Necessity of Instruction in the Catholic Faith: Part 9

Talk 9: Roman Catechism ARTICLE 2: “AND IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD”

The Roman Catechism explains this article as follows: “That wonderful and superabundant are the blessings which flow to the human race from the belief and profession of this Article we learn from these words of St. John: Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God; and also from the words of Christ the Lord, proclaiming the Prince of the Apostles blessed for the confession of this truth: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar ­Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. For this Article is the most firm basis of our salvation and redemption.

“Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and true God, like the Father who begot Him from all eternity. We also believe that He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, in all things equal to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. Since we acknowledge the essence, will and power of all the Divine Persons to be one, then in them nothing unequal or unlike should exist or even be imagined to exist: (“Roman Catechism,” Second Article, 8).

The Roman Catechism says: “We believe Him [Christ] to be one son, because His divine and human natures meet in one Person. As to His divine generation, He has no brethren or coheirs. being the Only-begotten Son of the Father, and we men are the image and work of His hands” (Second Article, 9-10)

“Among the different comparisons brought forth to show the mode and manner ot this eternal generation, that which is taken from the production of thought in our mind seems to come nearest to its illustration, and hence St. John calls the Son ‘the Word.’ For our mind, understanding itself in some way, forms an image of itself which theologians have called the word; so God, in so far as we may compare human things to divine, understanding Himself, begets the Eternal Word. But it is more advantageous to consider what faith proposes, and with all sincerity of mind to believe and profess that Jesus Christ is true God and true Man–as God, begotten before all time; as Man, born in time of Mary, His Virgin Mother” (“Roman Catechism,” Second Article, 9).

Saint Thomas Aquinas explains the Second Article of the Creed as follows: “It is not only necessary for Christians to believe in one God who is the Creator of heaven and earth and of all things; but also they must believe that God is the Father and that Christ is the true Son of God. This, as St. Peter says, is not mere fable, but is certain and proved by the word of God on the Mount of Transfiguration. “For we have not by following artificial fables made known to you the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ; but we were eyewitnesses of His greatness. For He received from God the Father honor and glory, this voice coming down to Him from the excellent glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear ye Him.’ And this voice, we heard brought from heaven, when we were with Him in the holy mount.” (2 Peter, 1: 16) Christ Jesus Himself in many places called God His Father, and Himself the Son of God. Both the Apostles and the Fathers placed in the articles of faith that Christ is the Son of God by saying: “I believe in Jesus Christ, His (i.e., God’s) only Son.”

ERRORS RELATING TO THE SECOND ARTICLE

There were, however, certain heretics who erred in this belief. Photinus, for instance, believed that Christ is not the Son of God but a good man who, by a good life and by doing the will of God, merited to be called the son of God by adoption; and so Christ who lived a good life and did the will of God merited to be called the son of God. Moreover, this error would not have Christ living before the Blessed Virgin, but would have Him begin to exist only at His conception. Accordingly, there are here two errors: the first, that Christ is not the true Son of God according to His nature; and the second error of Arius says, that Christ in His entire being began to exist in time. Our faith, however, holds that He is the Son of God in His nature, and that he is from all eternity. Now, we have definite authority against these errors in the Holy Scriptures, Against the first error it is said that Christ is not only the Son, but also the only-begotten Son of the Father: “The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John, 1: 18) And against the second error it is said: “Before Abraham was made, I AM.” (John, 8: 58) It is evident that Abraham lived before the Blessed Virgin. And what the Fathers added to the other Creed [i.e., the Nicene Creed], namely, “the onlybegotten Son of God,” is against the error, that says, that Christ is not the Son of God but a good man who, by a good life and by doing the will of God, merited to be called the son of God by adoption. The words “born of the Father before all ages” is against the error that affirms, that Christ in His entire being began to exist in time.

Sabellius said that Christ indeed was before the Blessed Virgin, but he held that the Father Himself became incarnate and, therefore, the Father and the Son is the same Person. This is an error because it takes away the Trinity of Persons in God, and against it is this authority of the words of our Lord that says: “I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me.” (John, 8: 16) It is clear that one cannot be sent from himself. Sabellius errs therefore, and in the Symbol of Faith it is said: “God of God; Light of Light,” that is, we are to believe in God the Son from God the Father, and the Son who is Light from the Father who is Light.

