An Explanation of the Apostle’s Creed – First Article of the Creed

detail from a painting of the 12 Apostles with their traditional lines from the Apostle's Creed, 1424; Lower Saxony State Museum, Hanover, Germany; photographed by Jean Louis Mazieres 24 December 2015; swiped from Wikimedia Commons“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.”


There is a God

A belief in the existence of God is the very foundation of all religion. Hence it is that the Christian believer begins his profession of faith, in the Creed, with the words, “I believe in God,” that is to say, “I believe that God exists, and I believe all that He reveals or teaches.”

Of this fundamental truth of the existence of God we have many powerful evidences, great in number, and unquestionable. Those unbelievers who, in their folly, say, “There is no God,” have no such proofs or evidence to adduce.

The following are some of the chief evidences of the existence of God:

The very existence of the universe

There must be an almighty and eternal Creator since there is a visible material world. By the “world” we mean not only the earth which we inhabit, but also the sun, moon, stars, the whole vast array of the countless solar systems.

Whence has all this vast creation come? Has it made itself? That is impossible. For inanimate matter (such as stones), which is in itself dead, could not have made or created itself. No house, no watch could have made itself. He would very properly be called a fool who would assert that the smallest and simplest peasant’s hut had erected itself. On the contrary, from the mere existence of a house we conclude that there was an architect, or at least a builder. Why, then, from the fact that the world exists should we not draw a similar conclusion – that there must be an almighty, invisible Architect and Maker? That is a poor subterfuge to which the pretending unbeliever is driven when, notwithstanding the existence of the world, he tries to deny the existence of a Creator, saying, “All that exists on the earth has been produced by the forces of nature, which work according to fixed laws.” At once arise the questions, “Whence come these forces of nature? Whence comes this material earth with which and through which alone the forces of nature can work? Did the matter exist before the forces, or the forces before the matter?”

How plain it here appears that the theories of the unbeliever present to a thinking mind more endless difficulties than does the simple Catholic belief expressed in Holy Scriptures in the words, “In the beginning God made heaven and earth.” The world exists, therefore an almighty Creator must exist, who is God. There can be no effect without a cause.

Every blade of grass that we see, every flower, every tree, every animal, all created things are so many distinct evidences of God’s existence. Suppose we admire a fine oak-tree and ask ourselves whence it has come. The answer is, from the acorn. Where did the acorn come from? The answer is that that, too, came from a tree. Again, this tree came from an acorn which, in its turn, was produced by a tree. Hence, in the beginning, either an oak-tree or an acorn must have had a maker as primal cause of an effect. Now, the Creator who can make something out of nothing must be God.

The evidence arising from the order and beauty of creation

The most careless observer of the universe can not shut his eyes to the fact that there is a preconceived plan, aim, and purpose in all things, from the greatest to the smallest. Lifting our eyes aloft to the starry heavens we see a countless array of celestial bodies, almost every one of which is vaster than our earth. They all revolve about a near central body, and again together with this body all revolve about another more distant central body. Every star steadily pursues its regular course, never interfering with the path of its neighbor. All is law, order, and harmony. Then, looking upon our own earth, what beauty and symmetry meet our eyes in all directions 1 Constant and sure is the succession of day and night. Winter is followed by Spring, and the hot, dry Summer is followed by the Autumn rich in fruits. The rivers irrigate the earth and moisten the soil, the waters from the depths of the ocean rise up in vapor, sail gently toward the arid highlands and, dissolving into rain, again refresh the parched ground. Examine the structure of each blade of grass: What a display of wonders, all regulated by fixed laws, is found in the youngest, smallest blade! The rose-leaf is of a different make from the tree-leaf; each butterfly is dis- tinct from the other in beauty and variety of color. By the aid of the microscope the naturalist can descry in an insect, invisible to the naked eye, the most perfect organic system of life. Over and above all these stands the proud form of man who, king-like, lords it over all the rest.

Now, we are forced to the conclusion that where there is law there must be a law-maker, where there is order preexisting intellect only could create and establish such order. Where all tends regularly to a certain purpose there must have been a preexisting wisdom which appointed to each created thing its destiny, purpose, and functions. This first law, this first wisdom or knowledge, this first thought or intellect, must come from that Being whom we call the omnipotent and omniscient God.

The moral condition and nature of man

Each and every one of us feels within himself a law which tells us what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad, what we should do and what we should not do. We call this law conscience. It shows itself in the child and in the grown person, in the poor man and in the rich man, in the good man and in the bad man. Only long years of crime can dull the power of conscience, which wakes up later, usually on the death-bed, and ever with frightful power. Now, whence comes this moral law of nature? Man could not have given it to himself. It exists independent of his will, and only too often, alas I against the will and desire of the man. It can not be the result or the expression of the spirit of the age, inasmuch as it frequently condemns the principles of that spirit. And yet every law naturally presupposes a law-giver, whom, for human moral law, we can find only in God – for such law-giver can not be in man nor in the material world.

