OurLadyImages

The Profession of Faith

 

Faith is man's response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to men and women, at the same time bringing men and women a superabundant light as we search for the ultimate meaning of our life.

 

The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man and woman are created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw us to himself.  Only in God will we find the truth and happiness we never stop searching for.

 

The dignity of men and women rests above all on the fact that we are called to communion with God.  This invitation to converse with God is addressed to us as soon as we come into being.  For, if we exist, it is because God has created us through love, and through love, continues to hold us in existence. We cannot live fully according to truth unless we freely acknowledge that love and entrust ourselves to our creator.

 

Created in God's image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him.  These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of "converging and convincing arguments," which allow us to attain certainty about the truth.

 

These "ways" of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world and the human person.  The "world": starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world's order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe.

"Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky....question all these realities.  All respond: "See, we are beautiful."  Their beauty is a profession.  These beauties are subject to change.  Who made them if not the Beautiful One, who is not subject to change?" Quotes St. Augustine.

The "human person": with our openness to truth and beauty, our sense of moral goodness, our freedom and the voice of our conscience, with our longings for the infinite and for happiness, we question ourselves about God's existence.  In all this we discern signs of our spiritual soul.  The soul, the "seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material," can have its origin only in God.

 

It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known, the mystery of his will.  His will was that we should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit.

 

God, who "dwells in unapproachable light," wants to communicate his own divine life to the people he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons and daughters in his only-begotton Son.  By revealing himself God wishes to make us capable of responding to him, and of knowing him, and of loving him far beyond our own natural capacity.

 

In the divine plan of Revelation, God communicated himself to us gradually.  He prepared us to welcome by stages the supernatural Revelation that is to culminate in the person and mission of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

 

God "desires all men and women to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."  That is, of Christ Jesus.  Christ must be proclaimed to all nations and individuals, so that this revelation may reach to the ends of the earth:

God graciously arranged that the things he had once revealed for the salvation of all peoples should remain in their entirety, throughout the ages, and be transmitted to all generations.

 

The Obedience of Faith: to obey(from the Latin ob-audire, to "hear or listen to") in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself.

Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man and woman to God.  At the same time, and inseparably, it is the free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.

For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his "beloved Son," in whom the Father is "well pleased"; God tells us to listen to him.  The Lord Jesus, himself said to his disciples: "Believe in God, believe also in me."  We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh:  "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known." Because he" has seen the Father, " Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him.

One cannot believe in Jesus Christ without sharing in his Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit who reveals to men and women who Jesus is.  For "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit,"  who "searches everything, even the depths of God.  No one comprehends the thoughts of God, except the Spirit of God."  Only God knows God completely: we believe in the Holy Spirit because he is God.

"The Church never ceases to proclaim her faith in one only God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

 

Faith is a gift of God a supernatural virtue infused by him.  In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace.  Faith is certain.  "Faith seeks understanding," it is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in whom he has put his faith and to understand better what God has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love.  The grace of faith opens "the eyes of your hearts" to a lively understanding of the contents of Revelation":  That is, of the totality of God's plan and the mysteries of faith, of their connection with each other and with Christ, the center of the revealed mystery.  "The same Holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by his gifts, so that Revelation may be more and more profoundly understood."  In the words of St. Augustine, "I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe."

 

"I believe in God": this first affirmation of our Profession of Faith is also the most fundamental.  The whole Creed speaks of God, and when it also speaks of us and of the world it does so in relation to God.  In the first article "The faithful first profess their belief in God."  God is unique; there is only one God:  The Christian faith confesses that God is one in nature, substance, and essence."

We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal, infinite, and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty, and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit:  three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple.  God, "HE WHO IS," is truth and love.

 

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  Holy Scripture begins with these solemn words.  The profession of faith takes them up when it confesses that God the Father almighty is "Creator of heaven and earth."

 

Creation is thee foundation of "all God's saving plans," the "beginning of the history of salvation"  that culminates in Jesus Christ.  Conversely, the mystery of Christ casts conclusive light on the mystery of creation and reveals the end for which "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth":  from the beginning, God evisaged

the glory of the new creation in Christ.