Arius, although he would say that Christ was before the Blessed Virgin and that the Person of the Father is other than the Person of the Son, nevertheless made a three-fold attribution to Christ: (1) that the Son of God was a creature; (2) that He is not from eternity, but was formed the noblest of all creatures in time by God; (3) that God the Son is not of one nature with God the Father, and therefore that He was not true God. But this too is erroneous and contrary to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. It is written: “I and the Father are one.” (John 10: 30) That is, in nature; and therefore, just as the Father always existed, so also the Son; and just as the Father is true God, so also is the Son. That Christ is a creature, as said by Arius, is contradicted in the Symbol of Faith that says: “True God of true God;” and the assertion of Arius that Christ is not from eternity but in time is also contrary to the Symbol of Faith that says: “Begotten not made;” and finally the assertion of Arius, that Christ is not of the same substance as the Father is denied by the Symbol, when it says: “Consubstantial with the Father.”

It is, therefore, clear we must believe that Christ is the Only-begotten of God, and the true Son of God, who always was with the Father, and that there is one Person of the Son and another of the Father who have the same divine nature. All this we believe now through faith, but we shall know it with a perfect vision in the life eternal. Hence, we shall now speak somewhat of this for our own edification.”

Saint Thomas Aquinas explains the Divine Generation as follows: “It must be known that different things have different modes of generation. The generation of God is different from that of other things. Hence, we cannot arrive at a notion of divine generation except through the generation of that created thing which more closely approaches to a likeness to God. We have seen that nothing approaches in likeness to God more than the human soul. The manner of generation in the soul is effected in the thinking process in the soul of man, which is called a conceiving of the intellect. This conception takes its rise in the soul as from a father, and its effect is called the word of the intellect or of man. In brief, the soul by its act of thinking begets the word. So also the Son of God is the Word of God, not like a word that is uttered exteriorly (for this is transitory), but as a word is interiorly conceived; and this Word of God is of the one nature as God and equal to God.

The testimony of St. John concerning the Word of God destroys these three heresies, viz., that of Photinus (who affirmed that Christ is not the Son of God but a good man who, by a good life and by doing the will of God, merited to be called the son of God by adoption) in the words: “In the be-inning was the Word;” (John, 1: 1) that of Sabellius (who affirmed that Father and the Son is the same Person) in saying: “And the Word was with God” (John, 1: 1) and that of Arius (who affirmed that Christ in His entire being began to exist in time) when it says: “And the Word was God.” (John, 1: 1)

But a word in us is not the same as the Word in God. In us the word is an accident; (an accident is an attribute which is not part of the essence); whereas in God the Word is the same as God, since there is nothing in God that is not of the essence of God. No one would say God has not a Word, because such would make God wholly without knowledge; and therefore, as God always existed, so also did His Word ever exist. Just as a sculptor works from a form which he has previously thought out, which is his word; so also God created all things by His Word, as it were through His art: “All things were made by Him [i.e. by His Word, i.e. by His Son].” (John, 1: 3)

The Roman Catechism gives the following explanation of the Second Article “and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord”: “When Adam had departed from the obedience due to God and had violated the prohibition, of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat, for in what day so ever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death, he fell into the extreme misery of losing the sanctity and righteousness in which he had been placed, and of becoming subject to all those other evils which have been explained more fully by the holy Council of Trent.

The human race, having fallen from its elevated dignity, no power of men or Angels could raise it from its fallen condition and replace it in its primitive state. To remedy the evil and repair the loss it became necessary that the Son of God, whose power is infinite, clothed in the weakness of our flesh, should remove the infinite weight of sin and reconcile us to God in His blood.

NECESSITY OF FAITH IN THIS ARTICLE

The belief and profession of this our redemption, which God declared from the beginning, are now, and always have been, necessary to salvation. In the sentence of condemnation pronounced against the human race immediately after the sin of Adam the hope of redemption was held out in these words, which announced to the devil the loss he was to sustain by man’s redemption: I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.

