THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
The Good News: God has sent his Son
422 'But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.'1 This is 'the
gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God':'2 God has visited his people. He has fulfilled the promise he
made to Abraham and his descendants. He acted far beyond all expectation - he has sent his own
423 We believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at
the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died
crucified in Jerusalem under the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is
the eternal Son of God made man. He 'came from God',4 'descended from heaven',5 and 'came in the
flesh'.6 For 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his
glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. . . And from his fullness have we all received, grace
424 Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess:
'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'8 On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ
built his Church.9
"To preach. . . the unsearchable riches of Christ"10
425 The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead
others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ:
"We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard."'11 It And they invite people of every era to
enter into the joy of their communion with Christ:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,
which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - the life
was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which
was with the Father and was made manifest to us- that which we have seen and heard we
proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the
Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.12
At the heart of catechesis: Christ
426 "At the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only
Son from the Father. . .who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us
forever."13 To catechize is "to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God's eternal design reaching
fulfillment in that Person. It is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ's actions and words and of
the signs worked by him."'14 Catechesis aims at putting "people . . . in communion . . . with Jesus Christ:
only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy
427 In catechesis "Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God,. . . is taught - everything else is taught
with reference to him - and it is Christ alone who teaches - anyone else teaches to the extent that he is
Christ's spokesman, enabling Christ to teach with his lips. . . Every catechist should be able to apply to
himself the mysterious words of Jesus: 'My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.'"16
428 Whoever is called "to teach Christ" must first seek "the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus";
he must suffer "the loss of all things. . ." in order to "gain Christ and be found in him", and "to know
him and the power of his resurrection, and [to] share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
that if possible [he] may attain the resurrection from the dead".17
429 From this loving knowledge of Christ springs the desire to proclaim him, to "evangelize", and to
lead others to the "yes" of faith in Jesus Christ. But at the same time the need to know this faith better
makes itself felt. To this end, following the order of the Creed, Jesus' principal titles - "Christ", "Son of
God", and "Lord" (article 2) - will be presented. The Creed next confesses the chief mysteries of his life
- those of his Incarnation (article 3), Paschal mystery (articles 4 and 5) and glorification (articles 6 and
1 Gal 4:4-5.
2 Mk 1:1.
3 Mk 1:11; cf. Lk 1:5,68.
4 Jn 13:3.
5 Jn 3:13; 6:33.
6 1 Jn 4:2.
7 Jn 1:14,16.
8 Mt 16:16.
9 Cf. Mt 16:18; St. Leo the Great, Sermo 4,3:PL 54,150-152; 51,1:PL 54,309B; 62,2:PL 54,350-351;
10 Eph 3:8.
11 Acts 4:20.
12 1 Jn 1:1-4.
13 CT 5.
14 CT 5.
15 CT 5.
16 CT 6; cf. Jn 7:16.
17 Phil 3:8-11.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
"AND IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD"I. JESUS
430 Jesus means in Hebrew: "God saves." At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name
Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission.18 Since God alone can
forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, "will save his people from their sins".19 in
Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of men.
431 In the history of salvation God was not content to deliver Israel "out of the house of bondage"20 by
bringing them out of Egypt. He also saves them from their sin. Because sin is always an offence against
God, only he can forgive it.21 For this reason Israel, becoming more and more aware of the universality
of sin, will no longer be able to seek salvation except by invoking the name of the Redeemer God.22
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,23 so that "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be
433 The name of the Savior God was invoked only once in the year by the high priest in atonement for
the sins of Israel, after he had sprinkled the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies with the sacrificial blood.
The mercy seat was the place of God's presence.25 When St. Paul speaks of Jesus whom "God put
forward as an expiation by his blood", he means that in Christ's humanity "God was in Christ
reconciling the world to himself."26
434 Jesus' Resurrection glorifies the name of the Savior God, for from that time on it is the name of
Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the "name which is above every name".27 The evil
spirits fear his name; in his name his disciples perform miracles, for the Father grants all they ask in this
435 The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer. All liturgical prayers conclude with the words
"through our Lord Jesus Christ". The Hail Mary reaches its high point in the words "blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus." The Eastern prayer of the heart, the Jesus Prayer, says: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of
God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Many Christians, such as St. Joan of Arc, have died with the one
word "Jesus" on their lips.
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. In effect, in Israel those consecrated to God for a mission that he gave
were anointed in his name. This was the case for kings, for priests and, in rare instances, for
prophets.29 This had to be the case all the more so for the Messiah whom God would send to
inaugurate his kingdom definitively.30 It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of
the Lord at once as king and priest, and also as prophet.31 Jesus fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in
his threefold office of priest, prophet and king.
437 To the shepherds, the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel: "To
you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."32 From the beginning he was
"the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world", conceived as "holy" in Mary's virginal
womb.33 God called Joseph to "take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy
Spirit", so that Jesus, "who is called Christ", should be born of Joseph's spouse into the messianic
lineage of David.34
438 Jesus' messianic consecration reveals his divine mission, "for the name 'Christ' implies 'he who
anointed', 'he who was anointed' and 'the very anointing with which he was anointed'. The one who
anointed is the Father, the one who was anointed is the Son, and he was anointed with the Spirit who
is the anointing.'"35 His eternal messianic consecration was revealed during the time of his earthly life
at the moment of his baptism by John, when "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and
with power", "that he might be revealed to Israel"36 as its Messiah. His works and words will manifest
him as "the Holy One of God".37
439 Many Jews and even certain Gentiles who shared their hope recognized in Jesus the fundamental
attributes of the messianic "Son of David", promised by God to Israel.38 Jesus accepted his rightful title
of Messiah, though with some reserve because it was understood by some of his contemporaries in
too human a sense, as essentially political.39
440 Jesus accepted Peter's profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by
announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man.40 He unveiled the authentic content of his
messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man "who came down from
heaven", and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant: "The Son of Man came not to be
served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."41 Hence the true meaning of his
kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the cross.42 Only after his Resurrection will Peter be
able to proclaim Jesus' messianic kingship to the People of God: "Let all the house of Israel therefore
know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."43
III. THE ONLY SON OF GOD
441 In the Old Testament, "son of God" is a title given to the angels, the Chosen People, the children of
Israel, and their kings.44 It signifies an adoptive sonship that establishes a relationship of particular
intimacy between God and his creature. When the promised Messiah-King is called "son of God", it
does not necessarily imply that he was more than human, according to the literal meaning of these
texts. Those who called Jesus "son of God", as the Messiah of Israel, perhaps meant nothing more than
442 Such is not the case for Simon Peter when he confesses Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the living
God", for Jesus responds solemnly: "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is
in heaven."46 Similarly Paul will write, regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus, "When he
who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal
his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles. . ."47 "And in the synagogues
immediately [Paul] proclaimed Jesus, saying, 'He is the Son of God.'"48 From the beginning this
acknowledgment of Christ's divine sonship will be the center of the apostolic faith, first professed by
Peter as the Church's foundation.49
443 Peter could recognize the transcendent character of the Messiah's divine sonship because Jesus
had clearly allowed it to be so understood. To his accusers' question before the Sanhedrin, "Are you
the Son of God, then?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am."50 Well before this, Jesus referred to
himself as "the Son" who knows the Father, as distinct from the "servants" God had earlier sent to his
people; he is superior even to the angels.51 He distinguished his sonship from that of his disciples by
never saying "our Father", except to command them: "You, then, pray like this: 'Our Father'", and he
emphasized this distinction, saying "my Father and your Father".52
444 The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ,
the voice of the Father designates Jesus his "beloved Son".53 Jesus calls himself the "only Son of God",
and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence.54 He asks for faith in "the name of the only Son of
God".55 In the centurion's exclamation before the crucified Christ, "Truly this man was the Son of
God",56 that Christian confession is already heard. Only in the Paschal mystery can the believer give the
title "Son of God" its full meaning.
445 After his Resurrection, Jesus' divine sonship becomes manifest in the power of his glorified
humanity. He was "designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his
Resurrection from the dead".57 The apostles can confess: "We have beheld his glory, glory as of the
only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."58
446 In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the ineffable Hebrew name YHWH, by which God
revealed himself to Moses,59 is rendered as Kyrios, "Lord". From then on, "Lord" becomes the more
usual name by which to indicate the divinity of Israel's God. The New Testament uses this full sense of
the title "Lord" both for the Father and - what is new - for Jesus, who is thereby recognized as God
447 Jesus ascribes this title to himself in a veiled way when he disputes with the Pharisees about the
meaning of Psalm 110, but also in an explicit way when he addresses his apostles.61 Throughout his
public life, he demonstrated his divine sovereignty by works of power over nature, illnesses, demons,
death and sin.
448 Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as "Lord". This title testifies to the respect and trust
of those who approach him for help and healing.62 At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, "Lord"
expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus.63 In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this
title becomes adoration: "My Lord and my God!" It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection
that remains proper to the Christian tradition: "It is the Lord!"64
449 By attributing to Jesus the divine title "Lord", the first confessions of the Church's 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",65 and the Father manifested the sovereignty of Jesus by raising him from
the dead and exalting him into his glory.66
450 From the beginning of Christian history, the assertion of Christ's lordship over the world and over
history has implicitly recognized that man should not submit his personal freedom in an absolute
manner to any earthly power, but only to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Caesar is not "the
Lord".67 "The Church. . . believes that the key, the center and the purpose of the whole of man's history
is to be found in its Lord and Master."68
451 Christian prayer is characterized by the title "Lord", whether in the invitation to prayer ("The Lord
be with you"), its conclusion ("through Christ our Lord") or the exclamation full of trust and hope:
Maran atha ("Our Lord, come!") or Marana tha ("Come, Lord!") - "Amen Come Lord Jesus!"69
IN BRIEF452 The name Jesus means "God saves". The child born of the Virgin Mary is called Jesus, "for he will
save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21): "there is no other name under heaven given among men by
which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
453 The title "Christ" means "Anointed One" (Messiah). Jesus is the Christ, for "God anointed Jesus of
Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power" (Acts 10:38). He was the one "who is to come" (Lk 7:19),
the object of "the hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20).
454 The title "Son of God" signifies the unique and eternal relationship of Jesus Christ to God his
Father: he is the only Son of the Father (cf. Jn 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18); he is God himself (cf. Jn 1:1). To be a
Christian, one must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (cf. Acts 8:37; 1 Jn 2:23).
455 The title "Lord" indicates divine sovereignty. To confess or invoke Jesus as Lord is to believe in his
divinity. "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit'" (1 Cor 12:3).
18 Cf. Lk 1:31.
19 Mt 1:21; cf. 2:7.
20 Deut 5:6.
21 Cf. Ps 51:4,12.
22 Cf. Ps 79:9.
23 Cf. Jn 3:18; Acts 2:21; 5:41; 3 Jn 7; Rom 10:6-13.
24 Acts 4:12; cf. 9:14; Jas 2:7.
25 Cf. Ex 25:22; Lev 16:2,15-16; Num 7:89; Sir 50:20; Heb 9:5,7.
26 Rom 3:25; 2 Cor 5:19.
27 Phil 2:9-10; cf. Jn 12:28.
28 Cf. Acts 16:16-18; 19:13-16; Mk 16:17; Jn 15:16.
29 Cf. Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 16:1,12-13; 1 Kings 1:39; 19:16.
30 Cf. Ps 2:2; Acts 4:26-27.
31 Cf. Isa 11:2; 61:1; Zech 4:14; 6:13; Lk 4:16-21.
32 Lk 2:11.
33 Jn 10:36; cf. Lk 1:35.
34 Mt 1:20; cf. 1:16; Rom 1:1; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16.
35 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,18,3:PG 7/1,934.
36 Acts 10:38; Jn 1:31.
37 Mk 1:24; Jn 6:69; Acts 3:14.
38 Cf Mt 2:2; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9,15.
39 Cf. Jn 4:25-26; 6:15; 11:27; Mt 22:41-46; Lk 24:21.
40 Cf. Mt 16:16-23.
41 Jn 3:13; Mt 20:28; cf. Jn 6:62; Dan 7:13; Isa 53:10-12.
42 Cf. Jn 19:19-22; Lk 23:39-43.
43 Acts 2:36.
44 Cf. Deut 14:1; (LXX) 32:8; Job 1:6; Ex 4:22; Hos 2:1; 11:1; Jer 3:19; Sir 36:11; Wis 18:13; 2 Sam 7:14;
45 Cf. 1 Chr 17:13; Ps 2:7; Mt 27:54; Lk 23:47.
46 Mt 16:16-17.
47 Gal 1:15-16.
48 Acts 9:20.
49 Cf. 1 Thess 1:10; Jn 20:31; Mt 16:18.
50 Lk 22:70; cf. Mt 26:64; Mk 14:61-62.
51 Cf. Mt 11:27; 21:34-38; 24:36.
52 Mt 5:48; 6:8-9; 7:21; Lk 11:13; Jn 20:17.
53 Cf. Mt 3:17; cf. 17:5.
54 Jn 3:16; cf. 10:36.
55 Jn 3:18.
56 Mk 15:39.
57 Rom 1:3; cf. Acts 13:33.
58 Jn 1:14.
59 Cf. Ex 3:14.
60 Cf. 1 Cor 2:8.
61 Cf. Mt 22:41-46; cf. Acts 2:34-36; Heb 1:13; Jn 13:13.
62 Cf Mt 8:2; 14:30; 15:22; et al.
63 Cf. Lk 1:43; 2:11.
64 Jn 20:28,21:7.
65 Cf. Acts 2:34-36; Rom 9:5; Titus 2:13; Rev 5:13; Phil 2:6.
66 Cf. Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3; Phil 2:9-11.
67 Cf. Rev 11:15; Mk 12:17; Acts 5:29.
68 GS 10 § 3; Cf. 45 § 2.
69 1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:20.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
"HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY"Paragraph 1. The Son of God Became Man
I. WHY DID THE WORD BECOME FLESH?
456 With the Nicene Creed, we answer by confessing: "For us men and for our salvation he came down
from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made
457 The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God, who "loved us and
sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins": "the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world",
and "he was revealed to take away sins":70
Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost
the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the
darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Savior; prisoners, help;
slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend
to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state?71
458 The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God's love: "In this the love of God was made
manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him."72
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish
but have eternal life."73
459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me."
