THE PERSON OF THE REDEEMER
Taken from the Apostles' Creed Section, THE CATECHISM EXPLAINED,
Benziger Bros. 1899
with Nihil Obstat
Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer, is the Son
of God made man; hence He is God Himself.
The Incarnation of the Son of God.
The heathen had very early conceived the idea that God had descended
from Heaven and mixed with men; the Greek mythology is full of it. Now
God had actually come down to earth (John 3:13) at the moment of the Annunciation
1. The second Divine person became man
in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the action of the Holy Ghost
at the moment of the Annunciation.
Louis of Granada writes: "Just as the sun must be wrapped in Clouds if
we are to gaze upon it with eyes undimmed, so God wrapped Himself in
flesh as in a cloud, so that the eyes of our soul might bear to look
upon Him." Human thought must be clothed in words to reach our ears; so
God clothed Himself in human nature to reach the souls of men. "The
Word [i.e., the Son of God] was made flesh [i.e., became man] and dwelt
amongst us" (John 1:14). The Incarnation took place in the instant when
Our Lady uttered the words: "Be it done unto me according to thy word"
(Luke 1:38). They err who think that the human nature was first formed
and afterwards united to the Divine person, just as the Valentinians
were wrong in asserting that Christ brought His human body from Heaven.
Christ received His body from the Virgin Mary. He was made from a woman
(Gal. 4:4), and was of the seed of David (Rom. 1:3). The Son of man
came down from Heaven, it is true (John 3:13), in regard of the Divine
person, but not in regard of His human nature; we must not, however,
imagine that the Divine essence came down from Heaven and united itself
to the human nature; this would mean that all three persons of the
Blessed Trinity has assumed our human nature. Such a thing is
impossible, for such a union would require a change in the Divine
essence, which is incapable of change, Only one of the Divine persons,
the Son of God, assumed our human nature. God (i.e., a Divine person)
not the Godhead (i.e., the Divine essence) became man. There is,
however, an intimate union between the nature of God and the nature of
man in the person of the Son; and it is certain that all the Divine
persons had their share in the work of the Incarnation, for in the work
which God does outside Himself all three persons of the Trinity have
The Incarnation is in a peculiar manner the work of the three
The three Divine persons formed a human soul and a human body and
united to them the Second Person of the Trinity. As St. Augustine puts
it: "In the guitar the sound seems to come from the strings alone, yet
three elements are wanted, the human hand, the skill of the player and
then the string." Or as St. Fulgentius explains it: "Body and soul are
necessary for a man to profit by his food, yet the body alone receives
the nourishment." So the three persons of the Trinity co-operated in
the Incarnation, but the Second Person only was united to the flesh.
The Incarnation is ascribed in a special manner to the Holy Ghost,
because it is the greatest work of God's love. The Church teaches that
the works of love are ascribed to the Holy Ghost, Who is the love of
the Father and the Son. According to the Fathers there is no doubt that
either God the Father or the Holy Ghost might have become man; but it
was meet that He Who is the Son of God from all eternity should become
the Son of man; that He Who is the perfect image of God should restore
to mankind that supernatural image which had been lost by sin.
2. The Father of Jesus is therefore
God the Father in Heaven; Joseph,
the spouse of Mary, is only the foster-father of Jesus.