 

The world was made for the glory of God.  We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom. It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance.  We believe that it proceeds from God's free will; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, wisdom, and goodness: "For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."  Therefore the Psalmist exclaims: "O Lord, how manifold are your works! In widsom you have made them all", and "The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.

 

Since God could create everything out of nothing, he can also, through the Holy Spirit, give spiritual life to sinners by creating a pure heart in them and bodily life to the dead through the Resurrection.  God "gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist."  And since God was able to make light shine in darkness by his Word, he can also give the light of faith to those who do not yet know him.

 

God is infinitely greater than all his works: "You have set your glory above the heavens."  Indeed, God's "greatness is unsearchable."  But becuase he is the free and sovereign Creator, the first cause of all that exists, God is present to his creatures "inmost being."  In him we live and move and have our being."

 

God is the sovereign master of his plan.  But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' cooperation.  This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness.  For, God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles of each other, and thus of cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan.

 

Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love.  They can therefore go astray.  Indeed, they have sinned.  Thus has moral evil, in commensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world.  God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil.  He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it.

 

The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls, "angels" is a truth of faith.  The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.

 

Who are they?

St. Augustine says: "Angel" is the name of their office, not of their nature.  If you seek the name of their nature, it is "spirit": if you seek the name of their office, it is "angel":

from what they are, 'spirit,' from what they do, "angel."  With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they "always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven, said Jesus, they are the 'mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word."

 

Christ is the center of the angelic world.  They are his angels; "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him..."  They belong to him because they were created through and for him; "for in him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authories all things were created through him and for him."  They belong to him still more because he has made them messengers of his saving plan:  "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?"

 

Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan:  they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot: saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham's hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples.  Finally, the arc-angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor, John the Baptist, and that of Jesus himself.

 

From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels.  When God "brings the firstborn into the world, he says: "Let all God's angels worship him'"  Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church's praise: "Glory to God in the highest!"  They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.  Again, it is the angels who "evangelize" by proclaiming the Good News of Christ's Incarnation and Resurrection.  They will be present at Christ's return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgment.

 

In the meantime, the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels.  From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.  "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life."  Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men and women united in God.

 

Nothing exists that does not owe its existence to God the Creator.  Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. God wills the interdependence of creatures.  Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other.

 

The beauty of the universe:  The order and harmony of the created world results from the diversity of beings and from the relationships which exist among them.  Man and woman discovers them progressively as the laws of nature.  They call forth the admiration of scholars.  The beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man and woman's intellect and will.

 

Man and woman is the summit of the Creator's work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man and woman from that of the other creatures.

 

Of all visible creatures only man and woman are "able to know and love their creator."  Man is "the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake" and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God's own life.  It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity.  Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone.  Man and woman are capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving themselves and entering into communion with other persons.  And they are called by grace to a covenant with their Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in their stead.

 

God created everything for man and woman. "In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh-Jesus Christ- that the mystery of man and woman truly becomes clear."  Because of its common origin the human race forms a unity, for "from one ancestor {God} made all nations to inhabit the whole earth."

 

The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual.  The biblical acount tells us, "then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being."  Man and Woman whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.

 

The term "soul" often refers to human life or the entire human person.  But "soul" also refers to the innermost aspect of man and woman, that which is of greatest value in them, that by which we are most especially in God's image: "soul" signifies the spiritual principle in man and woman.

 

The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit.

 

Man and woman, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world.  Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator.  For this reason man and woman may not despise his or her bodily life.  Rather they are obliged to regard his or her body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.

 

The unity of the soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body, i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

 

The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not "produced" by the parents- and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.

 

Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God; on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity "In the image of God."  In their "being-man" and "being-woman", they reflect the Creator's wisdom and goodness.

 

But, sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile.  To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man and woman to God,  for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity's rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.

 

Only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly the sin committed at mankind's origins.  Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a devlopmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc.  Only in the knowledge of God's plan for man and woman can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another.

 

With the progress of Revelation, the reality of sin is also illuminated.  The Fall of humanity comes at the beginning of the history of man and woman.  We must know Christ as the source of grace in order to know our first parents Adam and Eve for their original sin.  Original sin is so to speak, the "reverse side" of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all men and women, that all need salvation, and that salvation is offered to all through Christ.

