THE APOSTLES' CREED
WHAT IS FAITH?
The Nature and Effects of Faith.--The first thing that is necessary for
every Christian is faith, without which no one is truly called a faithful
Christian. Faith brings about four good effects. The first is that through
faith the soul is united to God, and by it there is between the soul and
God a union akin to marriage. "I will espouse thee in faith." When a man
is baptized the first question that is asked him is: "Do you believe in
God?" This is because Baptism is the first Sacrament of faith. Hence, the
Lord said: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Baptism
without faith is of no value. Indeed, it must be known that no one is
acceptable before God unless he have faith. "Without faith it is impossible
to please God." St. Augustine explains these words of St. Paul, "All that
is not of faith is sin," in this way: "Where there is no knowledge of the
eternal and unchanging Truth, virtue even in the midst of the best moral
life is false."
The second effect of faith is that eternal life is already begun in us; for
eternal life is nothing else than knowing God. This the Lord announced when
He said: "This is eternal life, that they may know thee, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." This knowledge of God begins here
through faith, but it is perfected the future life when we shall know God
as He is. Therefore, St. Paul says: "Faith is the substance of things to be
hoped for." No one then can arrive at perfect happiness of heaven, which
is the true knowledge of God, unless first he knows God through faith.
"Blessed are they that have not seen and have believed."
The third good that comes from faith is that right direction which it gives
to our present life. Now, in order that one live a good life, it is
necessary that he know what is necessary to live rightly; and if he depends
for all this required knowledge on his own efforts alone, either he will
never attain such knowledge, or if so, only after a long time. But faith
teaches us all that is necessary to live a good life. It teaches us that
there is one God who is the rewarder of good and the punisher of evil; that
there is a life other than this one, and other like truths whereby we are
attracted to live rightly and to avoid what evil. "The just man liveth by
faith." This is evident in that no one of the philosophers before the
coming of Christ could, through his own powers, know God and the means
necessary for salvation as well as any old woman since Christ's coming
knows Him through faith. And, therefore, it is said in Isaias that "the
earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord."
The fourth effect of faith is that by it we overcome temptations: "The holy
ones by faith conquered kingdoms." We know that every temptation is
either from the world or the flesh or the devil. The devil would have us
disobey God and not be subject to Him. This is removed by faith, since
through it we know that He is the Lord of all things and must therefore be
obeyed. "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking
whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, strong in faith." The world tempts us
either by attaching us to it in prosperity, or by filling us with fear of
adversity. But faith overcomes this in that we believe in a life to come
better than this one, and hence we despise the riches of this world and we
are not terrified in the face of adversity. "This is the victory which
overcometh the world: our faith." The flesh, however, tempts us by
attracting us to the swiftly passing pleasures of this present life. But
faith shows us that, if we cling to these things inordinately, we shall
lose eternal joys. "In all things taking the shield of faith." We see
from this that it is very necessary to have faith.
"The Evidence of Things that Appear Not."--But someone will say that it is
foolish to believe what is not seen, and that one should not believe in
things that he cannot see. I answer by saying that the imperfect nature of
our intellect takes away the basis of this difficulty. For if man of
himself could in a perfect manner know all things visible and invisible, it
would indeed be foolish to believe what he does not see. But our manner of
knowing is so weak that no philosopher could perfectly investigate the
nature of even one little fly. We even read that a certain philosopher
spent thirty years in solitude in order to know the nature of the bee. If,
therefore, our intellect is so weak, it is foolish to be willing to believe
concerning God only that which man can know by himself alone. And against
this is the word of Job: "Behold, God is great, exceeding our knowledge."
One can also answer this question by supposing that a certain master had
said something concerning his own special branch of knowledge, and some
uneducated person would contradict him for no other reason than that he
could not understand what the master said! Such a person would be
considered very foolish. So, the intellect of the Angels as greatly exceeds
the intellect of the greatest philosopher as much as that of the greatest
philosopher exceeds the intellect of the uneducated man. Therefore, the
philosopher is foolish if he refuses to believe what an Angel says, and far
greater fool to refuse to believe what God says. Against such are these
words: "For many things are shown to thee above the understanding of
Then, again, if one were willing to believe only those things which one
knows with certitude, one could not live in this world. How could one live
unless one believed others? How could one know that this man is one's own
father? Therefore, it is necessary that one believe others in matters which
one cannot know perfectly for oneself. But no one is so worthy of belief as
is God, and hence they who do not believe the words of faith are not wise,
but foolish and proud. As the Apostle says: "He is proud, knowing
nothing." And also: "I know whom I have believed; and I am certain."
And it is written: "Ye who fear the Lord, believe Him and your reward shall
not be made void." Finally, one can say also that God proves the truth of
the things which faith teaches. Thus, if a king sends letters signed with
his seal, no one would dare to say that those letters did not represent the
will of the king. In like manner, everything that the Saints believed and
handed down to us concerning the faith of Christ is signed with the seal of
God. This seal consists of those works which no mere creature could
accomplish; they are the miracles by which Christ confirmed the sayings of
the apostles and of the Saints.
If, however, you would say that no one has witnessed these miracles, I
would reply in this manner. It is a fact that the entire world worshipped
idols and that the faith of Christ was persecuted, as the histories of the
pagans also testify. But now all are turned to Christ--wise men and noble
and rich--converted by the words of the poor and simple preachers of
Christ. Now, this fact was either miracle or it was not. If it is
miraculous, you have what you asked for, a visible fact; if it is not, then
there could not be a greater miracle than that the whole world should have
been converted without miracles. And we need go no further. We are more
certain, therefore, in believing the things of faith than those things
which can be seen, because God's knowledge never deceives us, but the
visible sense of man is often in error.
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. "The Catechism of the Council of Trent," known as the "Roman Catechism"
(and so called throughout this book), thus introduces the explanation of
the twelve Articles of the Creed: "The Christian religion proposes to the
faithful many truths which either singly or all together must be held with
a certain and firm faith. That which must first and necessarily be believed
by all is that which God Himself has taught us as the foundation of truth
and its summary concerning the unity of the Divine Essence, the distinction
of Three Persons, and the actions which are by particular reason attributed
to each. The pastor should teach that the Apostles' Creed briefly sets
forth the doctrine of these mysteries. . . . The Apostles' Creed is divided
into three principal parts. The first part describes the First Person of
the Divine Nature and the marvellous work of the creation. The second part
treats of the Second Person and the mystery of man's redemption. The third
part concludes with the Third Person, the head and source of our
sanctification. The varied and appropriate propositions of the Creed are
called Articles, after a comparison often made by the Fathers; for just as
the members of the body are divided by joints (articuli), so in this
profusion of faith whatever must be distinctly and separately believed from
everything else is rightly and aptly called an Article" (Part I, Chapter I,
2. Osee, ii. 20
3. In the ceremony of administering Ihe Sacrament of Baptism, the priest
asks the Sponsor: "N., do you believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator
of heaven and earth?"
4. Mark, xvi. 16.
5. Heb., xi. 6.
6. Rom., xiv. 23.
7. John, xvii. 3.
8. Heb., xi. 1.
9. John, xx. 29.
10. Hab., ii. 4.
11. Isa., xi. 9.
12 Heb., xi. 33.
13. I Peter v. 8.
14. I John, v. 4.
15. Eph., vi. 16.
16. Job, xxxvi. 26.
17. Ecclus., iii. 25.
18. I Tim., vi. 4.
19. II Tim., i. 12.
20. Ecclus., ii. 8.
21. For the meaning of the word "faith" see the "Catholic Encyclopedia,"
vol. V. The necessity of faith is explained in St. Thomas, "Summa
Theologica," II-II, Q. ii., 3, 4.
THE FIRST ARTICLE: "I Believe in One God."
Among all the truths which the faithful must believe, this is the first--
that there is one God. We must see that God means the ruler and provider of
all things. He, therefore, believes in God who believes that everything in
this world is governed and provided for by Him. He who would believe that
all things come into being by chance does not believe that there is a God.
No one is so foolish as to deny that all nature, which operates with a
certain definite time and order, is subject to the rule and foresight and
an orderly arrangement of someone. We see how the sun, the moon, and the
stars, and all natural things follow a determined course, which would be
impossible if they were merely products of chance. Hence, as is spoken of
in the Psalm, he is indeed foolish who does not believe in God: "The fool
hath said in his heart: There is no God."
There are those, however, who believe that God rules and sustains all
things of nature, and nevertheless do not believe God is the overseer of
the acts of man; hence they believe that human acts do not come under God's
providence. They reason thus because they see in this world how the good
are afflicted and how the evil enjoy good things, so that Divine Providence
seems to disregard human affairs. Hence the words of Job are offered to
apply to this view: "He doth not consider our things; and He walketh about
the poles of heaven." But this is indeed absurd. It is just as though a
person who is ignorant of medicine should see a doctor give water to one
patient and wine to another. He would believe that this is mere chance,
since he does not understand the science of medicine which for good reasons
prescribes for one wine and for another water. So is it with God. For God
in His just and wise Providence knows what is good and necessary for men;
and hence He afflicts some who are good and allows certain wicked men to
prosper. But he is foolish indeed who believes this is due to chance,
because he does not know the causes and method of God's dealing with men.
"I wish that God might speak with thee, and would open His lips to thee,
that He might show thee the secrets of wisdom, and that His law is
manifold: and thou mightest understand that He exacteth much less of thee
than thy iniquity deserveth."
We must, therefore, firmly believe that God governs and regulates not only
all nature, but also the actions of men. "And they said: The Lord shall not
see; neither shall the God of Jacob understand. Understand, ye senseless
among the people, and, you fools, be wise at last. He that planted the ear,
shall He not hear, He that formed the eye, doth He not consider? . . . The
Lord knoweth the thoughts of men." God sees all things, both our thoughts
and the hidden desires of our will. Thus, the necessity of doing good is
especially imposed on man since all his thoughts, words and actions are
known in the sight of God: "All things are naked and open to His eyes."
We believe that God who rules and regulates all things is but one God. This
is seen in that wherever the regulation of human affairs is well arranged,
there the group is found to be ruled and provided for by one, not many. For
a number of heads often brings dissension in their subjects. But since
divine government exceeds in every way that which is merely human, it is
evident that the government of the world is not by many gods, but by one
SOME MOTIVES FOR BELIEF IN MANY GODS
There are four motives which have led men to believe in a number of gods.
(1) The dullness of the human intellect. Dull men, not capable of going
beyond sensible things, did not believe anything existed except physical
bodies. Hence, they held that the world is disposed and ruled by those
bodies which to them seemed most beautiful and most valuable in this world.
And, accordingly, to things such as the sun, the moon and the stars, they
attributed and gave a divine worship. Such men are like to one who, going
to a royal court to see the king, believes that whoever is sumptuously
dressed or of official position is the king! "They have imagined either the
sun and moon or the circle of the stars . . . to be the gods that rule the
world. With whose beauty, if they being delighted, took them to be gods."
(2) The second motive was human adulation. Some men, wishing to fawn upon
kings and rulers, obey and subject themselves to them and show them honor
which is due to God alone. After the death of these rulers, sometimes men
make them gods, and sometimes this is done even whilst they are living.
"That every nation may know that Nabuchodonosor is god of the earth, and
besides him there is no other."
(3) The human affection for sons and relatives was a third motive. Some,
because of the excessive love which they had for their family, caused
statues of them to be erected after their death, and gradually a divine
honor was attached to these statues. "For men serving either their
affections or their kings, gave the incommunicable Name to stones and
(4) The last motive is the malice of the devil. The devil wished from the
beginning to be equal to God, and thus he said: "I will ascend above the
height of the clouds. I will be like the Most High." The devil still
entertains this desire. His entire purpose is to bring about that man adore
him and offer sacrifices to him; not that he takes delight in a dog or cat
that is offered to him, he does relish the fact that thereby irreverence is
shown to God. Thus, he spoke to Christ: "All these will I give Thee, if
falling down Thou wilt adore me. For this reason those demons who
entered into idols said that they would be venerated as gods. "All the gods
of the Gentiles are demons." "The things which the heathens sacrifice,
they sacrifice to devils, and not to God."
Although all this is terrible to contemplate, yet at times there are any
who fall into these above-mentioned four causes. Not by their words and
hearts, but by their actions, they show that they believe in many gods.
Thus, those who believe that the celestial bodies influence the will of man
and regulate their affairs by astrology, really make the heavenly bodies
gods, and subject themselves to them. Be not afraid of the signs of heaven
which the heathens fear. For the laws of the people are vain." In the
same category are all those who obey temporal rulers more than God, in that
which they ought not; such actually set these up as gods. "We ought to obey
God rather than men." So also those who love their sons and kinsfolk more
than God show by their actions that they believe in many gods; as likewise
do those who love food more than God: "Whose god is their belly."
Moreover, all who take part in magic or in incantations believe that the
demons are gods, because they seek from the devil that which God alone can
give, such as revealing the future or discovering hidden things. We must,
therefore, believe that there is but one God.
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. Ps. xiii. 1.
2. Job, xxii. 14.
3. Job, xi. 5-6.
4. Ps. xciii. 7-11.
5. Heb., iv. 13.
6. "There is but one God, not many gods. We attribute to God the highest
goodess and perfection, and it is impossible that what is highest and
absolutely perfect could be found in many. If a being lack that which
constitutes supreme perfection, it is, therefore, imperfect and cannot have
the nature of God" ("Roman Catechism," "The Creed," First Article, 7).
7. Wis., xiii. 2-3.
8. Judith, v. 29.
9. All this is fully explained in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of
Wisdom, verses 15-21.
10. Wis., xiv. 21.
11. Isa., xiv. 14.
12. Matt., iv. 9.
13. Ps. cxv. 5.
14. I Cor., x. 20.
15. Jerem., x. 2-3.
16. Acts, v. 29.
17. Phil., iii. 19.
THE FIRST ARTICLE (CONTINUED): "The Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and
It has been shown that we must first of all believe there is but one God.
