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The Son of God and His Church
IN ANY SOCIETY there must be those who have authority and those who are subject to that authority. The Catholic Church is a society. In it there is authority and there are members who are subject to that authority. In order to discover and find out what is taught and what is believed in the Church we should look at these two sides: the side of authority and the side of those who are under this authority. Here there is question, however, of faith, that is, of a supernatural virtue whereby the members of the Church believe what God has revealed on the authority of God revealing. We must see then what those in authority teach with regard to faith, and what the members of the Church believe in and through faith. In particular, let us see what is taught in the Catholic Church today concerning the divinity of Jesus Christ, and what the faithful accept concerning this same doctrine.
So great has been the influence of the Council of Trent (1545-63) that we cannot pass it over. As a Council it presents the solemn teaching of the Church. In the third session, in 1546, the Council declares that the symbol of faith, to be found in the Catholic Church, is the principle and the foundation of all those who profess faith in Christ. The Council then quotes the Creed as found in the First Council of Constantinople, which in turn is drawn from the Council of Nice. In this it is clearly stated that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, consubstantial with God the Father, true God. This is accepted by all present at the Council of Trent as their own doctrine and their own belief (cf. Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, no. 782).
Errors are usually the occasion for a special declaration of the true doctrine of the Church. During the reign of St. Pius X (1903-1914) this situation prevailed. The name Modernism is given to a system that denies the supernatural and anything pertaining to the supernatural. Thus Modernism holds that the divinity of Jesus Christ as held in the Catholic Church is derived from the "Christian conscience" meditating on the Messianic dignity of Jesus Christ. Hence' Modernism claims, Jesus Christ did not claim to be the true Son of God, but this idea came from the faith of the Christians or from the "Christian conscience."
In the decree known as "Lamentabili" issued in 1907, the Supreme Pontiff condemned these errors of Modernism. In so doing he indicated what was the true Catholic teaching concerning the divinity of Christ. The proposition that the "doctrine of Christ as given by Paul, John, and the Councils of Nice, Ephesus, and Chalcedon is not the same as that taught by Jesus Christ..." was condemned. The true teaching of the Church is that this doctrine is the same as that taught by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ taught that He was divine, equal to His Father. So has the Church taught from its beginning (Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, nos. 2(127-2031).
These are samples of the official teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the divinity of Jesus Christ. They show that the Catholic Church teaches what Christ taught of Himself, and what the Apostles, Apostolic Fathers, Apologists, and the Councils taught concerning Him: that He is the Son of God, is God.
"From the cradle to the grave" is an expression familiar to all. It expresses the way that faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ enters into the entire life of the Catholic and the Christian. For from the "cradle" of Baptism to the "grave" of death, the Catholic has put before him this doctrine.
CHURCH RITUAL AND CHRIST
In Baptism, the one baptized, either himself or through sponsors, recites the Apostles' Creed and professes belief "in Jesus Christ, His (God the Father's) only Son, our Lord." A few moments before the actual Baptism he is asked: "Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His (God the Father's) only Son, our Lord?" In answer he proclaims to all the word that he does. After Baptism he is anointed with Holy Chrism with a prayer beginning: "Omnipotent God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . ." At the end of the ceremony a white garment is placed on the head of the newly baptized infant and he is told to carry this garment "without stain before the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. Ritual for Baptism).
The Catholic believes that in the Holy Eucharist is to be found the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. He believes that when he receives Holy Communion he is receiving Jesus Christ, true God and true man. For the Catholic is taught that Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist when He said at the Last Supper: This is my body, this is my blood. It was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who said "my" body and "my" blood. The Catholic knows that he receives the whole Christ, the entire Christ, God and man. Because of this belief the Catholic genuflects when he enters any Catholic church, for his faith tells him that his God is present in the tabernacle. He genuflects in adoration of the God-man, Jesus Christ.
When water is blessed for the Catholic's use, the ritual includes a prayer in which the water is blessed in the name of God the Father, and in the "name of Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord" (cf. Ritual for Blessings).
In his daily prayers the Catholic makes frequent reference to Jesus Christ. In a prayer that is recited very often each day by millions of Catholics, the Hail Mary, these words are said: ". . . blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God . . ." Many Catholics say the Apostles' Creed daily; in it is the declaration of belief in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord. The act of faith that is recited by Catholics the world over professes belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ.
When Catholics are married, it is usually at the holy Sacrifice of the Mass. By this the newly married couple are professing their faith in the Son of God Who sacrificed Himself in His human nature on Calvary and Who is now renewing that sacrifice in an unbloody manner. In many marriages an exhortation or short instruction is given to the young couple before the actual ceremony. The following is found in an exhortation that is used very frequently: "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son; and the Son so loved us that He gave Himself for our salvation" (cf. The Ritual for Marriage, the Priest's New Ritual, p. 208).
If a Catholic is seriously ill he has the privilege of receiving the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. At the very beginning of the ceremony a prayer is directed to the Lord Jesus Christ; shortly after the intercession of the Mother of God is asked. In the blessing given "our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God," is invoked.
In the Catholic burial service the words of Jesus Christ "I am the resurrection and the life" are repeated; His infinite merits are invoked for the everlasting rest and happiness of the departed soul (cf. Ritual for the Anointing of the Sick, and for the Burial of Adults). From the beginning of his life to its end, the Catholic is accompanied by thoughts of Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God. The Church teaching and the Church believing unite to "shout from the housetops" that Jesus is the Son of God.
