adduced to show that it was fit that our Redeemer should suffer death on the cross rather than in any other way. But, as the pastor will show" it is enough for the faithful to believe that this kind of death was chosen by the Saviour because it appeared better adapted and more appropriate to the redemption of the human race; for there certainly could be none more ignominious and humiliating. Not only among the Gentiles was the punishment of the cross held accursed and full of shame and infamy, but even in the Law of Moses the man is called accursed that hangeth on a tree.
Importance Of The History Of The Passion
Furthermore, the pastor should not omit the historical part of this Article, which has been so carefully set forth by the holy Evangelists; so that the faithful may be acquainted with at least the principal points of this mystery, that is to say, such as seem more necessary to confirm the truth of our faith. For it is on this Article, as on their foundation, that the Christian faith and religion rest; and if this truth be firmly established, all the rest is secure. Indeed, if one thing more than another presents difficulty to the mind and understanding of man, assuredly it is the mystery of the cross, which, beyond all doubt, must be considered the most difficult of all; so much so that only with great difficulty can we grasp the fact that our salvation depends on the cross, and on Him who for us was nailed thereon. In this, however, as the Apostle teaches, we may well admire the wonderful Providence of God; for, seeing that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. It is no wonder, then, that the Prophets, before the coming of Christ, and the Apostles, after His death and Resurrection, labored so strenuously to convince mankind that He was the Redeemer of the world, and to bring them under the power and obedience of the Crucified.
Figures And Prophecies Of The Passion And Death Of The Saviour
Since, therefore, nothing is so far above the reach of human reason as the mystery of the cross, the Lord immediately after the fall ceased not, both by figures and prophecies, to signify the death by which His Son was to die.
To mention a few of these types. First of all, Abel, who fell a victim of the envy of his brother, Isaac who was commanded to be offered in sacrifice, the lamb immolated by the Jews on their departure from Egypt, and also the brazen serpent lifted up by Moses in the desert, were all figures of the Passion and death of Christ the Lord.
As to the Prophets, how many there were who foretold Christ's Passion and death is too well known to require development here. Not to speak of David, whose Psalms embrace all the principal mysteries of Redemption, the oracles of Isaias in particular are so clear and graphic that he might be said rather to have recorded a past than predicted a future event. a
Second Part Of This Article: "Dead, And Buried"
Christ Really Died
The pastor should explain that these words present for our belief that Jesus Christ, after He was crucified, really died and was buried. It is not without just reason that this is proposed to the faithful as a separate object of belief, since there were some who denied His death upon the cross. The Apostles, therefore, were justly of opinion that to such an error should be opposed the doctrine of faith contained in this Article, the truth of which is placed beyond the possibility of doubt by the united testimony of all the Evangelists, who record that Jesus yielded up the ghost.
Moreover as Christ was true and perfect man, He of course was capable of dying. Now man dies when the soul is separated from the body. When, therefore, we say that Jesus died, we mean that His soul was disunited from His body. We do not admit, however, that the Divinity was separated from His body. On the contrary, we firmly believe and profess that when His soul was dissociated from His body, His Divinity continued always united both to His body in the sepulchre and to His soul in limbo. It became the Son of God to die, that, through death, he might destroy him who had the empire of death that is the devil, and might deliver them, who through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to servitude.
Christ Died Freely
It was the peculiar privilege of Christ the Lord to have died when He Himself decreed to die, and to have died not so much by external violence as by internal assent. Not only His death, but also its time and place, were ordained by Him. For thus Isaias wrote: He was offered because it was his own will. The Lord before His Passion, declared the same of Himself: I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No man taketh it away from me: but I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it again. As to the time and place of His death, He said, when Herod insidiously sought His life: Go and tell that fox: Behold I cast out devils, and do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I am consummated. Nevertheless I must walk today and to-morrow, and the day following, because it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.'' He therefore offered Himself not involuntarily or by compulsion but of His own free will. Going to meet His enemies He said: I am he; and all the punishments which injustice and cruelty inflicted on Him He endured voluntarily.
The Thought Of Christ's Death Should Excite Our Love And Gratitude
When we meditate on the sufferings and all the torments of the Redeemer, nothing is better calculated to stir our souls than the thought that He endured them thus voluntarily. Were anyone to endure all kinds of suffering for our sake, not because he chose them but simply because he could not escape them, we should not consider this a very great favour; but were he to endure death freely, and for our sake only, having had it in his power to avoid it, this indeed would be a benefit so overwhelming as to deprive even the most grateful heart, not only of the power of returning but even of feeling due thanks. We may hence form an idea of the transcendent and intense love of Jesus Christ towards us, and of His divine and boundless claims to our gratitude.
Christ Was Really Buried
When we confess that He was buried, we do not make this, as it were, a distinct part of the Article, as if it presented any new difficulty which is not implied in what we have said of His death; for if we believe that Christ died, we can also easily believe that He was buried. The word buried was added in the Creed, first, that His death might be rendered more certain, for the strongest argument of a person's death is the proof that his body was buried; and, secondly, to render the miracle of His Resurrection more authentic and illustrious.
It is not, however, our belief that the body of Christ alone was interred. The above words propose, as the principal object of our belief, that God was buried; as according to the rule of Catholic faith we also say with the strictest truth that God died, and that God was born of a virgin. For as the Divinity was never separated from His body which was laid in the sepulchre, we truly confess that God was buried.
Circumstances Of Christ's Burial
As to the manner and place of His burial, what the holy Evangelists record on these subjects will be sufficient for the pastor. There are, however, two things which demand particular attention; the one, that the body of Christ was in no degree corrupted in the sepulchre, according to the prediction of the Prophet: Thou wilt not give thy holy one to see corruption; the other, and it regards the several parts of this Article, that burial, Passion, and also death, apply to Christ Jesus not as God but as man. To suffer and die are incidental to human nature only; yet they are also attributed to God, since, as is clear, they are predicated with propriety of that Person who is at once perfect God and perfect man.
Useful Considerations on the Passion
When the faithful have once attained the knowledge of these things, the pastor should next proceed to explain those particulars of the Passion and death of Christ which may enable them if not to comprehend, at least to contemplate, the immensity of so stupendous a mystery.
The Dignity Of The Sufferer
And first we must consider who it is that suffers all these things. His dignity we cannot express in words or even conceive in mind. Of Him St. John says, that He is the Word which was with God. And the Apostle describes Him in sublime terms, saying that this is He -whom God hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world, who being the brightness of his glory, and the figure of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, making purgation of sins. sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high. In a word, Jesus Christ, the God-man, suffers ! The Creator suffers for His creatures, the Master for His servant. He suffers by whom the Angels, men, the heavens, and the elements were made; in whom, by whom, and of whom, are all things.
It cannot, therefore, be a matter of surprise that while He agonised under such an accumulation of torments the whole frame of the universe was convulsed; for as the Scriptures inform us, the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent, there was darkness over all the earth; and the sun was obscured. If, then, even mute and inanimate nature sympathised with the sufferings of her Creator, let the faithful consider with what tears they, the living stones of this edifice, should manifest their sorrow.
Reasons Why Christ Suffered
The reasons why the Saviour suffered are also to be explained, that thus the greatness and intensity of the divine love towards us may the more fully appear. Should anyone inquire why the Son of God underwent His most bitter Passion, he will find that besides the guilt inherited from our first parents the principal causes were the vice's and crimes which have been perpetrated from the beginning of the world to the present day and those which will be committed to the end of time. In His Passion and death the Son of God, our Saviour, intended to atone for and blot out the sins of all ages, to offer for them to his Father a full and abundant satisfaction.
Besides, to increase the dignity of this mystery, Christ not only suffered for sinners, but even for those who were the very authors and ministers of all the torments He endured. Of this the Apostle reminds us in these words addressed to the Hebrews: Think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds. In this guilt are involved all those who fall frequently into sin; for, as our sins consigned Christ the Lord to the death of the cross, most certainly those who wallow in sin and iniquity crucify to themselves again the Son of God, as far as in them lies, and make a mockery of Him. This guilt seems more enormous in us than in the Jews, since according to the testimony of the same Apostle: If they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; while we, on the contrary, professing to know Him, yet denying Him by our actions, seem in some sort to lay violent hands on him.
Christ Was Delivered Over To Death By The Father And By Himself
But that Christ the Lord was also delivered over to death by the Father and by Himself, the Scriptures bear witness. For in Isaias (God the Father) says For the wickedness of my people have I struck him. And a little before the same Prophet filled with the Spirit of God, cried out, as he saw the Lord covered with stripes and wounds: All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. But of the Son it is written: If he shall lay down his life for sin, he shall see a long-lived seed. This the Apostle expresses in language still stronger when, in order to show how confidently we, on our part, should trust in the boundless mercy and goodness of God, he says: He that spared not even his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how hath he not also, with him, given us all things? a
The: Bitterness Of Christ's Passion
The next subject of the pastor's instruction is the bitterness of the Redeemer's Passion. If we bear m mind that his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground, and this, at the sole anticipation of the torments and agony which He was about to endure, we must at once perceive that His sorrows admitted of no increase. For if the very idea of impending evils was overwhelming, and the sweat of blood shows that it was, what are we to suppose their actual endurance to have been ?
That Christ our Lord suffered the most excruciating torments of mind and body is certain. In the first place, there was no part of His body that did not experience the most agonising torture. His hands and feet were fastened with nails to the cross; His head was pierced with thorns and smitten with a reed; His face was befouled with spittle and buffeted with blows; His whole body was covered with stripes.
Furthermore men of all ranks and conditions were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. Gentiles and Jews were the advisers, the authors, the ministers of His Passion: Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, all the rest deserted Him.
And while He hangs from the cross are we not at a loss which to deplore, His agony, or His ignominy, or both? Surely no death more shameful, none more cruel, could have been devised than this. It was the punishment usually reserved for the most guilty and atrocious malefactors, a death whose slowness aggravated the exquisite pain and torture I
His agony was increased by the very constitution and frame of His body. Formed by the power of the Holy Ghost, it was more perfect and better organised than the bodies of other men can be, and was therefore endowed with a superior susceptibility and a keener sense of all the torments which it endured.
And as to His interior anguish of soul, that too was no doubt extreme; for those among the Saints who had to endure torments and tortures were not without consolation from above, which enabled them not only to bear their sufferings patiently, but in many instances, to feel, in the very midst of them, filled with interior joy. I rejoice, says the Apostle, in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church;' and in another place: I am filled with comfort, I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulations. Christ our Lord tempered with no admixture of sweetness the bitter chalice of His Passion but permitted His human nature to feel as acutely every species of torment as if He were only man, and not also God.
Fruits Of Christ's Passion
It only remains now that the pastor carefully explain the blessings and advantages which flow from the Passion of Christ. In the first place, then, the Passion of our Lord was our deliverance from sin; for, as St. John says, He hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. He hath quickened you together with him, says the Apostle, forgiving you all offences, blotting out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross.
In the next place He has rescued us from the tyranny of the devil, for our Lord Himself says: Now is the judgment of the world; now shall the prance of this world be cast out. And I if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.
Again He discharged the punishment due to our sins. And as no sacrifice more pleasing and acceptable could have been offered to God, He reconciled us to the Father, appeased His wrath, and made Him favourable to us.
Finally, by taking away our sins He opened to us heaven, which was closed by the common sin of mankind. And this the Apostle pointed out when he said: We have confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ. Nor are we without a type and figure of this mystery in the Old Law. For those who were prohibited to return into their native country before the death of the high-priest typified that no one, however just and holy may have been his life, could gain admission into the celestial country until the eternal High-priest, Christ Jesus, had died, and by His death immediately opened heaven to those who, purified by the Sacraments and gifted with faith, hope, and charity, become partakers of His Passion.
Christ's Passion, -- A Satisfaction, A Sacrifice, A Redemption An Example
The pastor should teach that all these inestimable and divine blessings flow to us from the Passion of Christ. First, indeed, because the satisfaction which Jesus Christ has in an admirable manner made to God the Father for our sins is full and complete. The price which He paid for our ransom was not only adequate and equal to our debts, but far exceeded them.
Again, it (the Passion of Christ) was a sacrifice most acceptable to God, for when offered by His Son on the altar of the cross, it entirely appeased the wrath and indignation of the Father. This word (sacrifice) the Apostle uses when he says: Christ hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness.
Furthermore, it was a redemption, of which the Prince of the Apostles says: You were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, from your vain conversation of the tradition of your fathers: but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled. While the Apostle teaches: Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.
Besides these incomparable blessings, we have also received another of the highest importance; namely, that in the Passion alone we have the most illustrious example of the exercise of every virtue. For He so displayed patience, humility, exalted charity, meekness, obedience and unshaken firmness of soul, not only in suffering for justice, sake, but also in meeting death, that we may truly say on the day of His Passion alone, our Saviour offered, in His own Person, a living exemplification of all the moral precepts inculcated during the entire time of His public ministry.
This exposition of the saving Passion and death of Christ the Lord we have given briefly. Would to God that these mysteries were always present to our minds, and that we learned to suffer, die, and be buried together with our Lord; so that from henceforth, having cast aside all stain of sin, and rising with Him to newness of life, we may at length, through His grace and mercy, be found worthy to be made partakers of the celestial kingdom and glory !
ARTICLE V : "HE DESCENDED INTO HELL, THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN FROM THE DEAD"
Importance Of This Article
To know the glory of the burial of our Lord Jesus Christ, of which we last treated, is highly important; but of still higher importance is it to the faithful to know the splendid triumphs which He obtained by having subdued the devil and despoiled the abodes of hell. Of these triumphs, and also of His Resurrection, we are now about to speak.
Although the latter presents to us a subject which might with propriety be treated under a separate and distinct head, yet following the example of the holy Fathers, we have deemed it fitting to unite it with His descent into hell.