 

Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy.  This voice was a fallen angel, called "Satan" or the "devil."  The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: "the devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing."

 

Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels.  This "fall" consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign.  We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter's words to our first parents:  "You will be like God."  The devil "has sinned from the beginning", he is "a liar and the father of lies."

 

It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels' sin unforgivable. "There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men and women after death."

 

Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls "a murderer from the beginning," who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father.  "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil."  In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man and woman to disobey God.

 

Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan.  Their choice against God is definitive.  They try to associate and to lure man and woman in their revolt against God.

 

The power of Satan is nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature.  He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign.  Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries - of a spiritual nature and indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and woman and to society, the action is premitted by God's divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history.  It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but "we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him."

 

Man and woman, tempted by the devil, let their trust in their Creator die in their heart and, abusing their freedom, disobeyed God's command.  This is what man and woman's first sin consisted of.  All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

 

In that sin man and woman preferred themselves to God and by that very act scorned him.  They chose themselves over and against God, against the requirements of their creaturely status and therefore against their own good.  Constituted in a state of holiness, man and woman were destined to be fully "divinized" by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, they wanted to "be like God" but "without God, before God, and not in accordance with God."

 

Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience.  Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness.  They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image-that of a God jealous of his perogatives.

 

The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.  Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation is now subject "to its bondage to decay."  Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will "return to the ground," for out of it he was taken.

Death makes its entrance into human history.

 

After that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin.  Scripture and the Church's Tradition continually recall the presence and universality of sin in mankind's history:

What Revelation makes known to us is confirmed by our own experience.  For when man and woman looks into his or her own heart he or she finds that he or she is drawn toward what is wrong and sunk in many evils which cannot come from their good Creator.  Often refusing to acknowledge God at their source, man and woman has also upset the relationship which should link them to their last end; and at the same time he or she has broken the right order that should reign within themselves as well as between themselves and other people and all creatures.

 

How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants?  The whole human race is in Adam "as one body of one man."  By this "unity of the human race: all people are implicated in Adam's sin, as all are implicated in Christ's justice.  Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand.  But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature.  By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state.  It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice.  And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act.

 

Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants.  It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: It is wounded in the natural powers proper to it; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called "concupiscence."  Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace erases original sin and turns a person back toward God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in men and women and summon us to spiritual battle.

 

The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of mankind's situation and activity in the world.  By our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man and woman, even though man and woman remain free.  Original sin entails "captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil."  Ignorance of the fact that mankind has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action, and morals.

 

The consequences of original sin and of all men and women's personal sins put the world as a whole in the sinful condition aptly described in St. John's expression, "the sin of the world."  This expression can also refer to the negative influence exerted on people by communal situations and social structures that are the fruit of mankind's sins.

 

This dramatic situation of "the whole world which is in the power of the evil one" makes man's life a battle:

The whole of man and woman's history has been the story of our combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day.  Finding ourselves in the midst of the battlefield man and woman has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to themselves, and aided by God's grace, that man and woman succeeds in achieving their own inner integrity.

 

After their fall, man and woman was not abandoned by God.  On the contrary, God calls man and woman and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and man and woman's restoration from their fall.  This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium("first gospel"): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers.

 

The Christian tradition sees in this passage an annoucement of the "New Adam" who, because he "became obedient unto death, even death on a cross." makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience of Adam.  Furthermore the Church believes Mary, the mother of Christ, is the 'new Eve."   Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ's victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.

 

But why did God not prevent the first man and woman from sinning?  St. Leo the Great responds, "Christ's inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon's envy had taken away.  And St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, "There is nothing to prevent human nature's being raised up to something greater, even after sin, God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good.  Thus St. Paul says, "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more"; and the Exultet sings, 'O happy fault,... which gained for us so great a Redeemer!'"

 

The Good News: God has sent his Son:

"But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons and daughters."  This is "the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," God has visited his people.  He has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants.  He acted far beyond all expectation-he has sent his own "beloved Son."

 

We believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died crucified in Jerusalem under the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is the eternal Son of God made man.  He "came from God," descended from heaven,' and "came in the flesh."  For "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth: we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son for the Father...And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace."

 

Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: "you are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church.

 

The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him.  From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: "We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard."