St. Gregory the Great tells us that Christ is the Son of God, not only
because He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, but also
because God formed His sacred humanity. In the first promise of the
Redeemer as we read it in the Protevangelium Christ is called, not the
seed of man, but the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15), and in the
genealogy of Christ recorded by St. Matthew, no mention is made of His
descent from Joseph, but only from Mary (Matt. 1:16). Yet Christ was
commonly thought to be the Son of Joseph (Luke 3:93). Mary was
espoused to St. Joseph that no accusation might be made against her by
the world, and that she might have in him a protector. About St. Joseph
we have the following facts: He was a carpenter (Matt. 13:55); he
was a just man (Matt. 1:19). St. Jerome tells us he was perfect in
every virtue, and St. Thomas Aquinas gives as the reason for his
holiness that he was so close to the fount of holiness, just as the
spring is clearer as we approach its source. St. Francis of Sales tells
us that St. Joseph was conspicuous for his purity, and therein
surpassed all the Saints and even the Angels. To him was granted the
honor which kings and prophets sighed for in vain; he might take his
Lord into his arms, kiss Him. speak with Him, clothe Him, protect Him
(St. Bernard). He was called father by Him Whose Father was in Heaven
(St. Basil). Many Saints assert that St. Joseph has a very high place
in Heaven as the spouse of the Blessed Virgin, and that he will be
called upon by men in the last days of the world and give signs of his
great power. St. Joseph is the patron of the Church (Pius IX, Dec. 8,
1870); i.e., his prayers for the Church have great efficacy at the
throne of God. He is also the patron of a happy death, dying as he did
himself in the arms of Jesus and Mary. He is also invoked for temporal
wants, since his care on this earth was the support of the Holy Family.
St. Thomas Aquinas says that St. Joseph received power from God to
help in all necessities; and St. Teresa declared that no prayer of hers
to St. Joseph in temporal or spiritual need was ever left unanswered.
The Catholic Church has always honored St. Joseph in a special manner,
after Our Lady and above the other Saints.
3. The Incarnation of the Son of God
is a mystery which we cannot
understand, but only admire and honor.
The conception and Incarnation are as little understood by as
the flowering of the rod of Aaron (Numb. 17). "Shut thy eyes, O
Reason," says St. Bernard, " for under the veil of faith thou
canst see the sheen of this mystery, just as the eye of the body can
bear the light of the sun when shaded by a cloud." "I know that the Son
of God became man, but how I do not know" (St. John Chrysostom). The
following are illustrations which have been used to convey the idea of
the union of the Godhead and the human nature in Christ: The
divinity and the humanity are united in Christ as body and soul are
united in man (Athanasian Creed
). If spirit and
essentially distinct, are united in man, all the less matter of
surprise is it that the divinity and humanity, which after all have
their points of resemblance, are found united in Christ. "Speech is a
sort of incarnation," says St. Augustine. "At first the word is
conceived as a mere thought, something purely spiritual. If that
thought is to be conveyed to another, it is put in words; yet, though
it appeals to the senses, it is none the less produced from the soul.
So the Word of God has appeared to many and ceases not to remain with
the Father." Other illustrations to show the action of the Holy Ghost
in Christ's conception: St. Isidore tells us that Christ was formed
from Mary just as Eve was formed from Adam. The Incarnation resembles
in some respects the creation, when everything was produced by God's
almighty power without co-operation of man.
The mystery of the Incarnation is commemorated by the ringing of
the Angelus bell.
The words of the Angelus
recall in the most
lively way the scene of the
Annunciation. At the words in the Credo
of the Mass: "He took flesh in
the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Holy Ghost" the celebrant
always kneels, also at the words in the Last Gospel: "And the Word was
made flesh." On Christmas Day and the Annunciation (the twenty-fifth
of March), the sacred ministers at High Mass kneel on the altar steps
and bow their heads at the Et incarnatus est" of the Credo
. The Angels also venerate the
mystery of the Incarnation.
4. The Incarnation of the Son of God
was necessary to give perfect
satisfaction to the injured majesty of God.
