Risen Christ instructing the Eleven Faithful Apostles - by DUCCIO di Buoninsegna - from Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena
(Latin credo, I believe).
The Principal Creeds of the Catholic Church are: The Apostles', Athanasian, and the Nicene. For the present purpose it is chiefly important to indicate the function of the Creed in the Life of Religion and especially in the Work of the Catholic Church. That the Teachings of Christianity were to be cast in some definite form is evidently implied in the commission given the Apostles (Matthew 28:19-20). Since they were to 'Teach all Nations' to observe whatsoever Christ had commanded, and since this Teaching was to carry the Weight of Authority, not merely of opinion, it was necessary to formulate at least the Essential Doctrines. Such formulation was all the more needful because Christianity was destined for all Men and for all Ages. To preserve Unity of Belief itself was quite clearly stated. The Creed, therefore, is fundamentally an Authoritative Declaration of the Truths that are to be believed.
The Redeemer, promised long ago to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, was the only Son of God. He took-on a Human Nature (Incarnation). This does not mean that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity was changed - no, He merely took-on (assumed) the Human Nature. And so Jesus is still only One (1) Person, the Divine Person, but He has Two (2) Natures, a Divine Nature, and a Human Nature. The word Christ means the Anointed One. The corresponding Hebrew word would be the Anointed One, the Messiah, promised for so many Centuries.
His Human Nature is like ours, except that He was without Sin. He became Man to Redeem us from our Sins by Suffering and Dying.
During the First Centuries of His Church, there was much discussion about Him. First, was He Divine? The Council of Nicea in 325 said Yes, which should have been clear all along. Then the Council of Ephesus, in 431, had to say there is only One (1) Person in Him, a Divine Person. Nestorius had said there were Two (2) Persons, a Divine Person, a Human Person. Then Mary would have been the Mother only of the Human Person, and so the Title Mother of God would not be right. But it was right.
The clarification that He was One (1) Person with Two (2) Natures, each staying Distinct, came most clearly at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.
From the First Instant of His Conception, His Human Mind saw the Vision of God, in which all Knowledge is present. The Church taught that repeatedly, starting with the Mystical Body Encyclical of Pope Pius XII in 1943. Really, we could reason to that answer ourselves. Any Soul will have the Vision, if it has Grace, and if the Divinity joins itself Directly to that Human Soul or Mind. Of course Jesus had Grace. And the Divinity joined itself not just to His Human Mind, but to His Whole Humanity - so closely that there was just One (1) Person (Hypostatic Union of Christ).
In Luke 2:52 we read that He advanced in Wisdom. But that meant only that He began to show what always had been there. Later, in Mark 13:32, He Himself said He did not know the "day or hour" of the End. But as Pope Gregory the Great explained, that really meant only this; He had that Knowledge in His Human Mind, but the Knowledge did not come from His Humanity.
The Incarnation is a Marvelous Mystery. Plato, in his 'Symposium', said no god associates with Men -- he believed in One Great-God, and many Lesser-Gods. But they were all too-high to associate with us. Aristotle said that there could be no Friendship of a Man with a God, distance too great. Yet it is True, the Divine Person did take on a Human Person. What would these Great Philosophers think if they read that, and if they also heard He was Willing to Die Horribly to Redeem us!
Third Article: "Who Was Conceived by the
The Church also since the Second Century has spoken of her as the New Eve; just as the First Eve really contributed to bringing the Damage of Original Sin, so she, the New Eve, really contributed to removing that. She gave the Second Person of the Holy Trinity the very Body in which He could Die for us. That is clearly a great cooperation. Further the Church in our times, led by the increasing Light of the Holy Spirit, tells us that she even had a role in the Sacrifice of Calvary itself. She continued what she had said at the start; Be it done to me according to Your Word. At that hour, the Will of the Father was that He should Die, Die then, Die so Terribly. She was asked to Agree that it be so. That is what Saint Paul calls the Obedience of Faith, the Obedience that Faith is. For any Soul, when it knows the Will of the Father, ought to positively Will what the Father Wills. She knew then, she Obeyed, even though her Immense Love for Him would want it otherwise.