And they invite people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  And we are writing this that our joy may be complete. 1 John 1:1-4

 

"At the heart of our belief we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son from the Father...who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever."  In the Person of Christ the whole of God's eternal design reaches fulfillment in the Person of Christ.  We seek to understand the meaning of Christ's actions and words and of the signs worked by him."  People must be in communion with Jesus Christ: only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity."

 

Whoever is called "to teach Christ" must first seek "the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus": the person must suffer 'the loss of all things.' in order to "gain Christ and be found in him,"   and "to know him and the power of his resurrection, and to share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible the person may attain the resurrection from the dead."

 

Jesus means in Hebrew: "God saves."  At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission.  Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, "Will save his people from their sins."  In Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of mankind.

 

The name "Jesus signifies that the very name of God is present in the person of his Son, made man for the universal and definitive redemption from sins.  It is the divine name that alone brings salvation, and hence forth all can invoke his name, for Jesus united himself to all men and women through his Incarnation, so that "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

 

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 the "Christ" signifies.

 

Jesus calls himself the "only Son of God," and by this title affirms his eternal preexistence.

 

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.  In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: "My Lord and my God!" 

It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: "It is the Lord!"

 

By attributing to Jesus the divine title: "Lord", the first confessions of the Church's faith affirm from the beginning that the power, honor, and glory due to God the Father are due also to Jesus, because "he was in the form of God."  And the Father manifested the sovereignty of Jesus by raising him from the dead and exalting him into his glory.

 

From the beginning of Christian history, the assertion of Christ's Lordship over the world and over history has implicitly recognized that man should not submit his pesonal freedom in an absolute manner to any earthly power, but only to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  "The Church.. believes that the key, the center, and the purpose of the whole of man's history is to be found in its Lord and Master."

 

"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."

 

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."  "The Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world," and "he was revealed to take away sins."

 

Sick, our nature demanded to be healed, fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us.  Closed in the darkess, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Savior; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator.  Are these things minor or insignificant?  Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state?

 

The Word became flesh so that thus 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."  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

 

Taking up St. John's expression, "The Word became flesh, the Church, calls "Incarnation" the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it.

 

Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distictive sign of Christian faith.

 

The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply the he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human.  He became truly man while remaining truly God, Jesus Christ is true God and true man.

 

Jesus Christ is Son of God by nature and not by adoption.  Christ the Son of God is "begotten," not made, of the same substance as the Father.  Christ the Word, uniting to himself in his person the flesh animated by a rational soul, became man.  Christ's humanity has no other subject than the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it and made it his own, from his conception.  Mary truly became the Mother of God by the human conception of the Son of God in her womb: "Mother of God, not that the nature of the Word or his divinity received the beginning of its existence from the holy Virgin, but that, since the holy body, animated by a rational soul, which the Word of God united to himself according to the hypostasis(begotten of God), was born from her, the Word is said to be born according to the flesh.

 

The Church thus confesses that Jesus is inseparably true God and true man.  He is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother.

 

"O only-begotten Son and word of God, immortal being, you who deigned for our salvation to become incarnate of the holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, you who without change became man and were curcified, O Christ our God, you who by your death have crushed death, you who are one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us."  Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us like to us in all things except sin.

 

Jeus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony, and his Passion and gave himself up for each one of us.  "The Son of God...loved me and gave himself for me."  He has loved us all with a human heart.  For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, "is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that ...love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings" without exception.

 

The Annunciation to Mary inagurates "the fullness of time," the time of fulfillment of God's promises and preparations.  Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the "whole fullness of deity" would dwell "bodily."  The divine respone to her question, "How can this be, since i know not man?"  was given by the power of the Holy Spirit: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you," said the arc-angel Gabriel.

 

The mission of the Holy Spirit is always conjoined and ordered to that of the Son.  The Holy Spirit, "the Lord, the giver of Life," is sent to sanctify the womb of the Virgin Mary and divinely fecundate it, causing her to conceive the eternal Son of the Father in a humanity drawn from her own.  From the first formulation of her faith, the Church confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event:  Jesus was conceived "by the Holy Spirit without human seed."