LITURGY OF THE CHURCH
There is no place where the teaching Church and the Church believing so unite as in the liturgy of the Church. Liturgy is the public worship of the Church. It is the Church expressing its faith through external signs and ceremonies. Liturgy is the expression of the supernatural life of the Church as well as of the supernatural faith of the Church. It is carried out by designated ministers and participated in by all the members of the Church; but of all, whether ministers or participants, there is demanded the same faith.
The center of the liturgy is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. All Catholics believe that the Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of Calvary. All believe that it is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ offered through the ministry of the priest to the heavenly Father. The victim is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, true God and true man. In the prayer beginning "Quam oblationem," said before the Consecration of the bread and wine, God the Father is asked to bless and to accept as well as to ratify this same bread and wine that it may become for us the body and blood of "thy most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ." In the consecration of the wine it is stated explicitly that the blood of Christ "shall be shed for you and for all unto the remission of sins." These words are but the re-echoing of the words of Christ Himself at the Last Supper (cf. Matt. 26:27; Luke 22:20).
Immediately after the Consecration a prayer is made in which priests and people unite to offer to God "a pure Victim, a holy Victim, an immaculate Victim, the Bread of eternal life, the chalice of everlasting salvation."
In the Sacrifice of the Mass the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, are consumed by the priest. In this way he participates very closely in the Sacrifice of the Mass and receives for himself and his own sanctification the sacrificial Victim. In the liturgy of the Mass the priest prepares himself for this reception. This preparation is supplied by the prayer "Supplices te, rogamus, omnipotens Deus" (We suppliantly beseech you, Omnipotent God). In this prayer God is asked to fill with heavenly grace and with every blessing all who shall partake "of the most sacred Body and Blood of thy Son."
But this preparation is not over. When the moment comes for the priest to consume the precious Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, he bent over the altar and prays to "the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God." No priest offering the Sacrifice of the Mass could do so unless he had a strong and firm belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ.
The Catholic who receives Holy Communion believes that he is receiving Jesus Christ, God and man, hidden under the species of the bread. For on the altar was the Body and Blood of the Son of the Living God, the Lamb of God, the divine Victim; now he receives that same Lord that same Lamb of God, that same divine Victim.
THE LITURGICAL CYCLE
In its liturgical cycle the Church relives the life of Jesus Christ. This cycle begins with Advent, the season of preparation for the coming into the world of the Word. On Christmas morning she hails the arrival of the Word made flesh; in the first of the three Masses said on this day, it opens up by reciting the words of Psalm 2: "The Lord has said to me, 'Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee' " Who is born then? It is God's own Son. In the second Mass the opening words taken from Isaias give various titles of the newly born Child, and among them is that of God: ". . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, God, Prince of Peace, Father of the world to come, whose kingdom shall have no end." The third Mass is honeycombed with references to the divinity of the Child: the Collect speaks of the only-begotten of God; in the epistle St. Paul's proof that Jesus Christ is the Son is given (cf. Heb. 1:1 ff.); the Gospel is the prologue of St. John, which we have just seen.
The next event in the liturgical cycle is the Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the world outside of Palestine. Three events are celebrated by the Church, one of which is the baptism of our Lord by John the Baptist. At this baptism the voice of God the Father is heard: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). Together with the baptism the Church celebrates the Marriage Feast of Cana where "he manifested his glory and his disciples believed in him." His power over nature and over the creatures of nature is shown, a power that comes from His divinity.
Lent follows the Epiphany season in the liturgical cycle; it ends with the great feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This is the sign He had promised, the sign that proved once and for all that He was what He claimed to be: the Son of God (cf. Rom. 1:4). At the beginning of the Easter Mass the Church prays to God, Who on this day has opened the gates of Heaven to us through the death of His only-begotten Son.
Easter is followed by the Ascension of our Lord. In the Mass the Church recalls that we believe the Son of God ascended to Heaven on this day. Throughout the Mass there is reference to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, now sitting at the right hand of God the Father.
The final great feast in the liturgical cycle is Pentecost, the feast of the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, as Christ had foretold. More than that, He had sent the Holy Ghost. This is recalled in the Gospel of the Mass, where Jesus Christ is speaking as the Son of God, for He calls God His Father; He says that ". . . the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things..." (John 14:26). Throughout the Pentecostal season the Holy Spirit is presented by the Church as the Spirit of Christ, as witnessing to the divinity of Jesus Christ. For example, on Friday of Ember Week during this season, the Gospel concerns the forgiveness of sin by our Lord. In this miracle He cured the man who was sick for the very purpose of proving that He had the power to forgive sin, a power, so His enemies said, that belonged to God alone.
THE CHURCH LIVES IN CHRIST
The Church teaching, the Church believing, the Church in its sacramental life, as well as in its liturgical life; in every phase of the Catholic Church the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus Christ is to be found. Not only is it found, but it is the basis of the existence and the life of the Church. For should it fail to hold on to this doctrine, it would no longer know Jesus Christ as He is; it would no longer be the body of Christ, for to be His body means to be united to Him as He is, God and man. Nor would the Church be fulfilling its mission to teach what Christ taught of Himself, that He was the Son of God in the flesh. Christ's life centered around His divinity; so does the life of the Church.
Catholic Information Network (CIN)