Anecdotes and Examples Illustrating The Catholic Catechism/lesson7
ON THE INCARNATION AND REDEMPTION
Q. Did God abandon man after he fell into sin?
A. God did not abandon man after he fell into sin, but promised him a Redeemer, who was to satisfy for man's sin and reopen to him the gates of heaven.
The Generous Prince
A certain great monarch had a favorite nobleman whom he had advanced in every way. Unfortunately, in the course of time, pride so took possession of this nobleman that, not content with being second in the kingdom, he formed a conspiracy whereby he hoped to place himself upon the throne. The scheme, however, was discovered in time to defeat it, and the victim of ambition was degraded and banished. But the young crown prince, who was of a noble, compassionate disposition and loved the former favorite dearly, went to his royal father and obtained forgiveness for that unfortunate and his family. Then the noble youth set out alone and on foot, and braved the hardships of a long and trying journey so that he himself might be the first to announce the good tidings to his old friend. The joy of the poor exiles may be imagined, and also their thankfulness and life-long devotion to their generous prince. Infinitely more than this has the Son of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, done for us, and infinitely stronger is His claim on our lasting gratitude and love.
Q. Who is the Redeemer?
A. Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of mankind.
A Modern Pagan
There is only one true type of Christianity, and that is Catholicism. Protestantism is but a halfway house on the road to paganism. Catholics alone cling tenaciously to Christ by faith in Him, hope in Him, and love for Him. During an exhibition of paintings in a Boston art museum, a well-dressed, intelligent-looking young gentleman was seen to be studying one work with special interest. The picture was a head of the Saviour. Turning presently to a lady near him, the young man begged pardon and asked to be enlightened as to what that picture represented. “That, sir, is the Saviour, the Redeemer,” she replied. “ And who,” he asked, “ was He? ” “ Why, Jesus Christ, of course,” she answered, with a look of astonishment. The youth noticed her wonder and blushed deeply, saying: “You will forgive me, I trust, when I assure you I have never before heard of Him.” The lady, herself a Protestant, told of the incident, and said that on inquiry she found he was from one of the northern New England States, from a town whose church, for want of a minister, was closed and whose young people were growing up in absolute ignorance of Christian truth. And, in fact, so many such towns are there that even the governor of the State lately raised his voice in solemn protest.
Q. What do you believe of Jesus Christ?
A. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, true God and true man.
The Joint Debate
Once in Armenia an heretical priest challenged a Catholic missionary to a joint debate. The missionary, though reluctant, was in a way forced to accept. The subject was the personality of the Redeemer. “I admit,” said the heretic, “ that Jesus Christ was God and man, but so perfectly were the divine and human natures united in Him that He had but one nature. Two pieces of iron — for example, a large and small piece — if fused together become so united as to lose their individuality.” “True,” replied the missionary, “ but let one piece be an ingot of gold, and will the result be all gold or all iron? Will it not rather be part gold and part iron? So it is with Christ; in His single person are two distinct natures. In His human nature He suffered and died, but it was the divine nature that gave an infinite value to His sufferings and death.”
Q. Why is Jesus Christ true God?A. Jesus Christ is true God because He is the true and only Son of God the Father.
The Arian Emperor and the Crown Prince
Since Christ is the Son of God, divine worship is due to Him. It is well known that in the early ages of Christianity the Arian heresy was widely diffused. The followers of Arius asserted Christ to be the greatest and noblest of created beings, but they denied His divinity. This heresy was condemned by the Council of Nicaea, and the clause (Christ is), consubstantial with the Father, was inserted in the Creed. The Emperor Theodosius favored the Arians; accordingly a certain bishop named Amphilochius went to him with the purpose of demonstrating to him that to deny divine honors to the Son of God is to rob God the Father of glory. The bishop asked to have an audience with the emperor, at which the crown prince should also be present. On entering the royal presence he bowed low and reverently before the emperor, but only nodded to the prince, saying: ‘‘ Good morning, sir.” The emperor was highly incensed, and standing up, he insisted upon proper respect being shown to his son. The bishop speaking with perfect composure, said: “Behold, mighty Emperor, thou wilt not permit thy subjects to refuse to pay thy son the respect which is his due. So likewise, God the Father is displeased when man withholds divine honor from His only begotten Son. Nay, He requires us to pay Him the same homage as we pay His Father.” Thereupon he saluted the imperial prince in the most respectful manner. The good bishop’s words took effect; from that time forth the emperor held the Catholic faith in its integrity.