Again, as there exist positive fixed laws of morality, so, too, of justice. These fundamental laws remain always and everywhere the same. They show themselves even in the child. Whence do they come? Like the moral law they come not from men, nor from visible, tangible nature. They come only from an eternal justice which stands above man and the universe. To such a law-giver only can man submit, and only such a one is competent to direct the world.

The belief of all nations

“You may meet with States devoid of walls, houses, colleges, laws, and with no knowledge of finance or commerce, but no one ever saw a nation without God, without prayer, without the knowledge of an oath, without religious usages, without sacrifices.” Thus wrote the ancient pagan Plutarch one hundred years after Christ. Cicero, too, says, “There is no people so rude and wild as not to have a belief in a god, though they may not understand his nature.” Hence we find everywhere a seeking and longing after a knowledge of this God. Although the human intellect, when left to its own powers and without any aid from Heaven, never succeeded in acquiring a clear knowledge of the true God, men erected altars to the ” unknown god.” This belief of all peoples, in all ages, in a supreme Being can be explained only by its consonance with human nature.

The vain and foolish conceptions of the human brain never become universal, and die out in time, whereas truth endures forever unchanged. No belief, however, is so ancient, so universal, and so conformable to human nature, as the belief in one God. It must, therefore, be founded on truth, for it can not possibly be explained otherwise.

If, then, we ask the heavens, the earth, man and his history, the towering mountains about us, the blade of grass beneath our feet, the still voice within us, the beauty and harmony of the firmament above us, all and each cry out to us, with voices clear, strong, and unmistakable, “There is an eternal, almighty God, who created all things and who governs all things. Only the fool saith in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”

God Exists. Who is He?

God, as His name implies, is good. He is a being who has no fault, no deficiency. But human understanding can never comprehend how good He is. Hence we can only say, “God is infinitely perfect, He is the Lord of heaven and earth, and all good comes from Him; and, as He is the source of all good, He contains all good within Himself. He alone is good, and, indeed, so good that all the attributes He possesses exist in Him in the highest perfection. He has not only one good attribute, He has all. Hence God is, in truth, the sublimest and most lovable Good that can lay claim to the veneration of man; for Him the soul of man should long, for he who has God has all things.”

Concerning God we know that He is
(a) a spirit,
(b) eternal and unchangeable,
(c) omnipresent,
(d) all-knowing,
(e) all-wise,
(f) almighty,
(g) infinitely holy and just,
(h) infinitely good,
(k) all-merciful and all-patient, and
(j) infinitely true and sincere.

God is a Spirit

Whatever is, or exists, is called being. There are two kinds of being: spirit and body. The spirit is a being which thinks and wills, but which we can neither see nor feel; and it can not be divided or dissolved, for it has no component parts – it is simple. Body is a being which does not feel, does not think, does not will, but which is visible and palpable and easily appreciable to the senses and is composed of several concurring elements. Hence body and spirit are essentially different from each other. A stone is a body entirely without spirit. Man consists of a body and a spirit united; hence, we say that man has a spirit, but that God is a spirit, because He has no body. God is a being that thinks and wills and has no body.

It is true that in the Holy Scriptures may be found passages which speak of God as if He had a body, as, for instance, in 2 Paralipomenon 16:9, where it is told us that “The eyes of the Lord behold all the earth;” in Psalms 16:1, “O Lord, give ear unto my prayer; ” and in Psalms 144:16, “Thou openest Thy hand and fillest with Thy blessing every living creature.” But these are simply modes of expression adapted to our too material ideas; they are the only terms in which Scripture could make itself intelligible to our understandings. For, although we know and believe that God has no body, we can not portray His image, even in our minds, without the qualities of a body. Hence the foregoing extracts from Scripture, as well as similar ones throughout the whole book, are but figures of language made use of to describe to us God’s omniscience and goodness, His love and fatherly solicitude for all men. Similarly we are compelled to make for ourselves actual pictures of God, more especially as God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Thus God the Father, as a rule, is depicted as a venerable patriarch holding and balancing the world in His hand. It was in this form that God appeared to Daniel the prophet (Daniel 7:9) and was by him described as “the Ancient of days”. The representations of Christ are usually some of those forms in which He appeared in the flesh. The Holy Ghost is usually represented under the form of a dove, such as He really appeared at the baptism of Christ in the Jordan. Deity itself can not be represented. To it belongs what Isaias writes in 40:25, “To whom have ye likened Me, or made Me equal, saith the holy One?”