God might have chosen some other means for redeeming man. He might, by
special exercise of His goodness, have been content with
an imperfect satisfaction, or have remitted the guilt without demanding
any satisfaction at all. St. Augustine on this subject writes: "There
are some foolish people who think that God could not have redeemed
mankind otherwise than by Himself taking flesh, and suffering at the
hands of sinners. He might have followed quite another plan." As we
shall see in treating of the death of Christ God wished to have perfect
satisfaction, to display His justice as well as His mercy. Perfect
satisfaction could be given only by a God-man. The greatness of an
injury is measured by the dignity of the person who suffers; hence the
offence given to God is infinitely great. No finite being, not even the
most perfect Angel, could atone for an offence against God, only God
Himself. "So that," to use the words of St. Anselm, "to redeem man it
was necessary that God should become man." As God only He could not
suffer; as man only He could not
redeem; hence the Godhead assumed a human nature (St. Proclus). If a
valuable portrait be damaged beyond recognition it cannot be restored
unless the sitter present himself to the artist; thus God had to come
down on earth to restore His likeness in man (St. Athanasius).
The God-man could satisfy perfectly the injured majesty of God by
appearing on earth in a state of lowliness.
Had He appeared in His majesty men would never have dared to crucify
Him (1 Cor. 2:8). Like Codrus, the Athenian king, He
secured victory to His Own by dying for them. The oracle had promised
the Athenians Victory if their king died by the hands of the enemy, and
Codrus, disguising his royal dress, marched into the enemy's camp and
was by them put to death. The prophets had foretold, that mankind
should be saved by the death of its King, and Christ, taking on the
form of a slave, was put to death. The evil spirits fled when they saw
Whom they had killed. "If," as Louis of Granada says, "a king would
prove his courage in battle he must put away all symbols of his rank,
to proclaim them only when he is victor;" and this is what Our Lord
did. He will come again with great power and majesty (Matt. 26:64).
St. Thomas says that we cannot affirm, with certainty that God would
have become man had man not sinned; it certainly would not have been
beyond His power.
5. The Second Person always remained
God though He became man, and by
the Incarnation He lost none of His dignity.
When we assert that the Son of God came down on earth, we do not
mean that He left Heaven. So a star may become risible to us
without leaving the firmament. As St. Ambrose says, the divinity of
Christ is not destroyed, but only hidden by His human nature, just as
the sun is not put out, but veiled only by the clouds. And as the
thought, because spoken, does not cease to be a product of the soul, so
the Word of God did not cease to be with the Father (St. Augustine).
As a word, though spoken only for the benefit of one person may be
heard by all the bystanders, so the Divine Word was not limited by
the body which He assumed, but still fills Heaven and earth. Moreover
God lost none of His dignity by the Incarnation. The sunlight which
plays over filth is not defiled; still less is the Godhead defiled by
taking flesh from the pure womb of Mary (St. Odilo). If a prince put on
a slave's dress and in it picked a precious ring from the gutter to
place it on his finger there is no loss of dignity; so, too, the Son
of God was not degraded by taking on Himself the form of a slave, and
coming down on earth to save souls and gain them to Him (Tert.). When
the Apostle says that Jesus Christ debased Himself by taking the form
of a servant (Phil 2:7), he does not mean that God lost anything, but
only that He assumed a nature lower than His Own, and gave us thereby
an example of humility. "He humbled Himself" (Phil. 2:8).
6. By the Incarnation of the Son of
God all the members of the human race have acquired a special dignity.
The human nature of the Son of God is like the yeast which
whole mass (Matt. 13:33). Christ is the vine, and we are the
branches (John 15). The Angels even fall short of us in this respect,
for though they are exempt from sickness and death they cannot claim
God for their Brother; were they capable of envy, they would envy us
that honor. As St. Ambrose says: "The Almighty took the form of a slave
that the slave might become a king." "The Son of God became the Son of
man that the children of men might become children of God" (St.
Athanasius). "Oh, what a wondrous redemption is that where man is, as
it were, put on a par with God!" (St. Hilary.)
What Truths follow from the Mystery of
1. Christ is true God and true
man; hence we call Him the God-man.