 

The eyes of faith can discover in the context of the whole of Revelation the mysterious reasons why God in his saving plan wanted his Son to be born of a virgin.  These reasons touch both on the person of Christ and his redemptive mission, and on the welcome Mary gave that mission on behalf of all men and women.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

The Paschal mystery of Christ's cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world.  God's saving plan was accomplished "once for all" by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ.  Faith can therefore try to examine the circumstances of Jesus' death, faithfully handed on by the Gospels.

 

The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of "the righteous one, my Servant" as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men and women from the slavery of sin.  Citing a confession of faith that he himself had "received,"  St. Paul professes that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures."  In particular Jesus' redemptive death fulfills Isaiah's prophecy of the suffering Servant.  Indeed Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God's suffering Servant.  After his Resurrection he gave his interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and than to the apostles.

 

By giving up his own Son for our sins, God manifests that his plan for us is one of benevolent love, prior to any merit on our part: "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins."  God "shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."

 

The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the "one mediator between God and men."

But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man and woman, "the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery: is offered to all men and women.  He calls his disciples to "take up their cross and follow him" for "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example so that we should follow in his steps."  His first disciple was his mother, Mary, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.

 

"By the grace of God" Jesus tasted death "for every one."  Christ's stay in the tomb constitutes the real link between his passible state before Easter and his glorious and risen state today.  The same person of the "Living One" can say, "I died, and behold I am alive for evermore."

 

God, the Son, did not impede death from separating his soul from his body according to the necessary order of nature, but has reunited them to one another in the Resurrection, so that he himself might be, in his person, the meeting point for death and life, by arresting in himself the decomposition of nature produced by death and so becoming the source of reunion for the separated parts.

 

Baptism, the original and full sign of which is immersion, efficaciously signifies the descent into the tomb by the Christian who dies to sin with Christ in order to live a new life.  "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

 

Jesus "descended into the lower parts of the earth.  He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens."  We believe in Christ's descent into hell and his Resurrection from the dead on the third day, because in his Passover it was precisely out of the depths of death that he made life spring forth:  Christ, the Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

 

"The gospel was preached even to the dead."  The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment.  This is the last phase of Jesus' messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ's redemptive work to all men and women of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.

 

Chrsit went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."  Jesus, "the Author of life," by dying destroyed "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage."  Hence forth the risen Christ holds "the keys of Death and Hades," so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

 

We bring you the good news that what God promised to us this day he has fulfilled to us his children by raising Jesus.  The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal Mystery along with the cross:  Christ is risen from the dead! Dying, he conquered death; to the dead, he has given life.

 

The mystery of Christ's resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verifed, as the New Testament bears witness.  In about A.D. 56, St. Paul could already write to the Corinthians: "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve... The Apostle speaks here of the living tradition of the Resurrection which he had learned after his conversion at the gates of Damascus.

 

By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples.  He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his passion.  Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body; not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills, for Christ's humanity can no longer be confined to earth and belongs henceforth only to the Father's divine realm.  For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes to his disciples.

 

Christ's Resurrection was not a return to earthly life, as was the case with the raisings from the dead that he had performed before Easter: Jairus' daughter, the young man of Naim, and Lazarus.  These actions were miraculous events, but the persons miraculously raised returned by Jesus' power to ordinary earthly life.  At some particular moment they woud die again.  Christ's Resurrection is essentially different.  In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space.  At Jesus' Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is "the man of heaven."

 

"If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and our faith is in vain."  The Resurrection above all constitutes the confirmation of all Christ's works and teacings.  All truths, even those most inaccessible to human reason, find their justification in Christ by his Resurrection has given the definitive proof of his divine authority, which he had promised.

 

Christ's Resurrection is the fulfillment of the promises both of the Old Testament and of Jesus himself during his earthly life.  The phrase "in accordance with the Scriptures" indicates that Christ's Resurrection fulfilled these predictions.

 

The Paschal mystery has two aspects:by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life.  This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God's grace.  "So that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."

 

Finally, Christ's Resurrection-and the risen Christ himself-is the principle and source of our future resurrection: "Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruit of those who have fallen asleep... For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."  The risen Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful while they await that fulfillment.  In Christ, Christians "have tasted.. the powers of the age to come" and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may 'live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.'

 

He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

"So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken, to his apostles, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God."  Christ's body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.  But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.  Jesus' final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God's right hand.