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me."74 On the mountain
of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: "Listen to him!"75 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes
and the norm of the new law: "Love one another as I have loved you."76 This love implies an effective
offering of oneself, after his example.77
460 The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature":78 "For this is why the Word
became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion
with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."79 "For the Son of God
became man so that we might become God."80 "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us
sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."81
II. THE INCARNATION
461 Taking up St. John's expression, "The Word became flesh",82 the Church calls "Incarnation" the fact
that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. In a hymn cited
by St. Paul, the Church sings the mystery of the Incarnation:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 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. And being found in human form he
humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.83
462 The Letter to the Hebrews refers to the same mystery:
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not
desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have
taken no pleasure. Then I said, Lo, I have come to do your will, O God."84
463 Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: "By this you
know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God."85
Such is the joyous conviction of the Church from her beginning whenever she sings "the mystery of our
religion": "He was manifested in the flesh."86
III. TRUE GOD AND TRUE MAN
464 The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that
Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of
the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God
and true man.
During the first centuries, the Church had to defend and clarify this truth of faith against the heresies
that falsified it.
465 The first heresies denied not so much Christ's divinity as his true humanity (Gnostic Docetism).
From apostolic times the Christian faith has insisted on the true incarnation of God's Son "come in the
flesh".87 But already in the third century, the Church in a council at Antioch had to affirm against Paul
of Samosata that Jesus Christ is Son of God by nature and not by adoption. The first ecumenical council
of Nicaea in 325 confessed in its Creed that the Son of God is "begotten, not made, of the same
substance (homoousios) as the Father", and condemned Arius, who had affirmed that the Son of God
"came to be from things that were not" and that he was "from another substance" than that of the
466 The Nestorian heresy regarded Christ as a human person joined to the divine person of God's Son.
Opposing this heresy, St. Cyril of Alexandria and the third ecumenical council, at Ephesus in 431,
confessed "that the Word, uniting to himself in his person the flesh animated by a rational soul,
became man."89 Christ's humanity has no other subject than the divine person of the Son of God, who
assumed it and made it his own, from his conception. For this reason the Council of Ephesus
proclaimed in 431 that Mary truly became the Mother of God by the human conception of the Son of
God in her womb: "Mother of God, not that the nature of the Word or his divinity received the
beginning of its existence from the holy Virgin, but that, since the holy body, animated by a rational
soul, which the Word of God united to himself according to the hypostasis, was born from her, the
Word is said to be born according to the flesh."90
467 The Monophysites affirmed that the human nature had ceased to exist as such in Christ when the
divine person of God's Son assumed it. Faced with this heresy, the fourth ecumenical council, at
Chalcedon in 451, confessed:
Following the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach and confess one and the same Son, our Lord
Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly
man, composed of rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father as to his divinity and
consubstantial with us as to his humanity; "like us in all things but sin". He was begotten from
the Father before all ages as to his divinity and in these last days, for us and for our salvation,
was born as to his humanity of the virgin Mary, the Mother of God.91
We confess that one and the same Christ, Lord, and only-begotten Son, is to be acknowledged
in two natures without confusion, change, division or separation. The distinction between the
natures was never abolished by their union, but rather the character proper to each of the two
natures was preserved as they came together in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis.92
468 After the Council of Chalcedon, some made of Christ's human nature a kind of personal subject.
Against them, the fifth ecumenical council, at Constantinople in 553, confessed that "there is but one
hypostasis [or person], which is our Lord Jesus Christ, one of the Trinity."93 Thus everything in Christ's
human nature is to be attributed to his divine person as its proper subject, not only his miracles but
also his sufferings and even his death: "He who was crucified in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, is true
God, Lord of glory, and one of the Holy Trinity."94
469 The Church thus confesses that Jesus is inseparably true God and true man. He is truly the Son of
God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother:
"What he was, he remained and what he was not, he assumed", sings the Roman Liturgy.95 And
the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom proclaims and sings: "O only-begotten Son and Word of God,
immortal being, you who deigned for our salvation to become incarnate of the holy Mother of
God and ever-virgin Mary, you who without change became man and were crucified, O Christ
our God, you who by your death have crushed death, you who are one of the Holy Trinity,
glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us!"96
IV. HOW IS THE SON OF GOD MAN?
470 Because "human nature was assumed, not absorbed",97 in the mysterious union of the
Incarnation, the Church was led over the course of centuries to confess the full reality of Christ's
human soul, with its operations of intellect and will, and of his human body. In parallel fashion, she had
to recall on each occasion that Christ's human nature belongs, as his own, to the divine person of the
Son of God, who assumed it. Everything that Christ is and does in this nature derives from "one of the
Trinity". The Son of God therefore communicates to his humanity his own personal mode of existence
in the Trinity. In his soul as in his body, Christ thus expresses humanly the divine ways of the Trinity:98
The Son of God. . . worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a
human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made
one of us, like to us in all things except sin.99
Christ's soul and his human knowledge
471 Apollinarius of Laodicaea asserted that in Christ the divine Word had replaced the soul or spirit.
Against this error the Church confessed that the eternal Son also assumed a rational, human soul.100
472 This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such,
this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his
existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, "increase in
wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man",101 and would even have to inquire for himself
about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.102 This corresponded to the
reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking "the form of a slave".103
473 But at the same time, this truly human knowledge of God's Son expressed the divine life of his
person.104 "The human nature of God's Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and
showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God."105 Such is first of all the case with the intimate
and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of his Father.106 The Son in his human
knowledge also showed the divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts.107
474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human
knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal.108 What he
admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.109
Christ's human will
475 Similarly, at the sixth ecumenical council, Constantinople III in 681, the Church confessed that
Christ possesses two wills and two natural operations, divine and human. They are not opposed to
each other, but cooperate in such a way that the Word made flesh willed humanly in obedience to his
Father all that he had decided divinely with the Father and the Holy Spirit for our salvation.110 Christ's
human will "does not resist or oppose but rather submits to his divine and almighty will."111
Christ's true body
476 Since the Word became flesh in assuming a true humanity, Christ's body was finite.112 Therefore
the human face of Jesus can be portrayed; at the seventh ecumenical council (Nicaea II in 787) the
Church recognized its representation in holy images to be legitimate.113
477 At the same time the Church has always acknowledged that in the body of Jesus "we see our God
made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see."114 The individual characteristics
of Christ's body express the divine person of God's Son. He has made the features of his human body
his own, to the point that they can be venerated when portrayed in a holy image, for the believer "who
venerates the icon is venerating in it the person of the one depicted".115
The heart of the Incarnate Word
478 Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony and his Passion, and gave himself up
for each one of us: "The Son of God. . . loved me and gave himself for me."116 He has loved us all with a
human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation,117 "is
quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that. . . love with which the divine Redeemer
continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings" without exception.118
IN BRIEF479 At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word, that is, the Word and
substantial Image of the Father, became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed
480 Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in the unity of his divine person; for this reason he is the one
and only mediator between God and men.
481 Jesus Christ possesses two natures, one divine and the other human, not confused, but united in
the one person of God's Son.
482 Christ, being true God and true man, has a human intellect and will, perfectly attuned and subject
to his divine intellect and divine will, which he has in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
483 The Incarnation is therefore the mystery of the wonderful union of the divine and human natures
in the one person of the Word.
70 1 Jn 4:10; 4:14; 3:5.
71 St. Gregory of Nyssa, Orat. catech 15: PG 45, 48B.
72 1 Jn 4:9.
73 Jn 3:16.
74 Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6.
75 Mk 9:7; cf. Dt 6:4-5.
76 Jn 15:12.
77 Cf. Mk 8:34.
78 2 Pt 1:4.
79 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939.
80 St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.
81 St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4.
82 Jn 1:14.
83 Phil 2:5-8; cf. LH, Saturday, Canticle at Evening Prayer.
84 Heb 10:5-7, citing Ps 40:6-8 ([7-9] LXX).
85 1 Jn 4:2.
86 1 Tim 3:16.
87 Cf. 1 Jn 4:2-3; 2 Jn 7.
88 Council of Nicaea I (325): DS 130, 126.
89 Council of Ephesus (431): DS 250.
90 Council of Ephesus: DS 251.
91 Council of Chalcedon (451): DS 301; cf. Heb 4:15.
92 Council of Chalcedon: DS 302.
93 Council of Constantinople II (553): DS 424.
94 Council of Constantinople II (553): DS 432; cf. DS 424; Council of Ephesus, DS 255.
95 LH, 1 January, Antiphon for Morning Prayer; cf. St. Leo the Great, Sermo in nat. Dom. 1, 2; PL 54,
96 Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Troparion "O monogenes."
97 GS 22 § 2.
98 Cf. Jn 14:9-10.
99 GS 22 § 2.
100 Cf. Damasus 1: DS 149.
101 Lk 2:52.
102 Cf. Mk 6 38; 8 27; Jn 11:34; etc.
103 Phil 2:7.
104 Cf. St. Gregory the Great, "Sicut aqua" ad Eulogium, Epist. Lib. 10, 39 PL 77, 1097A ff.; DS 475.
105 St. Maximus the Confessor, Qu. et dub. 66: PG 90, 840A.
106 Cf. Mk 14:36; Mt 11:27; Jn 1:18; 8:55; etc.
107 Cf. Mk 2:8; Jn 2 25; 6:61; etc.
108 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:18-20, 26-30.
109 Cf. Mk 13:32, Acts 1:7.
110 Cf. Council of Constantinople III (681): DS 556-559.
111 Council of Constantinople III: DS 556.
112 Cf. Council of the Lateran (649): DS 504.
113 Cf. Gal 3:1; cf. Council of Nicaea II (787): DS 600-603.
114 Roman Missal, Preface of Christmas I.
115 Council of Nicaea II: DS 601.
116 Gal 2:20.
117 Cf. Jn 19:34.
118 Pius XII, encyclical, Haurietis aquas (1956): DS 3924; cf. DS 3812.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
"HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY"Paragraph 2. "Conceived by the Power of the Holy Spirit and Born of the Virgin Mary"
I. CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. . .
484 The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates "the fullness of time",119 the time of the fulfillment of God's
promises and preparations. Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the "whole fullness of deity"
would dwell "bodily".120 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."121
485 The mission of the Holy Spirit is always conjoined and ordered to that of the Son.122 The Holy Spirit,
"the Lord, the giver of Life", is sent to sanctify the womb of the Virgin Mary and divinely fecundate it,
causing her to conceive the eternal Son of the Father in a humanity drawn from her own.
486 The Father's only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is "Christ", that is to say,
anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of
this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the
disciples.123 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest "how God anointed Jesus of
Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power."124
II. . . .BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY
487 What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it
teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.
488 "God sent forth his Son", but to prepare a body for him,125 he wanted the free co-operation of a
creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young
Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, "a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the
house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary":126
The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of
the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also
should a woman contribute to the coming of life.127
489 Throughout the Old Covenant the mission of many holy women prepared for that of Mary. At the
very beginning there was Eve; despite her disobedience, she receives the promise of a posterity that
will be victorious over the evil one, as well as the promise that she will be the mother of all the
living.128 By virtue of this promise, Sarah conceives a son in spite of her old age.129 Against all human
expectation God chooses those who were considered powerless and weak to show forth his
faithfulness to his promises: Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah; Ruth; Judith and Esther; and
many other women.130 Mary "stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently
hope for and receive salvation from him. After a long period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the
exalted Daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation is established."131
The Immaculate Conception
490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a
role."132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace".133 In fact, in
order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it
was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.
491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through
God,134 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate
Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace
and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human
race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.135
492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of
her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of
the merits of her Son".136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with
every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the
world, to be holy and blameless before him in love".137
493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia), and celebrate
her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new
creature".138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.
"Let it be done to me according to your word. . ."