Now, the second is that this God is the Creator and maker of heaven and
earth, of all things visible and invisible. Let us leave more subtle
reasons for the present and show by a simple example that all things are
created and made by God. If a person, upon entering a certain house, should
feel-a warmth at the door of the house, and going within should feel a
greater warmth, and so on the more he went into its interior, he would
believe that somewhere within was a fire, even if he did not see the fire
itself which caused this heat which he felt. So also is it when we consider
the things of this world. For one finds all things arranged in different
degrees of beauty and worth, and the closer things approach to God, the
more beautiful and better they are found to be. Thus, the heavenly bodies
are more beautiful and nobler than those which are below them; and,
likewise, the invisible things in relation to the visible. Therefore, it
must be seen that all these things proceed from one God who gives His being
and beauty to each and everything. "All men are vain, in whom there is not
the knowledge of God: and who by these good things that are seen could not
understand Him that is. Neither by attending to the works have acknowledged
who was the workman. . . . For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the
creature, the creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby."
Thus, therefore, it is certain for us that all things in the world are from
ERRORS RELATING TO THE FIRST ARTICLE
There are three errors concerning this truth which we must avoid. First,
the error of the Manicheans, who say that all visible created things are
from the devil, and only the invisible creation is to be attributed to God.
The cause of this error is that they hold that God is the highest good,
which is true; but they also assert that whatsoever comes from good is
itself good. Thus, not distinguishing what is evil and what is good, they
believed that whatever is partly evil is essentially evil--as, for
instance, fire because it burns is essentially evil, and so is water
because it causes suffocation, and so with other things. Because no
sensible thing is essentially good, but mixed with evil and defective, they
believed that all visible things are not made by God who is good, but by
the evil one. Against them St. Augustine gives this illustration. A certain
man entered the shop of a carpenter and found tools which, if he should
fall against them, would seriously wound him. Now, if he would consider the
carpenter a bad workman because he made and used such tools, it would be
stupid of him indeed. In the same way it is absurd to say that created
things are evil because they may be harmful; for what is harmful to one may
be useful to another. This error is contrary to the faith of the Church,
and against it we say: "Of all things visible and invisible." "In the
beginning God created heaven and earth." ''All things were made by Him."
The second error is of those who hold the world has existed from eternity:
"Since the time that the fathers slept, all things continue as they were
from the beginning of the creation." They are led to this view because
they do not know how to imagine the beginning of the world. They are, says
Rabbi Moses, in like case to a boy who immediately upon his birth was
placed upon an island, and remained ignorant of the manner of child-bearing
and of infants' birth. thus, when he grew up, if one should explain all
these things to him, he would not believe how a man could once have been in
his mother's womb. So also those who consider the world as it is now, do
not believe that it had a beginning. This is also contrary to the faith of
the Church, and hence we say: "the Maker of heaven and earth." For if they
were made, they did not exist forever. "He spoke and they were made."
The third is the error which holds that God made the world from prejacent
matter (ex praejacenti materia). They are led to this view because they
wish to measure divine power according to human power; and since man cannot
make anything except from material which already lies at hand, so also it
must be with God. But this is false. Man needs matter to make anything,
because he is a builder of particular things and must bring form out of
definite material. He merely determines the form of his work, and can be
only the cause of the form that he builds. God, however, is the universal
cause of all things, and He not only creates the form but also the matter.
Hence, He makes out of nothing, and thus it is said in the Creed: "the
Creator of heaven and earth." We must see in this the difference between
making and creating. To create is to make something out of nothing; and if
everything were destroyed, He could again make all things. He, thus, makes
the blind to see, raises up the dead, and works other similar miracles.
"Thy power is at hand when Thou wilt."
GOOD EFFECTS OF OUR FAITH
From a consideration of all this, one is led to a fivefold benefit. (1) We
are led to a knowledge of the divine majesty. Now, if a maker is greater
than the things he makes, then God is greater than all things which He has
made. "With whose beauty, if they being delighted, took them to be gods,
let them know how much the Lord of them is more beautiful than they. . . .
Or if they admired their power and their effects, let them understand by
them that He that made them, is mightier than they." Hence, whatsoever can
even be affirmed or thought of is less than God. "Behold: God is great,
exceeding our knowledge."
(2) We are led to give thanks to God. Because God is the Creator of all
things, it is certain that what we are and what we have is from God: "What
hast thou that thou hast not received." "The earth is the Lord's and the
fullness thereof; the world and all they that dwell therein. "We,
therefore, must render thanks to God: What shall I render to the Lord for
all the things that He hath rendered to me?"
(3) We are led to bear our troubles in patience. Although every created
thing is from God and is good according to its nature, yet, if something
harms us or brings us pain, we believe that such comes from God, not as a
fault in Him, but because God permits no evil that is not for good.
Affliction purifies from sin, brings low the guilty, and urges on the good
to a love of God: "If we have received good things from the hand of God,
why should we not receive evil?"
(4) We are led to a right use of created things. Thus, we ought to use
created things as having been made by God for two purposes: for His glory,
"since all things are made for Himself" (that is, for the glory of God),
and finally for our profit: "Which the Lord thy God created for the service
of all the nations." Thus, we ought to use things for God's glory in
order to please Him no less than for our own profit, that is, so as to
avoid sin in using them: All things are Thine, and we have given Thee what
we received of Thy hand." Whatever we have, be it learning or beauty, we
must revere all and use all for the glory of God.
(5) We are led also to acknowledge the great dignity of man. God made all
things for man: "Thou hast subjected all things under is feet," and man
is more like to God than all other creatures save the Angels: "Let us make
man to Our image and likeness." God does not say this of the heavens or
of the stars, but of man; and this likeness of God in man does not refer to
the body but to the human soul, which has free will and is incorruptible,
and therein man resembles God more than other creatures do. We ought,
therefore, to consider the nobleness of man as less than the Angels but
greater than all other creatures. Let us not, therefore, diminish his
dignity by sin and by an inordinate desire for earthly things which are
beneath us and are made for our service. Accordingly, we must rule over
things of the earth and use them, and be subject to God by obeying and
serving Him. And thus we shall come to he enjoyment of God forever.
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. Wis., xiii. 1, 5.
2. In the Nicene Creed.
3. Gen., i. 1.
4. John, i. 3.
5. II Peter, iii. 4.
6. In the Nicene Creed.
7. Ps. cxlviii. 5.
8. wis., xii. 18.
9. "Ibid.," xiii. 3-4.
10. Job, xxxvi. 26.
11. I Cor., iv. 7.
12. Ps. xxiii. 1.
13. Ps, cxv. 12.
14. Job, ii. 10.
15. Prov., xvi. 4.
16 Deut., iv. 19.
17. I Paral., xxix. 14.
18. Ps. viii. 8.
19. Gen., i. 26.
THE SECOND ARTICLE: "And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord."
It is not only necessary for Christians to believe in one God who is the
Creator of heaven and earth and of all things; but also they must believe
that God is the Father and that Christ is the true Son of God. This, as St.
Peter says, is not mere fable, but is certain and proved by the word of God
on the Mount of Transfiguration. "For we have not by following artificial
fables made known to you the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ;
but we were eyewitnesses of His greatness. For He received from God the
Father honor and glory, this voice coming down to Him from the excellent
glory: 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear ye Him.'
And this voice, we heard brought from heaven, when we were with Him in the
holy mount." Christ Jesus Himself in many places called God His Father,
and Himself the Son of God. Both the Apostles and the Fathers placed in the
articles of faith that Christ is the Son of God by saying: "And (I believe)
in Jesus Christ, His (i.e., God's) only Son."
ERRORS RELATING TO THE SECOND ARTICLE
There were, however, certain heretics who erred in this belief. Photinus,
for instance, believed that Christ is not the Son of God but a good man
who, by a good life and by doing the will of God, merited to be called the
son of God by adoption; and so Christ who lived a good life and did the
will of God merited to be called the son of God. Moreover, this error would
not have Christ living before the Blessed Virgin, but would have Him begin
to exist only at His conception. Accordingly, there are here two errors:
the first, that Christ is not the true Son of God according to His nature;
and the second, that Christ in His entire being began to exist in time. Our
faith, however, holds that He is the Son of God in His nature, and that he
is from all eternity. Now, we have definite authority against these errors
in the Holy Scriptures, Against the first error it is said that Christ is
not only the Son, but also the only-begotten Son of the Father: "The only
begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him:" And
again the second error it is said: "Before Abraham was made, I AM." It is
evident that Abraham lived before the Blessed Virgin. And what the Fathers
added to the other Creed [i.e., the Nicene Creed], namely, "the only-
begotten Son of God," is against the first error; and "born of the Father
before all ages" is against the second error.
Sabellius said that Christ indeed was before the Blessed Virgin, but he
held that the Father Himself became incarnate and, therefore, the Father
and the Son is the same Person. This is an error because it takes away the
Trinity of Persons in God, and against it is this authority: "I am not
alone, but I and the Father that sent Me." It is clear that one cannot be
sent from himself. Sabellius errs therefore, and in the "Symbol" Of the
Fathers it is said: "God of God; Light of Light," that is, we are to
believe in God the Son from God the Father, and the Son who is Light from
the Father who is Light.
Arius, although he would say that Christ was before the Blessed Virgin and
that the Person of the Father is other than the Person of the Son,
nevertheless made a three-fold attribution to Christ: (1) that the Son of
God was a creature; (2) that He is not from eternity, but was formed the
noblest of all creatures in time by God; (3) that God the Son is not of one
nature with God the Father, and therefore that He was not true God. But
this too is erroneous and contrary to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.
It is written: "I and the Father are one." That is, in nature; and
therefore, just as the Father always existed, so also the Son; and just as
the Father is true God, so also is the Son. That Christ is a creature, as
said by Arius, is contradicted in the "Symbol" by the Fathers: "True God of
true God;" and the assertion that Christ is not from eternity but in time
is also contrary to the "Symbol": "Begotten not made;" and finally, that
Christ is not of the same substance as the Father is denied by the
"Symbol": "Consubstantial with the Father."
It is, therefore, clear we must believe that Christ is the Only-begotten of
God, and the true Son of God, who always was with the Father, and that
there is one Person of the Son and another of the Father who have the same
divine nature. All this we believe now through faith, but we shall know it
with a perfect vision in the life eternal. Hence, we shall now speak
somewhat of this for our own edification.
THE DIVINE GENERATION
It must be known that different things have different modes of generation.
The generation of God is different from that of other things. Hence, we
cannot arrive at a notion of divine generation except through the
generation of that created thing which more closely approaches to a
likeness to God. We have seen that nothing approaches in likeness to God
more than the human soul. The manner of generation in the soul is effected
in the thinking process in the soul of man, which is called a conceiving of
the intellect. This conception takes its rise in the soul as from a father,
and its effect is called the word of the intellect or of man. In brief, the
soul by its act of thinking begets the word. So also the Son of God is the
Word of God, not like a word that is uttered exteriorly (for this is
transitory), but as a word is interiorly conceived; and this Word of God is
of the one nature as God and equal to God.
The testimony of St. John concerning the Word of God destroys these three
heresies, viz., that of Photinus in the words: "In the beginning was the
Word;" that of Sabellius in saying: "And the Word was with God;" and
that of Arius when it says: "And the Word was God.
But a word in us is not the same as the Word in God. In us the word is an
accident; whereas in God the Word is the same as God, since there is
nothing in God that is not of the essence of God. No one would say God has
not a Word, because such would make God wholly without knowledge; and
therefore, as God always existed, so also did His Word ever exist. Just as
a sculptor works from a form which he has previously thought out, which is
his word; so also God makes all things by His Word, as it were through His
art: "All things were made by Him."
Now, if the Word of God is the Son of God and all the words of God bear a
certain likeness of this Word, then we ought to hear the Word of God
gladly; for such is a sign that we love God. We ought also believe the word
of God whereby the Word of God dwells in us, who is Christ: "That Christ
may dwell by faith in your hearts." And you have not His word abiding in
you." But we ought not only to believe that the Word of God dwells in us,
but also we should meditate often upon this; for otherwise we will not be
benefited to the extent that such meditation is a great help against sin:
Thy words have I hidden in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee."
Again it is said of the just man: "On His law he shall meditate day and
night." And it is said of the Blessed Virgin that she "kept all these
words, pondering them in her heart." Then also, one should communicate
the word of God to others by advising, preaching and inflaming their
hearts: "Let no evil speech proceed from your mouth; but that which is
good, to the edification of faith." Likewise, "let the word of Christ
dwell in you abundantly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one
another." So also: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season;
reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine." Finally, we ought
to put the word of God into practice: "Be ye doers of the word and not
hearers only, deceiving your own selves."
The Blessed Virgin observed these five points when she gave birth to the
Word of God. First, she heard what was said to her: "The Holy Ghost shall
come upon thee." Then she gave her consent through faith: "Behold the
handmaid of the Lord." And she also received and carried the Word in her
womb. Then she brought forth the Word of God and, finally, she nourished
and cared for Him. And so the Church sings: "Only a Virgin didst nourish
Him who is King of the Angels."
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. II Peter, I. 16.
2. "Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and true God, like the Father who begot
Him from all eternity. We also believe that He is the Second Person of the
Blessed Trinity, in all things equal to the Father and to the Holy Spirit.
Since we acknowledge the essence, will and power of all the Divine Persons
to be one, then in them nothing unequal or unlike should exist or even be
imagined to exist: ("Roman Catechism," Second Article, 8).
3. John, i. 18.
4. John, viii. 58.
5. John, viii. 16.
6. "Symbol" (from the Greek "Symbolon," and the late Latin "Symbolum") is a
formal authoritative statement ot the religious belief of the Church,
referring here to the Nicene Creed. This treatise of St. Thomas is indeed
called by him an "Explanation of the Symbol of the Apostles," or the
7. John x. 30.
8". . . we beiieve Him [Christ] to be one son, because His divine and human
natures meet in one Person. As to His divine generation, He has no brethren
or coheirs. being the Only-begotten Son of the Father, and we men are the
image and work of His hands" ("Roman Catechism, "loc. cit.," 9-10).