First Part of this Article: "He Descended into Hell"
In the first part of this Article, then, we profess that immediately after the death of Christ His soul descended into hell, and dwelt there as long as His body remained in the tomb; and also that the one Person of Christ was at the same time in hell and in the sepulchre. Nor should this excite surprise; for, as we have already frequently said, although His soul was separated from His body, His Divinity was never parted from either His soul or His body.
As the pastor, by explaining the meaning of the word hell in this place may throw considerable light on the exposition of this Article, it is to be observed that by the word hell is not here meant the sepulchre, as some have not less impiously than ignorantly imagined; for in the preceding Article we learned that Christ the Lord was buried, and there was no reason why the Apostles, in delivering an Article of faith, should repeat the same thing in other and more obscure terms.
Hell, then, here signifies those secret abodes in which are detained the souls that have not obtained the happiness of heaven. In this sense the word is frequently used in Scripture. Thus the Apostle says: At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and in hell; and in the Acts of the Apostles St. Peter says that Christ the Lord is again risen, having loosed the sorrows of hell.
Different Abodes Called Hell"
These abodes are not all of the same nature, for among them is that most loathsome and dark prison in which the souls of the damned are tormented with the unclean spirits in eternal and inextinguishable fire. This place is called gehenna, the bottomless pit, and is hell strictly so-called.
Among them is also the fire of purgatory, in which the souls of just men are cleansed by a temporary punishment, in order to be admitted into their eternal country, into which nothing defiled entereth. The truth of this doctrine, founded, as holy Councils declare,' on Scripture, and confirmed by Apostolic tradition, demands exposition from the pastor, all the more diligent and frequent, because we live in times when men endure not sound doctrine.
Lastly, the third kind of abode is that into which the souls of the just before the coming of Christ the Lord, were received, and where, without experiencing any sort of pain, but supported by the blessed hope of redemption, they enjoyed peaceful repose. To liberate these holy souls, who, in the bosom of Abraham were expecting the Saviour, Christ the Lord descended into hell.
We are not to imagine that His power and virtue only, and not also His soul, descended into hell; but we are firmly to believe that His soul itself, really and substantially, descended thither, according to this conclusive testimony of David: Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.
But although Christ descended into hell, His supreme power was in no degree lessened, nor was the splendour of His sanctity obscured by any blemish. His descent served rather to prove that whatever had been foretold of His sanctity was true; and that, as He had previously demonstrated by so many miracles, He was truly the Son of God.
This we shall easily understand by comparing the causes of the descent of Christ with those of other men. They descended as captives; He as free and victorious among the dead, to subdue those demons by whom, in consequence of guilt, they were held in captivity. Furthermore all others descended, either to endure the most acute torments, or, if exempt from other pain, to be deprived of the vision of God, and to be tortured by the delay of the glory and happiness for which they yearned; Christ the Lord descended, on the contrary, not to suffer, but to liberate the holy and the just from their painful captivity, and to impart to them the fruit of His Passion. His supreme dignity and power, therefore, suffered no diminution by His descent into hell.
Why He Descended into Hell
To Liberate The Just
Having explained these things, the pastor should next proceed to teach that Christ the Lord descended into hell, in order that having despoiled the demons, He might liberate from prison those holy Fathers and the other just souls, and might bring them into heaven with Himself. This He accomplished in an admirable and most glorious manner; for His august presence at once shed a celestial lustre upon the captives and filled them with inconceivable joy and delight. He also imparted to them that supreme happiness which consists in the vision of God, thus verifying His promise to the thief on the cross: This day thou shalt be with me in paradise.
This deliverance of the just was long before predicted by Osee in these words: O death, I will be thy death; O hell, I will be thy bite; ' and also by the Prophet Zachary: Thou also by the blood of thy testament hast sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit, wherein is no water; and lastly, the same is expressed by the Apostle in these words: Despoiling the principalities and powers, he hath exposed them confidently in open show, triumphing over them in himself.
But the better to understand the efficacy of this mystery we should frequently call to mind that not only the just who were born after the coming of our Lord, but also those who preceded Him from the days of Adam, or who shall be born until the end of time, obtain their salvation through the benefit of His Passion. Wherefore before His death and Resurrection heaven was closed against every child of Adam. The souls of the just, on their departure from this life, were either borne to the bosom of Abraham; or, as is still the case with those who have something to be washed away or satisfied for, were purified in the fire of purgatory.
To Proclaim His Power
Another reason why Christ the Lord descended into hell is that there, as well as in heaven and on earth, He might proclaim His power and authority, and that every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.
And here, who is not filled with admiration and astonishment when he contemplates the infinite love of God for man! Not satisfied with having undergone for our sake a most cruel death, He penetrates the inmost recesses of the earth to transport into bliss the souls whom He so dearly loved and whose liberation from thence He had achieved.
Second Part of this Article: "The Third Day He arose again from the Dead"
We now come to the second part of the Article, and how indefatigable should be the labours of the pastor in its exposition we learn from these words of the Apostle: Be mindful that the Lord Jesus Christ is risen again from the dead. This command no doubt was addressed not only to Timothy, but to all others who have care of souls.
The meaning of the Article is this: Christ the Lord expired on the cross, on Friday at the ninth hour, and was buried on the evening of the same day by His disciples, who with the permission of the governor, Pilate, laid the body of the Lord, taken down from the cross, in a new tomb, situated in a garden near at hand. Early on the morning of the third day after His death, that is, on Sunday, His soul was reunited to His body, and thus He who was dead during those three days arose, and returned again to life, from which He had departed when dying.
"He arose Again"
By the word Resurrection, however, we are not merely to understand that Christ was raised from the dead, which happened to many others, but that He rose by His own power and virtue, a singular prerogative peculiar to Him alone. For it is incompatible with nature and was never given to man to raise himself by his own power, from death to life. This was reserved for the almighty power of God, as we learn from these words of the Apostle: Although he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. This divine power, having never been separated, either from His body in the grave, or from His soul in hell, there existed a divine force both within the body, by which it could be again united to the soul, and within the soul, by which it could again return to the body. Thus He was able by His own power to return to life and rise from the dead.
This David, filled with the spirit of God, foretold in these words: His right hand hath wrought for him salvation, and his arm is holy. Our Lord confirmed this by the divine testimony of His own mouth when He said: I lay down my life that I may take it again . . . and I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it up again. To the Jews He also said, in corroboration of His doctrine: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Although the Jews understood Him to have spoken thus of that magnificent Temple built of stone, yet as the Scripture testifies in the same place, he spoke of the temple of his body. We sometimes, it is true, read in Scripture that He was raised by the Father; but this refers to Him as man, just as those passages on the other hand, which say that He rose by His own power relate to Him as God.
"From the Dead"
It is also the peculiar privilege of Christ to have been the first who enjoyed this divine prerogative of rising from the dead, for He is called in Scripture the first-begotten from the dead, and also the first-born of the dead. The Apostle also says: Christ is risen from the dead, the first-fruits of them that sleep: for by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But every one in his own order: the first-fruits Christ, then they that are of Christ.
These words of the Apostle are to be understood of a perfect resurrection, by which we are raised to an immortal life and are no longer subject to the necessity of dying. In this resurrection Christ the Lord holds the first place; for if we speak of resurrection; that is, of a return to life, subject to the necessity of again dying, many were thus raised from the dead before Christ, all of whom, however, were restored to life to die again. But Christ the Lord, having subdued and conquered death, so arose that He could die no morel according to' this most clear testimony: Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over him.
"The Third Day"
In explanation of the additional words of the Article, the third day, the pastor should inform the people that they must not think our Lord remained in the grave during the whole of these three days. But as He lay in the sepulchre one full day, a part of the preceding and a part of the following day, He is said, with strictest truth, to have lain in the grave for three days, and on the third day to have risen again from the dead.
To prove that He was God He did not delay His Resurrection to the end of the world; while, on the other hand, to convince us that He was truly man and really died, He rose not immediately, but on the third day after His death, a space of time sufficient to prove the reality of His death.
"According to the Scriptures"
Here the Fathers of the first Council of Constantinople added the words, according to the Scriptures, which they took from St. Paul. These words they embodied with the Creed, because the same Apostle teaches the absolute necessity of the mystery of the Resurrection when he says: If Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain . . . for you are yet in your sins. Hence,, admiring our belief of this Article St. Augustine says: It is no great thing to believe that Christ died. This the pagans, Jews, and all the wicked believe; in a word, all believe that Christ died. But that He rose from the dead is the belief of the Christians. To believe that He rose again, this we deem of great moment.
Hence it is that our Lord very frequently spoke to His disciples of His Resurrection, and seldom or never of His Passion without adverting to His Resurrection. Thus, when He said: The son of man . . . shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and scourged, and spit upon; and after they have scourged him, they will put him to death; He added: and the third day he shall rise again.' Also when the Jews called upon Him to give an attestation of the truth of His doctrine by some miraculous sign He said: A sign shall not be given to them, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was in the whales belly three days and three nights: so shall the son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.
Three Useful Considerations on this Article
To understand still better the force and meaning of this Article, there are three things which we must consider and understand: first, why the Resurrection was necessary; secondly, its end and object; thirdly, the blessings and advantages of which it is to us the source.
Necessity Of The Resurrection
With regard to the first, it was necessary that Christ should rise again in order to manifest the justice of God; for it was most congruous that He who through obedience to God was degraded, and loaded with ignominy, should by Him be exalted. This is a reason assigned by the Apostle when he says to the Philippians: He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him. He rose also to confirm our faith, which is necessary for justification; for the Resurrection of Christ from the dead by His own power affords an irrefragable proof that He was the Son of God. Again the Resurrection nourishes and sustains our hope. As Christ rose again, we rest on an assured hope that we too shall rise again; the members must necessarily arrive at the condition of their head. This is the conclusion which St. Paul seems to draw when he writes to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians.' And Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, says: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy hath regenerated us unto a lively nope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto the inheritance incorruptible.
Finally, the Resurrection of our Lord, as the pastor should inculcate, was necessary to complete the mystery of our salvation and redemption. By His death Christ liberated us from sin; by His Resurrection, He restored to us the most important of those privileges which we had forfeited by sin. Hence these words of the Apostle: He was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification. That nothing, therefore, may be wanting to the work of our salvation, it was necessary that as He died, He should also rise again.'
Ends Of The Resurrection
From what has been said we can perceive what important advantages the Resurrection of Christ the Lord has conferred on the faithful. In the Resurrection we acknowledge God to be immortal, full of glory, the conqueror of death and the devil; and all this we are firmly to believe and openly to profess of Christ Jesus.
Again, the Resurrection of Christ effects for us the resurrection of our bodies not only because it was the efficient cause of this mystery, but also because we all ought to arise after the example of the Lord. For with regard to the resurrection of the body we have this testimony of the Apostle: By a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead. In all that God did to accomplish the mystery of our redemption He made use of the humanity of Christ as an effective instrument, and hence His Resurrection was, as it were, an instrument for the accomplishment of our resurrection.
It may also be called the model of ours, inasmuch as His Resurrection was the most perfect of all. And as His body, rising to immortal glory, was changed, so shall our bodies also, before frail and mortal, be restored and clothed with glory and immortality. In the language of the Apostle: We look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, who will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of his glory.
The same may be said of a soul dead in sin. How the Resurrection of Christ is proposed to such a soul as the model of her resurrection the same Apostle shows in these words: As Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Again a little further on he says: Knowing that Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over him. For in that he died to sin, he died once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God: so do you also reckon, that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus.
Advantages Of The: Resurrection
From the Resurrection of Christ, therefore, we should draw two lessons: the one, that after we have washed away the stains of sin, we should begin to lead a new life, distinguished by integrity, innocence, holiness, modesty, justice, beneficence and humility; the other, that we should so persevere in that newness of life as never more, with the divine assistance, to stray from the paths of virtue on which we have once entered.
Nor do the words of the Apostle prove only that the Resurrection of Christ is proposed as the model of our resurrection; they also declare that it gives us power to rise again, and imparts to us strength and courage to persevere in holiness and righteousness, and in the observance of the Commandments of God. For as His death not only furnishes us with an example, but also supplies us with strength to die to sin, so also His Resurrection invigorates us to attain righteousness, so that thenceforward serving God in piety and holiness, we may walk in the newness of life to which we have risen. By His Resurrection, our Lord accomplished this especially that we, who before died with Him to sin and to the world, should rise also with Him to a new order and manner of life.
Signs Of Spiritual Resurrection
The principal signs of this resurrection from sin which should be noted are taught us by the Apostle. For when he says: If you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, he distinctly tells us that they who desire to possess life, honour, repose and riches, there chiefly where Christ dwells, have truly risen with Christ.
When he adds: Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth, he gives, as it were, another sign by which we may ascertain if we have truly risen with Christ. As a relish for food usually indicates a healthy state of the body, so with regard to the soul, if a person relishes whatever things are true, whatever modest, whatever just, whatever holy, and experiences within him the sweetness of heavenly things, this we may consider a very strong proof that such a one has risen with Christ Jesus to a new and spiritual life.
ARTICLE VI : "HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN, SITTETH AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY"
Importance Of This Article
Filled with the Spirit of God, and contemplating the blessed and glorious Ascension of our Lord, the Prophet David exhorts all to celebrate that splendid triumph with the greatest joy and gladness: Clap your hands, all ye nations: shout unto God with he voice of joy.... God is ascended with jubilee.
The pastor will hence learn that this mystery should be explained with the greatest diligence; and that he should take care that the people not only perceive it with faith and understanding, but that they also strive as far as possible, with the Lord's help to reflect it in their lives and actions.
First Part of this Article: "He Ascended into Heaven"
With regard, then, to the exposition of this sixth Article, which has reference principally to this divine mystery, we shall begin with its first part, and point out its force and meaning.
This, then, the faithful must believe without hesitation, that Jesus Christ, having fully accomplished the work of Redemption, ascended as man, body and soul, into heaven; for as God He never forsook heaven, filling as He does all places with His Divinity.