494 At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without knowing
man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that "with
God nothing will be impossible": "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me
according to your word."139 Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes the mother of
Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she
gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery
of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God's grace:140
As St. Irenaeus says, "Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the
whole human race."141 Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. . .: "The knot of Eve's
disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief,
Mary loosened by her faith."142 Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary "the Mother of the
living" and frequently claim: "Death through Eve, life through Mary."143
Mary's divine motherhood
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".144 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 Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses
that Mary is truly "Mother of God" (Theotokos).145
496 From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely
by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of
this event: Jesus was conceived "by the Holy Spirit without human seed".146 The Fathers see in the
virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own. Thus
St. Ignatius of Antioch at the beginning of the second century says:
You are firmly convinced about our Lord, who is truly of the race of David according to the
flesh, Son of God according to the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin,. . . he was truly
nailed to a tree for us in his flesh under Pontius Pilate. . . he truly suffered, as he is also truly
497 The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all
human understanding and possibility:148 "That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit", said the
angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancee.149 The Church sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise
given through the prophet Isaiah: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son."150
498 People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark's Gospel and the New Testament Epistles
about Jesus' virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were merely dealing with legends or
theological constructs not claiming to be history. To this we must respond: Faith in the virginal
conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition, mockery or incomprehension of non-believers, Jews
and pagans alike;151 so it could hardly have been motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation
to the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible only to faith, which understands in it
the "connection of these mysteries with one another"152 in the totality of Christ's mysteries, from his
Incarnation to his Passover. St. Ignatius of Antioch already bears witness to this connection: "Mary's
virginity and giving birth, and even the Lord's death escaped the notice of the prince of this world:
these three mysteries worthy of proclamation were accomplished in God's silence."153
Mary - "ever-virgin"
499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and
perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.154 In fact, Christ's birth
"did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it."155 And so the liturgy of the Church
celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin".156
500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and
sisters of Jesus.157 The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children
of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus", are the sons of another Mary, a
disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary".158 They are close relations of
Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.159
501 Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to
save: "The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many
brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother's
Mary's virginal motherhood in God's plan
502 The eyes of faith can discover in the context of the whole of Revelation the mysterious reasons
why God in his saving plan wanted his Son to be born of a virgin. These reasons touch both on the
person of Christ and his redemptive mission, and on the welcome Mary gave that mission on behalf of
503 Mary's virginity manifests God's absolute initiative in the Incarnation. Jesus has only God as Father.
"He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which he assumed. . . He is
naturally Son of the Father as to his divinity and naturally son of his mother as to his humanity, but
properly Son of the Father in both natures."161
504 Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary's 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."162 From his conception, Christ's humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God "gives
him the Spirit without measure."163 From "his fullness" as the head of redeemed humanity "we have all
received, grace upon grace."164
505 By his virginal conception, Jesus, the New Adam, ushers in the new birth of children adopted in the
Holy Spirit through faith. "How can this be?"165 Participation in the divine life arises "not of blood nor
of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God".166 The acceptance of this life is virginal
because it is entirely the Spirit's gift to man. The spousal character of the human vocation in relation to
God167 is fulfilled perfectly in Mary's virginal motherhood.
506 Mary is a virgin because her virginity is the sign of her faith "unadulterated by any doubt", and of
her undivided gift of herself to God's will.168 It is her faith that enables her to become the mother of
the Savior: "Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the
flesh of Christ."169
507 At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church: "the
Church indeed. . . by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and
Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and
immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her
IN BRIEF508 From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of his Son. "Full
of grace", Mary is "the most excellent fruit of redemption" (SC 103): from the first instant of her
conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all
personal sin throughout her life.
509 Mary is truly "Mother of God" since she is the mother of the eternal Son of God made man, who is
510 Mary "remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying
him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin" (St. Augustine, Serm. 186, 1: PL 38, 999): with
her whole being she is "the handmaid of the Lord" (Lk 1:38).
511 The Virgin Mary "cooperated through free faith and obedience in human salvation" (LG 56). She
uttered her yes "in the name of all human nature" (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 30, 1). By her
obedience she became the new Eve, mother of the living.
119 Gal 4:4.
120 Col 2:9.
121 Lk 1:34-35 (Gk.).
122 Cf. Jn 16:14-15.
123 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:31-34; 2:11.
124 Acts 10:38.
125 Gal 4:4; Heb 10:5.
126 Lk 1:26-27.
127 LG 56; cf. LG 61.
128 Cf. Gen 3:15, 20.
129 Cf. Gen 18:10-14; 21:1-2.
130 Cf. 1 Cor 1:17; 1 Sam 1.
131 LG 55.
132 LG 56.
133 Lk 1:28.
134 Lk 1:28.
135 Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854): DS 2803.
136 LG 53, 56.
137 Cf. Eph 1:3-4.
138 LG 56.
139 Lk 1:28-38; cf. Rom 1:5.
140 Cf. LG 56.
141 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.
142 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.
143 LG 56; Epiphanius, Haer. 78, 18: PG 42, 728CD-729AB; St. Jerome, Ep. 22, 21: PL 22, 408.
144 Lk 1:43; Jn 2:1; 19:25; cf. Mt 13:55; et al.
145 Council of Ephesus (431): DS 251.
146 Council of the Lateran (649): DS 503; cf. DS 10-64.
147 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Smyrn 1-2: Apostolic Fathers, ed. J. B. Lightfoot (London: Macmillan,
1889), II/2, 289-293; SCh 10, 154-156; cf. Rom 1:3; Jn 1:13.
148 Mt 1 18-25; Lk 1:26-38.
149 Mt 1:20.
150 Isa 7:14 in the LXX, quoted in Mt 1:23 (Gk.).
151 Cf. St. Justin, Dial., 99, 7: PG 6, 708-709; Origen, Contra Celsum 1, 32, 69: PG 11, 720-721; et al.
152 Dei Filius 4: DS 3016.
153 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Eph. 19, 1: AF II/2 76-80; SCh 10,88; cf. 1 Cor 2:8.
154 Cf. DS 291; 294; 427; 442; 503; 571; 1880.
155 LG 57.
156 Cf. LG 52.
157 Cf. Mk 3:31-35; 6:3; 1 Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19.
158 Mt 13:55; 28:1; cf. Mt 27:56.
159 Cf. Gen 13:8; 14:16; 29:15; etc.
160 LG 63; cf. Jn 19:26-27; Rom 8:29; Rev 12:17.
161 Council of Friuli (796): DS 619; cf. Lk 2:48-49.
162 1 Cor 15:45,47.
163 Jn 3:34.
164 Jn 1:16; cf. Col 1:18.
165 Lk 1:34; cf. Jn 3:9.
166 Jn 1:13.
167 Cf. 2 Cor 11:2.
168 LG 63; cf. 1 Cor 7:34-35.
169 St. Augustine, De virg., 3: PL 40, 398.
170 LG 64; cf. 63.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
"HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY"Paragraph 3. The Mysteries of Christ's Life
512 Concerning Christ's life the Creed speaks only about the mysteries of the Incarnation (conception
and birth) and Paschal mystery (passion, crucifixion, death, burial, descent into hell, resurrection and
ascension). It says nothing explicitly about the mysteries of Jesus' hidden or public life, but the articles
of faith concerning his Incarnation and Passover do shed light on the whole of his earthly life. "All that
Jesus did and taught, from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven",171 is to be
seen in the light of the mysteries of Christmas and Easter.
513 According to circumstances catechesis will make use of all the richness of the mysteries of Jesus.
Here it is enough merely to indicate some elements common to all the mysteries of Christ's life (I), in
order then to sketch the principal mysteries of Jesus' hidden (II) and public (III) life.
I. CHRIST'S WHOLE LIFE IS MYSTERY
514 Many things about Jesus of interest to human curiosity do not figure in the Gospels. Almost
nothing is said about his hidden life at Nazareth, and even a great part of his public life is not
recounted.172 What is written in the Gospels was set down there "so that you may believe that Jesus is
the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name."173
515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith174 and wanted to
share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces
of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion
and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus' life was a sign of his mystery.175 His deeds,
miracles and words all revealed that "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily."176 His humanity
appeared as "sacrament", that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings:
what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive
Characteristics common to Jesus' mysteries
516 Christ's whole earthly life - his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of
being and speaking - is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: "Whoever has seen me has seen the
Father", and the Father can say: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"177 Because our Lord
became man in order to do his Father's will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest
"God's love. . . among us".178
517 Christ's whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the
blood of his cross,179 but this mystery is at work throughout Christ's entire life:
- already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;180
- in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;181
- in his word which purifies its hearers;182
- in his healings and exorcisms by which "he took our infirmities and bore our diseases";183
- and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.184
518 Christ's whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said and suffered had for its aim
restoring fallen man to his original vocation:
When Christ became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in himself the long history
of mankind and procured for us a "short cut" to salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam,
that is, being in the image and likeness of God, we might recover in Christ Jesus.185 For this
reason Christ experienced all the stages of life, thereby giving communion with God to all
Our communion in the mysteries of Jesus
519 All Christ's riches "are for every individual and are everybody's property."187 Christ did not live his
life for himself but for us, from his Incarnation "for us men and for our salvation" to his death "for our
sins" and Resurrection "for our justification".188 He is still "our advocate with the Father", who "always
lives to make intercession" for us.189 He remains ever "in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing
before him all that he lived and suffered for us."190
520 In all of his life Jesus presents himself as our model. He is "the perfect man",191 who invites us to
become his disciples and follow him. In humbling himself, he has given us an example to imitate,
through his prayer he draws us to pray, and by his poverty he calls us to accept freely the privation and
persecutions that may come our way.192
521 Christ enables us to live in him all that he himself lived, and he lives it in us. "By his Incarnation, he,
the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man."193 We are called only to become
one with him, for he enables us as the members of his Body to share in what he lived for us in his flesh
as our model:
We must continue to accomplish in ourselves the stages of Jesus' life and his mysteries and
often to beg him to perfect and realize them in us and in his whole Church. . . For it is the plan
of the Son of God to make us and the whole Church partake in his mysteries and to extend
them to and continue them in us and in his whole Church. This is his plan for fulfilling his
mysteries in us.194
II. THE MYSTERIES OF JESUS' INFANCY AND HIDDEN LIFEThe preparations
522 The coming of God's Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it
over centuries. He makes everything converge on Christ: all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and
symbols of the "First Covenant".195 He announces him through the mouths of the prophets who
succeeded one another in Israel. Moreover, he awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation
of this coming.
523 St. John the Baptist is the Lord's immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way.196
"Prophet of the Most High", John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last.197 He inaugurates
the Gospel, already from his mother's womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being "the
friend of the bridegroom", whom he points out as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the
world".198 Going before Jesus "in the spirit and power of Elijah", John bears witness to Christ in his
preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.199
524 When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient
expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming, the
faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.200 By celebrating the precursor's birth and
martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: "He must increase, but I must decrease."201
The Christmas mystery
525 Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family.202 Simple shepherds were the first witnesses
to this event. In this poverty heaven's glory was made manifest.203 The Church never tires of singing
the glory of this night:
The Virgin today brings into the world the Eternal
And the earth offers a cave to the Inaccessible.
The angels and shepherds praise him
And the magi advance with the star,
For you are born for us,
Little Child, God eternal!204
526 To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom.205 For this, we must
humble ourselves and become little. Even more: to become "children of God" we must be "born from
above" or "born of God".206 Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled
in us.207 Christmas is the mystery of this "marvelous exchange":
O marvelous exchange! Man's Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been
made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.208
The mysteries of Jesus' infancy
527 Jesus' circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth,209 is the sign of his incorporation into
Abraham's descendants, into the people of the covenant. It is the sign of his submission to the Law210
and his deputation to Israel's worship, in which he will participate throughout his life. This sign
prefigures that "circumcision of Christ" which is Baptism.211
528 The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the
world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the
East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.212 In the magi,
representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who
welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi's coming to Jerusalem in order
to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star
of David, the one who will be king of the nations.213 Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus
and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving
from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.214 The Epiphany shows that "the
full number of the nations" now takes its "place in the family of the patriarchs", and acquires Israelitica
dignitas215 (is made "worthy of the heritage of Israel").
529 The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows him to be the firstborn Son who belongs to the
Lord.216 With Simeon and Anna, all Israel awaits its encounter with the Savior-the name given to this
event in the Byzantine tradition. Jesus is recognized as the long-expected Messiah, the "light to the
nations" and the "glory of Israel", but also "a sign that is spoken against". The sword of sorrow
predicted for Mary announces Christ's perfect and unique oblation on the cross that will impart the
salvation God had "prepared in the presence of all peoples".
530 The flight into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents217 make manifest the opposition of
darkness to the light: "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not."218 Christ's
whole life was lived under the sign of persecution. His own share it with him.219 Jesus' departure from
Egypt recalls the exodus and presents him as the definitive liberator of God's people.220
The mysteries of Jesus' hidden life
531 During the greater part of his life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings:
a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor. His religious life was that of a Jew
obedient to the law of God,221 a life in the community. From this whole period it is revealed to us that
Jesus was "obedient" to his parents and that he "increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with
God and man."222
532 Jesus' obedience to his mother and legal father fulfills the fourth commandment perfectly and was
the temporal image of his filial obedience to his Father in heaven. The everyday obedience of Jesus to
Joseph and Mary both announced and anticipated the obedience of Holy Thursday: "Not my will. . ."223
The obedience of Christ in the daily routine of his hidden life was already inaugurating his work of
restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed.224
533 The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most
ordinary events of daily life:
The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus - the school
of the Gospel. First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and
indispensable condition of mind, revive in us. . . A lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us
what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and
inviolable character. . . A lesson of work. Nazareth, home of the "Carpenter's Son", in you I
would choose to understand and proclaim the severe and redeeming law of human work. . . To
conclude, I want to greet all the workers of the world, holding up to them their great pattern
their brother who is God.225
534 The finding of Jesus in the temple is the only event that breaks the silence of the Gospels about the
hidden years of Jesus.226 Here Jesus lets us catch a glimpse of the mystery of his total consecration to a
mission that flows from his divine sonship: "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's
work?"227 Mary and Joseph did not understand these words, but they accepted them in faith. Mary
"kept all these things in her heart" during the years Jesus remained hidden in the silence of an ordinary
III. THE MYSTERIES OF JESUS' PUBLIC LIFEThe baptism of Jesus
535 Jesus' public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan.228 John preaches "a baptism of
repentance for the forgiveness of sins".229 A crowd of sinners230 - tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees
and Sadducees, and prostitutes- come to be baptized by him. "Then Jesus appears." The Baptist
hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes
upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, "This is my beloved Son."231 This is the manifestation
("Epiphany") of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.