We are not surprised, then, that after sharing in Earning all Graces at such Suffering to herself, she should also have a role in Distributing all Graces. So she is the Mediatrix of All Graces.
At the End of her Life, she was taken up to Heaven, not just in Soul, but also in Body. This is called the Assumption. It was defined in 1950 by Pius XII. Then she became the Queen of the Universe, by the side of her Son, the King of the Universe.
In line with this, Pope Paul VI on the floor of Vatican II, declared her Mother of the Church. For the Members of the Church are Members of her Son, in being His Mother, she became also the Mother of all His Members, which we are.
How did the Redemption bring about its 'Effect'? It was a New Covenant. At Sinai God told the People: If you obey, you will be My favored people. In the Upper Room before He Died, Jesus began the New Covenant. The Condition then was His Obedience to the Father, Who called on Him to Die. On the Next Day (Good Friday), He carried out that Pledge, and she, as we said, joined with Him in Obeying the Father.
Calvary was also a Sacrifice. In a Sacrifice there are Two (2) Things - Outward Signs, and Interior Dispositions. The Outward Sign on Holy Thursday was the Seeming Separation of Body and Blood - Two (2) Species separate. On Friday it was the Brutal, Physical Separation. In the Mass there is again the same Outward Sign as on Holy Thursday. But in all these the Interior, which is the most essential, was His Heart Obeying the Father. Mary, as we saw, joined in that Obedience.
The Death of Jesus meant He gave-up in His Suffering and Dying, more than all Sinners together had taken-away from the Scale of Holiness. Then it, like a Two-Pan-Scale, was finally Rebalanced. Mary too, as we saw, Shared in Giving-Up more than we can calculate, and so joined with Him.
At the Last Supper He said: Do this in memory of Me. He wanted that Firstly, so we could join our Obedience to the Father to His, as He comes-again on the Altar. Secondly, the Mass provides the Title, as it were, for giving-out all Graces. No more Title was strictly required, but the Father Loves to have everything as full-as-possible; hence the Mass. The Mass is a Sacrifice because it has the Two (2) Elements - the Outward Sign (same as He used on Holy Thursday) and the Interior Disposition of Obedience, continued from Holy Thursday. Mary joins now in both, just as she did at the Original Sacrifice.
Christ opens the Doors of Limbo, freeing the Just Souls
Hell does not mean the Hell of the Damned, it means just the Realm of the Dead (Limbo). There were the Souls of the Just (Moses, Abraham, et al) who Died before His Death, but who were not admitted to the Vision of God until after His Death. Souls then had no regular means of knowing what went on on Earth, nor could they join in the Grand Liturgical Praise in the Temple, nor did God exercise the Covenant there. Nor did they do any work there.
Jesus came to take them out of that Drab Existence as depicted on the right.
We can say either that He Rose from the Dead - by His Own Power - or that the Father Raised Him. One (1) refers to His Humanity, the other to His Divinity.
Many saw Him after that Resurrection, there are Two (2) Things about His appearances:
1) He ate with them and let them touch Him, to prove He had Real Flesh;
2) His Body was no longer subject to the Limits of our Bodies.
He could come and go instantly, could go through a locked door without opening it. After the Resurrection, if we are Faithful to Him now, our 'Risen' Bodies will be like His.
After Forty (40) Days of appearances He finally left this World, rising in the air. This was a way of making clear that He no longer would operate within the conditions of this life. It did not mean that Heaven was somewhere above the clouds.
He went up to receive the Glory of the Conqueror of Satan, Sin, and Death, and to be our Mediator with the Father, and to send the Holy Spirit, to lead us into all Truth.
He ordered the Apostles to preach to all Nations. They were slow to grasp the import of this - since the Old Testament Prophecies seemed to mean all Gentiles would become Jews. It did not mean that. It meant that Gentiles and Faithful Jews were together to form One (1) People of God: Ephesians 3:6.
So He is now forever, King of the Universe, with His Mother at His side, as Queen of the Universe.
There is some Confusion today about His Presence today. In a sense He is Present where Two (2) or Three (3) are gathered together; in a sense He is Present in the Liturgy, especially the Sacraments. But by far the Greatest Presence, entirely in a class by itself is His Physical Presence in the Holy Eucharist, a sense that far surpasses all the others.