Every being gets its nature whence it has its origin; thus a
its human nature by being born of man. Christ, therefore, having His
origin from God the Father, derives from Him His Divine nature, and by
being born of Mary, derives from her His human nature. He claimed both
Divine and human attributes. He said, for example, "The Father is
greater than I" (John 14:28), and yet on another occasion: "The
Father and I are one" (John 10:30). As God He calls Mary "woman," as on
the occasion of the wedding-feast at Cana, and as man He calls her
"Mother." He called Himself at times "Son of God" and again "Son of
Christ, as man, is like to us in all things except sin (Council of
Christ became like to His brethren (Heb. 2:17); He was made in
the likeness of man and in habit formed as a man (Phil. 2:7). Christ
had a human body, with all its consequent needs of eating and drinking
and sleeping, as well as of suffering and dying; and He had a real
body, not a fictitious one, as the Docetae taught. Christ had a human
soul, and so a human intellect, and a human will (for He prayed in the
garden: "Father, not My will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42). At His
death Christ gave His soul into the hands of His heavenly Father (Luke
23:46). St. Paul (1 Cor. 15:47) calls Christ the "heavenly" man,
in opposition to the "earthly" man, Adam; his meaning being that
Christ's body was heavenly in the sense that it was formed
supernaturally in the womb of a virgin by the action of the Holy Spirit
and that it displayed on earth some of the properties of glorified
bodies, as on Mount Thabor and the walking on the waters.
2. In Christ there are two natures,
human and Divine, which despite
their intimate union are quite distinct.
The nature or essence is the total of the powers belonging to a being..
The person is the possessor of this nature; or perhaps more strictly,
that which is common to all men is the nature and that which
constitutes man an independent individual is the person. Thus the
may embrace many individuals, but not so the person. Just as iron and
gold may be welded into one solid mass, and still remain with all their
individual properties distinct, so are the two natures united in
Christ. Nor is the human nature changed into the Divine nature, as the
water was changed into wine at Cana; nor again is the human nature, as
Eutyches thought, absorbed into the Godhead as a drop of honey might be
lost in the expanse of the ocean; nor have the two natures combined to
form a third, as hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water.
Hence Christ has a twofold knowledge, human and Divine.
As God He knew all things, even the thoughts of men; and He also
all things as man on account of the hypostatic union; the reason why He
denied all knowledge of the day and hour of the Last Judgment was
because He was not intrusted with His knowledge to communicate it to
man (Mark 13:32).
Hence also Christ has a twofold will, human and Divine, the human
subject to the Divine (Third Council Constant.).
We learn from the prayer in the garden that Christ had a human will:
"Not My will but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42), subject however to
the Divine will: "I seek not My Own will but the will of Him that sent
Me" (John 5:30). So a patient may shrink from the pain of an
operation, and yet submit himself to the hands of the surgeon.
Thus Christ has a twofold activity, human and Divine (Third
Constantinople, A.D. 680).
To His Divine activity belong the miracles and prophesies, to the
principle of action the operations of sleeping, eating, drinking and
suffering. The three persons of the Blessed Trinity have only one
nature and so one principle of action.
3. In Christ there is only one person,
and that person is Divine.
AEnobius compares this with the two eyes forming only one image,
the two ears conveying one sound. In the words of the Athanasian Creed:
"As the rational soul and the flesh is one man, so God and man is one
Christ." The human nature in Christ, though completed by a Divine and
not a human personality, is for that very reason more perfect; just as
in man the body is more perfect on account of being informed by a
human soul, than in the lower animals. Moreover as in man the body is
an instrument by which the soul acts, so in Christ the human nature is
the instrument by which the Divine person acts; nor is Christ's body a
lifeless tool, like a pen in the hand of a writer, but it is full of
life and has its own special activity. The humanity of Christ is, it
must be remembered, not an instrument of God's action in the same way
as were the prophets or the Apostles, etc. Its union and action are
far more intimate, just as the eye and the hand of the workman, are
more concerned in his work than the tools. We must avoid the error of
Nestorius, condemned at the Council of Ephesus, in which he taught
that in Christ the Godhead dwelt in a distinct person (i.e., that the
God Christ dwelt in the man Christ) as in a temple.