Q. Why is Jesus Christ true man?
A. Jesus Christ is true man because He is the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary and has a body and soul like ours.
God became man in order that He might suffer and thereby redeem us. Codrus, the king of Athens, may to a certain extent be compared to Our Lord. During his reign the realm was invaded by enemies, the Dorians. The oracle of Delphi announced that the Athenians would be victorious over their foes, if their king was slain by the enemy’s hand. Hearing this, Codrus dressed as a peasant, and went into the hostile camp. There a dispute having arisen, he was killed in the fray. Now the Dorians were acquainted with the utterance of the oracle, and when they found who it was whom they had slain, terror seized on them, and they fled in dismay. So it was in Our Lord’s case. The prophets had foretold that the human race would be saved through the death of the King of glory. The Son of God took upon Himself the form of a servant, the nature of man; He came into the world, was not recognized by the world, and was put to death. When the enemy of mankind saw that at his instigation the Jews had crucified the Lord of life, he fled in alarm.
Q. How many natures are there in Jesus Christ?
A. In Jesus Christ there are two natures, the nature of God and the nature of man.
Christ gave proof of His divinity by His resurrection. St. Margaret, who suffered martyrdom in the year 284, was questioned by the pagan judge about the religion she professed. She answered that she was a Christian. “ Oh, how utterly foolish it is,” the judge exclaimed, “ to worship a man as if he were a god, — and such a man, too, who died the shameful death of the cross! ” “ Why do you always dwell upon the crucifixion of Christ and never speak of His resurrection? ” Margaret rejoined. ‘‘ His passion and death do, it is true, prove that He was man; His resurrection, on the other hand, proves Him to be God.”
Q. Is Jesus Christ more than one Person?
A. No, Jesus Christ is but one Divine Person.
The Divine Maternity of Mary
The whole doctrine of Christianity depends on the truth of the Incarnation, — that is, that in the single person of Jesus Christ the divine and human natures were united. The value of all His words and works, of all His teaching and example, of His life and sufferings and death, depend on the fact that He, one person, was both God and man. And that is why no other doctrine has been so much insisted on and so much assailed. Even in the time of the apostles, some heretics taught that Christ was not God; others, that he was God but not man; others, that His body was only a body in appearance; others, that He took possession of His body after its birth, and left it before its death; others, that in Him there were two persons, etc. "I don’t see,” said a Protestant to a Catholic friend, "why you Catholics make such a fuss over your devotion to the Virgin.” “ It is,” was the reply, because ‘ Mary, the Mother of God,’ is the most fundamental dogma of our faith.” And such, in truth, it is. Eve sought to make Adam equal to God: but to the new Eve, Mary, it fell to make man God Himself.
Q. Was Jesus Christ always God?
A. Jesus Christ was always God, as He is the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, equal to His Father from all eternity.
The Word of God
“ A word,” says the dictionary, “ is a sign expressing an idea.” Thus a word may be either oral or written, and it may even be a picture such as the hieroglyphics of the ancients. The human eye forms a word, or sensible picture, of the object seen, and the mind from this sensible word forms an intellectual word or representation of the same object. It is thus we examine and admire things and study the different ways in which our ideas may be modified and imitated in the material world. So, too, God contemplating His own divine essence forms a word, — the Word of God, the second Person of the Trinity, in whom all things had their first ideal existence; who though distinct from God, is God Himself since falling within the radius of the Divinity, and who was always God, for with God, to be and to know are simultaneous.