At once, after Death, each Soul receives its Particular Judgment, assigning it to Heaven or Hell, with a possible stopover in Purgatory. At the End there is a General Judgment. We do not know the precise form it will take, but it will make clear to every Human, how Just every one of His Judgments were.
The fact of this Particular Judgment of course rules out another Earthly Life in Reincarnation.
Hell is basically the Pain of Losing God. Now, we can go easily without thinking of Him. Then, the Soul will know - even if it does not see Him directly - what He is like, and will intensely long for Him. After the Resurrection, the Body too will Suffer, as the Doctrinal Congregation said in 1979: There will be a repercussion on the whole being of the sinner. It will be a pain in every way comparable to that of being in the kind of fire we know in this life.
If a Soul has not all its bills paid (Rebalancing the Objective Order for its own Sins), and if its ability to see God is not yet sufficiently refined, then there is Purgatory. We are Grateful for that, for without it there could be no Vision of God for such a Soul. We know this fact from the Teaching of the Church, but we also can look at 1Corinthians 13:12, which says we will see God face-to-face. Now He has no Face, the Soul has no Eyes, but it means we will see Him as directly as I see you now - really, more directly. For I do not take you into my head, I take in an Image of you. That works, for even though Images are finite, so are you. But no Image could represent the Infinite God. So it must be that He joins Himself directly to the Soul, without even an Image in between. But then we think of Malachi 3:2; He is like a refiner's fire; who can stand when He appears? If a Soul would try to join with Him when it is not yet Fully Pure, that fire would Burn it, and if the Soul is so Corrupt as to be in Mortal Sin, it would be Hell. Otherwise, Purgatory.
The Chief Suffering of Purgatory is the Temporary Loss of God. Is there also something like Fire? The Western part of the Church believes that, but the Eastern part, which is also part of the Catholic Church, has no such Tradition. So we are left at-sea, wondering.
We do not know how long a particular Soul may spend in Purgatory. So we should never stop Praying for those Dear to us. Saint Augustine in his Confessions, 10 to 15 years after the Death of his mother (Saint Monica), asked for Prayers for her.
The Presence of the Holy Spirit in Souls makes them Holy, that is, it gives them the basic ability for the face-to-face Vision of God in the Next Life. It is in this sense, we say He is Present, for a Spirit does not take up space, and is Present wherever He causes an Effect.
He brings the Seven Gifts. They are: Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord. They each Perfect certain basic Virtues. Four (4) of them Perfect the Intellectual Virtues. Understanding gives an intuitive penetration into Truth. In order to Judge Divine Things, Wisdom Perfects Charity; Knowledge Perfects the Virtue of Hope; the Gift of Counsel Perfects Prudence.
The other Three (3) Perfect Virtues of the Will and Appetite. The Gift of Piety Perfects Justice, in giving to others that which is their due. This is especially true of giving God what is His due. Fortitude Perfects the Virtue of Fortitude, in facing Dangers. Fear of the Lord Perfects Temperance in controlling Disordered Appetites.
The Gifts given to the Apostles on Pentecost included these Seven (7), but also the Charismatic type of Gifts, e.g., the ability to speak in strange tongues, et al.
The Church came into being when Christ Died on the Cross. It was formally inaugurated on Pentecost. .
All Christians are Members of Christ, that is, of the Mystical Body of Christ. We call it Mystical for want of a better word. It is not the kind of Unity found in a Business Corporation, or in a Physical Body - it is in a class by itself. We become Members of that Body by Baptism.
On this Earth the Mystical Body is called the Church Militant, because it must Struggle against the World, the Flesh and the Devil. The Church Suffering are the Holy Souls in Purgatory. The Church Triumphant are those in Heaven.
By virtue of this Union we can help the Souls in Purgatory and they can Pray for us. The Souls in Heaven can also Pray for us.
The word Saint in Saint Paul's Epistles does not mean High Moral Perfection: it means one has come under the New Covenant.
There are Four (4) Marks ('Notes') of the Church: One (1), Holy , Catholic and Apostolic. We do not mean they are clear enough to prove the Catholic Church is the True Church, though it actually is.