Since in Christ the Divine and human nature are inseparably united by
His Divine personality, the following propositions are true:
1. Christ is, as man, the true Son of God.
St. Paul's words on the subject are: "He spared not His Own Son,
delivered Him up for us all" (Rom. 8:32).
2. Mary, the Mother of Christ, is really Mother of God.
St. Elizabeth called her the Mother of God (Luke 1:43).
heresy that Mary should be called only the Mother of Christ, was
condemned at the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431. "If," as St. Cyril
says, "Our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how can it be that the holy Virgin
who bore Him is not Mother of God?" Though the mother does not give
the soul to her offspring, she is none the less called the mother; so
Mary is called the Mother of God, though she did not give to Christ His
3. Christ, as man, could neither sin nor err.
Christ did no sin either in word or in deed (1 Pet. 2:22); or, in
the words of St. Gregory the Great: "As light permits no darkness in
its neighborhood, so the Son of God admitted no sin in His human
nature." Christ had from His birth all wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3).
The words "Christ grew in wisdom and grace" (Luke 2:52), mean that
with the passage of time He ever showed more of the wisdom and grace
of God in His speech and conduct. There must have been in His person
something majestic (Ps. 44:3); St. Jerome says that the glory and
majesty of the Godhead was reflected on His face, and gave it a beauty
which attracted and subjected all those who had the happiness of
gazing upon Him.
4. All Christ's human actions have an infinite value.
What Christ did as man was a human action, and also a Divine
action, inasmuch as He was God. St. John Damascene says: "Just as iron
raised to a glow burns not because burning is a property of the iron
itself, but because it has acquired the property from the fire, so the
human actions of Christ were Divine, not of their own nature, but on
account of the intimate union with the Godhead." The very least prayer
or suffering of Christ might thus have redeemed all men.
5. Christ's humanity is worthy of adoration.
This adoration is directed, not to the human nature, but to the
person. Thus a child kissing the hand of its parent is paying homage to
the parent, not to the hand. As St. Thomas says: "We pay honor to
the king and the purple which he wears; so in Christ we adore the
humanity along with the Godhead, since they are inseparable." St.
John Damascene points out that we do not adore mere flesh, but the
flesh as united to the divinity. Thus the Church adores the Five
Wounds, the Sacred Heart, the Precious Blood, etc.
6. Human attributes may be predicated of Christ as God, and Divine
attributes of Christ as man (the so-called communication of
characters or idioms).
Hence St. Peter's reproach: "The Author of life you have killed"
(Acts 3:15), and St. Paul's words: "If they had known it they would
never have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Cor. 2:8), as well as St.
John's " Therein do we know the love of God, that He laid down His life
for us." Since the second Divine person and the man Christ Jesus are
one and the same person, whatever is said of Christ as God may also be
said of Him as man (e.g., this man is omniscient or almighty), and
what we say of Christ as man may be said of the second Divine person
(e.g., God suffered for us, died for us, etc.). When a man is both good
and rich, we may say without error: "This rich man is good," or "This
good man is rich," because we are talking of the person who is rich
and good. We may do the same in regard of the Divine person Who is at
the same time God and man, and in consequence has the attributes
proper to God and man. So we might say" This sufferer is God," "This
dying man is almighty." But we cannot say "The Godhead suffered or
died," because the word " Godhead" means the Divine nature, and it
never suffered. Hence St. John Damascene wrote: "Though the Godhead was
in a suffering form, the Godhead did not suffer. The sun is not hurt,
though the tree on which it shines is felled."
Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Christ called Himself the Only begotten Son of God (John 3:16),
this because He and He alone is the Second Person of the Trinity,
begotten of the Father. In addition He is far removed above the Angels
and mankind, who are likewise called the children of God. For to these
latter God has not communicated His Own nature (Phil 2:6) and has
adopted them only by a special grace (Gal. 4:5).
1. Jesus Christ solemnly declared
before the high priest that He was the Son of God (Matt. 26:64).