Q. Was Jesus Christ always man?
A. Jesus Christ was not always man, but became man at the time of His Incarnation.
The Test of the Angels
It is believed that when God created the angels and wished, before admitting them to the everlasting joys of heaven, to test their obedience. He revealed to them the future humanity of His only begotten Son and bade them all fall down and adore. Lucifer and his followers, pure spirits as they were, disdained to worship a soul clothed with a mortal body, and so were cast into hell.
Q. What do you mean by the Incarnation?
A. By the Incarnation I mean that the Son of God was made man.
The Iron and the Wood
A saintly hermit and his disciple, whom he called his son, were building a house for themselves on the bank of a river. Presently, when the young man swung his ax, the head flew from the handle and sank in the stream. The youth cried out in dismay, for the ax was his only tool and was borrowed as well. Then his father, taking a log of wood, cast it into the river, and lo! the wood sank, and in proportion as it went down the iron rose and finally appeared and floated to the shore. That iron represents our human nature which tends to sink to the depths and stick fast in the mire of iniquity. God meant it to build for itself an eternal habitation in heaven, but it fell and sank. Then the Father cast His Son — the wood of the root of Jesse — into the stream of time, and lo! according as He sank into His humble earthly existence and the degradation of His passion and death, so our nature was raised up and restored to its original purpose, viz. to construct for itself — wielded by the Son — a heavenly mansion.
Q. How was the Son of God made man?
A. The Son of God was conceived and made man by the power of the Holy Ghosts tR the womh of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Holy House of Nazareth
The Blessed Virgin’s home at Nazareth, in which the Annunciation took place, no longer stands in that town; in the year 1294 it was miraculously conveyed to Loretto in Italy. Its site in Nazareth lies within the limits of the Franciscan convent. An altar graces the spot whereon the Incarnation was accomplished, and on the marble floor is this inscription: Verhum caro hie factum est, (Here the Word was made flesh.) The house was miraculously conveyed through the air to Loretto, to avoid desecration, and there it rests without any visible foundation, the shrine of millions pf pilgrims and thousands of miracles.
Q. Is the Blessed Virgin Mary truly the Mother of God?
A. The Blessed Virgin Mary is truly the Mother of God, because the same Divine Person who is the Son of God is also the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Catholic Waif and the Protestant Bishop
In a London charity-school a Protestant bishop and several other Anglican clergymen were hearing the waifs recite their prayers. Among them was a Catholic lad. This latter, having said the “Our Father,” etc., began, as he had been taught, to recite the “Hail Mary”; but the bishop interposed hastily, saying: “No, no! we want to hear nothing about her. Go on to the next.” The lad then began the “ Apostles’ Creed ”; but when he arrived at “ was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the — ” he stopped, and looking up said, “Now, what am I to do, sir, for here she comes again.” And so it is, indeed, for the Virgin is as irrevocably bound up with our Redemption and our religion as is a loving mother with the existence and the fortunes of her children.
Pius X. in his very first message to the world mentions Mary as “participating in all mysteries and dispensing every grace.”
Q. Did the Son of God become man immediately after the sin of our first parents?
A. The Son of God did not become man immediately after the sin of our first parents, but was promised to them as a Redeemer.
God Moves Slowly
A certain infidel based his denial of the existence of God on the fact that if God existed He would not delay in punishing the world’s great sinners. “Even my poor sense of justice would demand vengeance on their guilty heads, and that, too, immediately,” he said in arguing with a Christian friend; “ and if your God exists, surely His sense of justice ought to be keener than mine.” “Yes,” his friend rejoined, “but you and I are in a hurry because we feel that time — a short space of time — is the limit of our existence, but God can afford to take His time in the exercise of both His justice and His mercy, because the measure of His being is eternity.”