536 The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God's
suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already "the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world".232 Already he is anticipating the "baptism" of his bloody death.233
Already he is coming to "fulfill all righteousness", that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his
Father's will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins.234 The
Father's voice responds to the Son's acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son.235 The Spirit
whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to "rest on him".236 Jesus will be the
source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism "the heavens were opened"237 - the heavens that
Adam's sin had closed - and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude
to the new creation.
537 Through Baptism the Christian is sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in his own baptism
anticipates his death and resurrection. The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble selfabasement
and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him, be reborn of
water and the Spirit so as to become the Father's beloved son in the Son and "walk in newness of
Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised
with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him.239
Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water, the Holy Spirit
swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father's voice, we become
sons of God.240
538 The Gospels speak of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after his baptism by
John. Driven by the Spirit into the desert, Jesus remains there for forty days without eating; he lives
among wild beasts, and angels minister to him.241 At the end of this time Satan tempts him three
times, seeking to compromise his filial attitude toward God. Jesus rebuffs these attacks, which
recapitulate the temptations of Adam in Paradise and of Israel in the desert, and the devil leaves him
"until an opportune time".242
539 The evangelists indicate the salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who
remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfills Israel's vocation
perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ
reveals himself as God's Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil's
conqueror: he "binds the strong man" to take back his plunder.243 Jesus' victory over the tempter in the
desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.
540 Jesus' temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan
proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him.244 This is why Christ vanquished the
Tempter for us: "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but
one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning."245 By the solemn forty days
of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.
"The kingdom of God is at hand"
541 "Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying:
'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe in the gospel.'"246 "To
carry out the will of the Father Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth."247 Now the
Father's will is "to raise up men to share in his own divine life".248 He does this by gathering men
around his Son Jesus Christ. This gathering is the Church, "on earth the seed and beginning of that
542 Christ stands at the heart of this gathering of men into the "family of God". By his word, through
signs that manifest the reign of God, and by sending out his disciples, Jesus calls all people to come
together around him. But above all in the great Paschal mystery - his death on the cross and his
Resurrection - he would accomplish the coming of his kingdom. "And I, when I am lifted up from the
earth, will draw all men to myself." Into this union with Christ all men are called.250
The proclamation of the kingdom of God
543 Everyone is called to enter the kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic
kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations.251 To enter it, one must first accept Jesus' word:
The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear it with
faith and are numbered among the little flock of Christ have truly received the kingdom. Then,
by its own power, the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest.252
544 The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble
hearts. Jesus is sent to "preach good news to the poor";253 he declares them blessed, for "theirs is the
kingdom of heaven."254 To them - the "little ones" the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden
from the wise and the learned.255 Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he
experiences hunger, thirst and privation.256 Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and
makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.257
545 Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."258
He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in
word and deed his Father's boundless mercy for them and the vast "joy in heaven over one sinner who
repents".259 The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life "for the forgiveness of
546 Jesus' invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his
teaching.261 Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a
radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.262 Words are not enough, deeds are
required.263 The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word?264
What use has he made of the talents he has received?265 Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this
world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple
of Christ, in order to "know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven".266 For those who stay "outside",
everything remains enigmatic.267
The signs of the kingdom of God
547 Jesus accompanies his words with many "mighty works and wonders and signs", which manifest
that the kingdom is present in him and attest that he was the promised Messiah.268
548 The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him.269 To those
who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask.270 So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does
his Father's works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God.271 But his miracles can also be
occasions for "offence";272 they are not intended to satisfy people's curiosity or desire for magic
Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of
549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death,274 Jesus
performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below,275 but to free
men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God's sons and causes all
forms of human bondage.276
550 The coming of God's kingdom means the defeat of Satan's: "If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast
out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."277 Jesus' exorcisms free some individuals
from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus' great victory over "the ruler of this world".278
The kingdom of God will be definitively established through Christ's cross: "God reigned from the
"The keys of the kingdom"
551 From the beginning of his public life Jesus chose certain men, twelve in number, to be with him
and to participate in his mission.280 He gives the Twelve a share in his authority and 'sent them out to
preach the kingdom of God and to heal."281 They remain associated for ever with Christ's kingdom, for
through them he directs the Church:
As my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink
at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.282
552 Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve;283 Jesus entrusted a unique mission
to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: "You are the Christ, the Son of the
living God." Our Lord then declared to him: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and
the gates of Hades will not prevail against it."284 Christ, the "living Stone",285 thus assures his Church,
built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain
the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to
strengthen his brothers in it.286
553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,
and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be
loosed in heaven."287 The "power of the keys" designates authority to govern the house of God, which
is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: "Feed my
sheep."288 The power to "bind and loose" connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce
doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority
to the Church through the ministry of the apostles289 and in particular through the ministry of Peter,
the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.
A foretaste of the Kingdom: the Transfiguration
554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master "began
to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. . . and be killed, and on the
third day be raised."290 Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than
he.291 In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus' Transfiguration takes place on a high
mountain,292 before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus' face and clothes
become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking "of his departure, which he was to
accomplish at Jerusalem".293 A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: "This is my Son, my
Chosen; listen to him!"294
555 For a moment Jesus discloses his divine glory, confirming Peter's confession. He also reveals that
he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to "enter into his glory".295 Moses and
Elijah had seen God's glory on the Mountain; the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah's
sufferings.296 Christ's Passion is the will of the Father: the Son acts as God's servant;297 the cloud
indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. "The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son
in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud."298
You were transfigured on the mountain, and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it,
beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would
understand that your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the
splendor of the Father.299
556 On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the
Transfiguration. Jesus' baptism proclaimed "the mystery of the first regeneration", namely, our
Baptism; the Transfiguration "is the sacrament of the second regeneration": our own Resurrection.300
From now on we share in the Lord's Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the
Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ's glorious coming, when he "will
change our lowly body to be like his glorious body."301 But it also recalls that "it is through many
persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God":302
Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It
has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: "Go down to toil on
earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed;
Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the
Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?"303
Jesus' ascent to Jerusalem
557 "When the days drew near for him to be taken up [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem."304 By this
decision he indicated that he was going up to Jerusalem prepared to die there. Three times he had
announced his Passion and Resurrection; now, heading toward Jerusalem, Jesus says: "It cannot be
that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem."305
558 Jesus recalls the martyrdom of the prophets who had been put to death in Jerusalem.
Nevertheless he persists in calling Jerusalem to gather around him: "How often would I have gathered
your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!"306 When
Jerusalem comes into view he weeps over her and expresses once again his heart's desire: "Would that
even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes."307
Jesus' messianic entrance into Jerusalem
559 How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to
make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of "his
father David".308 Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means "Save!"
or "Give salvation!"), the "King of glory" enters his City "riding on an ass".309 Jesus conquers the
Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears
witness to the truth.310 And so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God's poor,
who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds.311 Their acclamation,
"Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord",312 is taken up by the Church in the "Sanctus" of
the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord's Passover.
560 Jesus' entry into Jerusalem manifested the coming of the kingdom that the King-Messiah was going
to accomplish by the Passover of his Death and Resurrection. It is with the celebration of that entry on
Palm Sunday that the Church's liturgy solemnly opens Holy Week.
IN BRIEF561 "The whole of Christ's life was a continual teaching: his silences, his miracles, his gestures, his
prayer, his love for people, his special affection for the little and the poor, his acceptance of the total
sacrifice on the Cross for the redemption of the world, and his Resurrection are the actualization of his
word and the fulfillment of Revelation" John Paul II, CT 9).
562 Christ's disciples are to conform themselves to him until he is formed in them (cf. Gal 4:19). "For
this reason we, who have been made like to him, who have died with him and risen with him, are taken
up into the mysteries of his life, until we reign together with him" (LG 7 § 4).
563 No one, whether shepherd or wise man, can approach God here below except by kneeling before
the manger at Bethlehem and adoring him hidden in the weakness of a new-born child.
564 By his obedience to Mary and Joseph, as well as by his humble work during the long years in
Nazareth, Jesus gives us the example of holiness in the daily life of family and work.
565 From the beginning of his public life, at his baptism, Jesus is the "Servant", wholly consecrated to
the redemptive work that he will accomplish by the "baptism" of his Passion.
566 The temptation in the desert shows Jesus, the humble Messiah, who triumphs over Satan by his
total adherence to the plan of salvation willed by the Father.
567 The kingdom of heaven was inaugurated on earth by Christ. "This kingdom shone out before men
in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ" (LG 5). The Church is the seed and beginning of
this kingdom. Its keys are entrusted to Peter.
568 Christ's Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles' faith in anticipation of his Passion: the
ascent on to the "high mountain" prepares for the ascent to Calvary. Christ, Head of the Church,
manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: "the hope of glory" (Col 1:27; cf.: St.
Leo the Great, Sermo 51, 3: PL 54, 310C).
569 Jesus went up to Jerusalem voluntarily, knowing well that there he would die a violent death
because of the opposition of sinners (cf. Heb 12:3).
570 Jesus' entry into Jerusalem manifests the coming of the kingdom that the Messiah-King, welcomed
into his city by children and the humble of heart, is going to accomplish by the Passover of his Death
171 Acts 1:1-2.
172 Cf. Jn 20:30.
173 Jn 20:31.
174 Cf. Mk 1:1; Jn 21:24.
175 Cf Lk 2:7; Mt 27: 48; Jn 20:7.
176 Col 2:9.
177 Jn 14:9; Lk 9:35; cf. Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7 ("my beloved Son").
178 1 Jn 4:9.
179 Cf. Eph 1:7; Col 1:13-14; 1 Pt 1:18-19.
180 Cf. 2 Cor 8:9.
181 Cf. Lk 2:51.
182 Cf. Jn 15:3.
183 Mt 8:17; cf. Isa 53:4.
184 Cf. Rom 4:25.
185 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 18, 1: PG 7/1, 932.
186 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 18, 7: PG 7/1, 937; cf. 2, 22, 4.
187 John Paul II, RH 11.
188 1 Cor 15:3; Rom 4:25.
189 1 Jn 2:1 Heb 7:25.
190 Heb 9:24.
191 GS 38; cf. Rom 1 5:5; Phil 2:5.
192 Cf. Jn 13:15; Lk 11:1; Mt 5:11-12.
193 GS 22 § 2.
194 St. John Eudes, LH, Week 33, Friday, OR.
195 Heb 9:15.
196 Cf. Acts 13:24; Mt 3:3.
197 Lk 1:76; cf. 7:26; Mt 11:13.
198 Jn 1 29; cf. Acts 1:22; Lk 1:41; 16:16; Jn 3:29.
199 Lk 1:17; cf. Mk 6:17-29.
200 Cf Rev 22:17.
201 Jn 3:30.
202 Cf. Lk 2:61.
203 Cf. Lk 2:8-20.
204 Kontakion of Romanos the Melodist.
205 Cf. Mt 18:3-4.
206 Jn 3 7; 1:13; 1:12; cf. Mt 23:12.
207 Cf. Gal 4:19.
208 LH, Antiphon I of Evening Prayer for Janyary 1st.
209 Cf. Lk 2:21.
210 Cf. Gal 4:4.
211 Cf. Col 2:11-13.
212 Mt 2:1; cf. LH, Epiphany, Evening Prayer II, Antiphon at the Canticle of Mary.
213 Cf Mt 2:2; Num 24:17-19; Rev 22:16.
214 Cf Jn 4 22; Mt 2:4-6.
215 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 3 in epiphania Domini 1-3, 5: PL 54, 242; LH, Epiphany, OR; Roman Missal,
Easter Vigil 26, Prayer after the third reading.
216 Cf. Lk 2:22-39; Ex 13:2, 12-13.
217 Cf. Mt 2:13-18.
218 Jn 1:11.
219 Cf. Jn 15:20.
220 Cf. Mt 2:15; Hos 11:1.
221 Cf. Gal 4:4.
222 Lk 2:51-52.
223 Lk 22:42.
224 Cf. Rom 5:19.
225 Paul VI at Nazareth, 5 January 1964: LH, Feast of the Holy Family, OR.
226 Cf. Lk 2:41-52.
227 Lk 2:49 alt.
228 Cf. Lk 3:23; Acts 1:22.
229 Lk 3:3.
230 Cf. Lk 3:10-14; Mt 3:7; 21:32.
231 Mt 3:13-17.
232 Jn 1:29; cf. Isa 53:12.
233 Cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50.
234 Mt 3:15; cf. 26:39.
235 Cf. Lk 3:22; Isa 42:1.
236 Jn 1:32-33; cf. Isa 11:2.
237 Mt 3:16.
238 Rom 6:4.
239 St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 40, 9: PG 36, 369.
240 St. Hilary of Poitiers, In Matth. 2, 5: PL 9, 927.
241 Cf. Mk 1:12-13.
242 Lk 4:13.
243 Cf. Ps 95:10; Mk 3:27
244 Cf Mt 16:2 1-23.
245 Heb 4:15.
246 Mk 1:14-15.
247 LG 3.
248 LG 2.
249 LG 5.
250 Jn 12:32; cf. LG 3.
251 Cf. Mt 8:11 10:5-7; 28:19.
252 LG 5; cf. Mk 4:14, 26-29; Lk 12:32.
253 Lk 4:18; cf. 7:22.
254 Mt 5:3.
255 Cf. Mt 11:25.
256 Cf. Mt 21:18; Mk 2:23-26; Jn 4:6-7; 19:28; Lk 9:58.
257 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.
