The Work of God - Catholic Apologetics | Contents
"A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him" (Dan. 7, 10).
Angels are the highest and most perfect of Gods creatures, being pure spirits endowed with power, intelligence and free will. They surround the throne of God and are "His ministers that do his will" (Ps. 103 , 21).
God created the angels before men, and in a state of innocence and grace together with excellent gifts. But God created them also free and capable of sinning, and willed that they should undergo a trial in order to merit heaven permanently as a reward for their fidelity. According to tradition, this test involved God revealing His plan to create humanity and later have the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity assume human nature and dwell among men on earth. Some time later, He and His Mother would be exalted in heaven above all the angels. Lucifer, the highest of the angels, could not accept mere human nature being exalted above his own and in his pride preferred the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity to unite with himself.
Lucifer together with one-third of the other angels rebelled against this plan of God, and becoming devils with perverted wills, were cast into hell: "God did not spare the angels when they sinned" (2 Pet. 2, 4). There they will remain forever without repentence or redemption for they gave full consent to their rebellion knowing without deception the consequences thereof. In other words they permanently fixed their own end.
Though they have no physical body like humans, they have the power to appear in bodily form. This they can do in either two ways. They can "assume bodies" by manipulating matter to create and put on a mask in the same way humans can put on a disguise or costume. This is the case when angels are seen by more than one person at a time. The other way is by influencing our imaginations by placing an image within them that gives the impression that there is a body there. This is normally the case when only one person is having a purely private experience of an angel.1
The exact number of angels is not stated in Sacred Scripture, however, according to the Prophet Daniel "A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him" (Dan. 7, 10).
According to the Fathers of the Church, the angels are divided into three hierarchies, and each hierarchy into three chiors:
(i) Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones;
(ii) Dominations, Principalities, Powers;
(iii) Virtues, Archangels, Guardian Angels.
Only three of the heavenly host are known to us by name:
(i) Gabriel ("Strength of God");
(ii) Michael ("Who is like unto God");
(iii) Raphael ("Remedy of God").
Though condemned to hell, Devils are permitted by God to come upon the earth to test mankind: "Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5, 8). In their envy and hatred they try to lead us to sin, and can even affect our bodies by possession. Nevertheless, "God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor. 10, 13). If, then, we are overcome the fault is our own.
The chief occupation of the good angels is to adore and to praise God continually: "Day and night without ceasing they sing, Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty" (Rev. 4, 8). Angels also, as Gods ministers, take part in the government of the universe, executing the Divine commands: "Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?" (Heb. 1, 14).
It is the Churchs teaching that each person has a Guardian Angel appointed by God as a special protector: "Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven" (St. Matt. 18, 10); "When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. On recognizing Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, You are out of your mind! But she insisted that it was so. They said, It is his angel" (Acts 12, 11-15).
St. Michael was the special protector of Israel, and is now venerated as the guardian of Gods Church against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
We should love and revere the angels, and with confidence recommend ourselves to them in all the circumstances of our lives.
The Shepherd of Hermas, Vis. 3, 4, 1 (C. 140-155 AD):
[Hermas recounts that the old woman who is the Church came to him in a vision]:
"I answered and said to her: Lady, this is a great and wonderful thing. But the six young men who are building, who are they, lady?
These are the holy angels of God, who were the first to be created, and to whom the Lord entrusted all of His creation, to increase it and to build it up, and to be masters of the whole of creation. Through them, therefore, the building of the tower will be completed.
But the others, who are bringing the stones:-who are they?
They also are holy angels of God; but these six are superior to them. The building of the tower, then, shall be completed; and all alike shall rejoice around the tower, and shall give glory to God, because the building of the tower was accomplished."
Tertullian, Apology 22, 4 (197 AD):
"The business (of the fallen angels, who are the demons), is to corrupt mankind. Thus, from the very first, spiritual wickedness augured mans destruction. Therefore do they inflict diseases and other grievous misfortunes upon our bodies; and upon the soul they do violence to achieve sudden and extraordinary excesses. Their marvellous subtlety and elusiveness give them access to both parts of mans substance...Therefore are they everywhere in a moment. The whole world is but one place to them. What and where anything happens they can know and tell with equal facility."
St. Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 6, 13, 107, 2 (Post 202 AD):
"Even here in the Church the gradations of bishops, presbyters, and deacons happen to be imitations, in my opinion, of the angelic glory and of that arrangement which, the Scriptures say, awaits those who have followed in the footsteps of the Apostles, and who have lived in perfect righteousness according to the Gospel."
Origen, Fundamental Doctrines 1, Preface, 6 (Inter 220-230 AD):
"In regard to the Devil and his angels and opposing powers, the ecclesiastical teaching maintains that these beings do indeed exist; but what they are or how they exist is not explained with sufficient clarity. This opinion, however, is held by most: that the Devil was an angel; and having apostatized, he persuaded as many angels as possible to fall away with himself; and these, even to the present time, are called his angels."
St. Hilary of Poitiers, Commentaries on the Psalms, On Psalm 130 (129), 7 (C. 365 AD):
"We recall that there are many spiritual powers, to whom the name angels is given, or presidents of Churches. There are, according to John, angels of the Churches of Asia. And there were, as Moses bears witness, when the sons of Adam were separated, bounds appointed for the peoples according to the number of the angels. And, as the Lord teaches, there are for little children, angels who see God daily. There are, as Raphael told Tobias, angels assisting before the majesty of God, and carrying to God the prayers of suppliants. Mention is made of all this, because you might wish to understand these angels as the eyes, or the ears, or the hands, or the feet of God."
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
Moreover, He created out of nothing the spiritual world and Angels innumerable to serve and minister to Him; and these He enriched and adorned with the admirable gifts of His grace and power...That the Devil and the other rebel angels were gifted from the beginning of their creation with grace, clearly follows from these words of the Sacred Scriptures: He (the Devil) stood not in the truth. On this subject St. Augustine says: In creating the angels He endowed them with good will, that is, with pure love that they might adhere to Him, giving them existence and adorning them with grace at one and the same time. Hence we are to believe that the holy Angels were never without good will, that is, the love of God.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 329: 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" they are the "mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word."
No. 336: 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 the angels and men united in God."
No. 392: 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 in that rebellion in the tempters 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."
ContentsCREATOR OF HEAVEN
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him" (Gen. 1, 27).
God then "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Gen. 2, 7). Man was also given dominion over all the other creatures upon earth.
However, in the plan of God He saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone for he needed companionship with one like himself. So God sent a deep sleep upon Adam, and while he was sleeping took one of his ribs and from it created Eve whom God gave to Adam as his companion and helpmate. Beholding his new partner for the first time Adam was ecstatic and exclaimed, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken" (Gen. 2, 23).
Being made in the image and likeness of God, Adam and Eve possessed the spiritual powers of intellect and will. They were created in a state of innocence and happiness, and enriched with supernatural (above nature) gifts to elevate, or "divinize," them and so enable them to participate in the life of God. These gifts included sanctifying grace with the concomitant infused theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, the infused moral virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the uncreated grace of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity. Through such gifts, Adam and Eve possessed the sonship of God and the right to inherit heaven. In addition to these supernatural gifts, Adam and Eve possessed preternatural (beyond nature) gifts to perfect them as human beings, namely, impassability, immortality, integrity and infused knowledge. Their lower instincts, or passions, obeyed their reason and their reason obeyed God. All these gifts were gratuitous gifts of God, above our natural rights.
God placed Adam and Eve in the paradise of Eden, a garden of delights, where they would live in happiness and innocence, growing in grace, until God transported them body and soul to heaven for all eternity. However, it was God's determination for Adam and Eve to merit heaven through obedience and so put our first parents to the test: "And the Lord God commanded the man, You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die" (Gen. 2, 16-17). Satan in the form of a serpent approached Eve: "you will be like God." Adam, puffed up with pride at the prompting of Eve, sought inordinately to become like God in knowledge, and then believing God to be a liar disobeyed His prohibition and ate of the Tree of Knowledge.