The same promise God again often confirmed and more distinctly manifested to those chiefly whom He desired to make special objects of His favour; among others to the Patriarch Abraham, to whom He often declared this mystery, but more explicitly when, in obedience to His command, Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Because, said God, thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only-­begotten son f or my sake; I win bless thee, and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the sea shore. Thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice. From these words it was easy to infer that He who was to deliver mankind from the ruthless tyranny of Satan was to be descended from Abraham. The Prophets, whose minds were illuminated with light from above, foretold the birth of the Son of God, the wondrous works which He wrought while on earth, His doctrine, character, life, death, Resurrection, and the other mysterious circumstances regarding Him.”

“Jesus”

Jesus is the proper name of the God-­man and signifies Saviour: a name given Him not accidentally, or by the judgment or will of man, but by the counsel and command of God. For the Angel announced to Mary His mother: Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He afterwards not only commanded Joseph, who was espoused to the Virgin, to call the child by that name, but also declared the reason why He should be so called. Joseph, son of David, said the Angel, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son and thou shalt call his name Jesus. For he shall save his people from their sins.

In the Sacred Scriptures we meet with many who were called by this name. So, for example, was called the son of Nave, who succeeded Moses, and, by special privilege denied to Moses, conducted into the land of promise the people whom Moses had delivered from Egypt; and also the son of Josedech, the priest. But how much more appropriate it is to call by this name our Saviour, who gave light, liberty and salvation, not to one people only, but to all men, of all ages to men oppressed, not by famine, or Egyptian or Babylonian bondage, but sitting in the shadow of death and fettered by the galling chains of sin and of the devil who purchased for them a right to the inheritance of heaven and reconciled them to God the Father! In those men who were designated by the same name we see foreshadowed Christ the Lord, by whom the blessings just enumerated were poured out on the human race.

All other names which according to prophecy were to be given by divine appointment to the Son of God, are comprised in this one name Jesus; for while they partially signified the salvation which He was to bestow upon us, this name included the force and meaning of all human salvation.

Saint Alphonsus of Liguori speaks on the Holy Name of Jesus: “This great name of Jesus was not given by man, but by God himself; “The name of Jesus,” says St. Bernard, “was first preordained by God.” It was a new name: “A new Name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.” (Isa. 62:2) A new name, which God alone could give to Him Whom He destined for the Saviour of the world. A new and an eternal name; because, as our salvation was decreed from all eternity, so from all eternity was this name given to the Redeemer. Nevertheless, this name was only bestowed on Jesus Christ in this world on the day of His circumcision: And after eight days were accomplished that the Child should be circumcised, His name was called Jesus. The Eternal Father wished at that time to reward the humility of His Son by giving Him so honorable a name. Yes, while Jesus humbles Himself, submitting in His circumcision to be branded with the mark of a sinner, it is just that His Father should honor Him by giving Him a name that exceeds the dignity and sublimity of any other name: “God hath given Him a Name which is above all names.” (Phil. 2:9.) And He commands that this name should be adored by the Angels, by men, and by devils: “That in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow of those that are in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth.” (Phil. 2:10) If, then, all creatures are to adore this great name, still more ought we sinners to adore it, since it was in our behalf that this name of Jesus; which signifies Saviour, was given to Him; and for this end also He came down from Heaven, namely, to save sinners.

In the first place, the name of Jesus consoles us; for when we invoke Jesus, we find relief in all our afflictions. When we have recourse to Jesus, He wishes to console us, because He loves us; and He can do so, because He is not only man, but He is also the Omnipotent God. The name of Jesus is said by the Holy Spirit to be like oil poured out: “Thy name is as oil poured out.” (Cant. 1:2) And so indeed it is, says St. Bernard; for as oil serves for light, for food, and for medicine, so especially the name of Jesus is light: “it is a light when preached.” And how was it, says the Saint, that the light of faith shone forth so suddenly in the world so that in a short time so many Gentile nations knew the true God, and became His followers, if it was not through hearing the name of Jesus preached? “Whence, think you, shone forth in the whole world, so bright and so sudden, the light of faith, except from the preaching of the name of Jesus?”