9. "Among the dirferent comparisorls brought forth to show the mode and
manner ot this eternal generation, that which is taken from the production
of thought in our mind seems to come nearest to its illustration, and hence
St. John calls the Son 'the Word.' For our mind, understanding itself in
some way, forms an image of itself which theologians have called the word;
so God, in so far as we may compare human things to divine, understanding
Himself, begets the Eternal Word. But it is more advantageous to consider
what faith proposes, and with all sincerity of mind to believe and profess
that Jesus Christ is true God and true Man--as God, begotten before all
time; as Man, born in time of Mary, His Virgin Mother" ("Roman Catechism,"
"loc. cit.," 9). St. Thomas treats more fully the eternal generation and
Sonship of Christ in the "Summa Theol.," I, Q. xxvii, art. 2; Q. xxxiv.
10. John, i. 1.
13. An accident is an attribute which is not part of the essence.
14. John, i. 3.
15. Eph., iii. 17.
16. John, v. 38.
17. Ps. cxviii. 11.
18. Ps. i. 2.
19. Luke, ii. 19.
20. Eph., iv. 29
21. Colos., iii. 16.
22. II Tim., iv. 2.
23. James, i. 22.
24. Luke, i. 35.
25. Luke. i. 38
26. Fourth Responsory, Office of the Circumcision, Dominican Breviary.
THE THIRD ARTICLE
"Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary."
The Christian must not only believe in the Son of God, as we have seen, but
also in His Incarnation. St. John, after having written of things subtle
and difficult to understand, points out the Incarnation to us when he
says: "And the Word was made flesh." Now, in order that we may understand
something of this, I give two illustrations at the outset.
It is clear that there is nothing more like the Word of God than the word
which is conceived in our mind but not spoken. Now, no one knows this
interior word in our mind except the one who conives it, and then it is
known to others only when it is pronounced. So also as long as the Word of
God was in the heart of the Father, it was not known except by the Father
Himself; but when the Word assumed flesh--as a word becomes audible--then
was It first made manifest and known. "Afterwards He was seen upon earth
and conversed with men." Another example is that, although the spoken word
is known through hearing, yet it is neither seen nor touched, unless it is
written on paper. So also the Word of God was made both visible and
tangible when He became flesh. And as the paper upon which the word of a
king is written is called the word of the king, so also Man to whom the
Word of God is conjoined in one "hypostasis" is called the Son of God.
"Take thee a great book and write in it with a man's pen." Therefore, the
holy Apostles affirmed: "Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the
ERRORS RELATING TO THE THIRD ARTICLE
On this point there arose many errors; and the holy Fathers at the Council
of Nicea added in that other Creed a number of things which suppress all
Origen said that Christ was born and came into the world to save even the
devils, and, therefore, at the end of the world all the demons will be
saved. But this is contrary to the Holy Scripture: Depart from Me, you
cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his
angels." Consequently, to remove this error they added in the Creed: "Who
for us men (not for the devils) and for our salvation, came down from
heaven." In this the love of God for us is made more apparent.
Photinus would have Christ born of the Blessed Virgin, but added that He
was a mere man who by a good life in doing the will of God merited to
become the son of God even as other holy men. This, too, is denied by this
saying of John: "I came down from heaven, not to do My own will but the
will of Him that sent Me." 8 Now if Christ were not in heaven, He would not
have descended from heaven, and were He a mere man, He would not have been
in heaven. Hence, it is said in the Nicene Creed: "He came down from
Manichaeus, however, said that Christ was always the Son of God and He
descended from heaven, but He was not actually but only in appearance
clothed in true flesh. But this is false, because it is not worthy of the
Teacher of Truth to have anything to do with what is false, and just as He
showed His physical Body, so it was really His: "Handle, and see; for a
spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see Me to have." To remove this
error, therefore, they added: "And He was incarnate."
Ebion, who was a Jew, said that Christ was born of the Blessed Virgin in
the ordinary human way. But this is false, for the Angel said of Mary:
"That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." And the holy
Fathers to destroy this error, added: "By the Holy Ghost."
Valentinus believed that Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost, but would
have the Holy Spirit deposit a heavenly body in the Blessed Virgin, so that
she contributed nothing to Christ's birth except to furnish a place for
Him. Thus, he said, this Body appeared by means of the Blessed Virgin, as
though she were a channel. This is a great error, for the Angel said: "And
therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son
of God." And the Apostle adds: "But when the fullness of time was come,
God sent His Son, made of a woman." Hence the Creed says: "Born of the
Arius and Apollinarius held that, although Christ was the Word of God and
was born of the Virgin Mary, nevertheless He did not have a soul, but in
place of the soul was His divinity. This is contrary to the Scripture, for
Christ says: "Now is My soul troubled." And again: "My soul is sorrowful
even unto death." For this reason the Fathers added: "And was made man."
Now, man is made up of body and soul. Christ had all that a true man has
save sin. All the above-mentioned errors and all others that can be offered
are destroyed by this, that He was made man. The error of Eutyches
particularly is destroyed by it. He held that, by a commixture of the
divine nature of Christ with the human, He was neither purely divine nor
purely human. This is not true, because by it Christ would not be a man.
And so it is said: "He was made man." This destroys also the error of
Nestorius, who said that the Son of God only by an indwelling was united to
man. This, too, is false, because by this Christ would not be man but only
in a man, and that He became man is clear from these words: "He was in
habit found as man." "But now you seek to kill Me, a man who have spoken
the truth to you, which I have heard of God.
GOOD EFFECTS OF THESE CONSIDERATIONS
We can learn something from all this. (1) Our faith is strengthened. If,
for instance, someone should tell us about a certain foreign land which he
himself had never seen, we would not believe him to the extent we would if
he had been there. Now, before Christ came into the world, the Patriarchs
and Prophets and John the Baptist told something of God; but men did not
believe them as they believed Christ, who was with God, nay more, was one
with God. Hence, far more firm is our faith in what is given us by Christ
Himself: "No one hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son who is in
the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." Thus, many mysteries of
our faith which before the coming of Christ were hidden from us, are now
(2) Our hope is raised up. It is certain that the Son of Man did not come
to us, assuming our flesh, for any trivial cause, but for our exceeding
great advantage. For He made as it were a trade with us, assuming a living
body and deigning to be born of the Virgin, in order that to us might be
vouchsafed part of His divinity. And thus He became man that He might
make man divine.
(3) Our charity is enkindled. There is no proof of divine charity so clear
as that God, the Creator of all things, is made a creature; that Our Lord
is become our brother, and that the Son of God is made the Son of man: "For
God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son." Therefore, upon
consideration of this our love for God ought to be re-ignited and burst
(4) This induces us to keep our souls pure. Our nature was exalted and
ennobled by its union with God to the extent of being assumed into union
with a Divine Person.
Indeed, after the Incarnation the Angel would not permit St. John to adore
him, although he allowed this to be done before by even the greatest
patriarchs. Therefore, one who reflects on this exaltation of his nature
and is ever conscious of it, should scorn to cheapen and lower himself and
his nature by sin. Thus, says St. Peter: "By whom He hath given us most
great and precious promises; that by these you may be made partakers of the
divine nature; flying the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the
Finally, by consideration of all this, our desire to come to Christ is
intensified. If a king had a brother who was away from him a long distance,
that brother would desire to come to the king to see, to be with him and to
abide with him. So also Christ is our brother, and we should desire to be
with Him and to be united to Him. "Wheresoever the body shall be, there
shall the eagles also gathered together." The Apostle desired "to be
dissolved and be with Christ." And it is this desire which grows in us as
we meditate upon the Incarnation of Christ.
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. John, i. 1-13.
2. "Ibid.," i. 14.
3. See above, p. 17.
4. Baruch, iii. 38.
5. Hypostasis is person distinct from nature, as in the one hypostasis of
Christ as distinct from His two natures, human and divine; also distinct
from substance, as in the three hypostases of the Godhead, which are the
same in substance.
6. Isa., vii. 1.
7. Matt., xxv. 41.
8.John, vi. 38.
9. Luke, xxiv. 39.
10. We believe and confess that the same Jesus Christ, our only Lord, the
son of God when He assumed human flesh for us in the womb of the virgin.
was not conceived iike other men, from the seed of man but in a manner
above the order of nature, i. e., by the power of the Holy Ghost; so that
the same Person, remaining God as He was from all eternity, became man,
what He was not before" ("Roman Catechism," Third Article, 1).
11. Matt., i. 20.
12. Luke, i. 35
13. Gal., iv. 4.
14. John, xii, 27.
15. Matt., xxvi. 38.
16. Phil. ii. 7.
17. John viii. 40.
18. "Ibid.," i. 18.
19. Thus, in the Mass, when the Priest puts wine and water in the chalice,
he says: ". . . Grant that by the mystery of this water and wine we may be
made partakers of His Divinity who vouchsafed to become partakers of our
humanity, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord."
20. "Et sic factus est homo, ut hominem faceret Deum."
21. John. iii. 16.
22. "The Word, who is a Person of the divine nature, assumed human nature
in such a manner that there should be one and the same Person in both the
divine and human natures" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 2).
23. "And after I had heard and seen, I fell down to adore before the feet
of the Angel who showed me these things. And he said to me: 'See thou do it
not' " (Apoc., xxii. 8).
24. II Peter, i, 4. "God deigned to assume the lowliness and frailty of our
flesh in order to lift man up to the highest degree of dignity . . . We may
now glory that the Son of God is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh,
a privilege which is not granted to the Angels" ("Roman Catechism," "loc.
25. Matt., xxiv. 28.
26. Phil., i. 23.
THE FOURTH ARTICLE: "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and
It is just as necessary for the Christian to believe in the passion and
death of the Son of God as it is to believe in His Incarnation. For, as St.
Gregory says, "there would have been no advantage in His having been born
for us unless we had profited by His Redemption." That Christ died for us
is so tremendous a fact that our intellect can scarcely grasp it; for in no
way does it fall in the natural way of our understanding. This is what the
Apostle says: "I work in your days, a work which you will not believe, if
any man shall tell it to you." The grace of God is so great and His love
for us is such that we cannot understand what He has done for us. Now, we
must believe that, although Christ suffered death, yet His Godhead did not
die; it was the human nature in Christ that died. For He did not die as
God, but as man.
This will be clear from two examples, one of which is taken from himself.
Now, when a man dies, in the separation of the soul from the body the soul
does not die but the body or flesh does die. So also in the death of
Christ, His Divinity did not die, but His man nature suffered death. But if
the Jews did not slay the Divinity of Christ, it would seem that their sin
was not any greater than if they killed any ordinary man. In answering this
we say that it is as if a king were clothed only in one garment, and if
someone befouled this garment, such a one has committed as grave a crime as
if he had defiled the king himself. Likewise, although the Jews could not
slay God, yet in putting to death the human nature which Christ assumed,
they were as severely punished as if they had put the Godhead itself to
death. Another example is had from what we said before, viz., that the Son
of God is the Word of God, and the Word of God made flesh is like the word
of a king written on paper. So if one should tear this royal paper in
pieces, it would be considered that he had rent apart the word of the king.
Thus, the sin of the Jews was as grievous as if they had slain the Word of
But what need was there that the Son of God should suffer for us? There was
a great need; and indeed it can be assigned to two reasons. The first is
that it was a remedy against sin, and the second is for an example of what
we ought to do. It was a remedy to such an extent that in the passion of
Christ we find a remedy against all the evils which we incur by our sins.
And by our sins we incur five different evils.
EVIL EFFECTS OF SIN
The first evil that man incurs by sin is the defilement of his soul. Just
as virtue gives the soul its beauty, so sin makes it ugly. "How happened
it, O Israel, that thou art in thy enemies' land? . . . Thou art defiled
with the dead." But all this is taken away by the passion of Christ,
whereby Christ poured out His blood as a laver wherein sinners are
cleansed: "Who hath loved us and washed us from our sins in His own
blood." So, too, the soul is washed by the blood of Christ in baptism
because then a new birth is had in virtue of His blood, and hence when one
defiles one's soul by sin, one offers insult to Christ and sins more
gravely than before one's baptism. "A man making void the law of Moses
dieth without any mercy under two or three witnesses. How much more, do you
think, he deserveth worse punishments, who hath trodden underfoot the Son
of God and hath esteemed the blood of the testament unclean!"
Secondly, we commit an offense against God. A sensual man loves the beauty
of the flesh, but God loves spiritual beauty, which is the beauty of the
soul. When, however, the soul is defiled by sin, God is offended and the
sinner incurs His hatred: "To God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful
alike." This also is removed by the passion of Christ, which made
satisfaction to God the Father for sin--a thing which man of himself could
never do. The charity and obedience of Christ in His suffering were greater
than the sin and disobedience of the first man: "When we were enemies, we
were reconciled to God by the death of His Son."
Thirdly, we have been weakened by sin. When a person sins the first time,
he believes that he will thereafter keep away from sin, but what happens is
the very opposite. This is because by that first sin he is weakened and
made more prone to commit sins, and sin more and more has power over him.
Such a one, as far as he alone is concerned, has lowered himself to such a
condition that he cannot rise up, and is like to a man who jumps into a
well from which, without God's help, he would never be rescued. After the
fall of man, our nature was weakened and corrupted, and we were made more
prone to sin. Christ, however, lessened this sickness and weakness,
although He did not entirely take it away. So now man is strengthened by
the passion of Christ, and sin is not given such power over him. Moreover,
he can rise clean from his sins when aided by God's grace conferred by the
Sacraments, which receive their efficacy from the passion of Christ: "Our
old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin may be destroyed."
Indeed, before the passion of Christ few there were who lived without
falling into mortal sin; but afterwards many have lived and are living
without mortal sin.
Fourthly, we incur the punishment due to sin. For the justice of God
demands that whosoever sins must be punished. This punishment, however, is
in proportion to the guilt. But the guilt of mortal sin is infinite,
because it is an offense against the infinite good, namely, God, whose
commandments the sinner holds in contempt. Therefore, the punishment due to
mortal sin is infinite. Christ, however, through His passion has taken away
this punishment from us and borne it Himself: "Who His own self bore our
sins in His body upon the tree." "Our sins [that is, the punishment due
to sin] His own self bore in His body." The passion of Christ was of such
value that it sufficed to expiate for all the sins of the whole world, even
of a hundred thousand worlds. And so it is that, when a man is baptized, he
is released from all his sins; and so also is it that the priest forgives
sins; and, again, the more one conforms himself to the passion of Christ,
the greater is the pardon and the grace which he gains.