At once, Adam and Eve felt shame and wished to hide from Gods presence. The punishments were then pronounced. They lost the sonship of God by being stripped of sanctifying grace and hence their right to enter heaven. Four wounds opened up within them: malice in the will; ignorance in the intellect; concupiscence in the concupiscible appetite; and debility in the irascible appetite. Their minds were now therefore darkened, and they became prone to evil, disorder and weakness. They were driven out of Paradise, angels guarding the entrances with flaming swords to prevent their return and access to the Tree of Life. Toil and sickness were henceforth to be their lot, and with the forfeiture of the gifts of impassibility and immortality they became subject to pain, suffering, sickness and death: "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Gen. 3, 19).
Through the disobedience of Adam and Eve "sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5, 12). The miserable consequences of Adams sin were to pass from him to all his posterity through natural generation, a fatal stain upon our souls. To this, the Church gives the term "Original Sin": "we were by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2, 3).
God in His mercy, however, would not allow humanity to remain in this fallen state. Satan would not be allowed any victory through envy and deception. God gave us time for repentance, and promised a new Adam and Eve who would co-operate together to redeem our lost innocence and regain the Kingdom of Heaven (Gen. 3, 15).
Tatian the Syrian, Address to the Greeks 15 (C. 165-175 AD):
"...it is necessary for us now to seek what once we had, but have lost: indeed, to unite the soul with the Holy Spirit, and to strive after union with God...The perfect God is without flesh; but man is flesh...Such is the form of mans constitution: and if it be like a temple, God desires to dwell in it through the Spirit, His Representative; but if it be not such a habitation, then man excels the beasts only in that he has articulate speech, and in other respects his manner of life is like theirs and he is not a likeness of God."
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 5, 3, 2 (C. 180 AD):
"God, taking soil from the earth, made man. And surely it is much more difficult and more incredible that from non-existent bones and nerves and veins and the rest of the human system, he makes him to exist, and in fact raises him up as an animated and rational living being..."
Tertullian, The Soul 22, 2 (Inter 208-212 AD):
"We define the soul as born of the breath of God, immortal, corporal (sic), having form, simple in substance, acquiring knowledge by its own operation, showing itself in various ways, free to choose, subject to misfortunes, changeable according to natural inclinations, rational, the mistress, she who divines, descended from a single source."
St. Cyprian of Carthage, The Advantage of Patience 19 (256 AD):
"The Devil bore impatiently the fact that man was made in the image of God; and that is why he was the first to perish and the first to bring others to perdition. Adam, contrary to the heavenly command, was impatient in regard to the deadly food, and fell into death; nor did he preserve, under the guardianship of patience, the grace he received from God."
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
Lastly, He formed man from the slime of the earth, so created and constituted in body as to be immortal and impassable, not, however, by the strength of nature, but by the bounty of God. Mans soul He created to His own image and likeness; gifted him with free will, and tempered all his motions and appetites so as to subject them, at all times, to the dictates of reason. He then added the admirable gift of original righteousness, and next gave him dominion over all other animals.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 396: God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God...
No. 397: Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed Gods command. This is what mans first sin consisted of.
No. 400: The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the souls 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 has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, 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 it entrance into human history.
No. 404: 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.
ContentsAND IN JESUS CHRIST,
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (St. John 3, 16).
"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Gen. 3, 15). These words constitute what is known as the Protoevangelium, the first Gospel, or promise of a Redeemer to come. This promise formed the essential heart and hope of the religion of the Jews of the Old Testament: "Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it" (St. Matt. 13, 17).
As the sin of Adam and Eve offended the infinite dignity of God, the satisfaction due to God in atonement needed to be of infinite value. However, no mere creature could make such a satisfaction since no creature, however holy or exalted, could offer more than a finite reparation. There was a necessity, therefore, for the Redeemer to be both God and man - man, that he might suffer and die on our behalf; God, that an infinite merit might attach to His atonement. Such a Redeemer was sent by God - Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity: "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2, 5).