The pastor is also to teach that He ascended by His own power, not being taken up by the power of another, as was Elias, who was carried to heaven in a fiery chariot; or, as the Prophet Habacuc, or Philip, the deacon, who were borne through the air by the divine power, and traversed great distances.
Neither did He ascend into heaven solely by the exercise of His supreme power as God, but also by virtue of the power which He possessed as man. Although human power alone was insufficient to accomplish this, yet the virtue with which the blessed soul of Christ was endowed was capable of moving the body as it pleased, and His body, now glorified, readily obeyed the behest of the soul that moved it. Hence, we believe that Christ ascended into heaven as God and man by His own power.
Second Part of this Article: "Sitteth at the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty"
The words He sitteth at the right hand of the Father form the second part of this Article. In these words we observe a figure of speech; that is, a use of words in other than their literal sense, as frequently happens in Scripture, when, accommodating its language to human ideas, it attributes human affections and human members to God, who, spirit as He is, admits of nothing corporeal.
"At the Right Hand"
As among men he who sits at the right hand is considered to occupy the most honourable place, so, transferring the same idea to celestial things, to express the glory which Christ as man has obtained above all others, we confess that He sits at the right hand of the Father.
To sit does not imply here position and posture of body, but expresses the firm and permanent possession of royal and supreme power and glory which He received from the Father, and of which the Apostle says: Raising him up from the dead, and setting him on his right hand in the heavenly places, above all principality, and power, and virtue, and domination, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and he hath subjected all things under his feet. These words manifestly imply that this glory belongs to our Lord in so special and exclusive a manner that it cannot apply to any other created being. Hence in another place the Apostle testifies: To which of the angels said he at any time: Sit on my right hand.
Reflections on the Ascension:
The pastor should explain the sense of the Article more at length by detailing the history of the Ascension, of which the Evangelist St. Luke has left us an orderly description in the Acts of the Apostles.
Greatness Of This Mystery
In this exposition he should observe, in the first place, that all other mysteries refer to the Ascension as to their end and find in it their perfection and completion; for as all the mysteries of religion commence with the Incarnation of our Lord, so His sojourn on earth terminates with His Ascension.
Moreover the other Articles of the Creed which regard Christ the Lord show His great humility and lowliness. Nothing can be conceived more humble, nothing more lowly, than that the Son of God assumed our weak human nature, and suffered and died for us. But nothing more magnificently, nothing more admirably, proclaims His sovereign glory and divine majesty than what is contained in the present and in the preceding Article, in which we declare that He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father.
Reasons Of The Ascension
When the pastor has explained these truths, he should next accurately show why Christ the Lord ascended into heaven.
First of all, He ascended because the glorious kingdom of the highest heavens, not the obscure abode of this earth, presented a suitable dwelling place for Him whose body, rising from the tomb, was clothed with the glory of immortality.
He ascended, however, not only to possess the throne of glory and the kingdom which He had merited by His blood, but also to attend to whatever regards our salvation.
Again, He ascended to prove thereby that His kingdom is not of this world. For the kingdoms of this world are earthly and transient, and are based upon wealth and the power of the flesh; but the kingdom of Christ is not, as the Jews expected, earthly, but spiritual and eternal. Its resources and riches, too, are spiritual, as He showed by placing His throne in the heavens, where they are counted richer and wealthier who seek most earnestly the things that are of God, according to these words of St. James: Hath not God chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love him?
He also ascended into heaven in order to teach us to follow Him thither in mind and heart. For as by His death and Resurrection He bequeathed to us an example of dying and rising again in spirit, so by His Ascension He teaches and instructs us that though dwelling on earth, we should raise ourselves in desire to heaven, confessing that we are pilgrims and strangers on the earth, seeking a country and that we are fellow-citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God, for, says the same Apostle, our conversation is in heaven
Results Of The Ascension
The extent and greatness of the unutterable blessings which the bounty of God has showered on us were long before, as the Apostle interprets, sung by the inspired David: Ascending on high, he led captivity captive: He gave gifts to men.' For on the tenth day He sent down the Holy Ghost, with whose power and plenitude He filled the multitude of the faithful then present, and so fulfilled that splendid promise: It is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
He also ascended into heaven, according to the Apostle, that he may appear in the presence of God f or us, and discharge for us the office of advocate with the Father. My little children, says St. John, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. But if any man sin, we have an. advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just: and he is the propitiation for our sins. There is nothing from which the faithful should derive greater joy and gladness of soul than from the reflection that Jesus Christ is constituted our advocate and the mediator of our salvation with the Eternal Father, with whom His influence and authority are supreme.
Finally, by His Ascension He has prepared for us a place, as He had promised, and has entered, as our head, in the name of us all, into the possession of the glory of heaven." Ascending into heaven, He threw open its gates, which had been closed by the sin of Adam; and, as He foretold to His disciples at His Last Supper, secured to us a way by which we may arrive at eternal happiness. In order to give an open proof of this by its fulfilment, He introduced with Himself into the mansions of eternal bliss the souls of the just whom He had liberated from hell.
Virtues Promoted By The Ascension.
A series of important advantages followed in the train of this admirable profusion of celestial gifts. In the first place, the merit of our faith was considerably augmented; because faith has for its object those things which fall not under the senses, but are far raised above the reach of human reason and intelligence. If, therefore, the Lord had not departed from us, the merit of our faith would not be the same; for Christ the Lord has said: Blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed
In the next place, the Ascension of Christ into heaven contributes much to confirm our hope. Believing that Christ, as man, ascended into heaven, and placed our nature at the right hand of God the Father, we are animated with a strong hope that we, as members, shall also ascend thither, to be there united to our Head, according to these words of our Lord Himself: Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given me may be with me
Another most important advantage is that He has taken our affections to heaven and inflamed them with the Spirit of God; for most truly has it been said that where our treasure is, there also is our heart. And, indeed, were Christ the Lord still dwelling on earth, the contemplation of His human nature and His company would absorb all our thoughts, and we should view the author of such blessings only as man, and cherish towards Him a sort of earthly affection. But by His Ascension into heaven He has spiritualised our affection and has made us venerate and love as God Him whom, on account of His absence, we see only in thought. This we learn in part from the example of the Apostles, who while our Lord was personally present with them, seemed to judge of Him in some measure in a human light; and in part from these words of our Lord Himself: It is expedient to you that I go. The imperfect affection with which they loved Christ Jesus when present had to be perfected by divine love, and that by the coming of the Holy Ghost; and therefore He immediately subjoins: If I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you.
The Ascension Benefits The Church And The Individual
Besides, He thus enlarged His household on earth, that is, His Church, which was to be governed by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. He left Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, as its chief pastor and supreme head upon earth; moreover he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors. Thus seated at the right hand of the Father He continually bestows different gifts on different men; for as the Apostle testifies: To every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ.
Finally, what we have already taught of the mystery of His death and Resurrection the faithful should deem not less true of His Ascension. For although we owe our Redemption and salvation to the Passion of Christ, whose merits opened heaven to the just, yet His Ascension is not only proposed to us as a model, which teaches us to look on high and ascend in spirit into heaven, but it also imparts to us a divine virtue which enables us to accomplish what it teaches.
ARTICLE VII : "FROM THENCE HE SHALL COME TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD"
Meaning Of This Article
For the glory and adornment of His Church Jesus Christ is invested with three eminent offices and functions: those of Redeemer, Mediator, and Judge. Since in the preceding Articles it was shown that the human race was redeemed by His Passion and death, and since by His Ascension into heaven it is manifest that He has undertaken the perpetual advocacy and patronage of our cause, it remains that in this Article we set forth His character as Judge. The scope and intent of the Article is to declare that on the last day Christ the Lord will judge the whole human race.
"From Thence He Shall Come"
The Sacred Scriptures inform us that there are two comings of the Son of God: the one when He assumed human flesh for our salvation in the womb of a virgin; the other when He shall come at the end of the world to judge all mankind. This latter coming is called in Scripture the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord, says the Apostle, shall come, as a thief in the night; and our Lord Himself says: Of that day and hour no one knoweth.
"To Judge the Living and the Dead"
In proof of the (last) judgment it is enough to adduce the authority of the Apostle: We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil. There are numerous passages of Sacred Scripture which the pastor will find in various places and which not only establish the truth of the dogma, but also place it in vivid colours before the eyes of the faithful. And if, from the beginning of the world that day of the Lord, on which He was clothed with our flesh, was sighed for by all as the foundation of their hope of deliverance; so also, after the death and Ascension of the Son of God, we should make that other day of the Lord the object of our most earnest desires, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God.'
In explaining this subject the pastor should distinguish two different occasions on which everyone must appear in the presence of the Lord to render an account of all his thoughts, words and actions, and to receive immediate sentence from his Judge.
The first takes place when each one of us departs this life; for then he is instantly placed before the judgment-seat of God, where all that he has ever done or spoken or thought during life shall be subjected to the most rigid scrutiny. This is called the particular judgment.
The second occurs when on the same day and in the same place all men shall stand together before the tribunal of their Judge, that in the presence and hearing of all human beings of all times each may know his final doom and sentence. The announcement of this judgment will constitute no small part of the pain and punishment of the wicked; whereas the good and just will derive great reward and consolation from the fact that it will then appear what each one was in life. This is called the general judgment.
Reasons For General Judgment
It is necessary to show why, besides the particular judgment of each individual, a general one should also be passed upon all men.
Those who depart this life sometimes leave behind them children who imitate their conduct, dependents, followers and others who admire and advocate their example, language and actions. Now by all these circumstances the rewards or punishments of the dead must needs be increased, since the good or bad influence of example, affecting as it does the conduct of many, is to terminate only with the end of the world. Justice demands that in order to form a proper estimate of all these good or bad actions and words a thorough investigation should be made. This, however, could not be without a general judgment of all men.
Moreover, as the character of the virtuous frequently suffers from misrepresentation, while that of the wicked obtains the commendation of virtue, the justice of God demands that the former recover, in the public assembly and judgment of all men, the good name of which they had been unjustly deprived before men.
Again, as the just and the wicked performed their good and evil actions in this life not without the cooperation of the body, it necessarily follows that these actions belong also to the body as to their instrument. It was, therefore, altogether suitable that the body should share with the soul the due rewards of eternal glory or punishment. But this can only be accomplished by means of a general resurrection and of a general judgment.
Next, it is important to prove that in prosperity and adversity, which are sometimes the promiscuous lot of the good and of the bad, everything is done and ordered by an all-wise and all-just Providence. It was, therefore, necessary not only that rewards should await the just and punishments the wicked, in the life to come, but that they should be awarded by a public and general judgment. Thus they will become better known and will be rendered more conspicuous to all; and in atonement for the unwarranted murmurings, to which on seeing the wicked abound in wealth and flourish in honours even the Saints themselves, as men, have sometimes given expression, a tribute of praise will be offered by all to the justice and Providence of God. My feet, says the Prophet, were almost moved, my steps had well nigh slipped, because I had a zeal on occasion of the wicked, seeing the prosperity of sinners; and a little after: Behold! these are sinners and yet abounding in the world, they have obtained riches; and I said, Then have I in vain justified my heart, and washed my hands among the innocent; and I have been scourged all the day, and my chastisement hath been in the morning. This has been the frequent complaint of many, and a general judgment is therefore necessary, lest perhaps men may be tempted to say that God walketh about the poles of heaven, and regards not the earth.
This Truth has Rightly been made an Article of the Creed
Wisely, therefore, has this truth been made one of the twelve Articles of the Christian Creed, so that should any begin to waver in mind concerning the Providence and justice of God they might be reassured by this doctrine.
Besides, it was right that the just should be encouraged by the hope, the wicked appalled by the terror, of a future judgment; so that knowing the justice of God the former should not be disheartened, while the latter through fear and expectation of eternal punishment might be recalled from the paths of vice. Hence, speaking of the last day, our Lord and Saviour declares that a general judgment will one day take place, and He describes the signs of its approach, that seeing them, we may know that the end of the world is at hand. At His Ascension also, to console His Apostles, overwhelmed with grief at His departure, He sent Angels, who said to them: This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven
Circumstances of the Judgment:
That the judgment of the world has been assigned to Christ the Lord, not only as God, but also as man, is declared in Scripture. Although the power of judging is common to all the Persons of the Blessed Trinity, yet it is specially attributed to the Son, because to Him also in a special manner is ascribed wisdom. But that as man, He will judge the world, is taught by our Lord Himself when He says: As the Father hath life in himself, so he hath given to the Son also, to have life in himself; and he hath given him power to do judgment, because he is the son of man.
There is a peculiar propriety in Christ the Lord sitting in judgment; for sentence is to be pronounced on mankind, and they are thus enabled to see their Judge with their eyes and hear Him with their ears, and so learn their judgment through the medium of the senses.
Most just is it also that He who was most iniquitously condemned by the judgment of men should Himself be afterwards seen by all men sitting in judgment on all. Hence when the Prince of the Apostles had expounded in the house of Cornelius the chief dogmas of Christianity, and had taught that Christ was suspended from a cross and put to death by the Jews and rose the third lay to life, he added: And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that this is he, who was appointed of God, to be the judge of the living and the dead.
Signs Of The General Judgment
The Sacred Scriptures inform us that the general judgment will be preceded by these three principal signs: the preaching of the Gospel throughout the world, a falling away from the faith, and the coming of Antichrist. This gospel of the kingdom, says our Lord, shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come. The Apostle also admonishes us that we be not seduced by anyone, as if the day of the Lord were at hand; for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the judgement will not come.
The Sentence Of The Just
The form and procedure of this judgment the pastor will easily learn from the prophecies of Daniel, the writings of the Evangelists and the doctrine of the Apostle. The sentence to be pronounced by the judge is here deserving of more than ordinary attention.