Through this name we have been happily made sons of the true light, that is, sons of the Holy Church; since we were so fortunate as to be born in the bosom of the Roman Church, in Christian and Catholic kingdoms,—a grace which has not been granted to the greater part of men, who are born amongst idolaters, Mahometans, or heretics. Further, the name of Jesus is a food that nourishes our souls. “The thought of it is nourishment.” This name gives strength to find peace and consolation even in the midst of the miseries and persecutions of this world. The holy Apostles rejoiced when they were ill treated and reviled, being comforted by the name of Jesus: “They went from the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:41) It is light, it is food, and it is also medicine to those who invoke it: “When pronounced, it soothes and anoints.” Saint Bernard says: “At the rising of the light of this name, the clouds disperse, the calm returns.” If the soul of anyone is afflicted and in trouble, let him pronounce the name of Jesus, and immediately the tempest will cease and peace will return. Does anyone fall into sin? Does he run in despair into the snares of death? Let him invoke the name of Life, and will he not at once return to life? (In Cant. s. 15.) If anyone has been so wretched as to fall into sin, and feels diffident of pardon, let him invoke this name of Life, and he shall immediately be encouraged to hope for pardon, by calling on Jesus, Who for this end was destined by the Father to be our Saviour,—namely, to obtain pardon for sinners.

He has given Him a name which is so great and powerful that it is venerated in Heaven, on earth, and in Hell. A name powerful in Heaven, because it can obtain all graces for us; powerful on earth, because it can save all who invoke it with devotion; powerful in Hell, because this name makes all the devils tremble. These rebel Angels tremble at the sound of that most sacred name, because they remember that Jesus Christ was the Mighty One Who destroyed the dominion and power they had before over man. They tremble, says St. Peter Chrysologus, because at that name they have to adore the whole majesty of God: “In this name the whole majesty of God is adored.” (Serm. 144) Our Saviour Himself said, that through this powerful name His disciples should cast out devils: “In My name they shall cast out devils.” (Mark, 16:17) And, in fact, the Church in her exorcisms always makes use of this name in driving out the infernal spirits from those who are possessed. And priests who are assisting dying persons call to their aid the name of Jesus, to deliver them from the assaults of Hell, which at that last moment are so terrible.

St. Peter says that there is no other name given to us by which we can find salvation but this ever-blessed name of Jesus: “For there is no other name under Heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts. 4:12) Jesus is He Who has not only saved us once for all, but He continually preserves us from the danger of sin, by His merits, each time we invoke Him with confidence: “Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in My name, that will I do.” (John 14:13)

In temptations, then, I repeat with St. Laurence Justinian, “whether you are tempted by the devil, or are attacked by men, invoke the name of Jesus.” (Sermo in Circumcisione Domini) If the devils and men torment you and urge you to sin, call on Jesus, and you will be delivered; and if temptations do not cease to persecute you, continue to invoke Jesus, and you will never fall. Those who practice this devotion have experienced that they keep themselves safe, and that they always come off victorious. “The name of Jesus,” says St. Bernard, “places before thee all that God has done for the salvation of the human race.” So that a pious author said, with all the affection of his heart “O my Jesus, how much did it cost Thee to be Jesus, that is, my Saviour!”

St. Matthew writes, when speaking of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, And they put over His head His cause written: This is Jesus the King of the Jews. The eternal Father then so ordained that on the Cross on which our Redeemer died should be written, “This is Jesus, the Saviour of the world.”

Therefore, it is not possible for a soul that is faithful to pronounce the name of Jesus, and to remember all that He has done to save us, and not to be inflamed with love towards one Who has loved us so much. “When I utter the name of Jesus,” says St. Bernard, “I see before me a man of meekness, humility, kindness, and mercy, Who at the same time is the Almighty God, Who heals and strengthens me.” (In Cant. s. 15) When we say Jesus, we should imagine to ourselves that we see a man, meek, benignant, kind, and full of all virtues; and then we must think that He is our God, Who, to cure our wounds, chose to be despised, wounded, and even to die of pure grief on a Cross. St. Anselm, therefore, exhorts all who call themselves Christians to cherish the beautiful name of Jesus, to have it always in their hearts, that it may be their only food, their only consolation. “Let Jesus be ever in thy heart. Let Him be thy food, thy delight, thy consolation.” Ah, says St. Bernard, it is He alone Who experiences it, that can know what sweetness, what a paradise even in this valley of tears, it is truly to love Jesus. (Jub. de nom. Jesu)