April 10, 2013

Jesus, God's Only Son, Born of the Virgin Mary

Catechism Paragraphs 430 – 483


“Jesus means in Hebrew: ‘God saves,’ which expresses both his identity and his mission.  430   God was not content to deliver Israel out of the house of bondage by bringing them out of Egypt.  He also saves them from their sin.  Because sin is always an offense against God, only he can forgive it. (cf Ps 51:4, 12) 431   Jesus’ Resurrection glorifies the name of the Savior God, for from that time on it is the name of Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the ‘name which is above every name.’ (Phil 2:9-10)  434   The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer.  All liturgical prayers conclude with the words ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ.’” 435


“The word ‘Christ’ comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which means ‘anointed.’  It became the name proper to Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that ‘Christ’ signifies.  436   To the shepherds the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel: ‘To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’ (Lk 2:11) 437   Jesus’ messianic consecration reveals his divine mission, for the name Jesus implies ‘he who anointed,’  ‘he who was anointed,’ and ‘the very anointing with which he was anointed.’  The one who anointed is the Father, the one who was anointed is the Son, and he was anointed with the Spirit who is the anointing.’ 438   Jesus accepted Peter’s profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of man.  He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man ‘who came down from heaven,’ and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant.  Hence the true meaning of his kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the cross.’  440  


“In the Old Testament, ‘son of God’ is a title given to the angels, the Chosen People, the children of Israel, and their kings.  It signifies an adoptive sonship that establishes a relationship of particular intimacy between God and his creature.  When the promised Messiah-King is called ‘son of God,’ it does not necessarily imply that he was more than human, according to the literal meaning of these texts.  441   Such is not the case for Simon Peter when he confesses Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ for Jesus responds solemnly: ‘Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.’  (Mt 16:16-17)  From the beginning this acknowledgement of Christ’s divine sonship will be the center of the apostolic faith.  442   The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his ‘beloved Son.’ (Mt 3:17, 17:5)  Jesus calls himself the ‘only Son of God,’ and by this title affirms his eternal preexistence. (Jn 3:16) 444   After his Resurrection, Jesus’ divine sonship becomes manifest in the power of his glorified humanity.  He was ‘designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead.’” (Jn 1:14) 445  

“Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as ‘Lord.’  This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing.  At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, ‘Lord’ expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus.  448   The title ‘Lord’ indicates divine sovereignty.  To confess or invoke Jesus as Lord is to believe in his divinity.  ‘No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit “(1Cor 12:3) 455


“With the Nicene Creed, we answer by confessing: ‘For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.’  456   The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God, who ‘loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.’  (1Jn 4:10)  457   The Word became flesh so that we might know God’s love: ‘In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.’ (1Jn 4:9) 458   The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.’  ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.’ (Mt 11:29, Jn 14:6) ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ (Jn 15:12)  459   The Word became flesh to make us partakers of the divine nature. (2Pet 1:4)  ‘For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.’  ‘The only begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.’”  460  

“Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of the Christian faith: ‘By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.’ (1Jn 4:2) 463   He became truly man while remaining truly God.  Jesus Christ is true God and true man.  During the first centuries, the Church had to defend and clarify this truth of faith against the heresies that falsified it.  464   The first ecumenical council of Nicaea in 325 confessed in its Creed that the Son of God is ‘begotten, not made, of the same substance as the Father,’ and condemned Arius, who had affirmed that the Son of God ‘came to be from things that were not’ and that he was ‘from another substance’ than that of the Father.’  465   Because ‘human nature was assumed, not absorbed,’ in the mysterious union of the Incarnation, the Church was led over the course of centuries to confess the full reality of Christ’s human soul, with its operations of intellect and will, and of his human body.  In parallel fashion, she had to recall on each occasion that Christ’s human nature belongs, as his own, to the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it.  In his soul as in his body, Christ thus expresses humanly the divine ways of the Trinity.  470   This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge.  As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time.  This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, ‘increase in wisdom and in stature, and in the favor with God and man,’ (Lk 2:52) and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.  This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking ‘the form of a slave.’  472   By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal.” 474

“At the sixth ecumenical council, Constantinople III in 681, the Church confessed that Christ possesses two wills and two natural operations, divine and human.  They are not opposed to each other, but cooperate in such a way that the Word made flesh willed humanly in obedience to his Father all that he had decided divinely with the Father and the holy Spirit for our salvation.  Christ’s human will does not resist or oppose but rather submits to his divine and almighty will. 475   Since the Word became flesh in assuming a true humanity, Christ’s body was finite.  Therefore the human face of Jesus can be portrayed; at the seventh ecumenical council (Nicaea II in 787) the Church recognized its representation in holy images to be legitimate.”  476 

Why can we grasp Jesus only as a “mystery”?  Jesus extends into God; therefore we cannot understand him if we exclude the invisible divine reality.  The visible side of Jesus points to the invisible.  We see in the life of Jesus numerous realities that are powerfully present but that we can understand only as a mystery.  Examples of such mysteries are the divine Sonship, the Incarnation, the Passion, and the Resurrection of Christ.  YOUCAT Q78

A religion without mystery is necessarily a religion without God.  – Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667, English spiritual writer)

Next time we look at Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit and the mysteries of His infancy, catechism paragraphs 484 - 534

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