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children" (Gal. 4, 4 -5). God the Son became the man Jesus Christ: "And the Word became flesh and lived among us" (St. John 1, 14). The word "incarnation" is derived from the Latin, meaning, "to put on flesh." Christ could not have become Redeemer of humanity without a human nature, for it was His assumed human nature that was the instrumental cause of our salvation. In therefore voluntarily giving Her flesh to the Son of God the Virgin Mary in the most intimate way co-operated to bring into effect Gods plan of redemption, hence Her title of "Co-Redemptrix."
Jesus Christ is not only truly God, begotten of the Father in all eternity, but also truly man from the time He was conceived in His Mothers womb: "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2, 6-7). Thus, Christ has a divine and human nature united in His one Person - this union is called the Hypostatic Union, "hypostatic" meaning person in Greek. This union will never be dissolved, and remains so today. When Our Lords sacred body lay in the Holy Sepulcher, the Person of the Word still remained united to it, just as it remained united to His soul in Abraham's Bosom (1 Pet. 3, 19).
As Christ has a divine and human nature, so also has He a divine and human will. Yet His human will was ever in perfect accord with His divine will: "if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt" (St. Matt. 26, 39). Likewise, Christ possesses both a divine and human intellect. In His divine intellect Christ possesses comprehensive knowledge of all things past, present and future, as well as the infinite array of possibilities. In His human intellect Christ possesses infused knowledge of all things past, present and future by virtue of the Hypostatic Union, as well as acquired, or experimental, knowledge through His external senses.
Being the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God: "thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee" (Heb. 1, 5). For many, the thought that God can have a Son who has the same nature as Himself is anathema. Yet, Christ is not a separate God, but a distinct Person, Gods image of Himself: "He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation" (Col. 1, 15). Jesus Christ is the only Son of God by nature, whereas we become through Christ the children of God by adoption: "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, Abba! Father!" (Rom. 8, 15). This adoption formerly begins with baptism, which infuses into our souls the indelible mark of a Christian, or character, and incorporates us into Christs Body, the Church.
The name "Jesus Christ" means "Anointed Savior." Our Lords name is one of power and confidence, and should invoke our deepest respect. It has always be part of Catholic piety to reverence the name of Jesus with at least a slight bow of the head when hearing it pronounced: "God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2, 9-11).
Jesus Christ has the threefold character of Priest, Prophet and King. He is a Priest in once having offered Himself on Calvary for the redemption of the world, and continuing to offer Himself daily in the Mass: "Thou art a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 5, 6); He is a Prophet by being a teacher of truth, revealing the mysteries of God and foretelling of things to come: "The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you" (Acts 3, 22); He is King because He came down to earth to establish His Church, a spiritual kingdom over which He shall rule for all eternity: "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19, 16).
Jesus Christ is Our Lord and Lord of all because He created all things in the universe: "All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being" (St. John 1, 3). Further, we owe all entirely to Him for having redeemed us "at a great price" and freeing us from the slavery of sin and the Devil. How great then should our love, respect and obedience be to such a Lord, seeing that it is to Him that we owe all that we possess!
St. Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians 36, 1 (C. 96-98 AD):
"This is the way, beloved, in which we found our salvation, Jesus Christ, the High Priest of our offerings, the defender and helper of our weakness. Through Him we fix our gaze on the heights of heaven; through Him we see the reflection of the faultless and lofty countenance of God; through him the eyes of our heart were opened; through him our foolish and darkened understanding shoots up to the light; through him the Master willed that we should taste of deathless knowledge; who, being the brightness of His majesty, is as much greater than the angels as the more glorious name which He has inherited."
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians Address (C. 110 AD):
"Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church at Ephesus in Asia...united and chosen through true suffering by the will of the Father in Jesus Christ our God...There is one Physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and not born, who is God in man, true life in death, born both of Mary and from God, first able to suffer and then unable to suffer, Jesus Christ our Lord...For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with Gods plan: of the seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit..."