258 Mk 2:17; cf. 1 Tim 1:15.
259 Lk 15:7; cf. 7:11-32.
260 Mt 26:28.
261 Cf. Mk 4:33-34.
262 Cf. Mt 13:44-45; 22:1-14.
263 Cf. Mt 21:28-32.
264 Cf. Mt 13:3-9.
265 Cf. Mt 25:14-30.
266 Mt 13:11.
267 Mk 4:11; cf. Mt 13:10-15.
268 Acts 2:22; cf. Lk 7:18-23.
269 Cf. Jn 5:36; 10:25, 38.
270 Cf. Mk 5:25-34; 10:52; etc.
271 Cf. Jn 10:31-38.
272 Mt 11:6.
273 Cf. Jn 11:47-48; Mk 3:22.
274 Cf. Jn 6:5-15; Lk 19:8; Mt 11:5.
275 Cf. Lk 12 13-14; Jn 18:36.
276 Cf. Jn 8:34-36.
277 Mt 12:26, 28.
278 Jn 12:31; cf. Lk 8:26-39.
279 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis: "Regnavit a ligno Deus."
280 Cf. Mk 3:13-19.
281 Lk 9:2.
282 Lk 22:29-30.
283 Cf. Mk 3:16; 9:2; Lk 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5.
284 Mt 16:18.
285 1 Pet 2:4.
286 Cf. Lk 22:32.
287 Mt 16:19.
288 Jn 21:15-17; cf. 10:11.
289 Cf. Mt 18:18.
290 Mt 16:21.
291 Cf. Mt 16:22-23; Mt 17:23; Lk 9:45.
292 Cf. Mt 17:1-8 and parallels; 2 Pet 1:16-18.
293 Lk 9:31.
294 Lk 9:35.
295 Lk 24:26.
296 Cf. Lk 24:27.
297 Cf. Isa 42:1.
298 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 45, 4, ad 2.
299 Byzantine Liturgy, Feast of the Transfiguration, Kontakion.
300 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 45, 4, ad 2.
301 Phil 3:21.
302 Acts 14:22.
303 St. Augustine, Sermo 78, 6: PL 38, 492-493; cf. Lk 9:33.
304 Lk 9:51; cf. Jn 13:1.
305 Lk 13:33; cf. Mk 8:31-33; 9:31-32; 10:32-34.
306 Mt 23:37.
307 Lk 19:41-42.
308 Lk 1:32; cf. Mt 21:1-11; Jn 6:15.
309 Ps 24:7-10; Zech 9:9.
310 Cf. Jn 18:37.
311 Cf. Mt 21:15-16; cf. Ps 8:3; Lk 19:38; 2:14.
312 Cf. Ps 118:26.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
"JESUS CHRIST SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED, AND WAS BURIED"571 The Paschal mystery of Christ's cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good News that
the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world. God's saving plan was
accomplished "once for all"313 by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ.
572 The Church remains faithful to the interpretation of "all the Scriptures" that Jesus gave both
before and after his Passover: "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and
enter into his glory?"314 Jesus' sufferings took their historical, concrete form from the fact that he was
"rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes", who handed "him to the Gentiles to be
mocked and scourged and crucified".315
573 Faith can therefore try to examine the circumstances of Jesus' death, faithfully handed on by the
Gospels316 and illuminated by other historical sources, the better to understand the meaning of the
Paragraph 1. Jesus and Israel
574 From the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, certain Pharisees and partisans of Herod together
with priests and scribes agreed together to destroy him.317 Because of certain acts of his expelling
demons, forgiving sins, healing on the sabbath day, his novel interpretation of the precepts of the Law
regarding purity, and his familiarity with tax collectors and public sinners318 -- some ill-intentioned
persons suspected Jesus of demonic possession.319 He is accused of blasphemy and false prophecy,
religious crimes which the Law punished with death by stoning.320
575 Many of Jesus' deeds and words constituted a "sign of contradiction",321 but more so for the
religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply "the Jews",322
than for the ordinary People of God.323 To be sure, Christ's relations with the Pharisees were not
exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;324 Jesus praises some
of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.325 Jesus endorses some
of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God's people: the resurrection of the dead,326 certain
forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),327 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the
centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.328
576 In the eyes of many in Israel, Jesus seems to be acting against essential institutions of the Chosen
- submission to the whole of the Law in its written commandments and, for the Pharisees, in the
interpretation of oral tradition;
- the centrality of the Temple at Jerusalem as the holy place where God's presence dwells in a special
- faith in the one God whose glory no man can share.
I. JESUS AND THE LAW577 At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus issued a solemn warning in which he
presented God's law, given on Sinai during the first covenant, in light of the grace of the New
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets: I have come not to abolish but
to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of
a letter, will pass from the law, until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the
least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the
kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the
kingdom of heaven.329
578 Jesus, Israel's Messiah and therefore the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, was to fulfill the Law
by keeping it in its all embracing detail - according to his own words, down to "the least of these
commandments".330 He is in fact the only one who could keep it perfectly.331 On their own admission
the Jews were never able to observe the Law in its entirety without violating the least of its
precepts.332 This is why every year on the Day of Atonement the children of Israel ask God's forgiveness
for their transgressions of the Law. The Law indeed makes up one inseparable whole, and St. James
recalls, "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it."333
579 This principle of integral observance of the Law not only in letter but in spirit was dear to the
Pharisees. By giving Israel this principle they had led many Jews of Jesus' time to an extreme religious
zeal.334 This zeal, were it not to lapse into "hypocritical" casuistry,335 could only prepare the People for
the unprecedented intervention of God through the perfect fulfillment of the Law by the only
Righteous One in place of all sinners.336
580 The perfect fulfillment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject
to the Law in the person of the Son.337 In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone
but "upon the heart" of the Servant who becomes "a covenant to the people", because he will
"faithfully bring forth justice".338 Jesus fulfills the Law to the point of taking upon himself "the curse of
the Law" incurred by those who do not "abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do
them", for his death took place to redeem them "from the transgressions under the first covenant".339
581 The Jewish people and their spiritual leaders viewed Jesus as a rabbi.340 He often argued within the
framework of rabbinical interpretation of the Law.341 Yet Jesus could not help but offend the teachers
of the Law, for he was not content to propose his interpretation alongside theirs but taught the people
"as one who had authority, and not as their scribes".342 In Jesus, the same Word of God that had
resounded on Mount Sinai to give the written Law to Moses, made itself heard anew on the Mount of
the Beatitudes.343 Jesus did not abolish the Law but fulfilled it by giving its ultimate interpretation in a
divine way: "You have heard that it was said to the men of old. . . But I say to you. . ."344 With this same
divine authority, he disavowed certain human traditions of the Pharisees that were "making void the
word of God".345
582 Going even further, Jesus perfects the dietary law, so important in Jewish daily life, by revealing its
pedagogical meaning through a divine interpretation: "Whatever goes into a man from outside cannot
defile him. . . (Thus he declared all foods clean.). . . What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For
from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts. . ."346 In presenting with divine authority the
definitive interpretation of the Law, Jesus found himself confronted by certain teachers of the Law who
did not accept his interpretation of the Law, guaranteed though it was by the divine signs that
accompanied it.347 This was the case especially with the sabbath laws, for he recalls, often with
rabbinical arguments, that the sabbath rest is not violated by serving God and neighbor,348 which his
own healings did.
II. JESUS AND THE TEMPLE583 Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the Temple in Jerusalem. It
was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth.349 At the age of
twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father's
business.350 He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover.351 His public ministry
itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.352
584 Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For him, the Temple
was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer, and he was angered that its outer court had become
a place of commerce.353 He drove merchants out of it because of jealous love for his Father: "You shall
not make my Father's house a house of trade. His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for
your house will consume me.'"354 After his Resurrection his apostles retained their reverence for the
585 On the threshold of his Passion Jesus announced the coming destruction of this splendid building,
of which there would not remain "one stone upon another".356 By doing so, he announced a sign of the
last days, which were to begin with his own Passover.357 But this prophecy would be distorted in its
telling by false witnesses during his interrogation at the high priest's house, and would be thrown back
at him as an insult when he was nailed to the cross.358
586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus
was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation
of his future Church.359 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God's
definitive dwelling-place among men.360 Therefore his being put to bodily death361 presaged the
destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation:
"The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father."362
III. JESUS AND ISRAEL'S FAITH IN THE ONE GOD AND SAVIOR587 If the Law and the Jerusalem Temple could be occasions of opposition to Jesus by Israel's religious
authorities, his role in the redemption of sins, the divine work par excellence, was the true stumblingblock
588 Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with
themselves.364 Against those among them "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and
despised others", Jesus affirmed: "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."365
He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not
to need salvation are blind to themselves.366
589 Jesus gave scandal above all when he identified his merciful conduct toward sinners with God's
own attitude toward them.367 He went so far as to hint that by sharing the table of sinners he was
admitting them to the messianic banquet.368 But it was most especially by forgiving sins that Jesus
placed the religious authorities of Israel on the horns of a dilemma. Were they not entitled to demand
in consternation, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?"369 By forgiving sins Jesus either is blaspheming
as a man who made himself God's equal, or is speaking the truth and his person really does make
present and reveal God's name.370
590 Only the divine identity of Jesus' person can justify so absolute a claim as "He who is not with me is
against me"; and his saying that there was in him "something greater than Jonah,. . . greater than
Solomon", something "greater than the Temple"; his reminder that David had called the Messiah his
Lord,371 and his affirmations, "Before Abraham was, I AM", and even "I and the Father are one."372
591 Jesus asked the religious authorities of Jerusalem to believe in him because of the Father's works
which he accomplished.373 But such an act of faith must go through a mysterious death to self, for a
new "birth from above" under the influence of divine grace.374 Such a demand for conversion in the
face of so surprising a fulfillment of the promises375 allows one to understand the Sanhedrin's tragic
misunderstanding of Jesus: they judged that he deserved the death sentence as a blasphemer.376 The
members of the Sanhedrin were thus acting at the same time out of "ignorance" and the "hardness" of
IN BRIEF592 Jesus did not abolish the Law of Sinai, but rather fulfilled it (cf. Mt 5:17-19) with such perfection
(cf. Jn 8:46) that he revealed its ultimate meaning (cf.: Mt 5:33) and redeemed the transgressions
against it (cf. Heb 9:15).
593 Jesus venerated the Temple by going up to it for the Jewish feasts of pilgrimage, and with a jealous
love he loved this dwelling of God among men. The Temple prefigures his own mystery. When he
announces its destruction, it is as a manifestation of his own execution and of the entry into a new age
in the history of salvation, when his Body would be the definitive Temple.
594 Jesus performed acts, such as pardoning sins, that manifested him to be the Savior God himself (cf.
Jn 5:16-18). Certain Jews, who did not recognize God made man (cf. Jn 1:14), saw in him only a man
who made himself God (Jn 10:33), and judged him as a blasphemer.
313 Heb 9:26.
314 Lk 24:26-27,44-45.
315 Mk 8:31; Mt 20:19.
316 Cf. DV 19.
317 Cf. Mk 3:6; 14:1.
318 Cf. Mt 12:24; Mk 2:7,14-17; 3:1-6; 7:14-23.
319 Cf. Mk 3:22; Jn 8:48; 10:20.
320 Cf. Mk 2:7; Jn 5:18; Jn 7:12, 7:52; 8:59; 10:31, 33.
321 Lk 2:34.
322 Cf. Jn 1:19; 2:18; 5:10; 7:13; 9:22; 18:12; 19:38; 20:19.
323 Jn 7:48-49.
324 Cf Lk 13:31.
325 Cf. Lk 7:36; 14:1.
326 Cf. Mt 22:23-34; Lk 20:39.
327 Cf. Mt 6:18.
328 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.
329 Mt 5:17-19.
330 Mt 5:19.
331 Cf. Jn 8:46.
332 Cf. Jn 7:19; Acts 13:38-41; 15:10.
333 Jas 2:10; cf. Gal 3:10; 5:3.
334 Cf. Rom 10:2.
335 Cf. Mt 15:31; Lk 11:39-54.
336 Cf Isa 53:11; Heb 9:15.
337 Cf. Gal 4:4.
338 Jer 31:33; Isa 42:3, 6.
339 Gal 3:13; 3:10; Heb 9:15.
340 Cf Jn 11:28; 3:2; Mt 22:23-24, 34-36.
341 Cf. Mt 12:5; 9:12; Mk 2:23-27; Lk 6:6-9; Jn 7:22-23.
342 Mt 7:28-29.
343 Cf. Mt 5:1.
344 Mt 5:33-34.
345 Mk 7:13; cf. 3:8.
346 Mk 7:18-21; cf. Gal 3:24.
347 Cf. Jn 5:36; 10:25, 37-38; 12:37.
348 Cf. Num 28 9; Mt 12:5; Mk 2:25-27; Lk 13:15-16; 14:3-4; Jn 7:22-24.
349 Lk 2:22-39.
350 Cf. Lk 2:46-49.
351 Cf. Lk 2:41.
352 Cf. Jn 2:13-14; 5:1, 14; 7:1, 10, 14; 8:2; 10:22-23.
353 Cf. Mt 21:13.
354 Jn 2:16-17; cf. Ps 69:10.
355 Cf. Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20, 21; etc.
356 Cf. Mt 24:1-2.
357 Cf. Mt 24:3; Lk 13:35.
358 Cf Mk 14:57-58; Mt 27:39-40.
359 Cf. Mt 8:4; 16:18; 17:24-27; Lk 17:14; Jn 4:22; 18:20.
360 Cf. Jn 2:21; Mt 12:6.
361 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.
362 Jn 4:21; cf. Jn 4:23-24; Mt 27:5; Heb 9:11; Rev 21:22.
363 Cf. Lk 2:34; 20:17-18; Ps 118:22.
364 Cf. Lk 5:30; 7:36; 11:37; 14:1.
365 Lk 18:9; 5:32; cf. Jn 7:49; 9:34.
366 Cf. Jn 8:33-36; 9:40-41.
367 Cf. Mt 9:13; Hos 6:6.
368 Cf. Lk 15:1-2, 22-32.
369 Mk 2:7.
370 Cf. Jn 5:18; 10:33; 17:6, 26.
371 Cf. Mt 12:6, 30, 36, 37, 41-42.
372 Jn 8:58; 10:30.
373 Jn 10:36-38.
374 Cf. Jn 3:7; 6:44.
375 Cf. Isa 53:1.
376 Cf. Mk 3:6; Mt 26:64-66.
377 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17-18; Mk 3:5; Rom 11:25, 20.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
"JESUS CHRIST SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED, AND WAS BURIED"Paragraph 2. Jesus Died Crucified
I. THE TRIAL OF JESUSDivisions among the Jewish authorities concerning Jesus
595 Among the religious authorities of Jerusalem, not only were the Pharisee Nicodemus and the
prominent Joseph of Arimathea both secret disciples of Jesus, but there was also long-standing
dissension about him, so much so that St. John says of these authorities on the very eve of Christ's
Passion, "many.. . believed in him", though very imperfectly.378 This is not surprising, if one recalls that
on the day after Pentecost "a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith" and "some
believers. . . belonged to the party of the Pharisees", to the point that St. James could tell St. Paul,
"How many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; and they are all zealous
for the Law."379
596 The religious authorities in Jerusalem were not unanimous about what stance to take towards
Jesus.380 The Pharisees threatened to excommunicate his followers.381 To those who feared that
"everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our
nation", the high priest Caiaphas replied by prophesying: "It is expedient for you that one man should
die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish."382 The Sanhedrin, having declared
Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer but having lost the right to put anyone to death, hands him
over to the Romans, accusing him of political revolt, a charge that puts him in the same category as
Barabbas who had been accused of sedition.383 The chief priests also threatened Pilate politically so
that he would condemn Jesus to death.384
Jews are not collectively responsible for Jesus' death
597 The historical complexity of Jesus' trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the
participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility
for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the
global reproaches contained in the apostles' calls to conversion after Pentecost.385 Jesus himself, in
forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept "the ignorance" of the Jews of
Jerusalem and even of their leaders.386 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different
times and places, based merely on the crowd's cry: "His blood be on us and on our children!", a
formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.387 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:
. . . [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the
crimes committed during his Passion. . . [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or
accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.388
All sinners were the authors of Christ's Passion
598 In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never
forgotten that "sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine
Redeemer endured."389 Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself,390 the Church
does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon
Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone:
We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made
the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and
crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to
contempt. And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for
them, according to the witness of the Apostle, "None of the rulers of this age understood this;
for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." We, however, profess to know
him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him.391
Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you
delight in your vices and sins.392
II. CHRIST'S REDEMPTIVE DEATH IN GOD'S PLAN OF SALVATION"Jesus handed over according to the definite plan of God"
599 Jesus' violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances,
but is part of the mystery of God's plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first
sermon on Pentecost: "This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge
of God."393 This Biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were merely passive
players in a scenario written in advance by God.394
600 To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his
eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace: "In this city,
in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together
against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had
predestined to take place."395 For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the
acts that flowed from their blindness.396
"He died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures"
601 The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of "the
righteous one, my Servant" as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would
free men from the slavery of sin.397 Citing a confession of faith that he himself had "received", St. Paul
professes that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures."398 In particular Jesus'
redemptive death fulfills Isaiah's prophecy of the suffering Servant.399 Indeed Jesus himself explained
the meaning of his life and death in the light of God's suffering Servant.400 After his Resurrection he
gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.401
"For our sake God made him to be sin"
602 Consequently, St. Peter can formulate the apostolic faith in the divine plan of salvation in this way:
"You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers. . . with the precious blood of
Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world
but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake."402 Man's sins, following on original sin,
are punishable by death.403 By sending his own Son in the form of a slave, in the form of a fallen
humanity, on account of sin, God "made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might
become the righteousness of God."404
603 Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned.405 But in the redeeming love that
always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point
that he could say in our name from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"406
Having thus established him in solidarity with us sinners, God "did not spare his own Son but gave him
up for us all", so that we might be "reconciled to God by the death of his Son".407
God takes the initiative of universal redeeming love
604 By giving up his own Son for our sins, God manifests that his plan for us is one of benevolent love,
prior to any merit on our part: "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his
Son to be the expiation for our sins."408 God "shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners
Christ died for us."409
605 At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God's love excludes no one: "So it is
not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."410 He affirms
that he came "to give his life as a ransom for many"; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the
whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us.411 The
Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: "There is not,
never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer."412
III. CHRIST OFFERED HIMSELF TO HIS FATHER FOR OUR SINSChrist's whole life is an offering to the Father
606 The Son of God, who came down "from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him who
sent [him]",413 said on coming into the world, "Lo, I have come to do your will, O God." "And by that
will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."414 From the
first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father's plan of divine salvation in his
redemptive mission: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work."415
The sacrifice of Jesus "for the sins of the whole world"416 expresses his loving communion with the
Father. "The Father loves me, because I lay down my life", said the Lord, "[for] I do as the Father has
commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father."417
607 The desire to embrace his Father's plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus' whole life,418 for his
redemptive passion was the very reason for his Incarnation. And so he asked, "And what shall I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour."419 And again, "Shall I
not drink the cup which the Father has given me?"420 From the cross, just before "It is finished", he
said, "I thirst."421
"The Lamb who takes away the sin of the world"
608 After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed
him out as the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world".422 By doing so, he reveals that
Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter
and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel's redemption
at the first Passover.423 Christ's whole life expresses his mission: "to serve, and to give his life as a
ransom for many."424
Jesus freely embraced the Father's redeeming love
609 By embracing in his human heart the Father's love for men, Jesus "loved them to the end", for
"greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."425 In suffering and
death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the
salvation of men.426 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save,
Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my
own accord."427 Hence the sovereign freedom of God's Son as he went out to his death.428
At the Last Supper Jesus anticipated the free offering of his life
610 Jesus gave the supreme expression of his free offering of himself at the meal shared with the
twelve Apostles "on the night he was betrayed".429 On the eve of his Passion, while still free, Jesus
transformed this Last Supper with the apostles into the memorial of his voluntary offering to the
Father for the salvation of men: "This is my body which is given for you." "This is my blood of the
covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."430
611 The Eucharist that Christ institutes at that moment will be the memorial of his sacrifice.431 Jesus
includes the apostles in his own offering and bids them perpetuate it.432 By doing so, the Lord institutes
his apostles as priests of the New Covenant: "For their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be
sanctified in truth."433
The agony at Gethsemani
612 The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper,
is afterwards accepted by him from his Father's hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani,434
making himself "obedient unto death". Jesus prays: "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from
me. . ."435 Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his
human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of
death.436 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the "Author of life",
the "Living One".437 By accepting in his human will that the Father's will be done, he accepts his death
as redemptive, for "he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree."438
Christ's death is the unique and definitive sacrifice
613 Christ's death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men,
through "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world",439 and the sacrifice of the New
Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the "blood
of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins".440
614 This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices.441 First, it is a gift
from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with
himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love
offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.442
Jesus substitutes his obedience for our disobedience
615 "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will
be made righteous."443 By his obedience unto death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the
suffering Servant, who "makes himself an offering for sin", when "he bore the sin of many", and who
"shall make many to be accounted righteous", for "he shall bear their iniquities".444 Jesus atoned for
our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father.445
Jesus consummates his sacrifice on the cross
616 It is love "to the end"446 that confers on Christ's sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as
atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life.447 Now "the love of
Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died."448 No
man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a
sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and
embraces all human persons, and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his
redemptive sacrifice for all.
617 The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ's sacrifice as "the source of eternal
salvation"449 and teaches that "his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for
us."450 And the Church venerates his cross as she sings: "Hail, O Cross, our only hope."451
Our participation in Christ's sacrifice
618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the "one mediator between God and men".452 But
because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, "the possibility
of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery" is offered to all men.453 He
calls his disciples to "take up [their] cross and follow [him]",454 for "Christ also suffered for [us], leaving
[us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps."455 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his
redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.456 This is achieved supremely in the
case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his
Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.458
IN BRIEF619 "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures" (I Cor 15:3).
620 Our salvation flows from God's initiative of love for us, because "he loved us and sent his Son to be
the expiation for our sins" (I Jn 4:10). "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor 5:19).
621 Jesus freely offered himself for our salvation. Beforehand, during the Last Supper, he both
symbolized this offering and made it really present: "This is my body which is given for you" (Lk 22:19).
622 The redemption won by Christ consists in this, that he came "to give his life as a ransom for many"
(Mt 20:28), that is, he "loved [his own] to the end" (Jn 13:1), so that they might be "ransomed from the
futile ways inherited from [their] fathers" (I Pt 1:18).
623 By his loving obedience to the Father, "unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8), Jesus fulfills
the atoning mission (cf. Is 53:10) of the suffering Servant, who will "make many righteous; and he shall
bear their iniquities" (Is 53:11; cf. Rom 5:19).
378 Jn 12:42; cf. 7:50; 9:16-17; 10:19-21; 19:38-39.
379 Acts 6:7; 15:5; 21:20.
380 Cf. Jn 9:16; Jn 10:19.
381 Cf Jn 9:22.
382 Jn 11:48-50.
383 Cf. Mt 26:66; Jn 18:31; Lk 23:2, 19.
384 Cf. Jn 19:12, 15, 21.
385 Cf. Mk 15:11; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-14; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28; 1 Thess 2:14-15.
386 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17.
387 Mt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6.
388 NA 4.
389 Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. Heb 12:3.
390 Cf. Mt 25:45; Acts 9:4-5.
391 Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. Heb 6:6; 1 Cor 2:8.
392 St. Francis of Assisi, Admonitio 5, 3.
393 Acts 2:23.
394 Cf. Acts 3:13.
395 Acts 4:27-28; cf. Ps 2:1-2.
396 Cf. Mt 26:54; Jn 18:36; 19:11; Acts 3:17-18.
397 Isa 53:11; cf. 53:12; Jn 8:34-36; Acts 3:14.
398 1 Cor 15:3; cf. also Acts 3:18; 7:52; 13:29; 26:22-23.
399 Cf. Isa 53:7-8 and Acts 8:32-35.
400 Cf. Mt 20:28.
401 Cf. Lk 24:25-27, 44-45.
402 1 Pt 1:18-20.
403 Cf. Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:56.
404 2 Cor 5:21; cf. Phil 2:7; Rom 8:3.
405 Cf. Jn 8:46.
406 Mk 15:34; Ps 22:2; cf. Jn 8:29.
407 Rom 8:32; 5:10.
408 1 Jn 4:10; 4:19.
409 Rom 5:8.
410 Mt 18:14.
411 Mt 20:28; cf. Rom 5:18-19.
412 Council of Quiercy (853): DS 624; cf. 2 Cor 5:15; 1 Jn 2:2.
413 Jn 6:38.
414 Heb 10:5-10.
415 Jn 4:34.
416 1 Jn 2:2.
417 Jn 10:17; 14:31.
418 Cf Lk 12:50; 22:15; Mt 16:21-23.
419 Jn 12:27.
420 Jn 18:11.
421 Jn 19:30; 19:28.
422 Jn 1:29; cf. Lk 3:21; Mt 3:14-15; Jn 1:36.
423 Isa 53:7,12; cf. Jer 11:19; Ex 12:3-14; Jn 19:36; 1 Cor 5:7.
424 Mk 10:45.
425 Jn 13:1; 15:13.
426 Cf. Heb 2:10,17-18; 4:15; 5:7-9.
427 Jn 10:18.
428 Cf. Jn 18:4-6; Mt 26:53.
429 Roman Missal, EP 111; cf. Mt 26:20; 1 Cor 11:23.
430 Lk 22:19; Mt 26:28; cf. 1 Cor 5:7.
431 1 Cor 11:25.