 

Henceforth Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father.  By 'the Father's right hand'  we understand the glory and honor of divinity, where he who exists as Son of God before all ages, indeed as God, of one being with the Father, is seated bodily after he became incarnate and his flesh was glorified."

 

Being seated at the Father's rigthand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah's kingdom, the fulfillment of the prophet Daniel's vision concerning the Son of man:  "To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed."

 

"Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living."  Christ's Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God's power and authority.  Jesus Christ is Lord: he possesses all power in heaven and on earth.  He is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion," for the Father "has put all things under his feet."  Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of history.  In him human history and indeed all creation are 'set forth' and transcendently fulfilled.

 

As Lord, Christ is also head of the Church, which is his Body.  Taken up to heaven and glorified after he had thus fully accomplished his mission, Christ dwells on earth in his Church.  The redemption is the source of the authority that Christ, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, exercises over the Church. "The kingdom of Christ is already present in mystery."  "On earth, the seed and the beginning of the kingdom."

 

Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching.  Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light.  Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God's grace as nothing be condemned.  Our attitude about our neighbor will 

disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.  One the last day Jesus will say:

"Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."

 

Christ is Lord of eternal life.  Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men and women belongs to him as redeemer of the world.  He "acquired" this right by his cross.  The Father has given "all judgment to the Son."  Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself.

 

By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one's works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of Love.

 

"No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit."  "God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying "Abba! Father!"  This knowledge of faith is possible only in the Holy Spirit: to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit.  He comes to meet us and kindles faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son.

 

Baptism gives us the grace of new birth in God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit.  For those who bear God's Spirit are led to the word, that is, to the Son, and the Son presents them to the Father, and the Father confers incorruptibility on them.  And it is impossible to see God's Son without the Spirit, and no one can approach the Father without the Son, for the knowledge of the Father is the Son, and the knowledge of God's Son is obtained through the Holy Spirit.

 

Through his grace, the Holy Spirit is the first to awaken faith in us and communicates to us the new life, which is to "know the Father and the one whom he has sent, Jesus Christ."  But the Spirit is the last of the persons of the Holy Trinity to be revealed.

 

To believe in the Holy Spirit is to profess that the Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, consubstantial with the Father and the Son."  "With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified."

 

The Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginnning to the completion of the plan for our salvation.  But in these "end times," ushered in by the Son's redeeming Incarnation, the Spirit is revealed and given, recognized and welcomed as a person.  Now can this divine plan, accomplished in Christ, the firstborn and head of the new creation, be embodied in mankind by the outpouring of the Spirit; as the Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

 

"Holy Spirit" is the proper name of the one whom we adore and glorify with the Father and the Son.  The Church has received this name from the Lord, which he teaches in the Scriptures.

 

On the day of Pentecost, after Christ's resurrection, his walking the earth, and his ascension into heaven, the seven weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ's Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given and communicated as a Divine Person: of his fullness, Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance.

 

On that day, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed.  Since that day, the kingdom announced by Christ has been open to those who believe in him in the humility of the flesh and in faith, they already share in the cummunion of the Holy Trinity.  By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the "last days," the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited though not yet consummated.

 

We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith: we adore the indivisible Trinity, who has saved us.

 

The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  This joint mission henceforth brings Christ's faithful to share in his communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit.

 

The word "Church"(Latin ecclesia, from the Greek ek-da-lein, to "call out of")  means a convocation or an assembly.  It designates the assemblies of the people.  In the Church, God is "calling together" his people from all the ends of the earth.  The equivalent Greek term Kyriake, from which the English word-Church- and the German Kirche are derived, means "what belongs to the Lord."

 

In Christian usage, the word "church" designates the liturgical assembly, but also the local community or the whole universal community of believers. These three meanings are inseparable.  "The Church" is the People that God gathers in the whole world.  She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic,

assembly.  She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ's Body.

 

The eternal Father, in accordnace with the utterly gratuitous and mysterious design of his wisdom and goodness, created the whole universe and chose to raise up men and women to share in his own divine life."  To which he calls all people in his Son.  "The Father...determined to call together in a holy Church those who should believe in Christ."  This "family of God" is gradually formed and takes shape durig the stages of human history, in keeping with the Father's plan.  In fact already present in figure at the beginning of the world, this Church was prepared in marvelous fashion in the history of the people of Israel and the old Covenant.  Established in this last age of the world and made manifest in the outpouring of the Spirit, it will be brought to glorious completion at the end of time."