St. Justin Martyr, First Apology 13 (Inter 148-155 AD):
"Our teacher of these things, born for this end, is Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, the procurator in Judea in the time of Tiberius Caesar. We will prove that we worship Him reasonably; for we have learned that He is the Son of the True God Himself, that He holds a second place, and the spirit of Prophecy a third. For this they accuse us of madness, saying that we attribute to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all things; but they are ignorant of the mystery which lies therein."
Tertullian, Apology 21, 6 (197 AD):
"So also, that which proceeds from God is God and Son of God, and both are one. Likewise, as He is Spirit from Spirit, and God from God, He is made a second by count and in numerical sequence, but not in actual condition; for He comes forth from the source but does not separate therefrom."
St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God Against the Arians 21 (C. 365 AD):
"And when (Christ) says, Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me; yet, not My will be done, but Yours; and the spirit is ready, but the flesh is weak, He gives evidence therein of two wills, the one human, which is of the flesh, and the one divine, which is of God. That which is human, because of the weakness of the flesh, shrinks from suffering. That, however, which is divine, is ready."
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
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.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 432: 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 henceforth all can invoke his name, for Jesus united himself to all men through his Incarnation, so that "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
No. 436: 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 that "Christ" signifies...
No. 449: By attributing to Jesus the divine title "Lord," the first confessions of the Churchs 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.
ContentsWHO WAS CONCEIVED
"When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Gal. 4, 4).
The Prophet Isaias had foretold the birth of Christ to King Achaz in the eighth century BC: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, His name shall be called Emmanuel (i.e., God with us)" (Is. 7, 14).
When the time decreed by God the Father for sending Christ into the world had arrived, the Archangel Gabriel was sent from heaven to obtain the consent of Mary. During their conversation the Archangel said: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God." Our Ladys response came without hesitation: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." Seeing that Our Lady had given Her full and total consent to being the Mother of God, the Archangel Gabriel then left Her (St. Luke 1, 35-38). At that instant, without any detriment to Her spotless virginity, Our Lady miraculously conceived within Her womb the Savior of the world.
Just as there was a co-operation between Adam and Eve in humanity's fall, likewise was there to be in God's plan a co-operation between the new Adam and Eve in humanity's redemption. For without Our Lady's free consent to be the mother of the Messiah the Word of God would not have received the necessary human nature to redeem Adam and all his posterity. Our Lady's obedience therefore became the cause of salvation for the whole of humanity, undoing the damage caused by Eves disobedience. Hence, does the Church appropriately bestow upon Her the titles of "New Eve" and "Co-Redemptrix." As the Fathers proclaim: "Death through Eve; Life through Mary."
At this time, Our Lady and St. Joseph were living in Nazareth, yet it had been foretold that Bethlehem was to be the Messiahs birthplace: "But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel" (Mich. 5, 2). By a special providence of God, a decree was issued by Augustus Caesar for a census of "the whole world." In obedience, Our Lady and St. Joseph, both being of the Royal House of David, traveled to Bethlehem, the City of David. Here, Our Lady gave birth to Jesus Christ, while a multitude of the heavenly host proclaimed: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" (St. Luke 2, 10-14).
The third Joyful Mystery of the Most Holy Rosary invites us to meditate on the Nativity of Christ. The fruit of this Mystery is poverty of spirit. One can understand why this virtue was chosen when considering the circumstances of Christs birth. The Holy Family had to content themselves with no better than a poor stable occupied by an ox and an ass, exposed to the open air, with the Child Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger of straw. Poverty was to be the lot of Our Lord His entire life. He was born in a manger that belonged to another, and was to be buried in a tomb that belonged to another.
The Catholic Church dogmatically asserts that the Virgin Mary was a virgin before, during, and remained so perpetually after the birth of Christ (Ante partum, In partu, Post partum). As a consequence, the very act of giving birth to Christ was not detrimental to Our Ladys virginity. It is a pious belief that Christ proceeded from His Mothers womb in the same way He was later to proceed from the tomb, that is, by passing through the rock without rolling it away (St. Matt. 28, 2).