432 Cf. Lk 22:19.
433 Jn 17:19; cf. Council of Trent: DS 1752; 1764.
434 Cf. Mt 26:42; Lk 22:20.
435 Phil 2:8; Mt 26:39; cf. Heb 5:7-8.
436 Cf. Rom 5:12; Heb 4:15.
437 Cf. Acts 3:15; Rev 1:17; Jn 1:4; 5:26.
438 1 Pet 224; cf. Mt 26:42.
439 Jn 1:29; cf. 8:34-36; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:19.
440 Mt 26:28; cf. Ex 24:8; Lev 16:15-16; 1 Cor 11:25.
441 Cf. Heb 10:10.
442 Cf. Jn 10:17-18; 15:13; Heb 9:14; 1 Jn 4:10.
443 Rom 5:19.
444 Isa 53:10-12.
445 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1529.
446 Jn 13:1.
447 Cf. Gal 2:20; Eph 5:2, 25.
448 2 Cor 5:14.
449 Heb 5:9.
450 Council of Trent: DS 1529.
451 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla regis.
452 1 Tim 2:5.
453 GS 22 § 5; cf. § 2.
454 Mt 16:24.
455 1 Pet 2:21.
456 Cf Mk 10:39; Jn 21:18-19; Col 1:24.
457 Cf. Lk 2:35.
458 St. Rose of Lima, cf. P. Hansen, Vita mirabilis (Louvain, 1668).
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
"JESUS CHRIST SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED, AND WAS BURIED"Paragraph 3. Jesus Christ was Buried
624 "By the grace of God" Jesus tasted death "for every one".459 In his plan of salvation, God ordained
that his Son should not only "die for our sins"460 but should also "taste death", experience the
condition of death, the separation of his soul from his body, between the time he expired on the cross
and the time he was raised from the dead. The state of the dead Christ is the mystery of the tomb and
the descent into hell. It is the mystery of Holy Saturday, when Christ, lying in the tomb,461 reveals God's
great sabbath rest462 after the fulfillment463 of man's salvation, which brings peace to the whole
Christ in the tomb in his body
625 Christ's stay in the tomb constitutes the real link between his passible state before Easter and his
glorious and risen state today. The same person of the "Living One" can say, "I died, and behold I am
alive for evermore":465
God [the Son] did not impede death from separating his soul from his body according to the
necessary order of nature, but has reunited them to one another in the Resurrection, so that he
himself might be, in his person, the meeting point for death and life, by arresting in himself the
decomposition of nature produced by death and so becoming the source of reunion for the
626 Since the "Author of life" who was killed467 is the same "living one [who has] risen",468 the divine
person of the Son of God necessarily continued to possess his human soul and body, separated from
each other by death:
By the fact that at Christ's death his soul was separated from his flesh, his one person is not
itself divided into two persons; for the human body and soul of Christ have existed in the same
way from the beginning of his earthly existence, in the divine person of the Word; and in death,
although separated from each other, both remained with one and the same person of the
"You will not let your Holy One see corruption"
627 Christ's death was a real death in that it put an end to his earthly human existence. But because of
the union which the person of the Son retained with his body, his was not a mortal corpse like others,
for "it was not possible for death to hold him"470 and therefore "divine power preserved Christ's body
from corruption."471 Both of these statements can be said of Christ: "He was cut off out of the land of
the living",472 and "My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your
Holy One see corruption."473 Jesus' Resurrection "on the third day" was the sign of this, also because
bodily decay was held to begin on the fourth day after death.474
"Buried with Christ. . ."
628 Baptism, the original and full sign of which is immersion, efficaciously signifies the descent into the
tomb by the Christian who dies to sin with Christ in order to live a new life. "We were buried therefore
with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,
we too might walk in newness of life."475
IN BRIEF629 To the benefit of every man, Jesus Christ tasted death (cf. Heb 2:9). It is truly the Son of God made
man who died and was buried.
630 During Christ's period in the tomb, his divine person continued to assume both his soul and his
body, although they were separated from each other by death. For this reason the dead Christ's body
"saw no corruption" (Acts 13:37).
459 Heb 2:9.
460 1 Cor 15:3.
461 Cf. Jn 19:42.
462 Cf. Heb 4:7-9.
463 Cf. Jn 19:30.
464 Cf Col 1:18-20.
465 Rev 1:18.
466 St. Gregory of Nyssa, Orat. catech. 16: PG 45, 52D.
467 Acts 3:15.
468 Lk 24:5-6.
469 St. John Damascene, De fide orth. 3, 27: PG 94, 1098A.
470 Acts 2:24.
471 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 51, 3.
472 Isa 53:8.
473 Acts 2:26-27; cf. Ps 16:9-10.
474 Cf. 1 Cor 15:4; Lk 24:46; Mt 12:40; Jon 2:1; Hos 6:2; cf. Jn 11:39.
475 Rom 6:4; cf. Col 2:12; Eph 5:26.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
"HE DESCENDED INTO HELL. ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN"631 Jesus "descended into the lower parts of the earth. He who descended is he who also ascended far
above all the heavens."476 The Apostles' Creed confesses in the same article Christ's descent into hell
and his Resurrection from the dead on the third day, because in his Passover it was precisely out of the
depths of death that he made life spring forth:
Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all
mankind, your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.477
Paragraph 1. Christ Descended into Hell
632 The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was "raised from the dead" presuppose that
the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.478 This was the first
meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ's descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men,
experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there
as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.479
633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, "hell" - Sheol in
Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.480 Such is
the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not
mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was
received into "Abraham's bosom":481 "It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in
Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell."482 Jesus did not
descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who
had gone before him.483
634 "The gospel was preached even to the dead."484 The descent into hell brings the Gospel message
of salvation to complete fulfilment. This is the last phase of Jesus' messianic mission, a phase which is
condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ's redemptive work to all men of
all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.
635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live."485 Jesus, "the Author of life", by dying destroyed "him who has the
power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to
lifelong bondage."486 Henceforth the risen Christ holds "the keys of Death and Hades", so that "at the
name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth."487
Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence
because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the
flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. . . He has gone to
search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in
darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and
Eve, captive with him - He who is both their God and the son of Eve. . . "I am your God, who for
your sake have become your son. . . I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be
a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead."488
IN BRIEF636 By the expression "He descended into hell", the Apostles' Creed confesses that Jesus did really die
and through his death for us conquered death and the devil "who has the power of death" (Heb 2:14).
637 In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead.
He opened heaven's gates for the just who had gone before him.
476 Eph 4:9-10.
477 Roman Missal, Easter Vigil 18, Exsultet.
478 Acts 3:15; Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:20; cf. Heb 13:20.
479 Cf. 1 Pet 3:18-19.
480 Cf. Phil 2:10; Acts 2:24; Rev 1:18; Eph 4:9; Pss 6:6; 88:11-13.
481 Cf. Ps 89:49; 1 Sam 28:19; Ezek 32:17-32; Lk 16:22-26.
482 Roman Catechism I, 6, 3.
483 Cf. Council of Rome (745): DS 587; Benedict XII, Cum dudum (1341): DS 1011; Clement VI, Super
quibusdam (1351): DS 1077; Council of Toledo IV (625): DS 485; Mt 27:52-53.
484 1 Pet 4:6.
485 Jn 5:25; cf. Mt 12:40; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9.
486 Heb 2:14-15; cf. Acts 3:15.
487 Rev 1:18; Phil 2:10.
488 Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: PG 43, 440A, 452C; LH, Holy Saturday, OR.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
"HE DESCENDED INTO HELL. ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN"Paragraph 2. On the Third Day He Rose from the Dead
638 "We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this day he has fulfilled to us
their children by raising Jesus."489 The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ,
a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as
fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an
essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross:
Christ is risen from the dead!
Dying, he conquered death;
To the dead, he has given life.490
I. THE HISTORICAL AND TRANSCENDENT EVENT639 The mystery of Christ's resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically
verified, as the New Testament bears witness. In about A.D. 56 St. Paul could already write to the
Corinthians: "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in
accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. . ."491 The Apostle
speaks here of the living tradition of the Resurrection which he had learned after his conversion at the
gates of Damascus.492
The empty tomb
640 "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen."493 The first element
we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof
of Resurrection; the absence of Christ's body from the tomb could be explained otherwise.494
Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the
first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection. This was the case, first with the holy
women, and then with Peter.495 The disciple "whom Jesus loved" affirmed that when he entered the
empty tomb and discovered "the linen cloths lying there", "he saw and believed".496 This suggests that
he realized from the empty tomb's condition that the absence of Jesus' body could not have been of
human doing and that Jesus had not simply returned to earthly life as had been the case with
The appearances of the Risen One
641 Mary Magdalene and the holy women who came to finish anointing the body of Jesus, which had
been buried in haste because the Sabbath began on the evening of Good Friday, were the first to
encounter the Risen One.498 Thus the women were the first messengers of Christ's Resurrection for the
apostles themselves.499 They were the next to whom Jesus appears: first Peter, then the Twelve. Peter
had been called to strengthen the faith of his brothers,500 and so sees the Risen One before them; it is
on the basis of his testimony that the community exclaims: "The Lord has risen indeed, and has
appeared to Simon!"501
642 Everything that happened during those Paschal days involves each of the apostles - and Peter in
particular - in the building of the new era begun on Easter morning. As witnesses of the Risen One,
they remain the foundation stones of his Church. The faith of the first community of believers is based
on the witness of concrete men known to the Christians and for the most part still living among them.
Peter and the Twelve are the primary "witnesses to his Resurrection", but they are not the only ones -
Paul speaks clearly of more than five hundred persons to whom Jesus appeared on a single occasion
and also of James and of all the apostles.502
643 Given all these testimonies, Christ's Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the
physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact. It is clear from the facts
that the disciples' faith was drastically put to the test by their master's Passion and death on the cross,
which he had foretold.503 The shock provoked by the Passion was so great that at least some of the
disciples did not at once believe in the news of the Resurrection. Far from showing us a community
seized by a mystical exaltation, the Gospels present us with disciples demoralized ("looking sad"504)
and frightened. For they had not believed the holy women returning from the tomb and had regarded
their words as an "idle tale".505 When Jesus reveals himself to the Eleven on Easter evening, "he
upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who
saw him after he had risen."506
644 Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus the disciples are still doubtful, so impossible did
the thing seem: they thought they were seeing a ghost. "In their joy they were still disbelieving and still
wondering."507 Thomas will also experience the test of doubt and St. Matthew relates that during the
risen Lord's last appearance in Galilee "some doubted."508 Therefore the hypothesis that the
Resurrection was produced by the apostles' faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their
faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the
reality of the risen Jesus.
The condition of Christ's risen humanity
645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his
disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the
risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it
still bears the traces of his Passion.509 Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new
properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he
wills; for Christ's humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the
Father's divine realm.510 For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing
as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken
646 Christ's Resurrection was not a return to earthly life, as was the case with the raisings from the
dead that he had performed before Easter: Jairus' daughter, the young man of Naim, Lazarus. These
actions were miraculous events, but the persons miraculously raised returned by Jesus' power to
ordinary earthly life. At some particular moment they would die again. Christ's Resurrection is
essentially different. In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time
and space. At Jesus' Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the
divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is "the man of heaven".512
The Resurrection as transcendent event
647 O truly blessed Night, sings the Exultet of the Easter Vigil, which alone deserved to know the time
and the hour when Christ rose from the realm of the dead!513 But no one was an eyewitness to Christ's
Resurrection and no evangelist describes it. No one can say how it came about physically. Still less was
its innermost essence, his passing over to another life, perceptible to the senses. Although the
Resurrection was an historical event that could be verified by the sign of the empty tomb and by the
reality of the apostles' encounters with the risen Christ, still it remains at the very heart of the mystery
of faith as something that transcends and surpasses history. This is why the risen Christ does not reveal
himself to the world, but to his disciples, "to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem,
who are now his witnesses to the people."514
II. THE RESURRECTION - A WORK OF THE HOLY TRINITY648 Christ's Resurrection is an object of faith in that it is a transcendent intervention of God himself in
creation and history. In it the three divine persons act together as one, and manifest their own proper
characteristics. The Father's power "raised up" Christ his Son and by doing so perfectly introduced his
Son's humanity, including his body, into the Trinity. Jesus is conclusively revealed as "Son of God in
power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead".515 St. Paul insists on the
manifestation of God's power516 through the working of the Spirit who gave life to Jesus' dead
humanity and called it to the glorious state of Lordship.
649 As for the Son, he effects his own Resurrection by virtue of his divine power. Jesus announces that
the Son of man will have to suffer much, die, and then rise.517 Elsewhere he affirms explicitly: "I lay
down my life, that I may take it again. . . I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it
again."518 "We believe that Jesus died and rose again."519
650 The Fathers contemplate the Resurrection from the perspective of the divine person of Christ who
remained united to his soul and body, even when these were separated from each other by death: "By
the unity of the divine nature, which remains present in each of the two components of man, these are
reunited. For as death is produced by the separation of the human components, so Resurrection is
achieved by the union of the two."520
III. THE MEANING AND SAVING SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RESURRECTION651 "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain."521 The
Resurrection above all constitutes the confirmation of all Christ's works and teachings. All truths, even
those most inaccessible to human reason, find their justification if Christ by his Resurrection has given
the definitive proof of his divine authority, which he had promised.
652 Christ's Resurrection is the fulfillment of the promises both of the Old Testament and of Jesus
himself during his earthly life.522 The phrase "in accordance with the Scriptures"523 indicates that
Christ's Resurrection fulfilled these predictions.