 

"The Chruch...will receive its perfection only in the glory of heaven."  At the time of Christ's glorious return.  Until that day, "the Church progresses on her pilgrimage amidst this world's persecutions and God's consolations."  Here below she knows that she is in exile far from the Lord, and longs for the full coming of the Kingdom, when she will "be united in glory with her King."  The Church, and through her the world, will not be perfected in glory without great trials.  Only then will "all the just from the time of Adam, 'from abel, the just one, to the last of the elect.'... be gathered together in the universal Church in the Father's presence."

 

The Church is in history, but at the same time she transcends it.  It is only "with the eyes of faith" that one can see her in her visible reality and at the same time in her spiritual reality as bearer of divine life.

 

The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim, so constituted that in her the human is directed toward and subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object of our quest.

 

Christ "is the head of the body, the Church."  He is the principle of creation and redemption.  Raised to the Father's glory, "in everything he is preeminent,"  especially in the Church, through whom he extends his reign over all things.

 

The word "catholic" means "universal,"  in the sense of "according to the totality: or "in keeping with the whole."  The Church was in this fundmental sense, Catholic on the day of Pentecost and will always be so until the day of the Parousia.  The Church is Catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race.

 

"When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him.  But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth.  Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory in heaven, contemplating in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is."

 

The intercession of the saints: Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness... they do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus...so by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.

 

"All generations will call me blessed."  "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship."  The Church rightly honors "the Blessed Virgin with special devotion.  From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of 'Mother of God' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs... This very special devotion.. differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word-Jesus Christ-and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration."    The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.

 

We believe in the forgiveness of sins:  Our Lord tied the forgiveness of sins to faith and 

Baptism: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved."  Baptism if the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, so that "we too might walk in newness of life."

 

In this battle against our inclination towards evil, who could be brave and watchful enough to escape every wound of sin?  "If the Church has the power to forgive sins, then Baptism cannot be her only means of using the keys of the Kingdom of heaven received from Jesus Christ. The Church must be able to forgive all penitents their offenses, even if they should sin until the last moment of their lives."

 

It is through the sacrament of Penance that the baptized can be reconciled with God and with the Church:  Penance has rightly been called by the Church "a laborious kind of baptism."  This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn.

 

The Church has received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven so that, in her, sins may be forgiven through Christ's blood and the Holy Spirit's action.  In this Church, the soul dead through sin comes back to life in order to live with Christ, whose grace has saved us.

 

There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive.  "There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided their repentance is honest."  Christ who died for all men and women desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin.

 

In the profession of our faith in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and in God's creative, saving and sanctifying action-culminates in the proclamation of the resurrection of the dead on the last day and in life everlasting.

 

We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.   Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity.

 

The term "flesh" refers to man in his state of weakness and mortality.  The "resurrection of the flesh" means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our "mortal body" will come to life again.  Belief in the resurrection of the dead has been an essential element of the Christian faith from its beginnings.  "The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live."

 

What is rising? In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body.

God, in his almighty power, will definitely grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus' Resurrection.

 

Who will rise?  All the dead will rise, "those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

 

How? Christ is raised with his own Body: "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself" but he did not return to an earthly life.  So, in him, "all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear,"  but Christ "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,"  into a "spiritual body."  This "how" exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith.

 

When? Definitively, "at the last day," at the end of the world."  Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ's Parousia:  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the arc-angel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.

 

"It is in regard to death that man's condition is most shrouded in doubt." In a sense bodily death is natural, but for faith it is in fact "the wages of sin."  For those who die in Christ's grace it is a particpation in the death of the Lord, so that they can also share his Resurrection.

 

Death is the end of earthly life.  Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change, grow old and as with all living beings on earth, death seems like the normal end of life.  That aspect of death lends urgency to our lives: remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfillment:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth.. before the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

 

Death is transformed by Christ.  Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition.  Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father's will.  The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.