Looking with joyful countenance on the just standing on His right, Christ our Redeemer will pronounce sentence on them with the greatest benignity, in these words: Come ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. That nothing can be conceived more delightful to the ear than these words, we shall understand if we only compare them with the condemnation of the wicked; and call to mind, that by them the just are invited from labor to rest, from the vale of tears to supreme joy, from misery to eternal happiness, the reward of their works of charity.
The Sentence Of The Wicked
Turning next to those who shall stand on His left, He will pour out His justice upon them in these words: Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared f or the devil and his angels.
The first words, depart from me, express the heaviest punishment with which the wicked shall be visited, their eternal banishment from the sight of God, unrelieved by one consolatory hope of ever recovering so great a good. This punishment is called by theologians the pain of loss, because in hell the wicked shall be deprived forever of the light of the vision of God.
The words ye cursed, which follow, increase unutterably their wretched and calamitous condition. If when banished from the divine presence they were deemed worthy to receive some benediction, this would be to them a great source of consolation. But since they can expect nothing of this kind as an alleviation of their misery, the divine justice deservedly pursues them with every species of malediction, once they have been banished.
The next words, into everlasting fire, express another sort of punishment, which is called by theologians the pain of sense, because, like lashes, stripes or other more severe chastisements, among which fire, no doubt, produces the most intense pain, it is felt through the organs of sense. When, moreover, we reflect that this torment is to be eternal, we can see at once that the punishment of the damned includes every kind of suffering.
The concluding words, which was prepared f or the devil and his angels, make this still more clear. For since nature has so provided that we feel miseries less when we have companions and sharers in them who can, at least in some measure, assist us by their advice and kindness, what must be the horrible state of the damned who in such calamities can never separate themselves from the companionship of most wicked demons ? And yet most justly shall this very sentence be pronounced by our Lord and Saviour on those sinners who neglected all the works of true mercy, who gave neither food to the hungry, nor drink to the thirsty, who refused shelter to the stranger and clothing to the naked, and who would not visit the sick and the imprisoned.
Importance of Instruction on this Article
These are thoughts which the pastor should very often bring to the attention of his people; for the truth which is contained in this Article will, if accepted with faithful dispositions, be most powerful in bridling the evil inclinations of the heart and in withdrawing men from sin. Hence we read in Ecclesiasticus: In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.' And indeed there is scarcely anyone so given over to vice as not to be recalled to virtue by the thought that he must one day render an account before an all-just Judge, not only of all his words and actions, but even of his most secret thoughts, and must suffer punishment according to his deserts.
On the other hand, the just man will be more and more encouraged to lead a good life. Even though his days be passed in poverty, ignominy and suffering, he must be gladdened exceedingly when he looks forward to that day when, the conflicts of this wretched life being over, he shall be declared victorious in the hearing of all men, and shall be admitted into his heavenly country to be crowned with divine honours that shall never fade.
It only remains, then, for the pastor to exhort the faithful to lead holy lives and practice every virtue, that thus they may be enabled to look forward with confidence to the coming of that great day of the Lord -- nay, as becomes children, even to desire it most fervently.
ARTICLE VIII : "I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY GHOST"
Importance Of This Article
Hitherto we have expounded, as far as the nature of the subject seemed to require, what pertains to the First and Second Per sons of the Holy Trinity. It now remains to explain what the Creed contains with regard to the Third Person, the Holy Ghost.
On this subject the pastor should omit nothing that study and industry can effect; for on this Article, no less than on those that preceded, ignorance or error would be unpardonable in a Christian. Hence, the Apostle did not permit some among the Ephesians to remain in ignorance with regard to the Person of the Holy Ghost. Having asked if they had received the Holy Ghost, and having received for answer that they did not so much as know that there was a Holy, Ghost, he at once demanded: In whom, therefore, were you baptised? to signify that a distinct knowledge of this Article is most necessary to the faithful.
From such knowledge they derive special fruit. For, considering attentively that whatever they have, they possess through the bounty and beneficence of the Holy Spirit, they begin to think more modestly and humbly of themselves, and to place all their hopes in the protection of God, which for a Christian is the first step towards consummate wisdom and supreme happiness.
The exposition of this Article, therefore, should begin with the force and meaning here attached to the words Holy Ghost. This appellation is equally true when applied to the Father and the Son, since both are spirit, both holy, and we confess that God is a Spirit; this name may also be applied to Angels, and the souls of the just. Care must be taken, therefore, that the faithful be not led into error by the ambiguity of the words.
The pastor, then, should teach that by the words Holy Ghost in this Article is understood the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, a sense in which they are used, sometimes in the Old, and frequently in the New Testament. Thus David prays: Take not thy Holy Spirit from me; and in the Book of Wisdom we read: Who shall know thy thoughts, except thou give wisdom, and send thy Holy Spirit from above? And in another place it is said: He created her in the Holy Ghost.' We are also commanded, in the New Testament to be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. We read that the most holy Virgin conceived of the Holy Ghost; and we are sent by St. John to Christ, who baptizeth us in the Holy Ghost.' There are many other passages in which the words Holy Ghost occur.
No one should be surprised that a proper name is not given to the Third, as to the First and Second Persons. The Second Person is designated by a proper name, and called Son, because, as has been explained in the preceding Articles, His eternal birth from the Father is properly called generation. As, therefore, that birth is expressed by the word generation, so the Person, emanating from that generation, is properly called Son, and the Person, from whom he emanates, Father.
But as the production of the Third Person has no proper name, but is called spiration and procession, the Person produced is, consequently, designated by no proper name. His emanation has no proper name simply because we are obliged to borrow from created objects the names given to God and know no other created means of communicating nature and essence than that of generation. Hence we cannot discover a proper name to express the manner in which God communicates Himself entire, by the force of His love. Wherefore we call the Third Person Holy Ghost, a name, however, peculiarly appropriate to Him who infuses into us spiritual life, and without whose holy inspiration we can do nothing meritorious of eternal life.
"I Believe in the Holy Ghost"
The Holy Ghost Is Equal To The Father And The Son
The people, when once acquainted with the meaning of His name, should first of all be taught that the Holy Ghost is equally God with the Father and the Son, equally omnipotent and eternal, infinitely perfect, the supreme good, infinitely wise, and of the same nature as the Father and the Son.
All this is obviously enough implied by the force of the word in, when we say: I believe in the Holy Ghost; for this preposition is prefixed to each Person of the Trinity in order to express the exact nature of our faith.
The Divinity of the Holy Ghost is also clearly established by many passages of Scripture. When, in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter says, Ananias, Why hast thou conceived this thing in thy heart? he immediately adds: Thou hast not lied to men, but to God, calling Him God to whom he had just before given the name Holy Ghost.
The Apostle, also, writing to the Corinthians, interprets what he says of God as said of the Holy Ghost. There are, he says, diversities of operations, but the same God, who worketh all in all; but, he continues, all these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will.
In the Acts of the Apostles also what the Prophets attribute to God alone, St. Paul ascribes to the Holy. Ghost. Thus Isaias had said: I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send? . . . And he said: Go, and thou shalt say to this people: Blind the heart of this people, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears. Having cited these words, the Apostle adds: Well did the Holy Ghost speak to our fathers, by Isaias the prophet.
Again, the Sacred Scriptures join the Person of the Holy Ghost to those of the Father and the Son, as, for example, when Baptism is commanded to be administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. There is thus no room left us of doubting the truth of this mystery. For if the Father is God, and the Son God, we must admit that the Holy Ghost, who is united with Them in the same degree of honour, is also God.
Besides, baptism administered in the name of any creature can be of no effect. Were you baptised in the name of Paul? says the Apostle, to show that such baptism could have availed nothing to salvation. Since, therefore, we are baptised in the name of the Holy Ghost, we must acknowledge the Holy Ghost to be God.
This same order of the Three Persons, which proves the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, is also found in the Epistle of St. John: There are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one; and also in that noble eulogy of the Holy Trinity, with which the Divine Praises and the Psalms are concluded: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
Finally, what most strongly confirms this truth is the fact that Holy Scripture assigns to the Holy Ghost whatever attributes we believe proper to God. Wherefore to Him is ascribed the honour of temples, as when the Apostle says: Know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost? Scripture also attributes to Him the power to sanctify, to vivify, to search the depths of God, to speak by the Prophets, and to be present in all places, all of which can be attributed to God alone.
The Holy Ghost Is Distinct From The Father And The Son
The pastor should also accurately explain to the faithful that the Holy Ghost is not only God, but that we must also confess that He is the Third Person of the Divine Nature, distinct from the Father and the Son, and produced by Their will.
To say nothing of other testimonies of Scripture, the form of Baptism, taught by our Redeemer,' shows most clearly that the Holy Ghost is the Third Person, self-existent in the Divine Nature and distinct from the other Persons. It is a doctrine taught also by the Apostle when he says: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity of God, and the communication of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
This same truth is still more explicitly declared in these words added to this Article of the Creed by the Fathers of the First Council of Constantinople to refute the impious folly of Macedonius: And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, and the Son; who together with the Father and the Son, is adored and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
By confessing the Holy Ghost to be Lord they declare how far He excels the Angels, who are the noblest spirits created by God; for they are all, says the Apostle, ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation.
They also designate the Holy Ghost the giver of life because the soul lives more by its union with God than the body is nourished and sustained by its union with the soul. Since then, the Sacred Scriptures ascribe to the Holy Ghost this union of the soul with God, it is clear that He is most rightly called the giver of life.
"Who Proceedeth from the Father and the Son"
With regard to the words immediately succeeding: who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, the faithful are to be taught that the Holy Ghost proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son, as from one principle. This truth is proposed for our belief by the Creed of the Church, from which no Christian may depart, and is confirmed by the authority of the Sacred Scriptures and of Councils.
Christ the Lord, speaking of the Holy Ghost, says: He shall glorify me, because he shall receive of mine. We also find that the Holy Ghost is sometimes called in Scripture the Spirit of Christ, sometimes, the Spirit of the Father; that He is one time said to be sent by the Father, another time, by the Son, -- all of which clearly signifies that He proceeds alike from the Father and the Son. He, says St. Paul, who has not the Spirit of Christ belongs not to him. In his Epistle to the Galatians he also calls the Holy Ghost the Spirit of Christ: God hath sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying: Abba, Father. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, He is called the Spirit of the Father: It is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.
Our Lord said, at His Last Supper: When the Paraclete cometh whom I will send you, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me. On another occasion, that the Holy Ghost will be sent by the Father, He declares in these words: whom the Father will send in my name. Understanding these words to denote the procession of the Holy Ghost, we come to the inevitable conclusion that He proceeds from both Father and Son.
The above are the truths that should be taught with regard to the Person of the Holy Ghost.
Certain Divine Works are Appropriated to the Holy Ghost
It is also the duty of the pastor to teach that there are certain admirable effects, certain excellent gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are said to originate and emanate from Him, as from a perennial fountain of goodness. Although the intrinsic works of the most Holy Trinity are common to the Three Persons, yet many of them are attributed specially to the Holy Ghost, to signify that they arise from the boundless charity of God towards us. For as the Holy Ghost proceeds from the divine will, inflamed, as it were, with love, we can perceive that these effects which are referred particularly to the Holy Ghost, are the result of God's supreme love for us.
Hence it is that the Holy Ghost is called a gift; for by the word gift we understand that which is kindly and gratuitously bestowed, without expectation of any return. Whatever gifts and graces, therefore, have been conferred on us by God -- and what have we, says the Apostle, that we have not received from God? -- we should piously and gratefully acknowledge as bestowed by the grace and gift of the Holy Ghost.
Creation, Government, Life
These gifts of the Holy Ghost are numerous. Not to mention the creation of the world, the propagation and government of all created beings, discussed in the first Article, we have just shown that the giving of life is particularly attributed to the Holy Ghost, and this is further confirmed by the testimony of Ezechiel: I will give you spirit and you shall live.
The Seven Gifts
The Prophet (Isaias), however, enumerates the chief effects which are most properly ascribed to the Holy Ghost: The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety, and the spirit of the fear of the Lord. These effects are called the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and sometimes they are even called the Holy Ghost. Wisely, therefore, does St. Augustine admonish us, whenever we meet the word Holy Ghost in Scripture, to distinguish whether it means the Third Person of the Trinity or His gifts and operations.-' The two are as far apart as the Creator is from the creature.
The diligence of the pastor in expounding these truths should be the greater, since it is from these gifts of the Holy Ghost that we derive rules of Christian life and are enabled to know if the Holy Ghost dwells within us.
But the grace of justification, which signs us with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance,' transcends all His other most ample gifts. It unites us to God in the closest bonds of love, lights up within us the sacred flame of piety, forms us to newness of life, renders us partakers of the divine nature, and enables us to be called and really to be the sons of God.
ARTICLE IX : "I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH; THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS"
The Importance Of This Article
With what great diligence pastors ought to explain to the faithful the truth of this ninth Article will be easily seen, if we attend chiefly to two considerations.
First, as St. Augustine observes, the Prophets spoke more plainly and openly of the Church than of Christ, foreseeing that on this a much greater number may err and be deceived than on the mystery of the Incarnation. For in after ages there would not be wanting wicked men who, like the ape that would fain pass for a man, would claim that they alone were Catholics, and with no less impiety than effrontery assert that with them alone is the Catholic Church.
The second consideration is that he whose mind is strongly impressed with the truth taught in this Article, will easily escape the awful danger of heresy. For a person is not to be called a heretic as soon as he shall have offended in matters of faith; but he is a heretic who, having disregarded the authority of the Church, maintains impious opinions with pertinacity. Since, therefore, it is impossible that anyone be infected with the contagion of heresy, so long as he holds what this Article proposes to be believed, let pastors use every diligence that the faithful, having known this mystery and guarded against the wiles of Satan, may persevere in the true faith.
This Article hinges upon the preceding one; for, it having been already shown that the Holy Ghost is the source and giver of all holiness, we here profess our belief that the Church has been endowed by Him with sanctity.
First Part Of This Article : "I Believe In The Holy Catholic Church
The Latins, having borrowed the word ecclesia (church) from the Greeks, have transferred it, since the preaching of the Gospel, to sacred things. It becomes necessary, therefore, to explain its meaning.
The word ecclesia (church) means a calling forth. But writers afterward used it to signify a meeting or assembly, whether the people gathered together were members of a true or of a false religion. Thus in the Acts it is written of the people of Ephesus that when the town-clerk had appeased a tumultuous assemblage he said: And if you inquire after any other matter, it may be decided in a lawful church. The Ephesians, who were worshippers of Diana, are thus called a lawful church (ecclesia). Nor are the Gentiles only, who knew not God, called a church (ecclesia); by the same name at times are also designated the councils of wicked and impious men. I have hated the church (ecclesiam) of the malignant, says the Prophet, and with the wicked I will not sit.
In common Scripture usage, however, the word was subsequently employed to signify the Christian society only, and the assemblies of the faithful; that is, of those who are called by faith to the light of truth and the knowledge of God, that, having forsaken the darkness of ignorance and error, they may worship the living and true God piously and holily, and serve Him from their whole heart. In a word, The Church, says St. Augustine, consists of the faithful dispersed throughout the world.'
Mysteries Which The Word Church Comprises
In this word are contained important mysteries. For, in the calling forth, which it signifies, we recognise at once the benignity and splendour of divine grace, and we understand that the Church is very unlike all other societies. Other bodies rest on human reason and prudence, but the Church reposes on the wisdom and counsels of God who has called us inwardly by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, who opens the hearts of men; and outwardly, through the labor and ministry of pastors and preachers.
Moreover, the end of this vocation, that is, the knowledge and possession of things eternal will be at once understood if we but remember why the faithful of the Old Law were called a Synagogue, that is, a flock for, as St. Augustine teaches, they were so called, because, like cattle, which are wont to herd together. they looked only to terrestrial and transitory goods. Wherefore, the Christian people are justly called, not a Synagogue, but a Church, because, despising earthly and passing things, they pursue only things heavenly and eternal.
Other Names Given The Church In Scripture
Many names, moreover, which are replete with mysteries, have been used to designate the Christian body. Thus, by the Apostle, it is called the house and edifice of God. If, says he to Timothy, I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth. The Church is called a house, because it is, as it were, one family governed by one father of the family, and enjoying a community of all spiritual goods.
It is also called the flock of the sheep of Christ, of which He is the door and the shepherd. It is called the spouse of Christ. I have espoused you to one husband, says the Apostle to the Corinthians, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ; and to the Ephesians: Husbands love your wives, as Christ also loved the church; and of marriage: This is a great sacrament, but I speak in Christ and in the church.
Finally, the Church is called the body of Christ, as may be seen in the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians. Each of these appellations has very great influence in exciting the faithful to prove themselves worthy of the boundless clemency and goodness of God, who chose them to be the people of God.
The Parts of the Church
These things having been explained, it will be necessary to enumerate the several component parts of the Church, and to point out their difference, in order that the faithful may the better comprehend the nature, properties, gifts, and graces of God's beloved Church, and by reason of them unceasingly praise the most holy name of God.
The Church consists principally of two parts, the one called the Church triumphant; the other, the Church militant. The Church triumphant is that most glorious and happy assemblage of blessed spirits, and of those who have triumphed over the world, the flesh, and the iniquity of Satan, and are now exempt and safe from the troubles of this life and enjoy everlasting bliss. The Church militant is the society of all the faithful still dwelling on earth. It is called militant, because it wages eternal war with those implacable enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil.
We are not, however, to infer that there are two Churches. The Church triumphant and the Church militant are two constituent parts of one Church; one part going before, and now in the possession of its heavenly country; the other, following every day, until at length, united with our Saviour, it shall repose in endless felicity.
The Members Of The Church Militant
The Church militant is composed of two classes of persons, the good and the bad, both professing the same faith and partaking of the same Sacraments, yet differing in their manner of life and morality.
The good are those who are linked together not only by the profession of the same faith, and the participation of the same Sacraments, but also by the spirit of grace and the bond of charity. Of these St. Paul says: The Lord knoweth who are his. Who they are that compose this class we also may remotely conjecture, but we can by no means pronounce with certainty. Hence Christ the Saviour does not speak of this portion of His Church when He refers us to the Church and commands us to hear and to obey her. As this part of the Church is unknown, how could we ascertain with certainty whose decision to recur to, whose authority to obey?
The Church, therefore, as the Scriptures and the writings of the Saints testify, includes within her fold the good and the bad; and it was in this sense that St. Paul spoke of one body and one spirit. Thus understood, the Church is known and is compared to a city built on a mountain, and visible from every side. As all must yield obedience to her authority, it is necessary that she may-be known by all.
That the Church is composed of the good and the bad we learn from many parables contained in the Gospel. Thus, the kingdom of heaven, that is, the Church militant, is compared to a net cast into the sea, to a field in which tares were sown with the good grain, to a threshing floor on which the grain is mixed up with the chaff, and also to ten virgins, some of whom were wise, and some foolish. And long before, we trace a figure and resemblance of this Church in the ark of Noah, which contained not only clean, but also unclean animals.
But although the Catholic faith uniformly and truly teaches that the good and the bad belong to the Church, yet the same faith declares that the condition of both is very different. The wicked are contained in the Church, as the chaff is mingled with the grain on the threshing floor, or as dead members sometimes remain attached to a living body.
Those Who Are Not Members Of The Church
Hence there are but three classes of persons excluded from the Church's pale: infidels, heretics and schismatics, and excommunicated persons. Infidels are outside the Church because they never belonged to, and never knew the Church, and were never made partakers of any of her Sacraments. Heretics and schismatics are excluded from the Church, because they have separated from her and belong to her only as deserters belong to the army from which they have deserted. It is not, however, to be denied that they are still subject to the jurisdiction of the Church, inasmuch as they may be called before her tribunals, punished and anathematised. Finally, excommunicated persons are not members of the Church, because they have been cut off by her sentence from the number of her children and belong not to her communion until they repent.
But with regard to the rest, however wicked and evil they may be, it is certain that they still belong to the Church: Of this the faithful are frequently to be reminded, in order to be convinced that, were even the lives of her ministers debased by crime, they are still within the Church, and therefore lose nothing of their power.
Other Uses of the Word "Church"
Portions of the Universal Church are usually called churches, as when the Apostle mentions the Church at Corinth, at Galatia, of the Laodiceans, of the Thessalonians.
The private families of the faithful he also calls churches. The church in the family of Priscilla and Aquila he commands to be saluted; and in another place, he says: Aquila and Priscilla with the church that is in their house salute you much in the Lord. Writing to Philemon, he makes use of the same word.
Sometimes, also, the word church is used to signify the prelates and pastors of the church. If he will not hear thee, says our Lord, tell the church. Here the word church means the authorities of the-Church.
The place in which the faithful assemble to hear the Word of God, or for other religious purposes, is also called a church. But in this Article, the word church is specially used to signify both the good and the bad, the governed, as well as the governing.
The Marks Of The Church
The distinctive marks of the Church are also to be made known to the faithful, that thus they may be enabled to estimate the extent of the blessing conferred by God on those who have had the happiness to be born and educated within her pale.
The first mark of the true Church is described in the Nicene Creed, and consists in unity: My dove is one, my beautiful one is one. So vast a multitude, scattered far and wide, is called one for the reasons mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians: One Lord, one faith, one baptism.
Unity In Government
The Church has but one ruler and one governor, the invisible one, Christ, whom the eternal Father hath made head over all the Church, which is his body; the visible one, the Pope, who, as legitimate successor of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, fills the Apostolic chair.
It is the unanimous teaching of the Fathers that this visible head is necessary to establish and preserve unity in the Church. This St. Jerome clearly perceived and as clearly expressed when, in his work against Jovinian, he wrote: One is elected that, by the appointment of a head, all occasion of schism may be removed. In his letter to Pope Damasus the same holy Doctor writes: Away with envy, let the ambition of Roman grandeur cease! I speak to the successor of the fisherman, and to the disciple of the cross. Following no chief but Christ, I am united in communion with your Holiness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that on that rock is built the Church. Whoever will eat the lamb outside this house is profane; whoever is not in the ark of Noah shall perish in the .flood.
The same doctrine was long before established by Saints Irenaeus and Cyprian. The latter, speaking of the unity of the Church observes: The Lord said to Peter, I say to thee, Peter! thou art Peter: and upon this rock I will build my Church. He builds His Church on one. And although after His Resurrection He gave equal power to all His Apostles, saying: As the Father hath sent me, I also send you, receive ye the Holy Ghost; yet to make unity more manifest, He decided by His own authority that it should be derived from one alone, etc.
Again, Optatus of Milevi says: You cannot be excused on the score of ignorance, knowing as you do that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was first conferred on Peter, who occupied it as head of the Apostles; in order that in that one chair the unity of the Church might be preserved by all, and that the other Apostles might not claim each a chair for himself; so that now he who erects another in opposition to this single chair is a schismatic and a prevaricator.
Later on St. Basil wrote: Peter is made the foundation, because he says: Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God; and hears in reply that he is a rock. But although a rock, he is not such a rock as Christ; for Christ is truly an immovable rock, but Peter, only by virtue of that rock. For Jesus bestows His dignities on others; He is a priest, and He makes priests; a rock, and He makes a rock; what belongs to Himself, He bestows on His servants.
Lastly, St. Ambrose says: Because he alone of all of them professed (Christ) he was placed above all.
Should anyone object that the Church is content with one Head and one Spouse, Jesus Christ, and requires no other, the answer is obvious. For as we deem Christ not only the author of all the Sacraments, but also their invisible minister -- He it is who baptises, He it is who absolves, although men are appointed by Him the external ministers of the Sacraments -- so has He placed over His Church, which He governs by His invisible Spirit, a man to be His vicar and the minister of His power. A visible Church requires a visible head; therefore the Saviour appointed Peter head and pastor of all the faithful, when He committed to his care the feeding of all His sheep, in such ample terms that He willed the very same power of ruling and governing the entire Church to descend to Peter's successors.
Unity In Spirit, Hope And Faith
Moreover, the Apostle, writing to the Corinthians, tells them that there is but one and the same Spirit who imparts grace to the faithful, as the soul communicates life to the members of the body. Exhorting the Ephesians to preserve this unity, he says: Be careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; one body and one Spirit. As the human body consists of many members, animated by one soul, which gives sight to the eves, hearing to the ears, and to the other senses the power of discharging their respective functions; so the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, is composed of many faithful. The hope, to which we are called, is also one, as the Apostle tells us in the same place; for we all hope for the same consummation, eternal and happy life. Finally, the faith which all are bound to believe and to profess is one: Let there be no schisms amongst you, says the Apostle. And Baptism, which is the seal of our Christian faith, is also one.
The second mark of the Church is holiness, as we learn from these words of the Prince of the Apostles: You are a chosen generation, a holy nation.
The Church is called holy because she is consecrated and dedicated to God; for so other things when set apart and dedicated to the worship of God were wont to be called holy, even though they were material. Examples of this in the Old Law were vessels, vestments and altars. In the same sense the first-born who were dedicated to the Most High God were also called holy.
It should not be deemed a matter of surprise that the Church, although numbering among her children many sinners, is called holy. For as those who profess any art, even though they depart from its rules, are still called artists, so in like manner the faithful, although offending in many things and violating the engagements to which they had pledged themselves, are still called holy, because they have been made the people of God and have consecrated themselves to Christ by faith and Baptism. Hence, St. Paul calls the Corinthians sanctified and holy, although it is certain that among them there were some whom he severely rebuked as carnal, and also charged with grosser crimes.
The Church is also to be called holy because she is united to her holy Head, as His body; that is, to Christ the Lord,' the fountain of all holiness, from whom flow the graces of the Holy Spirit and the riches of the divine bounty. St. Augustine, interpreting these words of the Prophet: Preserve my soul, for I am holy," thus admirably expresses himself: Let the body of Christ boldly say, let also that one man, exclaiming from the ends of the earth, boldly say, with his Head, and under his Head, I am holy; for he received the grace of holiness, the grace of Baptism and of remission of sins. And a little further on: If all Christians and all the faithful, having been baptised in Christ, have put Him on, according to these words of the Apostle: "As many of you as have been baptised in Christ, have put on Christ"; if they are made members of his body, and yet say they are not holy, they do an injury to their Head, whose members are holy.
Moreover, the Church alone has the legitimate worship of sacrifice, and the salutary use of the Sacraments, which are the efficacious instruments of divine grace, used by God to produce true holiness. Hence, to possess true holiness, we must belong to this Church. The Church therefore it is clear, is holy, and holy because she is the body of Christ, by whom she is sanctified, and in whose blood she is washed.
The third mark of the Church is that she is Catholic; that is, universal. And justly is she called Catholic, because, as St. Augustine says, she is diffused by the splendour of one faith from the rising to the setting sun."
Unlike states of human institution, or the sects of heretics, she is not confined to any one country or class of men, but embraces within the amplitude of her love all mankind, whether barbarians or Scythians, slaves or freemen, male or female. Therefore it is written: Thou . . . hast redeemed us to God, in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us to our God a kingdom. Speaking of the Church, David says: Ask of me and I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession; and also, I will be mindful of Rahab and of Babylon knowing me; and man is born in her.
Moreover to this Church, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, belong all the faithful who have existed from Adam to the present day, or who shall exist, in the profession of the true faith, to the end of time; all of whom are founded and raised upon the one corner-stone, Christ, who made both one, and announced peace to them that are near and to them that are far.
She is also called universal, because all who desire eternal salvation must cling to and embrace her, like those who entered the ark to escape perishing in the flood.. This (note of catholicity), therefore, is to be taught as a most reliable criterion, by which to distinguish the true from a false Church.