653 The truth of Jesus' divinity is confirmed by his Resurrection. He had said: "When you have lifted up
the Son of man, then you will know that I am he."524 The Resurrection of the crucified one shows that
he was truly "I AM", the Son of God and God himself. So St. Paul could declare to the Jews: "What God
promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in
the second psalm, 'You are my Son, today I have begotten you.'"525 Christ's Resurrection is closely
linked to the Incarnation of God's Son, and is its fulfillment in accordance with God's eternal plan.
654 The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection,
he opens for us the way to a new life. This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God's
grace, "so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in
newness of life."526 Justification consists in both victory over the death caused by sin and a new
participation in grace.527 It brings about filial adoption so that men become Christ's brethren, as Jesus
himself called his disciples after his Resurrection: "Go and tell my brethren."528 We are brethren not by
nature, but by the gift of grace, because that adoptive filiation gains us a real share in the life of the
only Son, which was fully revealed in his Resurrection.
655 Finally, Christ's Resurrection - and the risen Christ himself is the principle and source of our future
resurrection: "Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. . .
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."529 The risen Christ lives in the hearts of
his faithful while they await that fulfillment . In Christ, Christians "have tasted. . . the powers of the age
to come"530 and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may "live no
longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised."530
IN BRIEF656 Faith in the Resurrection has as its object an event which as historically attested to by the disciples,
who really encountered the Risen One. At the same time, this event is mysteriously transcendent
insofar as it is the entry of Christ's humanity into the glory of God.
657 The empty tomb and the linen cloths lying there signify in themselves that by God's power Christ's
body had escaped the bonds of death and corruption. They prepared the disciples to encounter the
658 Christ, "the first-born from the dead" (Col 1:18), is the principle of our own resurrection, even now
by the justification of our souls (cf. Rom 6:4), and one day by the new life he will impart to our bodies
(cf.: Rom 8:11).
489 Acts 13:32-33.
490 Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion of Easter.
491 1 Cor 15:3-4.
492 Cf. Acts 9:3-18.
493 Lk 24:5-6.
494 Cf. Jn 20:13; Mt 28:11-15.
495 Cf. Lk 24:3,12,22-23.
496 Jn 20:2, 6, 8.
497 Cf. Jn 11:44; 20:5-7.
498 Mk 16:1; Lk 24:1; Jn 19:31,42.
499 Cf Lk 24:9-10; Mt 28:9-10; Jn 20:11-18.
500 Cf 1 Cor 15:5; Lk 22:31-32.
501 Lk 24:34,36.
502 1 Cor 15:4-8; cf. Acts 1:22.
503 Cf. Lk 22:31-32.
504 Lk 24:17; cf. Jn 20:19.
505 Lk 24:11; cf. Mk 16:11,13.
506 Mk 16:14.
507 Lk 24:38-41.
508 Cf. Jn 20:24-27; Mt 28:17.
509 Cf. Lk 24:30,39-40,41-43; Jn 20:20,27; 21:9,13-15.
510 Cf. Mt 28:9, 16-17; Lk 24:15,36; Jn 20:14,17,19,26; 21:4.
511 Cf. Mk 16:12; Jn 20:14-16; 21:4,7.
512 Cf. 1 Cor 15:35-50.
513 "O vere beata nox, quae sola meruit scire tempus et horam, in qua Christus ab inferis resurrexit!"
514 Acts 13:31; cf. Jn 14:22.
515 Rom 1:3-4; cf. Acts 2:24.
516 Cf. Rom 6:4; 2 Cor 13:4; Phil 3:10; Eph 1:19-22; Heb 7:16.
517 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:9-31; 10:34.
518 Jn 10:17-18.
519 1 Thess 4:14.
520 St. Gregory of Nyssa, In Christi res. orat. 1:PG 46,617B; cf. also DS 325; 359; 369.
521 1 Cor 15:14.
522 Cf. Mt 28:6; Mk 16:7; Lk 24:6-7,26-27,44-48.
523 Cf. 1 Cor 15:3-4; cf. the Nicene Creed.
524 Jn 8:28.
525 Acts 13:32-33; cf. Ps 2:7.
526 Rom 6:4; cf. 4:25.
527 Cf. Eph 2:4-5; 1 Pet 1:3.
528 Mt 28:10; Jn 20:17.
529 1 Cor 15:20-22.
530 Heb 6:5.
531 2 Cor 5:15; cf. Col 3:1-3.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
"HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER"659 "So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at
the right hand of God."532 Christ's body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by
the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.533 But during the forty
days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his
glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.534 Jesus' final apparition ends with
the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where
he is seated from that time forward at God's right hand.535 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique
way would Jesus show himself to Paul "as to one untimely born", in a last apparition that established
him as an apostle.536
660 The veiled character of the glory of the Risen One during this time is intimated in his mysterious
words to Mary Magdalene: "I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to
them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."537 This indicates a
difference in manifestation between the glory of the risen Christ and that of the Christ exalted to the
Father's right hand, a transition marked by the historical and transcendent event of the Ascension.
661 This final stage stays closely linked to the first, that is, to his descent from heaven in the
Incarnation. Only the one who "came from the Father" can return to the Father: Christ Jesus.538 "No
one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man."539 Left to its own
natural powers humanity does not have access to the "Father's house", to God's life and happiness.540
Only Christ can open to man such access that we, his members, might have confidence that we too
shall go where he, our Head and our Source, has preceded us.541
662 "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."542 The lifting up of Jesus
on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it.
Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, "entered, not into a sanctuary made by
human hands. . . but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf."543 There
Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he "always lives to make intercession" for "those who
draw near to God through him".544 As "high priest of the good things to come" he is the center and the
principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven.545
663 Henceforth Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father: "By 'the Father's right hand' we
understand the glory and honor of divinity, where he who exists as Son of God before all ages, indeed
as God, of one being with the Father, is seated bodily after he became incarnate and his flesh was
664 Being seated at the Father's right hand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah's kingdom, the
fulfillment of the prophet Daniel's vision concerning the Son of man: "To him was given dominion and
glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an
everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed."547
After this event the apostles became witnesses of the "kingdom [that] will have no end".548
IN BRIEF665 Christ's Ascension marks the definitive entrance of Jesus' humanity into God's heavenly domain,
whence he will come again (cf. Acts 1:11); this humanity in the meantime hides him from the eyes of
men (cf. Col 3:3).
666 Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father's glorious kingdom so that we,
the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him for ever.
667 Jesus Christ, having entered the sanctuary of heaven once and for all, intercedes constantly for us
as the mediator who assures us of the permanent outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
532 Mk 16:19.
533 Cf Lk 24:31; Jn 20:19,26.
534 Cf. Acts 1:3; 10:41; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:15; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4.
535 Cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33; 7:56; Lk 9:34-35; 24:51; Ex 13:22; Mk 16:19; Ps 110:1.
536 1 Cor 15:8; cf. 9:1; Gal 1:16.
537 Jn 20:17.
538 Cf. Jn 16:28.
539 Jn 3:13; cf. Eph 4:8-10.
540 Jn 14:2.
541 Roman Missal, Preface of the Ascension: "sed ut illuc confideremus, sua membra, nos subsequi quo
ipse, caput nostrum principiumque, praecessit."
542 Jn 12:32.
543 Heb 9:24.
544 Heb 7:25.
545 Heb 9:11; cf. Rev 4:6-11.
546 St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 4,2:PG 94,1104C.
547 Dan 7:14.
548 Nicene Creed.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
"FROM THENCE HE WILL COME AGAIN TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD"
I. HE WILL COME AGAIN IN GLORYChrist already reigns through the Church. . .
668 "Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living."549 Christ's
Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God's power and authority. Jesus
Christ is Lord: he possesses all power in heaven and on earth. He is "far above all rule and authority
and power and dominion", for the Father "has put all things under his feet."550 Christ is Lord of the
cosmos and of history. In him human history and indeed all creation are "set forth" and transcendently
669 As Lord, Christ is also head of the Church, which is his Body.552 Taken up to heaven and glorified
after he had thus fully accomplished his mission, Christ dwells on earth in his Church. The redemption
is the source of the authority that Christ, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, exercises over the Church. "The
kingdom of Christ [is] already present in mystery", "on earth, the seed and the beginning of the
670 Since the Ascension God's plan has entered into its fulfillment. We are already at "the last hour".554
"Already the final age of the world is with us, and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way; it
is even now anticipated in a certain real way, for the Church on earth is endowed already with a
sanctity that is real but imperfect."555 Christ's kingdom already manifests its presence through the
miraculous signs that attend its proclamation by the Church.556
. . .until all things are subjected to him
671 Though already present in his Church, Christ's reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled "with power
and great glory" by the King's return to earth.557 This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even
though they have been defeated definitively by Christ's Passover.557 Until everything is subject to him,
"until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her
sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will
pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the
revelation of the sons of God."559 That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten
Christ's return by saying to him:560 Marana tha! "Our Lord, come!"561
672 Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment
of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel562 which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men
the definitive order of justice, love and peace.563 According to the Lord, the present time is the time of
the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by "distress" and the trial of evil which does not
spare the Church564 and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.565
The glorious advent of Christ, the hope of Israel
673 Since the Ascension Christ's coming in glory has been imminent,566 even though "it is not for you to
know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority."567. This eschatological coming
could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are
674 The glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by
"all Israel", for "a hardening has come upon part of Israel" in their "unbelief" toward Jesus.569 St. Peter
says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be
blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send
the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that
God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old."570 St. Paul echoes him: "For if their rejection
means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?"571 The
"full inclusion" of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of "the full number of the
Gentiles",572 will enable the People of God to achieve "the measure of the stature of the fullness of
Christ", in which "God may be all in all".573
The Church's ultimate trial
675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of
many believers.574 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth575 will unveil the
"mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their
problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the
Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah
come in the flesh.576
676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made
to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the
eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the
kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism,577 especially the "intrinsically perverse" political
form of a secular messianism.578
677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will
follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.579 The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic
triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final
unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven.580 God's triumph over the
revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing
* II. TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD678 Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the
Last Day in his preaching.582 Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to
light.583 Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God's grace as nothing be
condemned.584 Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine
love.585 On the Last Day Jesus will say: "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my
brethren, you did it to me."586
679 Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men
belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He "acquired" this right by his cross. The Father has given "all
judgment to the Son".587 Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in
himself.588 By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one's works,
and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.589
IN BRIEF680 Christ the Lord already reigns through the Church, but all the things of this world are not yet
subjected to him. The triumph of Christ's kingdom will not come about without one last assault by the
powers of evil.
681 On Judgment Day at the end of the world, Christ will come in glory to achieve the definitive
triumph of good over evil which, like the wheat and the tares, have grown up together in the course of
682 When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal
the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works, and according to
his acceptance or refusal of grace.
549 Rom 14:9.
550 Eph 1:20-22.
551 Eph 1:10; cf. 4:10; 1 Cor 15:24,27-28.
552 Cf. Eph 1:22.
553 LG 3; 5; cf. Eph 4:11-13.
554 1 Jn 2:18; cf. 1 Pet 4:7.
555 LG 48 § 3; cf. 1 Cor 10:11.
556 Cf. Mk 16:17-18,20.
557 Lk 21:27; cf. Mt 25:31.
558 Cf. 2 Thess 2:7.
559 LG 48 § 3; cf. 2 Pet 3:13; Rom 8:19-22; 1 Cor 15:28.
560 Cf. 1 Cor 11:26; 2 Pet 3:11-12.
561 1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:17,20.
562 Cf. Acts 1:6-7.
563 Cf. Isa 11:1-9.
564 Cf. Acts 1:8; 1 Cor 7:26; Eph 5:16; 1 Pet 4:17.
565 Cf. Mt 25:1, 13; Mk 13:33-37; 1 Jn 2:18; 4:3; 1 Tim 4:1.
566 Cf. Rev 22:20.
567 Acts 1:7; Cf. Mk 13:32.
568 Cf. Mt 24:44; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Thess 2:3-12.
569 Rom 11:20-26; cf. Mt 23:39.
570 Acts 3:19-21.
571 Rom 11:15.
572 Rom 11:12, 25; cf. Lk 21:24.
573 Eph 4:13; 1 Cor 15:28.
574 Cf. Lk 18:8; Mt 24:12.
575 Cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20.
576 Cf. 2 Thess 2:4-12; 1 Thess 5:2-3; 2 Jn 7; 1 Jn 2:18,22.
577 Cf. DS 3839.
578 Pius XI, Divini Redemptoris, condemning the "false mysticism" of this "counterfeit of the
redemption of the lowly"; cf. GS 20-21.
579 Cf. Rev 19:1-9.
580 Cf Rev 13:8; 20:7-10; 21:2-4.
581 Cf. Rev 20:12 2 Pet 3:12-13.
582 Cf. Dan 7:10; Joel 3-4; Mal 3:19; Mt 3:7-12.
583 Cf Mk 12:38-40; Lk 12:1-3; Jn 3:20-21; Rom 2:16; 1 Cor 4:5.
584 Cf. Mt 11:20-24; 12:41-42.
585 Cf. Mt 5:22; 7:1-5.
586 Mt 25:40.
587 Jn 5:22; cf. 5:27; Mt 25:31; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Tim 4:1.
588 Cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20.
589 Cf. Jn 3:18; 12:48; Mt 12:32; 1 Cor 3:12-15; Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-31.