And He called Himself the Son of God also on the occasion of His
healing of the man born blind (John 9:37).
2. God the Father called Jesus Christ
His Son on the occasion of His Baptism in the Jordan and of the
transfiguration on Mount Thabor
(Matt. 3:17; 17:5).
3. The Archangel Gabriel called Jesus Christ the "Son of the Most High"
when he announced His birth to Mary (Luke 1;32).
4. St. Peter also publicly addressed Jesus Christ as "Son of the
living God," and was commended by Christ for this confession (Matt.
5. Even the devils cried out: "What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Son
of God? Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time? (Matt.
Jesus Christ is God Himself.
It had already been foretold: "God Himself will come and will
(Is. 35:4), and Isaias said that the Child Who was to be born for
the redemption of men was God Himself (Is. 9:6). The heretic Arius
denied Christ's Godhead; his heresy was condemned at the Council of
Nicea in A.D. 325, and it was expressly defined that Jesus Christ was
of the same nature as God and therefore Himself God. Our whole position
rests on this doctrine, hence its great importance. When the rich
disciple addressed Christ as "good master," Our Lord answered at once,
"Why dost thou call Me good? None is good but God alone " (Luke 18:19);
He would thereby teach us that we must before all things recognize
Him as God.
1. That Jesus Christ is God we learn
from His Own word, and from those
of His Apostles.
When ascending into Heaven He said: "All power is given to Me in Heaven
and on earth" (Matt. 28:18); and again: "I and the Father are one"
(John 10:30). These last words were treated by the Jews as blasphemy,
and they threatened to stone Our Lord for them (John 20:33). Christ
claimed in a special manner attributes and works such as belong to God
alone. He proclaimed His eternity when He said: "Glorify Thou Me, O
Father, with Thyself with the glory which I had before the world was,
with Thee" (John 17:5). And again: "Before Abraham was, I am" (John
8:58). He claimed the power of forgiving sins as in the case of
Magdalen (Luke 7:48), and the man sick of the palsy (Matt. 9:2).
He laid claim to awaken the dead (John 5:28), to judge the world (Matt.
25:31), to be the Author of life (John 11:25). On another occasion He
said: "If any man keep My word, he shall not see death forever" (John
8:51). The Apostles believed and solemnly proclaimed that Christ
was God, St. Thomas for instance, in the words: "My Lord and my God."
In St. Paul's epistles we read: "In Christ dwelleth all the fullness of
the Godhead corporally" (Col 2:9), and "In Him were created all things
... and He is before all, and by Him all things consist" (Col 1:16,
2. That Jesus Christ is God we
conclude from His miracles and
The numerous miracles which Christ wrought in His Own name
testify to His almighty power.
The miracles may be divided into five classes. (1). Those performed
on inanimate substances, such as the changing of the water, into wine,
the calming of the storm, etc. (2). The healing of the sick, the blind,
and the lame (Matt. 11:3-5). (3). The raising of the dead to life, for
example, in the case of the daughter of Jairus, of the son of the
widow of Naim, of Lazarus. (4). The expelling of devils from possessed
persons. (5). The miracles on His Own person, as the Transfiguration
and the Ascension. Moreover Christ proved that He had power over all
creation as no other had. Others did miracles in the name of God, as,
for example, when St. Peter and St. John cured the man at the gate of
the Temple. Christ did not appeal in God's name. He said simply:
"Young man, I say to thee, arise!" (Luke 7:14.) "I will. Be thou
made clean" (Matt. 8:3); "Peace, be still." Benedict XIV is
careful to tell us that if Christ prayed to the Father it was to dispel
the notion that His miracles were from the devil. The miracles
attributed to the founders of false religions are often very absurd
and childish; that Buddha rode on a sunbeam, that Mohammed caused the
moon to pass through his sleeve, that Apollonius of Tyana raised a
storm in a barrel, etc. So different from the majesty displayed by
The prophecies of Christ with respect to His Own fate, the
Judas, and the denial of St. Peter, the death of St. John and St.