The true Church is also to be recognised from her origin, which can be traced back under the law of grace to the Apostles; for her doctrine is the truth not recently given, nor now first heard of, but delivered of old by the Apostles, and disseminated throughout the entire world. Hence no one can doubt that the impious opinions which heresy invents, opposed as they are to the doctrines taught by the Church from the days of the Apostles to the present time, are very different from the faith of the true Church.
That all, therefore, might know which was the Catholic Church, the Fathers, guided by the Spirit of God, added to the Creed the word Apostolic. For the Holy Ghost, who presides over the Church, governs her by no other ministers than those of Apostolic succession. This Spirit, first imparted to the Apostles, has by the infinite goodness of God always continued in the Church. And just as this one Church cannot err in faith or morals, since it is guided by the Holy Ghost; so, on the contrary, all other societies arrogating to themselves the name of church, must necessarily, because guided by the spirit of the devil, be sunk in the most pernicious errors, both doctrinal and moral.
Figures of the Church
The figures of the Old Testament have great power to stimulate the minds of the faithful and to remind them of these most beautiful truths. It was for this reason chiefly that the Apostles made use of these figures. The pastor, therefore, should not overlook so fruitful a source of instruction.
Among these figures the ark of Noah holds a conspicuous place. It was built by the command of God, in order that there might be no doubt that it was a symbol of the Church, which God has so constituted that all who enter therein through Baptism, may be safe from danger of eternal death, while such as are outside the Church, like those who were not in the ark, are overwhelmed by their own crimes.
Another figure presents itself in the great city of Jerusalem, which, in Scripture, often means the Church. In Jerusalem only was it lawful to offer sacrifice to God, and in the Church of God only are to be found the true worship and true sacrifice which can at all be acceptable to God.
"I Believe the Holy Catholic Church"
Finally, with regard to the Church, the pastor should teach how to believe the Church can constitute an Article of faith. Although reason and the senses are able to ascertain the existence of the Church, that is, of a society of men on earth devoted and consecrated to Jesus Christ, and although faith does not seem necessary in order to understand a truth which even Jews and Turks do not doubt; nevertheless it is from the light of faith only, not from the deductions of reason, that the mind can grasp those mysteries contained in the Church of God which have been partly made known above and will again be treated under the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Since, therefore, this Article, no less than the others, is placed above the reach, and defies the strength of the human understanding, most justly do we confess that we know not from human reason, but contemplate with the eyes of faith the origin, offices and dignity of the Church.
This Church was founded not by man, but by the immortal God Himself, who built her upon a most solid rock. The Highest himself, says the Prophet, hath founded her. Hence, she is called the inheritance of God, the people of God. The power which she possesses is not from man but from God.
Since this power, therefore, cannot be of human origin, divine faith can alone enable us to understand that the keys of the. kingdom of heaven are deposited with the Church, that to her has been confided the power of remitting sins," of denouncing excommunication, and of consecrating the real body of Christ; and t}tat her children have not here a permanent dwelling, but look for one above.
We are, therefore, bound to believe that there is one Holy Catholic Church. With regard to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, we not
only believe them, but also believe in them. But here we make use of a different form of expression, professing to believe the holy, not in the holy Catholic Church. By this difference of expression we distinguish God, the author of all things, from His works, and acknowledge that all the exalted benefits bestowed on the Church are due to God's bounty.
Second Part of this Article: "The Communion of Saints"
The Evangelist St. John, writing to the faithful on the divine mysteries, explains as follows why he undertook to instruct them in these truths: That you may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship may be with the Father, and with his son Jesus Christ. This fellowship consists in the Communion of Saints, the subject of the present Article.
Importance Of This Truth
Would that in its exposition pastors imitated the zeal of Paul and of the other Apostles. For not only is it a development of the preceding Article and a doctrine productive of abundant fruit; it also teaches the use to be made of the mysteries contained in the Creed, because the great end to which we should direct all our study and knowledge of them is that we may be admitted into this most august and blessed society of the Saints, and may steadily persevere therein, giving thanks with joy to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light.
Meaning of "The Communion of Saints"
The faithful, therefore, in the first place are to be informed that this part of the Article, is, as it were, a sort of explanation of the preceding part which regards the unity, sanctity and catholicity of the Church. For the unity of the Spirit, by which she is governed, brings it about that whatsoever has been given to the Church is held as a common possession by all her members.
Communion Of Sacraments
The fruit of all the Sacraments is common to all the faithful, and these Sacraments, particularly Baptism, the door, as it were, by which we are admitted into the Church, are so many sacred bonds which bind and unite them to Christ. That this communion of Saints implies a communion of Sacraments, the Fathers declare in these words of the Creed: I confess one Baptism. After Baptism, the Eucharist holds the first place in reference to this communion, and after that the other Sacraments; for although this name (communion) is applicable to all the Sacraments, inasmuch as they unite us to God, and render us partakers of Him whose grace we receive, yet it belongs in a peculiar manner to the Eucharist which actually produces this communion.
Communion Of Good Works
But there is also another communion in the Church which demands attention. Every pious and holy action done by one belongs to and becomes profitable to all through charity, which seeketh not her Own. This is proved by the testimony of St. Ambrose, who, explaining these words of the Psalmist, I am a partaker with all them that f ear thee, observes: As we say that a limb is partaker of the entire body, so are we partakers with all that fear God. Therefore has Christ taught us that form of prayer in which we say our, not my bread; and the other Petitions are equally general, not confined to ourselves alone, but directed also to the common interest and the salvation of all.
This communication of goods is often very aptly illustrated in Scripture by a comparison borrowed from the members of the human body. In the human body there are many members, but though many, they yet constitute but one body, in which each performs its own, not all the same, functions. All do not enjoy equal dignity, or discharge functions alike useful or honourable; nor does one propose to itself its own exclusive advantage, but that Of the entire body. Besides, they are so well organised
and knit together that if one suffers, the rest likewise suffer on account of their affinity and sympathy of nature; and if, on the contrary, one enjoys health, the feeling of pleasure is common to all.
The same may be observed in the Church. She is composed of various members; that is, of different nations, of Jews, Gentiles, freemen and slaves, of rich and poor; when they have been baptised, they constitute one body with Christ, of which He is the Head. To each member of the Church is also assigned his own peculiar office. As some are appointed apostles, some teachers, but all for the common good; so to some it belongs to govern and teach, to others to be subject and to obey.
Those Who Share In This Communion
The advantages of so many and such exalted blessings bestowed by Almighty God are enjoyed by those who lead a Christian life in charity, and are just and beloved of God. As to the dead members; that is, those who are bound in the thraldom of sin and estranged from the grace of God, they are not so deprived of these advantages as to cease to be members of this body; but since they are dead members, they do not share in the spiritual fruit which is communicated to the just and pious. However, as they are in the Church, they are assisted in recovering lost grace and life by those who live by the Spirit; and they also enjoy those benefits which are without doubt denied to those who are entirely cut off from the Church.
Communion In Other Blessings
Not only the gifts which justify and endear us to God are common. Graces gratuitously granted, such as knowledge, prophecy, the gifts of tongues and of miracles, and others of the same sort, are common also, and are granted even to the wicked, not, however, for their own but for the general good, for the edification of the Church. Thus, the gift of healing is given not for the sake of him who heals, but for the sake of him who is healed.
In fine, every true Christian possesses nothing which he should not consider common to all others with himself, and should therefore be prepared promptly to relieve an indigent fellow-creature. For he that is blessed with worldly goods, and sees his brother in want, and will not assist him, is plainly convicted of not having the love of God within him.
Those, therefore, who belong to this holy communion, it is manifest, do now enjoy a certain degree of happiness and can truly say: How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.... Blessed are they who dwell in thy house, Lord.
ARTICLE X : "THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS"
Importance Of This Article
The enumeration of this among the other Articles of the Creed is alone sufficient to satisfy us that it conveys a truth, which is not only in itself a divine mystery, but also a mystery very necessary to salvation. We have already said that, without a firm belief of all the Articles of the Creed, Christian piety is wholly unattainable. However, should that which ought to be clear in itself seem to require the support of some authority, the declaration of our Lord will suffice. A short time previous to His Ascension into heaven, when opening the understanding of His disciples that they might understand the Scriptures, He bore testimony to this Article of the Creed, in these words: It behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day, and that penance and remission of sins should be preached, in his name, unto all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Let the pastor but weigh well these words, and he will readily perceive that the Lord has placed him under a most sacred obligation, not only of making known to the faithful whatever regards religion in general, but also of explaining with particular care this Article of the Creed.
The Church Has the Power of Forgiving Sins
On this point of doctrine, then, it is the duty of the pastor to teach that, not only is forgiveness of sins to be found in the Catholic Church, as Isaias had foretold in these words: The people that dwell therein shall have their iniquity taken away from them; but also that in her resides the power of forgiving sins; and furthermore that we are bound to believe that this power, if exercised duly, and according to the laws prescribed by our Lord, is such as truly to pardon and remit sins.
Extent of this Power:
All Sins That Precede Baptism
When we first make a profession of faith and are cleansed in holy Baptism, we receive this pardon entire and unqualified; so that no sin, original or actual, of commission or omission, re- mains to be expiated, no punishment to be endured. The grace of Baptism, however, does not give exemption from all the infirmities of nature. On the contrary, contending, as each of us has to contend, against the motions of concupiscence, which ever tempts us to the commission of sin, there is scarcely one to be found among us, who opposes so vigorous a resistance to its assaults, or who guards his salvation so vigilantly, as to escape all wounds.
All Sins Committed After Baptism
It being necessary, therefore, that a power of forgiving sins, distinct from that of Baptism, should exist in the Church, to her were entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven, by which each one, if penitent, may obtain the remission of his sins, even though he were a sinner to the last day of his life. This truth is vouched for by the most unquestionable authority of the Sacred Scriptures. In St. Matthew the Lord says to Peter: I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and what- soever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed also in heaven; and again: Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.' Further, the testimony of St. John assures us that the Lord, breathing on the Apostles, said: Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. '
Limitation of this Power:
It Is Not Limited As To Sins, Persons, Or Time
Nor is the exercise of this power restricted to particular sins. No crime, however heinous, can be committed or even conceived which the Church has not power to forgive, just as there is no sinner, however abandoned, however depraved, who should not confidently hope for pardon, provided he sincerely repent of his past transgressions.
Furthermore, the exercise of this power is not restricted to particular times. Whenever the sinner turns from his evil ways he is not to be rejected, as we learn from the reply of our Saviour to the Prince of the Apostles. When St. Peter asked how often we should pardon an offending brother, whether seven times, Not only seven times, said the Redeemer, but till seventy times seven.
It Is Limited As To Its Ministers And Exercise
But if we look to its ministers, or to the manner in which it is to be exercised, the extent of this divine power will not appear so great; for our Lord gave not the power of so sacred a ministry to all, but to Bishops and priests only. The same must be said regarding the manner in which this power is to be exercised; for sins can be forgiven only through the Sacraments, when duly administered. The Church has received no power otherwise to remit sin. Hence it follows that in the forgiveness of sins both priests and Sacraments are, so to speak, the instruments which Christ our Lord, the author and giver of salvation, makes use of, to accomplish in us the pardon of sin and the grace of justification.
Greatness of this Power
To raise the admiration of the faithful for this heavenly gift, bestowed on the Church by God's singular mercy towards us, and to make them approach its use with the more lively sentiments of devotion the pastor should endeavour to point out the dignity and the extent of the grace which it imparts. If there be any one means better calculated than another to accomplish this end, it is carefully to show how great must be the efficacy of that which absolves from sin and restores the unjust to a state of justification.
Sin Can Be Forgiven Only By The Power Of God
This is manifestly an effect of the infinite power of God, of that same power which we believe to have been necessary to raise the dead to life and to summon creation into existence. But if it be true, as the authority of St. Augustine assures us it is, that to recall a sinner from the state of sin to that of righteousness is even a greater work than to create the heavens and the earth from nothing, though their creation can be no other than the effect of infinite power, it follows that we have still stronger reason to consider the remission of sins as an effect proceeding from the exercise of this same infinite power.
With great truth, therefore, have the ancient Fathers declared that God alone can forgive sins, and that to His infinite goodness and power alone is so wonderful a work to be referred. I am he, says the Lord Himself, by the mouth of His Prophet, I am he who blotteth out your iniquities.
The remission of sins seems to bear an exact analogy to the cancelling of a pecuniary debt. None but the creditor can forgive a pecuniary debt. Hence, since by sin we contract a debt to God alone -- wherefore we daily pray: forgive us our debts sin, it is clear, can be forgiven by Him alone, and by none else.
This Power Communicated To None Before Christ
This wonderful and divine power was never communicated to creatures, until God became man. Christ our Saviour, although true God, was the first one who, as man, received this high prerogative from His heavenly Father. That you may know that the son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins (then said he to the man sick of the palsy), rise. take up thy bed, and go into thy house. As, therefore, He became man, in order to bestow on man this forgiveness of sins, He communicated this power to Bishops and priests in the Church, previous to His Ascension into heaven, where He sits forever at the right hand of God. Christ, however, as we have already said, remits sin by virtue of His own authority; all others, by virtue of His authority delegated to them as His ministers.
If, therefore, whatever is the effect of infinite power claims our highest admiration and reverence, we must readily perceive that this gift, bestowed on the Church by the bounteous hand of Christ our Lord, is one of inestimable value.
Sin Remitted Through The Blood Of Christ
The manner too, in which God, in the fullness of His paternal clemency resolved to cancel the sins of the world must powerfully move the faithful to contemplate the greatness of this blessing. It was His will that our offences should be expiated by the blood of His Only-begotten Son; that His Son should voluntarily assume the imputability of our sins, and suffer a most cruel death, the just for the unjust, the innocent for the guilty.
When, therefore, we reflect that we were not redeemed with corruptible things, as gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled, we are naturally led to conclude that we could have received no gift more salutary than this power of forgiving sins, which proclaims the ineffable Providence of God and the excess of His love towards us. This reflection must produce in all the most abundant spiritual fruit.