It is One (1), since Christ established only One (1) Church.
It is Holy, not that all Members are Holy, but that Christ gave it all the means of Holiness.
It is Catholic in that it is Universal. God Wills all to be Saved, and to come to the Knowledge of the Truth in the Church.
It is Apostolic, because it goes back to the Apostles.
The Pope and Bishops have their Authority in Succession from the Apostles.
Just as Peter and the Apostles formed a Body or College, so in a similar (not identical) way, the Pope and the Bishops form a College. The Pope is always able to act alone, without the College, but he usually does work with it in the Solemn Things.
The Church is also called the People of God. God invited the Jews to be His People in Exodus 19:5: If you really hearken to My Voice and keep My Covenant, you will be My special People. You will get Favor if you Obey. But God also intended that all People should become part of that People, as Saint Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:6.
The Church has a Teaching Authority, the Magisterium, i.e., the Pope and Bishops. Whenever they present something as Definitive, or Final, that Teaching is Infallible, if directed to the whole Church. Even Teachings not presented as Definitive, deserve Internal Acceptance - the Track Record of the Church over the Centuries, even on this level, is Marvelous.
It is said there is no Salvation outside the Church. That is True, but we must understand the Official Texts, the way the Church means them. Several times - Pius IX in 1863, Pius XII, in Mystical Body Encyclical, Vatican II in Lumen Gentium 16, and John Paul II in Mission of the Redeemer 10 -- all Teach that a Person can reach Heaven even if he does not formally enter the Church, if he keeps the Moral Law known to him Interiorly with the Help of Grace. But this is true only if hecould not help it or if he does not know that the Church is from Christ. Then he may be 'Excused' as long as that situation lasts. But even if he does not formally put his name on a Parish Register, he may be a Member of Christ.
Saint Justin c.145-50 said that many in the Past Centuries were Christians, because they followed the Divine Word, which was within them. Saint Paul in Romans 2:14-16 tells us that the Gentiles read what the Spirit of Christ writes on their Heart, telling them what they need in Moral matters. If they follow that, they are following the Spirit of Christ, and so, even if they do not know it, are Christian. Further, because they follow the Spirit of Christ, as Saint Paul said in Romans 8:9, they belong to Christ - which means they are Members of Christ, which means Members of His Church, substantially, even if not formally.
The fact that this is true does not mean we should not try to bring in those outside; they have Richer Graces there and Greater Safety, and it is the Will of Christ that we try to do this.
The Church is of Divine Origin; the State, of Human Origin. In Romans 13:1-2 Saint Paul says we should obey Higher Authorities, and in Verse 4 says they even have the right of Capital Punishment.
But just as each individual needs to Worship God for his own needs, so also the State, as a State, really should Worship God, in the way He has made known, if it can find that.
Forgiveness is offered us without limit, because of the Infinite Price of Redemption. Yet individuals may Reject these offers, and in Rejecting, may be Eternally Lost.
There is a General Resurrection at the End of Time. The Risen Body will then be incapable of Dying again. If the Person has been Faithful to Christ, his Body will be similar to His, it will be Real Flesh, yet no longer subject to the limits of Flesh as it is now: the Spirit, the Soul, will dominate and control all, even that Body.
We spoke of Purgatory and Hell above.
What is Heaven like? By Grace we become Sharers in the Divine Nature (2Peter 1:4), which means we get the Basic Ability to see God face-to-face, with not even an Image in between. That is, He joins Himself directly to the Soul and by that means, the Soul knows Him.
When we Die, the Lights go on, that is the Power of our Spiritual Soul to know, is freed from the Limits imposed by the Material Brain. Then our Soul intensely desires God, knowing what He is like even before reaching that Vision. The Happiness coming from that is beyond description. It can never get Dull, for God is Infinite (∞).
We will have the Joy of seeing our Dear Ones there and all the Saints, and especially our Blessed Mother.
Our Bodies will then be freed from all Limits, Pain, Death, and Corruption. If a person wishes, he can go Instantly to any part of the Universe.
by Father Pablo Straub, CSSR
(Redemptorist Father Straub is a long-time contributor
to prime time EWTN Television)