Q. How could they be saved who lived before the Son of God became man?
A. They who lived before the Son of God became man could be saved by believing in a Redeemer to come, and by keeping the Commandments,
The Fruit of the Promised Land
Moses, while still with the Israelites in the desert, sent two spies to view the Promised Land. On their return from their tour of investigation, they brought back in proof of the land’s richness an immense bunch of grapes Strung on a pole and so carried between them, one preceding, the other following. That cluster of grapes represents Christ on the cross; and he that went before personifies the saints of old, and he that followed typifies those who came after Christ. Thus the virtue of the cross touches each, and Christ’s sweetness and refreshing grace are ever ready to their hands, though in this respect the Christian has the advantage. To the men of old, God said: “Go before Me and be perfect,” but to His Christian followers Christ Himself has shown the way, and, leading, says: “ Come, follow Me.”
Q. On what day was the Son of God conceived and made man?
A. The Son of God was conceived and made man on Annunciation Bay — the day on which the Angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she was to be the Mother of God.
The Devil Expostulates
We adore the mystery of the Incarnation twice during the Mass, viz. at the words of the Creed, Et homo factus est, and at the Et Verbum caro factum est, of the last gospel. A young man while assisting at Mass neglected to genuflect at these two points, and immediately the devil with a threatening aspect appeared and said: “ Ungrateful wretch! have you no sense of thankfulness? If God had only done half as much for us we would be constantly prostrate before Him adoring and thanking Him.”
Q. On what day was Christ born?
A. Christ was born on Christmas Day, in a stable at Bethlehem, nineteen hundred years ago.
A Study in Dates
Previous to the coming Christ, time was reckoned A.U.C., — that is, Ab urbe condita, or in English, "From the building of the city ” (Rome); but since Christ’s time we compute the years as a.d., Anno Dominu or “ year of the Lord.” The years 754 A.u.c. and 1 A.D. coincide. But it is most probable that Christ was born on December 25, 747 A.u.c., or six years previous to the opening of what we call the Christian era. He certainly was not born later than 750 A.u.c., for St. Matthew says He was born during the reign of Herod the Great, and Herod, we know, died in 750 A.u.c. Neither was He born previous to 746 A.u.c., for all the early writers tell us He was born in time of peace, and the only period of peace about that time began in 746, and lasted six years. That He was born in 747 A.u.c. is highly probable from the fact that the census spoken of in the Gospel was made by Sentius Sauterninus, propraetor of Syria, in his last year of office; and he, we know, held office from 744 A.u.c. to the beginning of the year 748 A.u.c. Hence Christ was born December 25, 747 A.u.c., or six years before the opening of our present calendar.
Q. How long did Christ live on earth?
A. Christ lived on earth about thirty-three years, and led a most holy life in poverty and suffering.
Our Lord’s Age
It being most probable that Our Lord was born on December 25, 747 A.u.c., and, as we shall see later, it being equally probable that the crucifixion took place on March 24 (Friday), 782 A.u.c., or 29 A.D., therefore. Our Saviour’s age at the time of His death was exactly thirty-three years and three months.
Q. Why did Christ live so long on earth?
A. Christ lived so long on earth to show us the way to heaven by His teachings and example.
The Disciple of Zeno
Christ taught by word and example, and thus showed us the necessity of reducing to practice what we learn. In the order of virtue, an ounce of practice is worth tons of pure theory. A youth, who had been sent to the famous Greek philosopher Zeno to finish his studies, was asked by his father on his return home, ‘"Well, what hast thou learned?” “Thou shalt see presently,” the young man answered, and added not another word. His father, thinking his silence to be an evidence of stupidity or neglect of study, abused him roundly, saying: “ This, forsooth, is the result of all the expense I have been to.” Then noticing the youth’s patience and submission to it all. he inquired: “ What means this silence, sir? ” “That,” replied the youth, “is what Zeno taught me."