The Great Evil From Which Forgiveness Delivers Man
For whoever offends God, even by one mortal sin, instantly forfeits whatever merits he may have previously acquired through the sufferings and death of Christ, and is entirely shut out from the gate of heaven which, when already closed, was thrown open to all by the Redeemer's Passion. When we reflect on this, the thought of our misery must fill us with deep anxiety. But if we turn our attention to this admirable power with which God has invested His Church; and, in the firm belief of this Article, feel convinced that to every sinner is offered the means of recovering, with the assistance of divine grace, his former dignity, we must exult with exceeding joy and gladness, and must offer immortal thanks to God.
If, when we are seriously ill, the medicines prepared for us by the art and industry of the physician are wont to be welcome and agreeable to us, how much more welcome and agreeable should those remedies prove which the wisdom of God has established to heal our souls and restore us to the life of grace, especially since they bring with them, not, indeed, uncertain hope of recovery, like the medicines that are applied to the body, but assured health to such as desire to be cured !
This Remedy To Be Used
The faithful, therefore, having formed a just conception of the dignity of so excellent and exalted a blessing, should be exhorted to profit by it to the best of their ability. For he who makes no use of what is really useful and necessary must be supposed to despise it; particularly since, in communicating to the Church the power of forgiving sin, the Lord did so with the view that all should have recourse to this healing remedy. As without Baptism no one can be cleansed, so in order to recover the grace of Baptism, forfeited by actual mortal guilt, recourse must be had to another means of expiation, -- namely, the Sacrament of Penance.
Abuse To Be Guarded Against
But here the faithful are to be admonished to guard against the danger of becoming more prone to sin, or slow to repentance, from a presumption that they can have recourse to this power of forgiving sins which is so complete and, as we saw, unrestricted as to time. For, as such a propensity to sin would manifestly convict them of acting injuriously and contumaciously to this divine power, and would therefore render them unworthy of the divine mercy; so this slowness to repentance gives great reason to fear that, overtaken by death, they may in vain confess their belief in the remission of sins, which by their tardiness and procrastination they deservedly forfeited.
ARTICLE XI : "THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY"
Importance Of This Article
That this Article supplies a convincing proof of the truth of our faith appears chiefly from the fact that not only is it proposed in the Sacred Scriptures to the belief of the faithful, but is also confirmed by numerous arguments. This we scarcely find to be the case with regard to the other Articles, which justifies the inference that on this doctrine, as on its most solid basis, rests our hope of salvation; for according to the reasoning of the Apostle, If there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again; and if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
The diligence and zeal, therefore, of the pastor in the explanation of this dogma should not be less than the labor which the impiety of many has expended in efforts to overthrow it. That eminently important advantages flow to the faithful from the knowledge of this Article will be shown further on.
"The Resurrection of the Body"
That in this Article the resurrection of mankind is called the resurrection of the body, is a circumstance which deserves special attention. It was not, indeed, so named without a reason for the Apostles intended thus to convey a necessary truth, the immortality of the soul. Lest anyone, despite the fact that many passages of Scripture plainly teach that the soul is immortal, might imagine that it dies with the body, and that both are to be restored to life, the Creed speaks only of the resurrection of the body.
Although in Sacred Scripture the word flesh often signifies the whole man, as in Isaias, All flesh is grass, and in St. John, The Word was made flesh; yet in this place it is used to express the body only, thus giving us to understand that of the two constituent parts of man, soul and body, one only, that is, the body, is corrupted and returns to its original dust, while the soul remains incorrupt and immortal. As then, a man cannot be said to return to life unless he has previously died, so the soul could not with propriety be said to rise again.
The word body is also mentioned, in order to confute the heresy of Hymeneus and Philetus, who, during the lifetime of the Apostle, asserted that whenever the Scriptures speak of the resurrection, they are to be understood to mean not the resurrection of the body, but that of the soul, by which it rises from the death of sin to the life of grace. The words of this Article, therefore, as is clear, exclude that error, and establish a real resurrection of the body.
The Fact of the Resurrection:
Examples And Proofs Derived From Scripture
It will be the duty of the pastor to illustrate this truth by examples taken from the Old and New Testaments, and from all ecclesiastical history. In the Old Testament, some were restored to life by Elias and Eliseus; and, besides those who were raised to life by our Lord, many were raised by the holy Apostles and by many others. These many resurrections confirm the doctrine taught by this Article; for believing that many were recalled from death to life, we are also naturally led to believe the general resurrection of all. In fact the principal fruit which we should derive from these miracles is to yield to this Article our most unhesitating belief.
To pastors ordinarily conversant with the Sacred Volumes many Scripture proofs of this Article will at once present themselves. In the Old Testament the most conspicuous are those afforded by Job, when he says that in his flesh he shall see his God, and by Daniel when, speaking of those who sleep in the dust of the earth, he says, some shall awake to eternal life, others to eternal reproach. In the New Testament (the principal passages are) those of St. Matthew, which record the disputation our Lord held with the Sadducees, and those in which the Evangelists speak concerning the Last Judgment. To these we may also add the accurate reasoning of the Apostle on the subject in his Epistles to the Corinthians and Thessalonians.
Analogies From Nature
But although the resurrection is most certainly established by faith, it will, notwithstanding, be of material advantage to show from analogy and reason that what faith proposes is not at variance with nature or human reason.
To one asking how the dead should rise again, the Apostle answers: Foolish man! that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die first; and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not the body that shall be, but bare grain, as of wheat, or of some of the rest; but God giveth it a body as he will; and a little after, It is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption.
St. Gregory calls our attention to many other arguments of analogy tending to the same effect. The sun, he says, is every day withdrawn from our eyes, as it were, by dying, and is again recalled, as it were, by rising again; trees lose, and again, as it were, by a resurrection, resume their verdure; seeds die by putrefaction, and rise again by germination.
Arguments Drawn From Reason
The reasons also adduced by ecclesiastical writers seem well calculated to establish this truth. In the first place, as the soul is immortal, and has, as part of man, a natural propensity to be united to the body, its perpetual separation from it must be considered as unnatural. But as that which is contrary to nature and in a state of violence, cannot be permanent, it appears fitting that the soul should be reunited to the body, and consequently that the body should rise again. This argument our Saviour Himself employed, when in His disputation with the Sadducees He deduced the resurrection of the body from the immortality of the soul."
In the next place, as an all-just God holds out punishments to the wicked and rewards to the good, and as very many of the former depart this life unpunished for their crimes and many of the latter unrewarded for their virtues, the soul should be reunited to the body, in order, as the partner of her crimes, or the companion of her virtues, to become a sharer in her punishments or rewards. This argument has been admirably treated by St. Chrysostom in his homily to the people of Antioch.
To this effect also, the Apostle, speaking of the resurrection, says: If in this life only, we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most miserable.. These words of St. Paul cannot be supposed to refer to the misery of the soul; for since the soul is immortal, it is capable of enjoying happiness in a future life, even though the body did not rise again. His words, then, must refer to the whole man; for, unless the body receive the due rewards of its labours, those who, like the Apostles, endured so many afflictions and calamities in this life, would necessarily be the most miserable of men. On this subject the Apostle is much more explicit in his Epistle to the Thessalonians: We glory in the churches of God, for your patience and faith, in all your persecutions and tribulations which you endure -- for an example of the just judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which also you suffer; seeing it is a just thing with God to repay tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled, rest with us when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with the angels of his power, in a flame of fire, yielding vengeance to them who know not God, and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, while the soul is separated from the body, man cannot enjoy that full happiness which is replete with every good. For as a part separated from the whole is imperfect, the soul separated from the body must be imperfect. Therefore, that nothing may be wanting to fill up the measure of its happiness, the resurrection of the body is necessary.
By these, and similar arguments, the pastor will be able to instruct the faithful in this Article.
All Shall Rise
He should also carefully explain from the Apostle who are to be raised to life. Writing to the Corinthians, he (St. Paul) says: As in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.' Good and bad then, without distinction, shall all rise from the dead, although the condition of all will not be the same. Those who have done good, shall rise to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
When we say all we mean those who will have died before the day of judgment, as well as those who will then die. That the Church acquiesces in the opinion that all, without distinction, shall die, and that this opinion is more consonant with truth, is the teaching of St. Jerome and of St. Augustine.
Nor does the Apostle in his Epistle to the Thessalonians dissent from this doctrine, when he says: The dead who are in Christ shall rise first, then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air. St. Ambrose explaining these words says: In that very taking up, death shall take place, as it were, in a deep sleep, and the soul, having gone forth from the body, shall instantly return. For those who are alive shall die when they are taken up that, coming to the Lord, they may receive their souls from His presence; because in His presence they cannot be dead. This opinion is supported by the authority of St. Augustine in his book On the City of God."
The Body Shall Rise Substantially the Same
But as it is of vital importance to be fully convinced that the identical body, which belongs to each one of us during life, shall, though corrupt and dissolved into its original dust, be raised up again to life, this too is a subject which demands accurate explanation on the part of the pastor.
It is a truth conveyed by the Apostle when he says: This corruptible must put on incorruption, evidently designating by the word this, his own body. It is also clearly expressed in the prophecy of Job: In my flesh I shall see my God, whom I myself shall see, and mine eyes behold, and not another.
Further, this same truth is inferred from the very definition of resurrection; for resurrection, as Damascene defines it, is a return to the state from which one has fallen.
Finally, if we bear in mind the arguments by which we have just established a future resurrection, every doubt on the subject must at once disappear.
We have said that the body is to rise again, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil. Man is, therefore, to rise again in the same body with which he served God, or was a slave to the devil; that in the same body he may experience rewards and a crown of victory, or endure the severest punishments and torments.
Restoration Of All That Pertains To The Nature And Adornment Of The Body
Not only will the body rise, but whatever belongs to the reality of its nature, and adorns and ornaments man will be restored. For this we have the admirable words of St. Augustine: There
shall then be no deformity of body; if some have been overburdened with flesh, they shall not resume its entire weight. All that exceeds the proper proportion shall be deemed superfluous. On the other hand, should the body be wasted by disease or old age, or be emaciated from any other cause, it shall be repaired by the divine power of Christ, who will not only restore the body unto us, but will repair whatever it shall have lost through the wretchedness of this life. In another place he says: Man shall not resume his former hair, but shall be adorned with such as will become him, according to the words: "The very hairs of your head are all numbered." God will restore them according to His wisdom.
Restoration Of All That Pertains To The Integrity Of The Body
But the members especially, because they belong to the integrity of human nature, shall all be restored at once. The blind from nature or disease, the lame, the maimed and the paralysed in any of their members shall rise again with entire and perfect bodies. Otherwise the desires of the soul, which so strongly incline it to a union with the body, would be far from satisfied; but we are convinced that in the resurrection these desires will be fully realised.
Besides, the resurrection, like the creation, is clearly to be numbered among the principal works of God. As, therefore, at the creation all things came perfect from the hand of God, we must admit that it will be the same in the resurrection.
These observations are not to be restricted to the bodies of the martyrs, of whom St. Augustine says: As the mutilation which they suffered would prove a deformity, they shall rise with all their members; otherwise those who were beheaded would rise without a head. The scars, however, which they received shall remain, shining like the wounds of Christ, with a brilliance far more resplendent than that of gold and of precious stones.
The wicked, too, shall rise with all their members, even with those lost through their own fault. The greater the number of members which they shall have, the greater will be their torments; and therefore this restoration of members will serve to increase not their happiness but their sorrow and misery; for merit or demerit is ascribed not to the members, but to the person to whose body they are united. To those, therefore, who shall have done penance, they shall be restored as sources of reward; and to those who shall have contemned it, as instruments of punishment.
If the pastor gives attentive consideration to these things, he can never lack words or ideas to move the hearts of the faithful, and enkindle in them the flame of piety; so that having before their minds the troubles and calamities of this life, they may look forward with eager expectations to that blessed glory of the resurrection which awaits the just.
The Condition of the Risen Body Shall be Different
It now remains for the faithful to understand how the body, when raised from the dead, although substantially the same body that had been dead, shall be vastly different and changed in its condition.
To omit other points, the chief difference between the state of all bodies when risen from the dead and what they had previously been is that before the resurrection they were subject to dissolution, but when reanimated they shall all, without distinction of good and bad, be invested with immortality.
This admirable restoration of nature, as the Scriptures testify, is the result of the glorious victory of Christ over death. For it is written: He shall cast death down headlong for ever, and, O death! I will be thy death.' Explaining these words the Apostle says: And the enemy death shall be destroyed last; and St. John also says: Death shall be no more.
It was most fitting that the sin of Adam should be far exceeded by the merit of Christ the Lord, who overthrew the empire of death. It was also in keeping with divine justice, that the good should enjoy endless felicity, while the wicked, condemned to everlasting torments, shall seek death, and shall not find it, shall desire to die, and death shall fly from them. Immortality, therefore, will be common to the good and to the bad.
The Qualities Of A Glorified Body
In addition to this, the bodies of the risen Saints will be distinguished by certain transcendent endowments, which will ennoble them far beyond their former condition. Among these endowments four are specially mentioned by the Fathers, which they infer from the doctrine of St. Paul, and which are called gifts.
The first endowment or gift is impassibility, which shall place them beyond the reach of suffering anything disagreeable or of being affected by pain or inconvenience of any sort. Neither the piercing severity of cold, nor the glowing intensity of heat, nor the impetuosity of waters can hurt them. It is sown says the Apostle, in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption This quality the Schoolmen call impassibility, not incorruption, in order to distinguish it as a property peculiar to a glorified body. The bodies of the damned, though incorruptible, will not be impassible; they will be capable of experiencing heat and cold and of suffering various afflictions.
