The next in my series of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Today we examine Part 1 The Profession of Faith, Section 1 I Believe We Believe, and Chapter 2 God comes to meet man.
In our last piece we talked of the Catechism saying how man could know God by reason & his works but such knowledge by definition is limited by the capabilities of man.
Chapter 2 starts by noting that God decision to uncomplicate the matter:
50 …God has fully revealed this plan by sending us his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
The obvious question first question is all of this is why? This is answered in the last sentence of section 52:
52 God, who “dwells in unapproachable light”, wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son. By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity.
That’s a radical situation God creation rather than simply being a servant or a slave as Islam teaches. The concept of a man becoming a son of God is an astonishing evolution.
But such an evolution, shocking and dramatic that it is, has to come gradually.
53…St. Irenaeus of Lyons repeatedly speaks of this divine pedagogy using the image of God and man becoming accustomed to one another: the Word of God dwelt in man and became the Son of man in order to accustom man to perceive God and to accustom God to dwell in man, according to the Father’s pleasure.
This is basic common sense, as any parent knows a child has to be taught slowly, any person trying to learn a skill is brought along slowly till it can be mastered.
The revelations begin with Adam (54) and while that initial link was corrupted by sin (55) such links continued with Noah (56) but while God tries to nurture that link, sin, particularly pride leads to man error and the perversion of that link (57) leading to polytheism, idolatry and paganism, but even so upright men from Melchisedek to Job still give the example of righteousness.
This is key. Even in the lowest times, even in the midst of disaster there are those who recognize God and walk in his ways. It’s an important reminder particularly as things look so poor today.
It is at the point when things are looking low God makes his move choosing Abram who becomes Abraham (59)
60 The people descended from Abraham would be the trustee of the promise made to the patriarchs, the chosen people, called to prepare for that day when God would gather all his children into the unity of the Church. They would be the root on to which the Gentiles would be grafted, once they came to believe.
This is an important point, the root is Abraham and the people of Israel and it is from and through that root that we are united to and to deny that root, to attack that root or to poison that root is to poison ourselves and that root was made strong by the saints of he old testament of Israel. And yes the Catechism is rather specific about that designation
61 The patriarchs, prophets and certain other Old Testament figures have been and always will be honoured as saints in all the Church’s liturgical traditions.
That includes the holy women of the Old testament that the Catechism also notes (64) and it’s those prophets that lead to the final great revelation that of Christ.
And that revelation of Christ is the ultimate public revelation to the world and the Catechism makes it plain from in quoting St. John of the Cross
65…In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word – and he has no more to say. . . because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behaviour but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty.
Christ is the ultimate revelation but man being man continues to only slowly grasp it over time, but this also doesn’t mean that God has spent the last two centuries twiddling his thumbs either and thus comes the subject of private revelation.
67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history…
As not part of the deposit of faith they are not “required belief”. For example to be a Catholic one must believe the resurrection of Christ, one does not have to believe the Fatima apparitions, but the church using its discernment judges if such private revelations are worthy of belief, the bottom line:
Christian faith cannot accept “revelations” that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfilment, as is the case in certain non Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such “revelations”.
If something claims to change Christ the or his teaching, it Bogus as the Son is his Father’s definitive Word;(73) and that definite revelation is to and is meant for the entire world for all time.
But that leads to the obvious question, how does the Church interpret what Scripture is what is says and what is actually revelation when it’s all happened 2000 years ago?
Well that’s a vital question and will have to wait for the next post.