Fifthly, we incur banishment from the kingdom of heaven. Those who offend
kings are compelled to go into exile. Thus, man is expelled from heaven on
account of sin. Adam was driven out of paradise immediately after his sin,
and the gate of paradise was shut. But Christ by His sufferings and death
opened this gate and recalled all the exiles to the kingdom. With the
opening of the side of Christ, the gate of paradise is opened; and with the
pouring out of His blood, guilt is washed away, satisfaction is made to
God, infirmity is removed, punishment is expiated, and the exiles are
called back to the kingdom. Hence, the thief received the immediate
response: "This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise." Never before was
this spoken to anyone, not to Adam, not to Abraham, not to David; but this
day (i.e., as soon as the gate is opened) the thief, having asked for
pardon, received it: "Having a confidence in the entering into the holies
by the blood of Christ."
CHRIST, EXEMPLAR OF VIRTUES
From all this then is seen the effect of the passion of Christ as a remedy
for sin. But no less does it profit us as an example. St. Augustine says
that the passion of Christ can bring about a complete reformation of our
lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly need do nothing other than despise
what Christ despised on the cross, and desire what Christ desired. There is
no virtue that did not have its example on the Cross.
So if you seek an example of charity, then, "greater love than his no man
hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends." And this Christ did
upon the Cross. If, therefore, He gave His life or us, we ought to endure
any and all evils for Him: "What shall I render to the Lord for all the
things that He hath rendered to me?"
If you seek an example of patience, you will find it in its highest degree
upon the Cross. Great patience is exemplified in two ways: either when one
suffers intensely in all patience, or when one suffers that which he could
avoid if he so wished. Christ suffered greatly upon the Cross: "O all ye
that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to My
sorrow." And with all patience, because, "when He suffered, He threatened
not." And again: "He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter and shall
be dumb before His shearer, and shall not open His mouth. He could have
avoided this suffering, but He did not: "Thinkest thou that I cannot ask My
Father, and He will give Me presently more than twelve legions of
Angels?" The patience of Christ upon the cross, therefore, was of the
highest degree: "Let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us;
looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who, having joy set
before Him endured the cross, despising the shame."
If you seek an example of humility, look upon Him who is crucified;
although He was God, He chose to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to be put
to death: "Thy cause has been judged as that of the wicked." Truly "that
of the wicked," because: "Let us condemn Him to a most shameful death."
The Lord chose to die for His servant; the Life of the Angels suffered
death for man: "He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to
the death of the cross."
If you seek an example of obedience, imitate Him who was obedient to the
Father unto death: "For by the disobedience of one man, many were made
sinners; so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just."
If you seek an example of contempt for earthly things, imitate Him who is
the King of kings, the Lord of rulers, in whom are all the treasures of
wisdom; but on the Cross He was stripped naked, ridiculed, spat upon,
bruised, crowned with thorns, given to drink of vinegar and gall, and
finally put to death. How falsely, therefore, is one attached to riches and
raiment, for: "They parted My garments amongst them; and upon My vesture
they cast lots." How falsely to honors, since "I was covered with lashes
and insults;" how falsely to positions of power, because "taking a crown of
thorns, they placed it upon My brow;" how falsely to delicacies of the
table, for "in My thirst they gave Me to drink of vinegar." Thus, St.
Augustine, in commenting on these words, "Who, having joy set before Him,
endured the Cross despising the shame," says: "The man Christ despised
all earthly things in order to teach us to despise them.
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. Acts, xiii. 41 (quoting Hab., i. 5).
2. "As Christ was true and perfect man, He was capable of truly dying. Now,
man dies when the soul is separated from the body. When, therefore, we say
that Jesus died, we mean this, that His soul was disunited from His body.
We do not admit, however, that the Divinity was separated from His Body. On
the contrary, we firmly believe and profess that when His soul was
dissociated from His body, His Divinity continued always united both to His
body in the sepulchre and to His soul in limbo" ("Roman Catechism," Fourth
3. See above, p. 6.
4. Bar., iii. 10-11.
5. Apoc., i. 5.
6. Heb., x. 28-29.
7. Wis., xiv. 9.
8. Rom., v. 10.
9. Rom., vi. 6.
10. I Pet., ii. 24.
11. Luke, xxiii. 43.
12. Heb., x. 19
13. John, xv. 13.
14. Ps. cxv. 12.
15. Lament., i. 12.
16. Pet., ii. 23.
17. Isa., liii. 7.
18. Matt., xxvi. 53.
19. Heb., xii. 1-2.
20. Job, xxxvi. 17.
21. Wis., ii. 20.
THE FIFTH ARTICLE: "He Descended into Hell."
The death of Christ was the separation of His soul from His body as it is
with other men. But the Divinity was so indissolubly conjoined to the Man-
Christ that although His soul and body were disunited, His Divinity was
always most perfectly united to both the soul and body. This we have seen
above. Therefore in the Sepulchre His body was together with the Son of God
who together with His soul descended into hell.
REASONS FOR CHRIST'S DESCENT
There are four reasons why Christ together with His soul descended into
hell. First, He wished to take upon Himself the entire punishment for our
sin, and thus atone for its entire guilt. The punishment for the sin of man
was not alone death of the body, but there was also a punishment of the
soul, since the soul had its share in sin; and it was punished by being
deprived of the beatific vision; and as yet no atonement had been offered
whereby this punishment would be taken away. Therefore, before the coming
of Christ all men, even the holy fathers after their death, descended into
hell. Accordingly in order to take upon Himself most perfectly the
punishment due to sinners, Christ not only suffered death, but also His
soul descended into hell. He, however, descended for a different cause
than did the fathers; for they did so out of necessity and were of
necessity taken there and detained, but Christ descended there of His own
power and free will: "I am counted among them that go down to the pit; I am
become as a man without help, free among the dead." The others were there
as captives, but Christ was freely there.
The second reason is that He might perfectly deliver all His friends.
Christ had His friends both in the world and in hell. The former were His
friends in that they possessed charity; and the latter were they who
departed this life with charity and faith in the future Redeemer, such as
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and other just and good men.
Therefore, since Christ had dwelt among His friends in this world and had
delivered them by His death, so He wished to visit His friends who were
detained in hell and deliver them also: "I will penetrate to all the lower
parts of the earth, and will behold all that hope in the Lord."
The third reason is that He would completely triumph over the devil. Now, a
person is perfectly vanquished when he is not only overcome in conflict,
but also when the assault is carried into his very home, and the seat of
his kingdom is taken away from him. Thus Christ triumphed over the devil,
and on the Cross He completely vanquished him: "Now is the judgment of this
world; now shall the prince of this world (that is, the devil) be cast
out." To make this triumph complete, Christ wished to deprive the devil of
the seat of his kingdom and to imprison him in his own house--which is
hell. Christ, therefore, descended there, and despoiled the devil of
everything and bound him, taking away his prey: "And despoiling the
principalities and powers, He hath exposed them confidently in open show,
triumphing over them in Himself." Likewise, Christ who had received the
power and possession of heaven and earth, desired too the possession of
hell, as says the Apostle: "That in the name of Jesus every knee should
bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth." "In My
name they shall cast out devils."
The fourth and final reason is that Christ might free the just who were in
hell [or Limbo]. For as Christ wished to suffer death to deliver the living
from death, so also He would descend into hell to deliver those who were
there: "Thou also by the blood of Thy testament, hast sent forth Thy
prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water." And again: "O death, I
will be thy death; O hell, I will be thy bite." Although Christ wholly
overcame death, yet not so completely did He destroy hell, but, as it were,
He bit it. He did not free all from hell, but those only who were without
mortal sin. He likewise liberated those without original sin, from which
they, as individuals, were freed by circumcision; or before [the
institution of] circumcision, they who had been saved through their
parents' faith (which refers to those who died before having the use of
reason); or by the sacrifices, and by their faith in the future coming of
Christ (which refers to adults)." The reason they were there in hell
[i.e., Limbo] is original sin which they had contracted from Adam, and from
which as members of the human race they could not be delivered except by
Christ. Therefore, Christ left there those who had descended there with
mortal sin, and the non-circumcised children. Thus, it is seen that Christ
descended into hell, and for what reasons. Now we may gather four
considerations from this for our own instruction.
WHAT WE MAY LEARN FROM THIS
(1) A firm hope in God. No matter how much one is afflicted, one ought
always hope in the assistance of God and have trust in Him. There is
nothing so serious as to be in hell. If, therefore, Christ delivered those
who were in hell, what great confidence ought every friend of God have that
he will be delivered from all his troubles! "She [that is, wisdom] forsook
not the just when he was sold, but delivered him from sinners. She went
down with him into the pit. And in bonds she left him not." God helps in
a special manner those who serve Him, and hence the servant of God should
feel secure in Him: "He that feareth the Lord shall tremble at nothing and
shall not be afraid; for He is his hope."
(2) We ought to conceive a fear of God and avoid all presumption. We have
already seen that Christ suffered for sinners and descended into hell for
them. However, He did not deliver all sinners, but only those who were free
from mortal sin. He left there those who departed this life in mortal sin.
Hence, anyone who descends into hell in mortal sin has no hope of
deliverance; and he will remain in hell as long as the holy fathers remain
in paradise, that is, for all eternity: "And these shall go into
everlasting punishment; but the just, into life everlasting."
(3) We ought to arouse in ourselves a mental anxiety. Since Christ
descended into hell for our salvation, we ought in all care go down there
in spirit by considering, for instance, its punishments as did that holy
man, Ezechias: "I said: In the midst of my days I shall go to the gates of
hell. Indeed, he who during this life frequently descends into hell by
thinking of it, will not easily fall into hell at death; for such
meditation keeps one from sin, and draws one out of it. We see how men of
this world guard themselves against wrongdoing because of the temporal
punishment; but with how much more care ought they avoid the punishment of
hell which far exceeds all else in its duration, its severity, and its
varied nature! "In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt
(4) There comes to us in this an example of love. Christ descended into
hell in order to deliver His own; and so we should go down there to rescue
our own. They cannot help themselves. Therefore, let us deliver those who
are in purgatory. He would be very hard-hearted who does not come to the
aid of a relative who is detained in an earthly prison; but much more cruel
is he who will not assist a friend who is in purgatory, for there is no
comparison between the pains of this world and of that: "Have pity on me,
have pity on me, at least you my friends, because the hand of the Lord hath
touched me." "It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for
the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins." We may assist these
souls in three ways as St. Augustine tells us, viz., through Masses,
prayers, and almsgiving. St. Gregory adds a fourth, that is, fasting. All
this is not so amazing, for even in this world a friend can pay a debt for
his friend; but this applies only to those who are in purgatory.
(For "Questions for Discussions" see pp. 181-194.)
1. "Hell here means those far-removed places in which are detained those
souls that have not been awarded the happiness of heaven. . . These places
are not of the same nature. There is that most abominable and most dark
prison where the souls of the damned, together with the unclean spirits,
are punished in eternal and unquenchable fire. This is gehenna or the
'abyss,' and is Hell, strictly so-called. There also is the fire of
Purgatory, in which the suffering souls of the just are purified for a
definite time in order that they be permitted to enter into the everlasting
Fatherland, where nothing unclean is admitted. . . The third and last place
is that in which the souls of the just before the coming of the Lord were
received; there without any pain, sustained by the blessed hope of the
redemption, they enjoyed a quiet repose. It was to these souls who waited
in the bosom of Abraham that Christ the Lord descended, and whom He
delivered" ("Roman Catechism," Fifth Article, Chapter VI, 2-3). Therefore,
"He descended into hell" means that the soul of Jesus Christ, after His
death, descended into Limbo, i.e., to the place where the souls of the just
who died before Christ were detained, and were waiting for the time of
their redemption. St. Peter writes: "He was put to death indeed in the
flesh. but enlivened in the spirit, in which also coming, He preached to
those spirits that were in prison" (I Peter, iii, 18-19).
"We profess that immediately after the death of Christ, His soul descended
into hell, and remained there as long as His body was in the sepulchre; and
we believe also that the one Person of Christ was at the same time in hell
and in the tomb" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 1).
2. See last footnote. This place is also called Limbo.
3. Ps. lxxxvii. 5. "They descended as captives; He as free and victorious
amongst the dead, to overcome those devils by whom, in consequence of their
guilt, they were held in captivity" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 5).
4. Ecclus., xxiv. 45.
5. This refers to the temptation of Our Lord in the desert.
6. John, xii. 31.
7. St. Thomas says that the soul of Christ descended to the hell of the
just or to Limbo "per suam essentiam," but to the hell of the damned only
"per suum effectum" ("Summa Theol.," III, Q. lii, Art. 2).
8. Col., ii. 15.
9. Phil., ii. Io
10. Mark, xvi. 17.
11. Zach.. ix. 11.
12. Osee, xiii. 14.
13. Italics added.
14. Wis., 13-14.
15. Ecclus., xxxiv. 16.
16. Matt., xxv. 46.
17. Isa., xxxviii. 10.
18. Ecclus., vii. 40.
19. Job, xix. 21.
20. II Mach., xii. 46.
THE FIFTH ARTICLE (CONTINUED): "The third day He arose again from the
We must necessarily know two things: the glory of God and the punishment of
hell. For being attracted by His glory and made fearful by punishments, we
take warning and withdraw ourselves from sin. But for us to appreciate
these facts is very difficult. Thus, it is said of God's glory: "But the
things that are in heaven, who shall search out?" For those who are
worldly minded this is indeed difficult, because "he that is of the earth,
of the earth he is, and of the earth he speaketh;" but it is easier for
the spiritually minded, because, "he that cometh from above is above all,"
as is said in the same place. Accordingly, God descended from heaven and
became incarnate to teach us heavenly things. Once it was difficult to know
about the punishments of hell: "no man hath been known to have returned
from hell," as it is said in the person of the wicked. But this cannot be
said now, for just as Christ descended from heaven to teach us heavenly
things, so also He came back from the region of hell to teach us about it.
It is, therefore, necessary that we believe not only that Christ was made
man, and died, but also that He arose again from the dead. Therefore, it is
said in the Creed: "The third day He arose again from the dead."
We find that many arose from the dead, such as Lazarus, the son of the
widow, and the daughter of the Ruler of the synagogue. But the
resurrection of Christ differed from the resurrection of these and of all
others in four points.
SPECIAL CHARACTER OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION
(1) Christ's resurrection differed from that of all others in its cause.
Those others who arose did so not of their own power, but either by the
power of Christ or through the prayers of some Saint. Christ, on the
contrary, arose by His own power, because He was not only Man but also God,
and the Divinity of the Word was at no time separated either from His soul
or from His body. Therefore, His body could, whenever He desired, take
again the soul, and His soul the body: "I lay down My life, that I may take
it again. . . . And I have power to lay it down; and I have power to take
it up again." Christ truly died, but not because of weakness or of
necessity but rather of His own will entirely and by His own power. This is
seen in that moment when He yielded up the ghost; He cried out with a loud
voice, which could not be true of others at the moment of dying, because
they die out of weakness. . . . For this the centurion said: "Indeed, this
was the Son of God." By that same power whereby He gave up His soul, He
received it again; and hence the Creed says, "He arose again," because He
was not raised up as if by anyone else. "I have slept and have taken My
rest; and I have risen up." Nor can this be contrary to these words,
"This Jesus hath God raised again," because both the Father and the Son
raised Him up, since one and the same power is of the Father and the Son.
(2) Christ's resurrection was different as regards the life to which He
arose. Christ arose again to a glorious and incorruptible life: "Christ is
risen from the dead by the glory of the Father." The others, however,
were raised to that life which they had before, as seen of Lazarus and the
(3) Christ's resurrection was different also in effect and efficacy. In
virtue of the resurrection of Christ all shall rise again: "And many bodies
of the saints that had slept arose." The Apostle declares that "Christ is
risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep." But also note
that Christ by His Passion arrived at glory: "Ought not Christ to have
suffered these things and so to enter into His glory?" And this is to
teach us how we also may arrive at glory: "Through many tribulations we
must enter into the kingdom of God."
(4) Christ's resurrection was different in point of time. Christ arose on
the third day; but the resurrection of the others is put off until the end
of the world. The reason for this is that the resurrection and death and
nativity of Christ were "for our salvation, and thus He wished to rise
again at a time when it would be of profit to us. Now, if He had risen
immediately, it would not have been believed that He died; and similarly,
if He had put it off until much later, the disciples would not have
remained in their belief, and there would have been no benefit from His
Passion. He arose again, therefore, on the third day, so that it would be
believed that He died, and His disciples would not lose faith in him.
WHAT WE MAY LEARN FROM THE RESURRECTION
From all this we can take four things for our instruction. Firstly, let us
endeavor to arise spiritually, from the death of the soul which we incur by
our sins, to that life of justice which is had through penance: "Rise, thou
that sleepest, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall enlighten thee."
This is the first resurrection: "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in
the first resurrection."
Secondly, let us not delay to rise until our death, but do it at once,
since Christ arose on the third day: "Delay not to be converted to the
Lord; and defer it not from day to day." You will not be able to consider
what pertains to salvation when weighed down by illness, and, moreover, by
persevering in sin, you will lose part of all the good which is done in the
Church, and you will incur many evils. Indeed, the longer you possess the
devil, the harder it is to put him away, as St. Bede tells us.
Thirdly, let us rise up again to an incorruptible life in that we may not
die again, but resolve to sin no more: "Knowing that Christ, rising again
from the dead, dieth now no more. Death shall no more have dominion over
Him. . . . So do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive unto
God, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Neither yield ye your members as instruments
of iniquity unto sin; but present yourselves to God, as those that are
alive from the dead."
Fourthly, let us rise again to a new and glorious life by avoiding all that
which formerly were the occasions and the causes of our death and sin: "As
Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may
walk in newness of life." This new life is the life of justice which
renews the soul and leads it to the life of glory.
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. Wis., ix. 16.
2. John, iii. 31.
3. Wisd., ii. 1.
4. John, xi 1-44
5. Luke, vii. 11-16.
6. Mark, v. 35-43.
7. John, x. 18.
8. Matt., xxvii. 50.
9. Matt., xxvii. 54.
10. Ps. iii. 6.
11. Acts, ii. 3~. Rom., vi, 4.
13. Matt., xxviii. 52.
14. I Cor., xv. 20.
15. Luke xxiv. 26.
16. Acts, xiv. 21.
17. From the Nicene Creed.
18. "Chirst did not remain in the grave during all of these three days, but
as He lay in the sepulchre during an entire natural day during part of the
preceding day and part of the following day, he is said, in very truth, to
have lain in the grave for three days, and on the third day to have risen
again from the dead" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit., 10).
19. Eph., v. 14.
20. John, xx. 6.
21. Ecclus., v. 8.
22. Rom., vi. 9, 11-14.
23. "Ibid.," 4.
THE SIXTH ARTICLE: "He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand
of God, the Father Almighty."
Besides the resurrection of Christ, we must also believe in His ascension;
for He ascended into heaven on the fortieth day. Hence, the Creed says: "He
ascended into heaven." Concerning this we ought to observe three things,
viz., that it was sublime, reasonable, and beneficial.
THE SUBLIMITY OF THE ASCENSION
It was certainly sublime that Christ ascended into heaven. This is
expounded in three ways. Firstly, He ascended above the physical heaven:
"He . . . ascended above all the heavens." Secondly, He ascended above all
the spiritual heavens, i.e., spiritual natures: "Raising [Jesus] up from
the dead and setting Him on His right hand in the heavenly places. Above
all principality and power and virtue and dominion and every name that is
named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come. And He
hath subjected all things under His feet." Thirdly, He ascended up to the
very throne of the Father: "Lo, one like the Son of man came with the
clouds of heaven. And He came even to the Ancient of days." "And the Lord
Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sitteth on
the right hand of God." Now, it is not to be taken in the literal sense,
but figuratively, that Christ is at the right hand of God. Inasmuch as
Christ is God, He is said to sit at the right hand of the Father, that is,
in equality with the Father; and as Christ is man, He sits at the right
hand of the Father, that is, in a more preferable place. The devil once
feigned to do this: "I will ascend above the height of the clouds. I will
be like the Most High." But Christ alone succeeded in this, and so it is
said: "He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the
Father." "The Lord said to my Lord: Sit Thou at My right hand."
THE REASONABLENESS OF THE ASCENSION
The Ascension of Christ into heaven is in accord with reason: (1) because
heaven was due to Christ by His very nature. It is natural for one to
return to that place from whence he takes his origin. The beginning of
Christ is from God, who is above all things: "I came forth from the Father
and am come into the world; again I leave the world and I go to the
Father." 9 "No man hath ascended into heaven, but He that descended from
heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven." 9 The just ascend into heaven,
but not in the manner that Christ ascended, i.e., by His own power; for
they are taken up by Christ: "Draw me, we will run after Thee." Or,
indeed, we can say that no man but Christ has ascended into heaven, because
the just do not ascend except in so far as they are the members of Christ
who is the head of the Church. "Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall
the eagles also be gathered together."
(2) Heaven is due to Christ because of His victory. For He was sent into
the world to combat the devil, and He did overcome him. Therefore, Christ
deserved to be exalted above all things: "I also have overcome and am set
down with My Father in His throne."
(3) The Ascension is reasonable because of the humility of Christ. There
never was humility so great as that of Christ, who, although He was God,
yet wished to become man; and although He was the Lord, yet wished to take
the form of a servant, and, as St. Paul says: "He was made obedient unto
death," and descended even into hell. For this He deserved to be exalted
even to heaven and to the throne of God, for humility leads to exaltation:
"He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." "He that descended is the
same also that ascended above all the heavens."
THE BENEFITS OF THE ASCENSION
The Ascension of Christ was very beneficial for us. This is seen three
ways. Firstly, as our Leader, because He ascended in order to lead us; for
we had lost the way, but He has shown it to us. "For He shall go up that
shall open the way before them, and thus we may be made certain of
possessing the heavenly kingdom: "I go to prepare a place for you."
Secondly, that He might draw our hearts to Himself: "For where thy treasure
is, there is thy heart so." Thirdly, to let us withdraw from worldly
things: "Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are
above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Mind the things
that are above, not the things that are upon the earth."
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. Eph., iv. 10.
2. "Ibid.," i. 20-22
3. Dan., vii. 13.
4. Mark, xvi. 19.
5. "In these words we observe a figure of speech, that is, the changing of
a word from its literal to a figurative meaning, something which is not
infrequent in the Scriptures: for when accommodating its language to human
ideas, it attributes human affections and human members to God, who is pure
spirit and can admit of nothing corporeal. For, just as among men, he who
sits at the right hand is considered to occupy the most honored place: so,
transferring the idea to heavenly things to express the glory which Christ
as Man enjoys above all others, we say that He sits at the right hand of
His Eternal Father. Now, this does not mean actual position and figure of
body, but declares the fixed and permanent possession of royal and supreme
power and glory which Christ received from the Father" ("Roman Catechism,"
Sixth Article, 3).
6. Isa., xiv. 13-14.
7. Ps. cix. 1.
8. John, xvi. 28.
9. "lbid.," iii. 13.
10. "He ascended by His own power, not by the power of another as did
Elias, who was taken up into heaven in a fiery chariot (IV Kings, ii. 1);
or as the prophet Habacuc (Dan., xiv. 35); or Philip, the deacon. who was
borne through the air by the divine power and traversed the distant regions
of the earth (Acts, viii. 39). Neither did He ascend into heaven solely by
the exercise of His supreme power as God. but also, by virtue of the power
which He possessed as Man; although human power alone was insufficient to
raise Him from the dead, yet the virtue with which the blessed soul of
Christ was endowed, was capable of moving the body as it pleased, and His
body, now glorified, readily obeyed the soul that moved it" ("Roman
Catechism," "loc. cit.," 2).
11. Cant., i. 3.
12. Matt., xxiv. 28.
13. Apoc., iii. 21.
14. Phil., ii. 8.
15. Luke, xiv. 11.
16. Eph., iv. 10.
17. Mich., ii. 13.
18. John, xiv. 2.
19. Matt., vi. 21.
20. Col., iii. 1.
THE SEVENTH ARTICLE: "From thence He shall come to judge the living and the
It is of the office of the King and Lord to pronounce judgment: "The king
that sitteth on the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with His
look." Since Christ, therefore, ascended into heaven and sits at the right
hand of God as Lord of all, it is clear that His is the office of Judge.
For this reason we say in the rule of Catholic faith that "He shall come to
judge the living and the dead." Indeed the Angels have said that: "This
Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven shall so come as you have seen
Him going into heaven."
We shall consider three facts about the judgment: (1) the form of the
judgment; (2) the fear of the judgment; (3) our preparation for the
THE FORM OF THE JUDGMENT
Now, concerning the form of the judgment there is a threefold question. Who
is the judge, who are to be judged, and upon what will they be judged?
Christ is the Judge: "It is He who is appointed by God to be judge of the
living and of the dead." We may here interpret "the dead" to mean sinners
and "the living" to mean the just; or "the living" to refer to those who at
that time were living and "the dead" to mean those who had died. Christ of
a certain is Judge, not only in that He is God, but also in that He is man.
The first reason for this is because it is necessary that they who are to
be judged may see the Judge. But the Godhead is so wholly delightful that
no one could behold it without great enjoyment; and hence the damned are
not permitted to see the Judge, nor in consequence to enjoy anything.
Christ, therefore, of necessity will appear in the form of man so that He
may be seen by all: "And He hath given Him power to do judgment, because He
is the Son of man." Again Christ deserved this office as Man, for as Man
He was unjustly judged, and therefore God constitutes Him Judge of the
entire world: "Thy cause hath been judged as that of the wicked. Cause and
judgment Thou shalt recover." And, lastly, if God alone should judge men,
they, being terrified, would despair; but this despair disappears from men
if they are to be judged by a Man: "And then they shall see the Son of man
coming in a cloud."
WHO ARE TO BE JUDGED?
All are to be judged--those who are, who were, and who will be: "We must
all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may
receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether
it be good or evil." There are, says St. Gregory, four different classes
of people to be judged. The chief difference is between the good and the
Of the wicked, some will be condemned but not judged. They are the infidels
whose works are not to be discussed because, as St. John says: "He that
doth not believe is already judged." Others will be both condemned and
judged. They are those possessing the faith who departed this life in
mortal sin: "For the wages of sin is death." They shall not be excluded
from the judgment because of the faith which they possessed.
Of the good also, some will be saved and shall not be judged. they are the
poor in spirit for God's sake who rather shall judge others: "Amen, I say
to you that you, who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of
man shall sit on the seat of His majesty, you also shall sit on twelve
seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Now, this is not to be
understood only of the disciples, but of all those who are poor in spirit;
for otherwise Paul, who labored more than others, would not be among this
number. These words, therefore, must refer also to all the followers of the
apostles and to all apostolic men: "Know you not that we shall judge
Angels? "The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of His
people and its princes."
Others shall both be saved and judged, that is, they who die in a state of
righteousness. For although they departed this life in justice,
nevertheless they fell somewhat amiss in the business of temporal matters,
and hence shall be judged but saved. The judgment will be upon all their
deeds good and bad: "Walk in the ways of thy heart, . . . and know that for
all these God will bring thee into judgment." "And all things that are
done, God will bring into judgment for every error, whether it be good or
evil." Even idle words shall be judged: "But I say to you that every idle
word hat men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of
judgment." And thoughts also: "For inquisition shall be made into the
thought of the ungodly." Thus, the form of the judgment is clear.
THE FEAR OF THE JUDGMENT
The judgment ought indeed to be feared. (a) Because of the wisdom of the
Judge. God knows all things, our thoughts, words and deeds, and "all things
are naked and open to his eyes. "All the ways of men are open to His
eyes." He knows our words: "The ear of jealousy heareth all things."
Also our thoughts: "The heart is perverse above all things and
unsearchable. Who can know it? I am the Lord, who search the heart and
prove the reins; who give to every one according to his way and according
to the fruit of his devices." There will be infallible witnesses-- men's
own consciences: "Who show the work of the law written in their hearts,
their conscience bearing witness to them; and their thoughts between
themselves accusing or also defending one another, in the day when God
shall judge the secrets of men."
(b) Because of the power of the Judge, who is almighty in Himself: "Behold,
the Lord God will come with strength." And also almighty in others: "The
whole world shall fight with Him against the unwise." Hence, Job says:
"Whereas there is no man that can deliver out of Thy hand." "If I ascend
into heaven, Thou art there; if I descend into hell, Thou art present,"
says the Psalmist.
(c) Because of the inflexible justice of the Judge. The present is the time
for mercy; but the future is the time solely for justice; and so the
present is our time, but the future is God's time: "When I shall take a
time, I shall judge justices." "The jealousy and rage of the husband will
not spare in the day of revenge. Nor will he yield to any man's prayers;
nor will he accept for satisfaction ever so many gifts."
(d) Because of the anger of the Judge. He shall appear in different ways to
the just and to the wicked. To the just, He will be pleasant and gracious:
"They will behold the King of beauty." To the wicked He will be angry and
pitiless, so that they may say to the mountains: "Fall upon us and hide us
from the wrath of the Lamb." But this anger of God does not bespeak in
Him any perturbation of soul, but rather the effect of His anger which is
the eternal punishment inflicted upon sinners.
OUR PREPARATION FOR THE JUDGMENT
Now, against this fear of the judgment we ought to have four remedies. The
first is good works: "Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that
which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same." The second is
confession and repentance for sins committed; and this ought to include
sorrow in thinking of hem, feeling of shame in confessing them, and all
severity in making satisfaction for them. And these will take away the
eternal punishment. The third is giving of alms, which makes all things
clean: "Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity; that when you
shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings." The fourth
is charity, viz., the love of God and our neighbor, for "charity covereth a
multitude of sins."
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. Prov., xx. 8.
2. Acts, i. 11.
3. Acts, x. 42.
4. John, v. 27.
5. Job, xxxvi. 17.
6. Luke, xxi. 27.
7. II Cor., v. 10.
8. John, iii. 18.
9. Rom., vi. 23.
10. Matt., xix. 28.
11. I Cor., vi. 3.
12. Isa., iii. 14.
13. Eccles., xi. 9.
14. "Ibid.," xii. 14.
15. Matt., xii. 36.
16. Wis., i. 9.
17. Heb., iv. 13.
18 Prov., xvi. 2.
19. Wis., i. 10.
20. Jerem. xvii. 9-10.
21. Rom., ii. 15-16.
22. Isa., xl. 10.
23. Wis., v. 21.
24. Job, x. 7.
25. Ps., cxxxviii. 8.
26. Ps., lxxiv. 3.
27. Prov., vi. 34-35.
28. Isa., xxxiii. 17.
29. Apoc., vi. 16.
30. Rom., xiii. 3.
31. Luke, xvi. 9.
32. I Peter, iv. 8.
THE EIGHTH ARTICLE: "I Believe in the Holy Ghost."
As we have said, the Word of God is the Son of God just as in a way the
word of man is the concept of his intellect. But sometimes man has a word
which is dead. This is when, for instance, he conceives what he ought to
do, but he has not the will to do it; or when one believes but does not
practise; then his faith is said to be dead, as St. James points out. The
word of God, however, is alive: "For the word of God is living." It is
necessary, therefore, that in God there be will and love. Thus, St.
Augustine says: "The word of God which we plan to speak is knowledge with
love." Now, as the Word of God is the Son of God, God's love is the Holy
Ghost. Hence, it is that one possesses the Holy Ghost when he loves God:
"The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost who is
given to us."
TEACHING OF THE NICENE CREED
There are some who held false opinions concerning the Holy Ghost. They
said, for instance, that He was only the servant and minister of God.
Hence, to remove these errors the holy Fathers added five phrases
concerning the Holy Ghost.
"The Holy Ghost, the Lord."--The first is, that although there are other
spirits, such as the Angels who are ministers of God (Art they not all
ministering spirits?), nevertheless the Holy Ghost is the Lord. "God is a
Spirit," and, "Now the Lord is a Spirit," and also, "Where the Spirit of
the Lord is, there is liberty." The reason is that He makes us love God
and cease to love the world. Thus, the Creed says: "In the Holy Ghost, the
"And Life-Giver."--The second phrase is there because the soul's life is to
be united to God, inasmuch as God is the life of the soul, and as truly as
the soul is the life of the body. Now, the Holy Ghost unites the soul to
God through love, because He is the love of God, and therefore He gives
life. "It is the spirit that quickeneth." Therefore, it is said: "and
"Who Proceeds from the Father and the Son."--The third is that the Holy
Ghost is one in substance with the Father and the Son; because as the Son
is the Word of the Father, so the Holy Spirit is the love both of the
Father and the Son, and, therefore, He proceeds from them both. Moreover,
just as the Word of God is of the same substance as the Father, so also is
Love [Holy Ghost] of the same substance as the Father and the Son. Hence,
it is said: "who proceedeth from the Father and the Son." From this it is
seen that the Holy Spirit is not a Creature.
"Who . . . is Adored and Glorified."--The fourth phrase is that the Holy
Ghost as regards adoration is equal to the Father and the Son: "The true
adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and truth." "Teach ye all
nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the
Holy Ghost." Hence, it is said: "Who together with the Father and the Son
"Who Spoke by the Prophets."--The fifth phrase, wherein the Holy Ghost is
declared equal to God, is that the holy prophets spoke on behalf of God. It
is clear that, if the Holy Ghost were not God, then it would not be said
that the prophets had spoken of God on His behalf. Thus, says St. Peter:
"The holy men of God spoke, inspired by the Holy Ghost." Also: "The Lord
God hath sent me, and His Spirit." And so it is said: "Who spoke by the
In all this two errors are condemned. The Manicheans said that the Old
Testament was not from God. But this is false because the Holy Spirit spoke
through the prophets. Likewise, the error of Priscillian and Montanus was
that they believed that the prophets did not speak by the Holy Ghost but
were somewhat beside themselves.
BENEFITS FROM THE HOLY GHOST
Many benefits come to us from the Holy Ghost. (1) He cleanses us from our
sins. The reason is that one must repair that which one has made. Now, the
soul is created by the Holy Spirit, because God has made all things through
Him; for God, by loving His goodness, created everything: "Thou lovest all
things that are, and hatest none of the things which Thou hast made."
Thus, Dionysius says: "Divine love did not permit Him to be without
offspring." It is necessary, therefore, that the hearts of men, destroyed
by sin, be made anew by the Holy Ghost: "Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit,
and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth."
Nor is it any wonder that the Spirit cleanses, since all sins are taken
away by love: "Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much."
"Charity covereth all sins." And likewise: "Charity covereth a multitude
(2) The Holy Spirit enlightens the intellect, since all that we know, we
know through the Holy Ghost: "But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the
Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring all
things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you." Also: "His
unction teacheth you all things."
(3) He assists us and, to a certain extent, compels us to keep the
commandments. No one can keep the commandments unless he loves God: "If any
one love Me, he will keep My word." Thus, the Holy Spirit makes us love
God: "And I give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I
will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and will give you a heart
of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in the midst of you; and I will cause
you to walk in My commandments and to keep My judgments and do them."
(4) He strengthens in us the hope of eternal life, because He is the pledge
to us of this our destiny: "You were signed with the Holy Spirit of promise
who is the pledge of our inheritance." He is, as it were, the surety of
our eternal life. The reason is that eternal life is due to man inasmuch as
he is become the son of God; and this is brought about in that he is made
like unto Christ; and this, in turn, follows from his having the Spirit of
Christ, and this is the Holy Ghost: "For you have not received the spirit
of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of
sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father). For the Spirit Himself giveth
testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God." And also: "Because
you are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying:
(5) He counsels us when we are in doubt, and teaches us what is the will of
God: "He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the
churches." Likewise: "I may hear him as a master."
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.
1. See above, p. 17.
2. "So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself" (James, ii.
3. Heb., iv. 12.
4. "De Trinitate," ix. 1O.
5. Rom., v. 5.
6. "And I believe in the Holy Ghost, (1) the Lord and (2) Life-giver, (3)
who proceeds from the Father and the son: (4) who together with the Father
and the son is adored and glorified (5) who spoke by the Prophets" (The
7. Heb, i. 14.
8. lohn, iv. 24.
9. II Cor., iii. 17.
11. "Cum ipse Deus sit vita animae, sicut anima vita corporis."
12. John, vi. 64.
13. John, iv. 23.
14. Matt., xxviii. 19.
15. "The Holy Ghost is equally God with the Father and the Son, equaily
omnipoent, eternal, perfect, the supreme good, infinitely wise and of the
same nature with the Father and the Son. . . . If the Father is God, and
the son, God, we must confess that the Holy Ghost, who is united with them
in the same degree of honor, is also God. . . . The Holy Ghost is God, the
third Person in the divine nature, distinct from the Father and the son,
and produced by their will" ("Roman Catechism," Eighth Article, 4-5).
16. II Peter, i. 21.
17. Isa., xlviii. 16.
18. Wis., xi. 25.
19 Div. Nom., IV.
20. Ps. ciii. 30.
21. Luke, vii. 47.
22. Prov., x. 12.
23. I Peter, iv. 8.
24. John, xiv. 26.
25. I John, ii. 27.
26. John, xiv. 23.
27. Ezech., xxxvi. 26-27.
28. Eph., i. 13.
29. Rom., viii. 15-16.
30. Gal., iv. 6.
31. Apoc., ii. 7
32. Isa., l. 4.
THE NINTH ARTICLE: "I Believe in the Holy Catholic Church."
We see that in a man there are one soul and one body; and of his body there
are many members. So also the Catholic Church is one body and has different
members. The soul which animates this body is the Holy Spirit. Hence,
after confessing our faith in the Holy Ghost, we are bid to believe in the
Holy Catholic Church. Thus, in the Symbol it is said, "the Holy Catholic
It must be known that "church" is the same as assembly. So, the Holy
Church is the same as the assembly of the faithful, and every Christian is
a member of this Church, of which it is written: "Draw near to Me, ye
unlearned; and gather yourselves together into the house of discipline."
The Church has four essential conditions, in that she is one, holy,
catholic, and strong and firm.
THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH
Of the first, it must be known that the Church is one. Although various
heretics have founded various sects, they do not belong to the Church,
since they are but so many divisions. Of her it is said: "One is My dove;
My perfect one is but one." The unity of the Church arises from three
(1) the unity of faith. All Christians who are of the body of the Church
believe the same doctrine. "I beseech you . . . that you all speak the same
thing and that there be no schisms among you." And: "One Lord, one faith,
(2) the unity of hope. All are strengthened in one hope of arriving at
eternal life. Hence, the Apostle says: "One body and one Spirit, as you are
called in one hope of your calling;"
(3) the unity of charity. All are joined together in the love of God, and
to each other in mutual love: "And the glory which Thou hast given Me, I
have given them; that they may be one, as We also are one." It is clear
that this is a true love when the members are solicitous for one another
and sympathetic towards each other: "We may in all things grow up in Him
who is the head, Christ. From whom the whole body, being compacted, and
fitly joined together, by what every joint supplieth, according to the
operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto
the edifying of itself in charity." This is because each one ought to
make use of the grace God grants him, and be of service to his neighbor. No
one ought to be indifferent to the Church, or allow himself to be cut off
and expelled from it; for there is but one Church in which men are saved,
just as outside of the ark of Noah no one could be saved.
THE HOLINESS OF THE CHURCH
Concerning the second mark, holiness, it must be known that there is indeed
another assembly, but it consists of the wicked: "I hate the assembly of
the malignant." But such a one is evil; the Church of Christ, however, is
holy: "For the temple of God is holy, which you are." Hence, it is said:
"the Holy Church."
The faithful of this Church are made holy because of four things: (1) Just
as a church is cleansed materially when it is consecrated, so also the
faithful are washed in the blood of Christ: "Jesus Christ . . . who hath
loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." And: "That He
might sanctify the people by his blood, suffered without the gate." (2)
Just as there is the anointing of the church, so also the faithful are
anointed with a spiritual unction in order to be sanctified. Otherwise they
would not be Christians, for Christ is the same as Anointed. This anointing
is the grace of the Holy Spirit: "He that confirmeth us with you in Christ
and that hath anointed us, is God." And: "You are sanctified . . . in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (3) The faithful are made holy because of
the Trinity who dwells in the Church; for wheresoever God dwells, that
place is holy. "The place whereon thou standest is holy." And: "Holiness
becometh Thy house, O Lord." (4) Lastly, the faithful are sanctified
because God is invoked in the Church: "But Thou, O Lord, art among us, and
Thy name is called upon by us; forsake us not." Let us, therefore,
beware, seeing that we are thus sanctified, lest by sin we defile our soul
which is the temple of God: "Know you not that you are the temple of God
and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? But if any man violate the
temple of God, him shall God destroy."
THE CATHOLICITY OR UNIVERSALITY OF THE CHURCH
The Church is Catholic, that is, universal. Firstly, it is universal in
place, because it is worldwide. This is contrary to the error of the
Donatists. For the Church is a congregation of the faithful; and since
the faithful are in every part of the world, so also is the Church: "Your
faith is spoken of in the whole world." And also: "Go ye into the whole
world and preach the gospel to every creature. Long ago, indeed, God was
known only in Judea; now, however, He is known throughout the entire world.
The Church has three parts: one is on earth, one is in heaven, and one is
in purgatory. Secondly, the Church is universal in regard to all the
conditions of mankind; for no exceptions are made, neither master nor
servant, neither man nor woman: "Neither bond nor free; there is neither
male nor female.". Thirdly, it is universal in time. Some have said that
the Church will exist only up to a certain time. But this is false, for the
Church began to exist in the time of Abel and will endure up to the end of
the world: "Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the
world." Nay more, even after the end of the world, it will continue to
exist in heaven.
THE APOSTOLICITY OF THE CHURCH
The Church is firm. A house is said to be firm if it has a solid
foundation. The principal foundation of the Church is Christ: "For other
foundation no men can lay but that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus."
The secondary foundation, however, is the Apostles and their teaching.
Therefore, the Church is firm. It is said in the Apocalypse that the city
has "twelve foundations," and therein were "written the names of the twelve
Apostles." From this the Church is called Apostolic. Likewise, to
indicate this firmness of the Church St. Peter is called the crowning
The firmness of a house is evident if, when it is violently struck, it does
not fall. The Church similarly can never be destroyed, neither by
persecution nor by error. Indeed, the Church grew during the persecutions,
and both those who persecuted her and those against whom she threatened
completely failed: "And whosoever shall fall upon this stone, shall be
broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder."
As regards errors, indeed, the more errors arise, the more surely truth is
made to appear: "Men corrupt in mind, reprobate in faith; but they shall
proceed no further."
Nor shall the Church be destroyed by the temptations of the demons. For she
is like a tower towards which all flee who war against the devil: "The name
of the Lord is a strong tower." The devil, therefore, is chiefly intent
on destroying the Church, but he will not succeed, for the Lord has said:
"The gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
This is as if He said: "They shall make war against thee, but they shall
not overcome thee." And thus it is that only the Church of Peter (to whom
it was given to evangelize Italy when the disciples were sent to preach)
was always firm in faith. On the contrary, in other parts of the world
there is either no faith at all or faith mixed with many errors. The Church
of Peter flourishes in faith and is free from error. This, however, is not
to be wondered at, for the Lord has said to Peter: "But I have prayed for
thee, that thy faith fail not; and thou, being once converted, confirm thy
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. "For as the body is one and hath many members; and all the members of
the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ. For
in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body. . . . For the body also
is not one member, but many" (I Cor., xii. 12-14). For St. Paul's admirable
description of the Church, Christ's mystical body, see all of this chapter.
2. "The word "ecclesia" (church) which is borrowed by the Latins from the
Greek has been applied since the preaching of the Gospel to sacred things.
The word "ecclesia" (church) means a calling forth, but writers afterwards
used it to mean a council or assembly. . . . However, in the ordinary sense
used in the Scriptures, the word was afterwards used to designate the
Christian society only, and the assemblies of the faithful: that is, of
those who were called by faith to the light of truth, and the knowledge of
God" ("Roman Catechism," Ninth Article, 2).
3. Ecclus., li. 31.
4. "The distinctive marks of the Church are also to be made known to the
faithful that they thus may be able to appreciate the extent of the
blessing conferred by God on those who have the happiness to be born and
educated in her fold" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 2).
5. Cant., vi. 8.
6. I Cor., i. 10.
7. Eph., iv. 5.
8. "Ibid." 4.
9. John, xvii. 22.
10. Eph., iv. 15-16.
11. Ps. xxv. 5.
12. I Cor., iii. 17.
13. Apoc., i. 5.
14. Heb., xiii. 12.
15. II Cor., i. 21.
16. I Cor., vi. 11.
17. Josue, v. 16; cfr. also Gen., xxviii. 16.
18. Ps. xcii, 5.
19. Jerem., xiv. 9.
20. I Cor., iii. 16-17. "It should not be considered surprising that the
Church, although among her children are many sinners, is called holy. For
as those who profess any art, even though they may violate its rules, are
still artists, so the faithful, although offending in many things and
violating the promises which they have made, are still called holy, because
they are made the people of God, and are consecrated to Christ by baptism
and faith" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 15).
21. A sect which existed chiefly in Africa for about a century (311-411).
22. Rom., i. 8.
23. Mark. xvi. 15.
24. Gal., iii. 28.
25. Matt., xxviii. 20.
26. I Cor., iii. 11.
27. Apoc., xxi. 14.
28. As it is spoken of by Our Lord: "And I say to thee that thou art Peter;
and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it" (Matt., xvi. 18).
29. That is, enemies of the Church who in one or other ways resisted the
authority or teachings of the Church.
30. Matt., xxi. 44.
31. Tim., iii. 8.
32. Prov., xviii. 10.
33. Matt., xvi. 18.
34. Luke, xxii. 32.
THE TENTH ARTICLE: "The Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins."
As in our natural body the operation of one member works for the good of
the entire body, so also is it with a spiritual body, such as is the
Church. Because all the faithful are one body, the good of one member is
communicated to another: "And every one members, one of another." So,
among the points of faith which the Apostles have handed down is that there
is a common sharing of good in the Church. This is expressed in the words,
"the Communion of Saints." Among the various members of the Church, the
principal member is Christ, because He is the Head: "He hath made Him head
over all the Church, which is His body." Christ communicates His good,
just as the power of the head is communicated to all the members.
THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS: A REVIEW
This communication takes place through the Sacraments of the Church in
which operate the merits of the passion of Christ, which in turn operates
for the conferring of grace unto the remission of sins. These Sacraments of
the Church are seven in number.
"Baptism."--The first is Baptism which is a certain spiritual regeneration.
Just as there can be no physical life unless man is first born in the
flesh, so spiritual life or grace cannot be had unless man is spiritually
reborn. This rebirth is effected through Baptism: "Unless a man be born
again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of
God." It must be known that, just as a man can be born but once, so only
once is he baptized. Hence, the holy Fathers put into the Nicene Creed: "I
confess one baptism." The power of Baptism consists in this, that it
cleanses from all sins as regards both their guilt and their punishment.
For this reason no penance is imposed on those who are baptized, no matter
to what extent they had been sinners. Moreover, if they should die
immediately after Baptism, they would without delay go to heaven. Another
result is that, although only priests "ex officio" may baptize, yet any one
may baptize in case of necessity, provided that the proper form of Baptism
is used. This is: "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost." This Sacrament receives its power from the
passion of Christ. "All we who are baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized in
His death." Accordingly there is a threefold immersion in water after the
three days in which Christ was in the sepulchre.
"Confirmation."--The second Sacrament is Confirmation. Just as they who are
physically born need certain powers to act, so those who are reborn
spiritually must have the strength of the Holy Spirit which is imparted to
them in this Sacrament. In order that they might become strong, the
Apostles received the Holy Spirit after the Ascension of Christ: "Stay you
in the city till you be endowed with power from on high." This power is
given in the Sacrament of Confirmation. They, therefore, who have the care
of children should be very careful to see that they be confirmed, because
great grace is conferred in Confirmation. He who is confirmed will, when he
dies, enjoy greater glory than one not confirmed, because greater grace
will be his.
"Holy Eucharist."--The Eucharist is the third Sacrament. In the physical
life, after man is born and acquires powers, he needs food to sustain and
strengthen him. Likewise in the spiritual life, after being fortified, he
has need of spiritual food; this is the Body of Christ: "Except you eat the
flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you
" According to the prescribed law of the Church, therefore, every
Christian must at least once a year receive the Body of Christ, and in a
worthy manner and with a clean conscience: "For he that eateth and drinketh
unworthily [that is, by being conscious of unconfessed mortal sin on his
soul, or with no intent to abstain from it] eateth and drinketh judgment to
"Penance."--The fourth Sacrament is Penance. In the physical life, one who
is sick and does not have recourse to medicine, dies; so in the spiritual
order, one becomes ill because of sin. Thus, medicine is necessary for
recovery of health; and this is the grace which is conferred in the
Sacrament of Penance: "Who forgiveth all thy iniquities; who healeth all
thy diseases." Three things must be present in the Sacrament of Penance:
contrition, which is sorrow for sin together with a resolution not to sin
again; confession of sins, as far as possible entire; and satisfaction
which is accomplished by good works.
"Extreme Unction."--Extreme Unction is the fifth Sacrament. In this life
there are many things which prevent one from a perfect purification from
one's sins. But since no one can enter into eternal life until he is well
cleansed, there is need of another Sacrament which will purify man of his
sins, and both free him from sickness and prepare him for entry into the
heavenly kingdom. This is the Sacrament of Extreme Unction. That this
Sacrament does not always restore health to the body is due to this, that
perhaps to live is not to the advantage of the soul's salvation. "Is any
man sick amongst you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church and let
them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the
prayer of faith shall save the sick man. And the Lord shall raise him up;
and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him." It is now clear that
the fullness of life is had from these five Sacraments.
"Holy Orders."--It is necessary that these Sacraments be administered by
chosen ministers. Therefore, the Sacrament of Orders is necessary, by whose
powers these Sacraments are dispensed. Nor need one note the life of such
ministers, if here and there one fail in his office, but remember the
virtue of Christ through whose merits the Sacraments have their efficacy,
and in whose Name the ministers are but dispensers: "Let a man so account
of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of
God." This then is the sixth Sacrament, namely, Orders.
"Matrimony."--The seventh Sacrament is Matrimony, and in it men, if they
live uprightly, are saved; and thereby they are enabled to live without
mortal sin. Sometimes the partners in marriage fall into venial sin, when
their concupiscence does not extend beyond the rights of matrimony; but if
they do go beyond such rights, they sin mortally.
THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS
By these seven Sacraments we receive the remission of sins, and so in the
Creed there follows immediately: "the forgiveness of sins." The power was
given to the Apostles to forgive sins. We must believe that the ministers
of the Church receive this power from the Apostles; and the Apostles
received it from Christ; and thus the priests have the power of binding and
loosing. Moreover, we believe that there is the full power of forgiving
sins in the Church, although it operates from the highest to the lowest,
i.e., from the Pope down through the prelates.
THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS
We must also know that not only the efficacy of the Passion of Christ is
communicated to us, but also the merits of His life; and, moreover, all the
good that all the Saints have done is communicated to all who are in the
state of grace, because all are one: "I am a partaker of all them that fear
Thee." Therefore, he who lives in charity participates in all the good
that is done in the entire world; but more specially does he benefit for
whom some good work is done; since one man certainly can satisfy for
another. Thus, through this communion we receive two benefits. One is
that the merits of Christ are communicated to all; the other is that the
good of one is communicated to another. Those who are excommunicated,
however, because they are cut off from the Church, forfeit their part of
all the good that is done, and this is a far greater loss than being bereft
of all material things. There is a danger lest the devil impede this
spiritual help in order to tempt one; and when one is thus cut off, the
devil can easily overcome him. Thus it was in the primitive Church that,
when one was excommunicated, the devil even physically attacked him.
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. Rom., xii. 5.
2. "The evangelist St. John, writing to the faithful on the divine
mysteries, tells them that he undertook to instruct them on the subject;
'that you,' he says, 'may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship be
with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ' (I John, i. 3). Now, this
fellowship consists in the Communion of Saints. . . This Article is, as it
were, a sort of explanation of the preceding one, which takes up the unity,
sanctity, and catholicity of the Church. For the unity of the Spirit, by
which she is governed, establisha among all her members a community of
spiritual blessings, whereas the fruit of all the Sacraments, particularly
Baptism, the door, as it were, by which we are admitted into the Church,
are so many connecting links which blnd and unite them to Jesus Christ."
The "Roman Catechism" makes the Communion of Saints the last part of the
Ninth Article of the Creed; and the Tenth Article is the forgiveness of
Sins ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 24-25).
3. Eph. i. 22.
4. John iii. 5.
5. Rom., vi. 3.
6. Immersion is the act of dipping or plunging the subject into the water
used in the administration of Baptism. It was a method generally employed
in the early Church, and was still in vogue at the time ot St. Thomas. The
Greek Church still retains it; but though valid, for obvious reasons
immersion is practically no longer employed in the Latin Church. It is
practiscd by some sects to-day in America.
7. Luke, xxiv. 49.
8. John, vi. 54
9. I Cor., xi. 29.
10. Ps. cii. 3.
11. James, v. 1 4- 15.
12. Cor., iv. 1.
13. See the "Explanation of the Sacraments," p. 130; and "The
Commandments." p. 99.
14. Baptism and Penance are called Sacraments of the dead, because they
take away sin and give the first grace of justification. The other five
Sacraments are called Sacraments of the living, because one who receives
them worthily is already living the life of grace. But the Sacraments of
the living produce the first grace when the subject, guilty of a grievous
fault, approaches the Sacraments in good faith, that is to say, with the
invincible ignorance of his fault, and with attrition (cfr. Pourrat,
"Theology of the Sacraments," St. Louis, 1914, p. 201).
15. "For Our Lord did not give the power of so sacred a ministry to all,
but to bishops and priests only. The same must be said regarding the manner
in which the power is to be exercised; for sin can be forgiven only through
the Sacraments, when duly administered. The Church has received no power
otherwise to remit sins. Hence it follows that in the forgiveness of sins
both priests and Sacraments are, as it were, the instruments which Christ,
Our Lord, the Author and giver of salvation, make use of to accomplish in
us pardon of sin and the grace of justification" ("Roman Catechism." loc.
16. Ps. cxviii. 63.
17. "But there is also another Communion in the Church which demands
attention; every pious and holy action done by one belongs to and becomes
profitable to all, through charity which 'seeks not her own' " ("Roman
Catechism," "loc. cit.," 25).
18. "The advantage of so many and such exalted blessings bestowed by
Almighty God are especially enjoyed by those who lead a Christian life in
charity and are just and beloved of God" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.,"
THE ELEVENTH ARTICLE: "The Resurrection of the Body."
Not only does the Holy Spirit sanctify the Church as regards the souls of
its members, but also our bodies shall rise again by His power: "We believe
in Him that raised up Jesus Christ, Our Lord, from the dead." And: "By a
man came death: and by a Man the resurrection of the dead." In this there
occur four considerations: (1) the benefits which proceed from our faith in
the resurrection; (2) the qualities of those who shall rise, taken all in
general; (3) the condition of the blessed; (4) the condition of the damned.
THE BENEFITS OF THE RESURRECTION
Concerning the first, our faith and hope in the resurrection is beneficial
in four ways. Firstly, it takes away the sorrow which we feel for the
departed. It is impossible for one not to grieve over the death of a
relative or friend; but the hope that such a one will rise again greatly
tempers the pain of parting: "And we will not have you ignorant, brethren,
concerning them that are asleep, that you be not sorrowful, even as others
who have no hope."
Secondly, it takes away the fear of death. If one does not hope in another
and better life after death, then without doubt one is greatly in fear of
death and would willingly commit any crime rather than suffer death. But
because we believe in another life which will be ours after death, we do
not fear death, nor would we do anything wrong through fear of it: "That,
through death He might destroy him who had the empire of death, that is to
say, the devil. And might deliver them who through fear of death were all
their lifetime subject of servitude."
Thirdly, it makes us watchful and careful to live uprightly. If, however,
this life in which we live were all, we would not have this great incentive
to live well, for whatever we do would be of little importance, since it
would be regulated not by eternity, but by brief, determined time. But we
believe that we shall receive eternal rewards in the resurrection for
whatsoever we do here. Hence, we are anxious to do good: "If in this life
only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."
Finally, it withdraws us from evil. Just as the hope of reward urges us to
do good, so also the fear of punishment, which we believe is reserved for
wicked deeds, keeps us from evil: "But they that have done good things
shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done
evil, unto the resurrection of judgment."
QUALITIES OF THE RISEN BODIES
There is a fourfold condition of all those who shall take part in the
(a) The Identity of the Bodies of the Risen.--It will be the same body as
it is now, both as regards its flesh and its bones. Some, indeed, have said
that it will not be this same body which is corrupted that shall be raised
up; but such view is contrary to the Apostle: "For this corruptible must
put on incorruption." And likewise the Sacred Scripture says that by the
power of God this same body shall rise to life: "And I shall be clothed
again with my skin; and in my flesh I shall see my God."
(b) The Incorruptibility of the Risen Bodies.--The bodies of the risen
shall be of a different quality from that of the mortal body, because they
shall be incorruptible, both of the blessed, who shall be ever in glory,
and of the damned, who shall be ever in punishments: "For this corruptible
must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immortality." And
since the body will be incorruptible and immortal, there will no longer be
the use of food or of the marriage relations: "For in the resurrection they
shall neither marry nor be married, but shall be as the Angels of God in
heaven." This is directly against the Jews and Mohammedans: "Nor shall he
return any more into his house."
(c) The Integrity of the Risen Bodies.--Both the good and the wicked shall
rise with all soundness of body which is natural to man. He will not be
blind or deaf or bear any kind of physical defect: "The dead shall rise
again incorruptible," this is to mean, wholly free from the defects of
the present life.
(d) The Age of the Risen Bodies.--All will rise in the condition of perfect
age, which is of thirty-two or thirty-three years. This is because all who
were not yet arrived at this age, did not possess this perfect age, and the
old had already lost it. Hence, youths and children will be given what they
lack, and what the aged once had will be restored to them: "Until we all
attain the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a
perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ."
CONDITION OF THE BLESSED
It must be known that the good will enjoy a special glory because the
blessed will have glorified bodies which will be endowed with four gifts.
(a) Brilliance.--"Then shall the just shine as the sun in the kingdom of
(b) Impassibility (i.e., Incapability of Receiving Action).--"It is sown in
dishonor; it shall rise in glory." 16 "And God shall wipe away all tears
from their eyes; and death shall be no more. Nor mourning, nor crying, nor
sorrow shall be anymore, for the former things are passed away."
(c) Agility.--"The just shall shine and shall run to and fro like sparks
among the reeds."
(d) Subtility.--"It is sown a natural body; it shall rise a spiritual
body." This is in the sense of not being altogether a spirit, but that
the body will be wholly subject to the spirit.
CONDITION OF THE DAMNED
It must also be known that the condition of the damned will be the exact
contrary to that of the blessed. Theirs is the state of eternal punishment,
which has a fourfold evil condition. The bodies of the damned will not be
brilliant: "Their countenances shall be as faces burnt." 20 Likewise they
shall be passible, because they shall never deteriorate and, although
burning eternally in fire, they shall never be consumed: "Their worm shall
not die and their fire shall not be quenched." They will be weighed down,
and the soul of the damned will be as it were chained therein: "To bind
their kings with fetters, and their nobles with manacles of iron."
Finally, they will be in a certain manner fleshly both in soul and body:
"The beasts have rotted in their dung."
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. Rom., iv. 24.
2. I Cor., xv. 21. "In this Article the resurrection of mankind is called
'the resurrection of the body.' The Apostles had for object thus to convey
an important truth, the immortality of the soul. Lest, therefore, contrary
to the Sacred Scripturess, which in many places clearly teach the soul to
be immortal, any one may imagine that it dies with the body, and denies
that both are to be raised up, the Creed speaks only of 'the resurrection
of the body' " ("Roman Catechism," Eleventh Article, 2).
3. I Thess., iv. 12.
4. Heb., ii. 14.
5. I Cor., xv. 19.
6. John, v. 29
7. I Cor., xv. 53.
8. Job, xix. 26. "The identical body which belongs to each one of us during
life shall, though corrupt, and dissolved into its original dust, be raised
up again to life. . . . Man is, therefore, to rise again in the same body
with which he served God, or was a slave to the devil that in the same body
he may experience rewards and a crown of victory, or endure the severest
punishments and everlasting torments" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 7).
9. I Cor., xv. 53
10. Matt., xxii. 30.
11. Job. vii. 10. "To omit many other points, the chief difference between
the state of all bodies when risen from the dead, and what they had
previously been, is that before the resurrection they were subject to
dissolution; but when reanimated they shall all, without distinction of
good and bad, be invested with immortality. This marvellous restoration of
nature is the result of the glorious victory of Christ over death" ("Roman
Catechism," "loc. cit.," 12).
12. I Cor., xv. 52.
13. "Not only will the body rise, but it will rise endowed with whatever
constitutes the reality of its nature and adorns and ornaments man. . . .
The members, because essential to the integrity of human nature, shall all
be restored. . . . For the resurrection like the creation, is clearly to be
accounted among the chief works of God. And as at the creation all things
came perfect from the hand of God, so at the resurrection all things shall
be perfectly restored by the same omnipotent hand" ("Roman Catechism,"
"loc. cit.," 9).
14. Eph., iv. 13.
15. Matt., xiii. 43. "This brightness is a sort of refulgence reflected
from the supreme happiness of the soul; it is an emanation of the beatitude
which it enjoys and which shines through the body. Its communication is
like to the manner in which the soul itself is made happy, by a
participation of the happiness of God" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.,"
16. I Cor., xv. 43
17. Apoc., xxi. 4. "The first is 'impassibility,' which shall place them
beyond the reach of pain or inconvenience of any sort. . . . This quality
the Scholastics called 'impassibility,' not incorruption, in order to
distinguish it as a property peculiar to a glorified body. The bodies of
the damned shall not be impassible, though incorruptible; they shall be
capable of experiencing heat and cold and of feeling pain." ("Roman
18. Wis., iii. 7. "Agility, as it is called, is a quality by which the body
shall be freed from the heaviness that now presses it down; and shall
acquire a capability of moving with the utmost ease and quickness
wheresoever the soul pleases" ("Roman Catechism," "ibid.").
19. I Cor., xv. 44. "Another quality is that of subtility, a quality which
subjects the body to the absolute dominion of the soul, and to an entire
obedience to her control" ("Roman Catechism," "ibid.").
20. Isa., xiii. 8.
21. "Ibid., lxvi. 24.
22. Ps. cxlix. 8.
23. Joel, i. 17.
THE TWELFTH ARTICLE: "Life everlasting. Amen."
The end of all our desires, eternal life, is fittingly placed last among
those things to be believed; and the Creed says: "life everlasting. Amen."
They wrote this to stand against those who believe that the soul perishes
with the body. If this were indeed true, then the condition of man would be
just the same as that of the beasts. This agrees with what the Psalmist
says: "Man when he was in honor did not understand; he hath been compared
to senseless beasts, and made like to them." The human soul, however, is
in its immortality made like unto God, and in its sensuality alone is it
like the brutes. He, then, who believes that the soul dies with the body
withdraws it from this similarity to God and likens it to the brutes.
Against such it is said: "They knew not the secrets of God, nor hoped for
the wages of justice, nor esteemed the honor of holy souls. For God created
man incorruptible, and to the image of His own likeness He made him."
WHAT IS EVERLASTING LIFE?
We must first consider in this Article what is everlasting life. And in
this we must know that in everlasting life man is united to God. God
Himself is the reward and the end of all our labors: "I am thy protector,
and thy reward exceeding great." This union with God consists, firstly, in
a perfect vision: "We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then
face to face." Secondly, in a most fervent love; for the better one is
known, the more perfectly is one loved: "The Lord hath said it, whose fire
is in Sion, and His furnace in Jerusalem." Thirdly, in the highest praise.
"We shall see, we shall love, and we shall praise," as says St. Augustine.
"Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of
Then, too, in everlasting life is the full and perfect satisfying of every
desire; for there every blessed soul will have to overflowing what he hoped
for and desired. The reason is that in this life no one can fulfill all his
desires, nor can any created thing fully satisfy the craving of man. God
only satisfies and infinitely exceeds man's desires; and, therefore,
perfect satiety is found in God alone. As St. Augustine says: "Thou hast
made us for Thee, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in
Thee." Because the blessed in the Fatherland will possess God perfectly,
it is evident that their desires will be abundantly filled, and their glory
will exceed their hopes. The Lord has said: "Enter thou into the joy of the
Lord." And as St. Augustine says: "Complete joy will not enter into those
who rejoice, but all those who rejoice will enter into joy." "I shall be
satisfied when Thy glory shall appear." And again: "Who satisfieth thy
desire with good things."
THE FULLNESS OF DESIRES
Whatever is delightful will be there in abundant fullness. Thus, if
pleasures are desired, there will be the highest and most perfect pleasure,
for it derives from the highest good, namely, God: "Then shalt thou abound
in delights in the Almighty." "At the right hand are delights even to the
end." Likewise, if honors are desired, there too will be all honor. Men
wish particularly to be kings, if they be laymen; and to be bishops, if
they be clerics. Both these honors will be there: "And hath made us a
kingdom and priests." "Behold how they are numbered among the children of
God." If knowledge is desired, it will be there most perfectly, because
we shall possess in the life everlasting knowledge of all the natures of
things and all truth, and whatever we desire we shall know. And whatever we
desire to possess, that we shall have, even life eternal: "Now, all good
things come to me together with her." "To the just their desire shall be
Again, most perfect security is there. In this world there is no perfect
security; for in so far as one has many things, and the higher one's
position, the more one has to fear and the more one wants. But in the life
everlasting there is no anxiety, no labor, no fear.
"And My people shall sit in the beauty of peace," and "shall enjoy
abundance, without fear of evils."
Finally, in heaven there will be the happy society of all the blessed, and
this society will be especially delightful. Since each one will possess all
good together with the blessed, and they will love one another as
themselves, and they will rejoice in the others' good as their own. It will
also happen that, as the pleasure and enjoyment of one increases, so will
it be for all: "The dwelling in thee is as it were of all rejoicing."
WHAT IS EVERLASTING DEATH?
The perfect will enjoy all this in the life everlasting, and much more that
surpasses description. But the wicked, on the other hand, will be in
eternal death suffering pain and punishment as great as will be the
happiness and glory of the good. The punishment of the damned will be
increased, firstly, by their separation from God and from all good. This is
the pain of loss which corresponds to aversion, and is a greater punishment
than that of sense: "And the unprofitable servant, cast ye out into the
exterior darkness." The wicked in this life have interior darkness,
namely sin; but then they shall also have exterior darkness.
Secondly, the damned shall suffer from remorse of conscience: "I will
reprove thee, and set before thy face." "Groaning for anguish of
spirit." Nevertheless, their repentance and groaning will be of no avail,
because it rises not from hatred of evil, but from fear and the enormity of
their punishments. Thirdly, there is the great pain of sense. It is the
fire of hell which tortures the soul and the body; and this, as the Saints
tell us, is the sharpest of all punishments. They shall be ever dying, and
yet never die; hence it is called eternal death, for as dying is the
bitterest of pains, such will be the lot of those in hell: "They are laid
in hell like sheep; death shall feed upon them." Fourthly, there is the
despair of their salvation. If some hope of delivery from their punishments
would be given them, their punishment would be somewhat lessened; but since
all hope is withdrawn from them, their sufferings are made most intense:
"Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched.
We thus see the difference between doing good and doing evil. Good works
lead to life, evil drags us to death. For this reason, men ought frequently
to recall these things to mind, since they will incite one to do good and
withdraw one from evil. Therefore, very significantly, at the end of the
Creed is placed "life everlasting," so that it would be more and more
deeply impressed on the memory. To this life everlasting may the Lord Jesus
Christ, blessed God for ever, bring us! Amen.
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. Ps. xlviii. 21.
2. Wis., ii. 22-23. Note also: "And though in the sight of men they suffer
torments their hope is full of immortality" ("ibid.," iii. 4).
3. Gen., xv. 1.
4. I Cor., xiii. 12. "The blessed always see God present, and by this
greatest and most exalted of gifts, 'being made partakers of the divine
nature' (II Peter, i. 4), they enjoy true and solid happiness" ("Roman
Catechism," Twelfth Article, 9)
5. Isa., xxxi. 9. Note: This second consideration is found in the vives
edition Chapter XV
6. "Ibi vacabimus, et videbimus: videbimus, et amabimus: amabimus, et
laudabimus" ("There we shall rest and we shall see; we shall see and we
shall love; we shall love and we shall praise," in "The city of God," Book
XXII, Chapter xxx).
7. Isa., li. 3.
8. "Confessions," Book I, 1.
9. Matt., xxv. 21.
10. Ps. xvi. 15.
11. Ps. cii. 5.
12. Job, xxii. 26.
13. Ps. xv. 11. "To enumerate all the delights with which the souls of the
blessed will be filled, would be an endless task. We cannot even conceive
them in thought. The happiness of the Saints is filled to overflowing of
all those pleasures which can be enjoyed or even desired in this life,
whether they pertain to the powers of the mind or the perfection of the
body" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 12).
14. Apoc., v. 10
15. Wis., v. 5. "How distinguished that honor must be which is conferred by
God Himself, who no longer calls them servants, but friends, brethren, and
sons of God. Hence, the Redeemer will address His elect in these infinitely
loving and highly honorable words: 'Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess
you the kingdom prepared for you' " ("Roman Catechism." "loc. cit.," 11).
16. Wis.. vii. 11.
17. Prov., x. 24.
18. Isa., xxxii. 10. This is in the Vives edition, Chapter XV.
19. Prov., i. 33.
20. Ps. lxxxvi. 7.
21. Matt., xxv. 30.
22. Ps. xlix. 21.
23. Wis., v. 3.
24. Ps. xlviii. 15.
25. Isa., lxvi. 24.