The next quality is brightness, by which the bodies of the Saints shall shine like the sun, according to the words of our Lord recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew: The just shall shine as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father. To remove the possibility of doubt on the subject, He exemplifies this in His Transfiguration. This quality the Apostle sometimes calls glory, sometimes brightness: He will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of his glory; " and again, It is sown in dishonour, it shall rise in glory. Of this glory the Israelites beheld some image in the desert, when the face of Moses, after he had enjoyed the presence and conversation of God, shone with such lustre that they could not look on it.
This brightness is a sort of radiance reflected on the body from the supreme happiness of the soul. It is a participation in that bliss which the soul enjoys just as the soul itself is rendered happy by a participation in the happiness of God.
Unlike the gift of impassibility, this quality is not common to all in the same degree. All the bodies of the Saints will be equally impassible; but the brightness of all will not be the same, for, according to the Apostle, One is the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, and another the glory of the stars, for star differeth from star in glory: so also is the resurrection of the dead.
To the preceding quality is united that which is called agility, by which the body will be freed from the heaviness that now presses it down, and will take on a capability of moving with the utmost ease and swiftness, wherever the soul pleases, as St. Augustine teaches in his book On the City of God, and St. Jerome On Isaias. Hence these words of the Apostle: It is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power.
Another quality is that of subtility, which subjects the body to the dominion of the soul, so that the body shall be subject to the soul and ever ready to follow her desires. This quality we learn from these words of the Apostle: It is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body.
These are the principal points which should be dwelt on in the exposition of this Article.
Advantages of Deep Meditation on this Article
But in order that the faithful may appreciate the fruit they derive from a knowledge of so many and such exalted mysteries, it is necessary, first of all, to point out that to God, who has hidden these things from the wise and made them known to little ones, we owe a debt of boundless gratitude. How many men, eminent for wisdom or endowed with singular learning, who ever remained blind to this most certain truth ! The fact, then, that He has made known to us these truths, although we could never have aspired to such knowledge, obliges us to pour forth our gratitude in unceasing praises of His supreme goodness and clemency.
Another important advantage to be derived from reflection on this Article is that in it we shall find consolation both for ourselves and others when we mourn the death of those who were endeared to us by relationship or friendship. Such was the consolation which the Apostle himself gave the Thessalonians when writing to them concerning those who are asleep.
Again, in all our afflictions and calamities the thought of a future resurrection must bring the greatest relief to the troubled heart, as we learn from the example of holy Job, who supported his afflicted and sorrowing soul by this one hope that the day would come when, in the resurrection, he would behold the Lord his God.
The same thought must also prove a powerful incentive to the faithful to use every exertion to lead lives of rectitude and integrity, unsullied by the defilement of sin. For if they reflect that those boundless riches which will follow after the resurrection are now offered to them as rewards, they will be easily attracted to the pursuit of virtue and piety.
On the other hand, nothing will have greater effect in subduing the passions and withdrawing souls from sin, than frequently to remind the sinner of the miseries and torments with which the reprobate will be visited, who on the last day will come forth unto the resurrection of judgment.
ARTICLE XII : "LIFE EVERLASTING"
Importance Of This Article
The holy Apostles, our guides, thought fit to conclude the Creed, which is the summary of our faith, with the Article on eternal life: first, because after the resurrection of the body the only object of the Christian's hope is the reward of everlasting life; and secondly, in order that perfect happiness, embracing as it does the fullness of all good, may be ever present to our minds and absorb all our thoughts and affections.
In his instructions to the faithful the pastor, therefore, should unceasingly endeavour to light up in their souls an ardent desire of the promised rewards of eternal life, so that whatever difficult duties he may inculcate as a part of the Christian's life, the faithful may look upon as light, or even agreeable, and may yield a more willing and cheerful obedience to God.
As many mysteries lie concealed under the words which are here used to declare the happiness reserved for us, they are to be explained in such a manner as to make them intelligible to all, as far as each one's capacity will allow.
The faithful, therefore, are to be informed that the words, life everlasting, signify not only continuance of existence, which even the demons and the wicked possess, but also that perpetuity of happiness which is to satisfy the desires of the blessed. In this sense they were understood by the lawyer mentioned in the Gospel when he asked the Lord our Saviour: What shall I do to possess everlasting life? as if he had said, What shall I do in order to arrive at the enjoyment of perfect happiness? In this sense these words are understood in the Sacred Scriptures, as is clear from many passages.
The supreme happiness of the blessed is called by this name (life everlasting) principally to exclude the notion that it consists in corporeal and transitory things, which cannot be everlasting. The word blessedness is insufficient to express the idea, particularly as there have not been wanting men who, puffed up by the teachings of a vain philosophy, would place the supreme good in sensible things. But these grow old and perish, while supreme happiness is to be terminated by no lapse of time. Nay more, so far is the enjoyment of the goods of this life from conferring real happiness that, on the contrary, he who is captivated by a love of the world is farthest removed from true happiness; for it is written: Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him, and a little farther on we read: The world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof.
The pastor, therefore, should be careful to impress these truths on the minds of the faithful, that they may learn to despise earthly things, and to know that in this world, in which we are not citizens but sojourners, happiness is not to be found. Yet even here below we may be said with truth to be happy in hope, if denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we . . . live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Very many who seemed to themselves wise, not understanding these things, and imagining that happiness was to be sought in this life, became fools and the victims of the most deplorable calamities.
These words, life everlasting, also teach us that, contrary to the false notions of some, happiness once attained can never be lost. Happiness is an accumulation of all good without admixture of evil, which, as it fills up the measure of man's desires, must be eternal. He who is blessed with happiness must earnestly desire the continued enjoyment of those goods which he has obtained. Hence, unless its possession be permanent and certain, he is necessarily a prey to the most tormenting apprehension.
The intensity of the happiness which the just enjoy in their celestial country, and its utter incomprehensibility to all but themselves alone, are sufficiently conveyed by the very words blessed life. For when in order to express any idea we make use of a word common to many things, it is clear that we do so because we have no exact term by which to express it fully. Since, therefore, to express happiness, words are adopted which are not more applicable to the blessed than to all who are to live for ever, this proves to us that the idea presents to the mind something too great, too exalted, to be expressed fully by a proper term. True, the happiness of heaven is expressed in Scripture by a variety of other words, such as the kingdom of God, of Christ, of heaven, paradise, the holy city, the new Jerusalem, my Father's house; yet it is clear that none of these appellations is sufficient to convey an adequate idea of its greatness.
The pastor, therefore, should not neglect the opportunity which this Article affords of inviting the faithful to the practice of piety, of justice and of all the other Christian duties, by holding out to them such ample rewards as are announced in the words life everlasting. Among the blessings which we instinctively desire life is certainly esteemed one of the greatest. Now it is chiefly by this blessing that we describe the happiness (of the just) when we say life everlasting. If, then, there is nothing more loved, nothing dearer or sweeter, than this short and calamitous life, which is subject to so many and such various miseries that it should rather be called death; with what ardour of soul, with what earnestness of purpose, should we not seek that eternal life which, without evil of any sort, presents to us the pure and unmixed enjoyment of every good?
Negative and Positive Elements of Eternal Life
The happiness of eternal life is, as defined by the Fathers, an exemption from all evil, and an enjoyment of all good.
Concerning (the exemption from all) evil the Scriptures bear witness in the most explicit terms. For it is written in the Apocalypse: They shall no more hunger nor thirst, neither shall the sun fall on them, nor any heat; '░ and again, God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.
As for the glory of the blessed, it shall be without measure, and the kinds of their solid joys and pleasures without number. Since our minds cannot grasp the greatness of this glory, nor can it possibly enter into our souls, it is necessary for us to enter into it, that is, into the joy of the Lord, so that immersed therein we may completely satisfy the longing of our hearts.
Although, as St. Augustine observes, it would seem easier to enumerate the evils from which we shall be exempt than the goods and the pleasures which we shall enjoy; yet we must endeavour to explain, briefly and clearly, these things which are calculated to inflame the faithful with a desire of arriving at the enjoyment of this supreme felicity.
But first of all we should make use of a distinction which has been sanctioned by the most eminent writers on religion; for they teach that there are two sorts of goods, one of which constitutes happiness, the other follows upon it. The former, therefore, for the sake of perspicuity, they have called essential blessings, the latter, accessory.
Solid happiness, which we may designate by the common appellation, essential, consists in the vision of God, and the enjoyment of His beauty who is the source and principle of all goodness and perfection. This, says Christ our Lord, is eternal life: that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. These words St. John seems to interpret when he says: Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God; and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like to him: because we shawl see him as he is. He shows, then, that beatitude consists of two things: that we shall behold God such as He is in His own nature and substance; and that we ourselves shall become, as it were, gods.
The Light Of Glory
For those who enjoy God while they retain their own nature, assume a certain admirable and almost divine form, so as to seem gods rather than men. Why this transformation takes place becomes at once intelligible if we only reflect that a thing is known either from its essence, or from its image and appearance, consequently, as nothing so resembles God as to afford by its resemblance a perfect knowledge of Him, it follows that no creature can behold His Divine Nature and Essence unless this same Divine Essence has joined itself to us, and this St. Paul means when he says: We now see through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face.' The words, in a dark manner, St. Augustine understands to mean that we see Him in a resemblance calculated to convey to us some notion of the Deity.
This St. Denis' also clearly shows when he says that the things above cannot be known by comparison with the things below; for the essence and substance of anything incorporeal cannot be known through the image of that which is corporeal, particularly as a resemblance must be less gross and more spiritual than that which it represents, as we easily know from universal experience. Since, therefore, it is impossible that any image drawn from created things should be equally pure and spiritual with God, no resemblance can enable us perfectly to comprehend the Divine Essence. Moreover, all created things are circumscribed within certain limits of perfection, while God is without limits; and therefore nothing created can reflect His immensity.
The only means, then, of arriving at a knowledge of the Divine Essence is that God unite Himself in some sort to us, and after an incomprehensible manner elevate our minds to a higher degree of perfection, and thus render us capable of contemplating the beauty of His Nature. This the light of His glory will accomplish. Illumined by its splendour we shall see God, the true light, in His own light.
The Beatific Vision
For the blessed always see God present and by this greatest and most exalted of gifts, being made partakers of the divine nature, they enjoy true and solid happiness. Our belief in this happiness should be joined with an assured hope that we too shall one day, through the divine goodness, attain it. This the Fathers declared in their Creed, which says: I expect the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
An Illustration Of This Truth
These are truths, so divine that they cannot be expressed in any words or comprehended by us in thought. We may, however, trace some resemblance of this happiness in sensible objects. Thus, iron when acted on by fire becomes inflamed and while it is substantially the same seems changed into fire, a different substance; so likewise the blessed, who are admitted into the glory of heaven and burn with a love of God, are so affected that, without ceasing to be what they are, they may be said with truth to differ more from those still on earth than red-hot iron differs from itself when cold.
To say all in a few words, supreme and absolute happiness, which we call essential, consists in the possession of God; for what can he lack to consummate his happiness who possesses the God of all goodness and perfection?
To this happiness, however, are added certain gifts which are common to all the blessed, and which, because more within the reach of human comprehension, are generally found more effectual in moving and inflaming the heart. These the Apostle seems to have in view when, in his Epistle to the Romans, he says: Glory and honour, and peace to every one that worketh good.
For the blessed shall enjoy glory; not only that glory which we have already shown to constitute essential happiness, or to be its inseparable accompaniment, but also that glory which consists in the clear and distinct knowledge which each (of the blessed) shall have of the singular and exalted dignity of his companions (in glory).
And how distinguished must not that honour be which is conferred by God Himself, who no longer calls them servants, but friends, brethren and sons of God! Hence the Redeemer will address His elect in these most loving and honourable words: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you. Justly, then, may we exclaim: Thy friends, O God, are made exceedingly honourable. They shall also receive the highest praise from Christ the Lord, in presence of His heavenly Father and His Angels.
And if nature has implanted in the heart of every man the common desire of securing the esteem of men eminent for wisdom, because they are deemed the most reliable judges of merit, what an accession of glory to the blessed, to show towards each other the highest veneration !
To enumerate all the delights with which the souls of the blessed shall be filled would be an endless task. We cannot even conceive them in thought. With this truth, however, the minds of the faithful should be deeply impressed -- that the happiness of the Saints is full to overflowing of all those pleasures which can be enjoyed or even desired in this life, whether they regard the powers of the mind or of the perfection of the body; albeit this must be in a manner more exalted than, to use the Apostle's words, eye hath seen, ear heard, or the heart of man conceived.
Thus the body, which was before gross and material, shall put off in heaven its mortality, and having become refined and spiritualised, will no longer require corporal food; while the soul shall be satiated to its supreme delight with that eternal food of glory which the Master of that great feast passing will minister to all.
Who will desire rich apparel or royal robes, where there shall be no further use for such things, and where all shall be clothed with immortality and splendour, and adorned with a crown of imperishable glory?
And if the possession of a spacious and magnificent mansion contributes to human happiness, what more spacious, what more magnificent, can be conceived than heaven itself, which is illumined throughout with the brightness of God ? Hence the Prophet, contemplating the beauty of this dwelling-place, and burning with the desire of reaching those mansions of bliss, exclaims: How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God. That the faithful may be all filled with the same sentiments and utter the same language should be the object of the pastor's most earnest desires, as it should also be of his zealous labours. For in my Father's house, says our Lord, there are many mansions," in which shall be distributed rewards of greater and of less value according to each one's deserts. He who soweth sparingly, shall also reap sparingly: and he who soweth in blessings, shall also reap blessings.
How to Arrive at the Enjoyment of this Happiness
The pastor, therefore, should not only encourage the faithful to seek this happiness, but should frequently remind them that the sure way of obtaining it is to possess the virtues of faith and charity, to persevere in prayer and the use of the Sacraments, and to discharge all the duties of kindness towards their neighbour.
Thus, through the mercy of God, who has prepared that blessed glory for those who love Him, shall be one day fulfilled the words of the Prophet: My people shall sit in the beauty of peace, and in the tabernacle of confidence, and in wealthy rest.