In giving birth to Christ, we may truly say that the Virgin Mary became the Mother of God. It was argued in the early fifth century by Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, that as the Virgin Mary supplied only Christ's human and not divine nature, She could only be called Christotokos (Mother of Christ), not Theotokos (Mother of God). Nestorius' error had its foundation in a false Christology, which asserted that Christ was two separate persons, one human and one divine, rather than one divine person with two natures, human and divine, united hypostatically. When the Virgin Mary gave Her flesh to Christ She was clothing a divine person. In giving birth to Christ She was giving birth to a divine person. Christ is God, therefore the Virgin Mary is truly the Mother of God. Sacred Scripture itself attests to this:
"...And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?..." (St. Luke 1, 43);
"On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there..." (St. John 2, 1);
"Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother..." ( St. John 19, 25).
And what of St. Joseph? He was chosen to be the protector of Our Ladys virginity, to defend Her from accusations after the birth of Her Son, to assist the Holy Family in their flight to Egypt, to be the guardian and foster-father of Christ, and to have the Son of God obedient to him. Sacred Scripture speaks precious little of St. Joseph except that he was a "just man" (St. Matt. 1, 19). The modern devotion to St. Joseph was strongly promoted by the great Spanish Mystic and reformer St. Teresa of Avila. "Knowing from experience," St. Teresa tells us, "the amazing influence that St. Joseph has with God, I would persuade everybody to honor him with special devotion. Every year on St. Josephs feast I ask for some special favor and I have had my desires fulfilled." St. Joseph has also been particularly honoured by the Church as the Patron Saint of a happy death, for he had the most happy death by having Our Lord and Our Lady at his side, as well as the Patron Saint of workers and the struggle against atheistic Communism.
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians 18, 2 (C. 110 AD):
"For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with Gods plan: of the seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit. He was born and baptized so that by His submission He might purify the water. The virginity of Mary, her giving birth, and also the death of the Lord, were hidden from the prince of this world: - three mysteries loudly proclaimed, but wrought in the silence of God."
St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 100 (C. 155 AD):
"He became Man by the Virgin so that the course which was taken by disobedience in the beginning through the agency of the serpent, might be also the very course by which it would be put down. For Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent, and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, for which reason the Holy One being born of her is the Son of God. And she replied: Be it done unto me according to thy word."
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 3, 22, 4 (C.180 AD):
"(Eve) having become disobedient, was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race...Thus, the knot of Eves disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith."
St. Ephrem of Edessa (+373 AD), Songs of Praise 1, 1; 1, 2:
"Awake, my harp, your songs
in praise of the Virgin Mary!
Lift up your voice and sing
The wonderful history
Of the Virgin, the daughter of David,
who gave birth to the Life of the World.
Who loves you is amazed
and who would understand is silent and confused,
Because he cannot probe the Mother
who gave birth in her virginity.
If it is too great to be clarified with words
the disputants ought not on that account cross swords with your Son."
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
As the body of Christ was formed of the pure blood of the immaculate Virgin without the aid of man, as we have already said, and by the sole operation of the Holy Ghost, so also, at the moment of His Conception, His soul was enriched with an overflowing fullness of the Spirit of God, and a superabundance of all graces. For God gave not to Him, as to others adorned with holiness and grace, His Spirit by measure, as St. John testifies, but poured into His soul the plenitude of all graces so abundantly that of his fullness we all have received.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 484: The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates "the fullness of time," the time of the fulfillment of Gods promises and preparations. Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the "whole fullness of deity" would dwell "bodily." The divine response to her question, "How can this be, since I know not man?" was given by the power of the Spirit: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you."
No. 495: Called in the Gospels "the mother of Jesus," Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her Son, as "the mother of my Lord." In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Fathers eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly "Mother of God" (Theotokos).
No. 504: Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Marys womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: "The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven." From his conception, Christs humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God "gives him the Spirit without measure." From "his fullness" as the head of redeemed humanity "we have all received, grace upon grace."
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Catholic Apologetics - The Work of God
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