 

In death, God calls man and woman to himself.  Therefore the Christian can experience a desire for death like St. Paul's" "My desire is to depart and be with Christ."  We can transform our own death into an act of obedience and love toward the Father, after the example of Christ.

 

Death is the end of man and woman's earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers us so as to work out our earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide our ultimate destiny.  When "the single course of our earthly life" is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives.  "It is appointed for men and women to die once."  There is NO "reincarnation" after death.

 

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended.  When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.

 

The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life.  When the Church for the last time speaks Christ's words of pardon and absolution over the dying Christian, seals him for the last time with a strenghtening anointing, and gives him Christ in viaticum as nourishment for the journey, she speaks with gentle assurance:

 

Go forth, Christian soul, from this world

in the name of God the almighty Father,

who created you,

in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God,

who suffered for you,

in the name of the Holy Spirit,

who was poured out upon you,

go forth, faithful Christian!

 

May you live in peace this day,

may your home be with God in Zion,

with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,

with Joseph, and all the angels and saints.

 

May you return to your Creator

who formed you from the dust of the earth.

May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints

come to meet you as you go forth from this life.

May you see your Redeemer face to face.

 

Each man and woman receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ; either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately,-or immediate and everlasting damnation.

 

Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ.  To live in heaven is "to be with Christ."  They live in Christ, but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.  For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.

 

In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God's will in relation to other people and to all creation.  Already they reign with Christ; with him "they shall reign for ever and ever."

 

All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

 

The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the soul, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripturee speaks of this cleansing fire.

 

We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him.  But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves:  "He who does not love remains in death.  Anyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."  Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.  To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice.  This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

 

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity.  Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishment of hell, "eternal fire."  The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man and woman can possess the life and happiness for which they were created and for which they long.

 

The Last Judgment:  The resurrection of all the dead, "of both the just and the unjust."  will precede the Last Judgment.   This will be 'the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear the Son of man's voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment."  Then Christ will come "in his glory, and all his angels with him.. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left..and they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

 

In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each persons relationship with God will be laid bare.  The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during their earthly life.

 

At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in it fullness.  After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul.  The universe itself will be renewed.

 

In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men and women.  "He will wipe away every tear from thier eyes, and death shall be no more,

neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.

 

For man and woman, this consummation will be the final realization of the unity of the human race, which God willed from creation and of which the pilgrim Church has been

waiting.  For the cosmos, Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of the material world and mankind.

 

The visible universe, then is itself destined to be transformed, "so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just," sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.

 

"We know neither the moment of the consummation of the earth and of mankind, nor the way in which the universe will be transformed.  The form of this world, distorted by sin, is passing away, and we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men and women."

 

True and subsistent life consists in this: The Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, pouring out his heavely gifts on all things without exception.  Thanks to his mercy, we too, men and women that we are have received the inalienable promise of eternal life.

 

The Creed, like the last book of the Bible, ends with the Hebrew word, Amen.  This word frequently concludes prayers in the New Testament. the Church likewise ends her prayers with "Amen."  In Hebrew, Amen comes from the same root as the word "believe."

 

To believe is to say "Amen" to God's words, promises and commandments; to entrust oneself completely to him who is the "Amen" of infinite love and perfect faithfulness.

The Christian's everyday life will then be the "Amen" to the "I believe" of our Profession of Faith.

 

May your Creed be for you as a mirror.  Look at yourself in it, to see if you believe everything you say you believe. And rejoice in your faith each day.

 

Jesus Christ himself is the "Amen."  He is the definitive "Amen" to the Father's love for us.  He takes up and completes our "Amen" to the Father: "For all the promises of God find their "Yes" in him.  That is why we utter the "Amen" through him, to the glory of God."

 

And now to proclaim our Profession of Faith

 

The Apostle's Creed

 

I believe in God,

The Father almighty,

Creator of heaven and earth.

 

I believe in Jesus Christ,

his only Son, our Lord.

 

He was conceived by the

power of the Holy Spirit

and born of the Virgin Mary.

 

He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was

buried.

He descended into hell.

 

On the third day he rose again.

 

He ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right

hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge

the living and the dead.

 

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy Catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting.

Amen.

 

This Creed is the spiritual seal, our hearts' meditation and an ever-present guardian;

It is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul.