Week 10 - The Life of Christ (p. 143-167)

The Creed jumps abruptly from "born of the Virgin Mary" to "He suffered under Pontius Pilate." Therefore at this point it is appropriate for the Catechism to say as much as possible about the life of Christ before dwelling upon the mystery of his his Passion.

The Historical Jesus
First, a word of caution. Much is made in contemporary scholarship about the "historical Jesus." You've probably heard of "The Quest for the Historical Jesus" before, and this website gives you an idea of the range of scholarship that is out there. The best historians have admitted the relative impossibility of this quest... because documentation from this period is so very limited. Luke Timothy Johnson (Catholic) and N.T. Wright (Anglican) do a great job of meeting and even exceeding the standards of modern scholarship, while still holding to their Christian commitment that Jesus is in fact who the New Testament and the Church says He is. By becoming a confirmed Catholic therefore, you will not of course be leaving solid scholarship behind. The fact of the matter is the best New Testament scholar of our era was a faithful Catholic! He being the recently deceased Father Raymond Brown.

Access to the real, historical, and risen Christ is available however to us through faith, and the Catechism in this section underscores the necessity "To become a child in relation to God" for this access to be realized (point 526). The Gospels were written from the perspective of faith in this risen Christ, to inspire faith in that Christ. The categories of historical "objectivity" were simply not in existence at the time of the writing of the Gospels (and furthermore such categories are increasingly out-of-fahion in the postmodern world). Measuring the Gospels by "objective history" standards would be like criticizing a horse because it doesn't have a steering wheel (see points 514 an 515). The Gospel's were not written to satisfy our contemporary curiosity, but to inspire belief.

Much is also made of the Gnostic Gospels. In short, the Church knew what it was doing when it rejected these documents as not on the same level of witness as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Perhaps this will be evidence enough to convince you: The last verse of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas reads as follows: When Peter sneers that “women are not worthy of Life,” Jesus responds, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male.... For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Ouch. If you need more information regarding the Gnostic Gospels, and specifically to understand The DaVinci Code which makes much of them, give these lectures from the Teaching Company a listen, specifically the first one; but they're both quite good, and accurate.

The Four Evangelists by Abraham Bloemaert 1615 - Go check it out at the Princeton Art Museum!
Learn about the symbolism of the four Gospels here.

The Life of Christ and the Church Year
Important to remember is that as Catholics, study of the life of Christ is not merely an intellectual exercise. Through the vehicle of the Church Year, the Catholic Christian meditates upon and is conformed and united to the life of Jesus Christ as he lived on earth in a different aspect with each Church Season.

The Church unites herself to the anticipation and Birth of Jesus Christ during, of course, the Season of Advent where the Catechism begins. One interesting part of this section is the discussion of the Magi's, signifying pagan and non-Christian anticipation of the birth of the Messiah. One of the most famous examples is the pagan Poet Virgil's Messianic eclogue, discussed here, and written well before the birth of Christ (point 538).

The Church unites herself to the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist of course in each indivdual baptism, and in each time water is used in a service to sprikle or bless (point 537)

The Church unites herself to Forty Day Temptation of Christ in the desert during, of course, the Season of Lent. (point 540)

The Church unites herself to the Teaching of Christ concerning the Kingdom of God by the Gospel reading which is given priority at each service of the Mass througout the year. During this seciton (point 541 onward...)

And of course the Church unites herself to the Passion of Christ through the Easter Triduum, but more on that next week.

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