Peter, the destruction of Jerusalem, the fate of the Jews, and the
career of the Church, all show His omniscience.
Christ foretold that He would be put to death in Jerusalem (Luke
13:32), that He would be scourged and crucified, and would rise again
after three days (Matt. 20:17-19). At the Last Supper He foretold the
treachery of Judas (John 13:26), and that Peter would deny Him
thrice before the cock would crow (Matt. 26:34). After His
resurrection He prophesied to Peter his death on the Cross, and to John
that he should die a natural death (John 21:18-22). After His
triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:41, 44), and during His
discourse on the Last Judgment on the :Mount of Olives (Matt. 24) He
foretold how Jerusalem should be surrounded by her enemies and
destroyed. He also knew that the Jews should be scattered among the
nations (Luke 21:24), that His Church should spread rapidly among the
nations of the earth (John 10:16; Matt. 13:31) in spite of the
persecution of His Apostles (John 16:2).
3. That 'Jesus Christ is God we
conclude from the elevation of His
teaching and His character.
The teaching of Christ surpasses that of the wisest who
lived on earth, and is far removed from the teaching of all other
Christ's doctrine answers all the needs of the human heart, and
adapted to all, whatever be their station, age, sex, or nation; the
greatest philosophers, even men like St. Augustine, found in it the
peace they longed for. Christ's doctrine is a perfect revelation of the
highest end of man and of the creation, besides inculcating the
loftiest virtues: such as love of one's neighbor, humility, gentleness,
patience, love of one's enemies, poverty, which up to the time of
Christ had been quite unknown. Kant confesses that reason would not,
even at the present day, have discovered the universal moral law unless
Christianity had taught it. Christ's teaching, besides
being lofty, was so simple, and announced with such clearness, that the
people marvelled to hear Him (Matt. 7:28). Even Strauss does not
hesitate to declare that to surpass the teaching of Jesus is an
impossible task for all time. There is absolutely nothing in the
Christian religion that is opposed to sound reason, or can lower the
dignity of man. Of how many of the other forms of religion can that be
said? Mohammedanism teaches fatalism and is propagated by the sword.
Even the Talmud contains a large mixture of very imperfect doctrine.
Christ Was free from all sin, and was so conspicuous for virtue
that for all time He must remain the model for all men.
The traitor Judas confessed that he had shed "innocent blood"
37:4); Pilate could find no cause in Christ (John 18:38);
Christ Himself challenged the Jews: "Which of you shall convince Me
of sin?" and none of them dared reply (John 8:46). He was quite
free from all prejudices and narrow-mindedness, which are the result of
surroundings and nationality. We see this in His relations to the
Samaritans and Romans, more especially in the beautiful parable of the
Good Samaritan (Matt. 10:30-37). The following virtues were most
conspicuous: His love of His neighbor: "He went about doing good" (Acts
10:38) and laid down His life for others; His humility, which was seen
in His associating with the most despised among the people; His
gentleness in His forbearance with His enemies and even with the
disciple who betrayed Him; His patience in suffering the greatest
tortures; His clemency in His conduct towards sinners; His love of His
enemies in His praying for them on the Cross; His love of prayer in
spending whole nights praying to the Father. His whole character is one
of the wonders of history. His greatest enemies even felt awe in His
presence; no one, for instance, dared resist Him when He drove the
buyers and sellers out of the Temple (Matt. 21:12). When the
Pharisees wished to stone Him for claiming to be God, He went through
their midst and they made, way for Him (John 10:39). The soldiers in
the garden fell to the ground at a word from His lips (John 18:6).
4. That Jesus Christ is God we
conclude from the rapid spread of His
teaching and from the miracles which accompanied this teaching
throughout the world.
His teaching was propagated in spite of the greatest obstacles,
by the simplest of means.
The obstacles among the heathen were: The laws condemning to
death or banishment those who professed a new religion. Calumnies the
grossest were uttered against the Christians, accusing them of being
godless, of cannibalism, attributing to them various misfortunes such
as wars, pestilence, and famine. All this led to a persecution
extending over some three hundred years; up to the edict of Constantine
the Great there are reckoned about ten persecutions. The doctrines of
the Christians afforded another series of obstacles; the
reverence paid to One Who had suffered the death of the Cross was
accounted a folly, added to which this doctrine was introduced by Jews,
sect held in the lowest esteem by the Romans. No less repulsive to the
sensual and pleasure-loving heathen were the restraint and self-denial
inculcated by the Christian religion. The means employed
for converting the world were twelve poor fishermen, unequipped with
eloquence to persuade, or with the countenance of the great ones of the
earth to support their mission. They did indeed work miracles, but, as
St. Augustine says, the spread of Christianity without miracles would
have been the greatest miracle of any. On Pentecost five thousand were
Baptized; two thousand more after the miracle at the gate of the
Temple, and in the year A.D. 100 Christianity had extended over the
whole Roman world. Pliny, the Governor of Bithynia, reported to the
Emperor Trajan that the heathen temples were left empty because all
were becoming Christians in the towns and villages. St. Justinus, the
philosopher, wrote in A.D. 150: " There is not a nation where prayers
are not offered to the heavenly Father in the name of the Crucified."
The effect of Christ's teaching was that idolatry with its horrible
abuses disappeared, and that the whole life of man was reformed and
The sacrifice of human victims was abolished, and the bloody
spectacles of the gladiatorial shows. All kinds of charitable
institutions arose for the blind, the poor, the sick, etc., owing their
existence to the teaching of Christian mercy. Polygamy died out, and
woman regained her dignity. Order was established in the family life by
the Christian doctrine of the indissolubility of the marriage tie.
Slavery was gradually abolished, for every man saw in his neighbor the
image of God. The cruel laws against malefactors became milder, and
wars became less frequent. Trade, science, and art were cultivated
more, and labor acquired a new dignity. Even Julian the Apostate
counselled the heathen to imitate the Christians in the generosity
and purity of their lives. A religion which produces so much good must
be from God. It is sometimes urged that Christ's teaching has been
the cause of many religious wars and schisms. The answer to this
objection is that it is not Christ's teaching but man's perversity in
not following that teaching, or wresting it to his own destruction,
which causes so much evil.
Jesus Christ is Our Lord.
Christ's words at the Last Supper were: "You call Me Master and
and you say well, for so I am" (John 13:13).
We call Christ "Our Lord" because He
is our Creator, Redeemer,
Lawgiver, Teacher, and Judge.
Christ is our Creator: "In Him were all things created in Heaven and on
earth, visible and invisible" (Col 1:16), and by His Son God made the
world (Heb. 1:2). St. John calls Christ the Word, and says: "Without
Him was made nothing that was made" (John 1:3). Christ is our
Redeemer. By Him we are set free from the slavery of the devil (1 Pet.
1:18). Hence the Apostle says: "Know ye not that ... ye are not your
own, for you are bought with a great price" (1 Cor. 6:19). He is also
our Lawgiver, for He developed the teaching of the Ten Commandments,
and gave the two precepts of love. He called Himself the "Lord of the
Sabbath" (Luke 6:5). Christ is our Teacher, because He taught men to
be like to God, and in John 18:13, He calls Himself our Master.
Christ is also our Judge, for He will come again in glory to summon
all mankind before His judgment-seat and separate the sheep from the
25:31, 32). Then will the just as well as the wicked address Him,
saying: "Lord, when did we see Thee hungry or thirsty, or a stranger,
or naked, or sick, or in prison?" (Matt. 25:37, 44.) "He is the
blessed and only mighty, the King of kings and Lord of lords ... to
be honor and empire everlasting. Amen" (1 Tim. 6:5, 16).
THE IMAGE PLAIN