But, Christian reader, although God is a pure spirit you can have Him before your eyes. Represent Him to yourself simply as your Maker, without whom you could not exist, and whose grace and mercy created you. Place Him before your eyes as your Father, without whom you would have nothing, for from Him all good comes. Represent Him to yourself as your helper, for when you find yourself in need He is always with you, never wanting. Keep Him before your mind as the judge before whom you will one day have to render an account of your stewardship. It is related of Saint Simon Salus that when walking through a field he would strike the flowers and plants with his staff, and say, “Be silent, be quiet, do not reproach me with ingratitude to God.” Do not live so forgetful of God’s being that His creatures, while proclaiming His power and glory, rebuke you for not thinking of the Lord that made you. The best way, however, is to be mindful in your heart of God, for does not Saint Paul say in 1st Corinthians 3:16, “Know you not that you are the temple of God and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?”

God being a spirit, and, indeed, an infinitely perfect spirit, then the cultivation of our spirit, or the ennobling of our better spirit-nature, should be our supremest duty here below. “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,” say Holy Scriptures. For the same reason we must serve God not only with our bodies, with our lips, eyes, and other senses, but also with our soul, or spirit-nature; for, as the Gospel says (John 4:23), “The true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth.” It is only the worship of the spirit, a good, pure soul, and an honest, sincere intention of heart that please God. As Christ of old rebuked and condemned the false and pretended sanctity of the Pharisees, so does true Christian religion abhor a mere lip-service. It demands the soul and the heart

God is Eternal and Unchangeable

As God has no body He must be essentially, and by nature, unchangeable. Spirit dies not. God does not cease to exist, He remains and endures as He is. But as He does not cease to be, does not change, so He could never have begun. This incomprehensible mystery we express by means of the words, “God is eternal.” He has no beginning and no end. God was before the world was, for He has created it.

“Before the mountains were made, or the earth and the world was formed: from eternity and to eternity Thou art God,” exclaims the Royal Psalmist (Psalms 89:2)

And when the world and, with the world, time shall cease to exist, when hours, days, weeks, months, years, and centuries shall have passed away forever, God will be the same as He is to-day. For not only God Himself is immutable, all His attributes are immutable also. Eternal is the will of God; hence His commandments endure to-day as when He gave them forth on Mount Sinai. Eternal are the decrees of God; hence for men, throughout all eternity, there can be no other destiny than to love God and to be happy in His service. Eternal is God’s goodness, but only for them who love and fear Him. Eternal is God’s mercy; hence no human soul can say that it was never received by God unto grace and pardon. But eternal, too, is the anger of God, if not softened by a penitential conversion on the part of man. Eternal are the judgments of God, and eternally they crush the sinner if he do not prevent God’s anger by penance. For with God it is not yea and nay, but only yea. He is to-day as yesterday, and before a thousand years. Hence Saint James calls God “the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration” (James 1:17); that is to say, God is immutable.

God is Omnipresent

The omnipresence of God is that attribute of His, by virtue of which He is at the same time everywhere present and undivided. Hence, in regard to God, there can be no question of far and near. This is only for material bodies, whereas God is a pure Spirit and in this spirit-nature of God rest the power and possibility of His omnipresence. God is omnipresent, not in the sense that all things lie open before His spirit, in the way in which a wide landscape lies open to our view when we stand on a high mountain. His omnipresence is actual. Go, therefore, where you will, God is with you and beside you. If you are sad He is present to comfort you; if you do evil He is present to punish you. If you are good and pious He is present to reward you. If you are in need He is present to help you. Wherever you are, you are with God and remain with Him.

You can not flee the presence of God by going to the uttermost bounds of the earth, nor need you go one step to find Him. Whenever you incur the anger of God He is with you, and will find you even if you travel to another continent. You will find Him in the deepest recesses of barbarism and heathenism, however benighted these may be. In the wilds of Africa you can pray to Him, as if you were in your own parish church.

God is Omniscient

God is everywhere, therefore He knows all things. He is omniscient. And, as He is eternal, He knows the past, for He was there; and the present, for He is now with us; and the future, for it is foreseen and foreknown in His decrees and is effected by Him. He knows our most secret thoughts, for “the eyes of the Lord are far brighter than the sun, beholding round about all the ways of men…and looking into the hearts of men, into the most secret parts.” (Ecclesiasticus, 23:28)

In the heart of man nothing good, nothing bad, can even slumber that God does not know. And, as the Father knows it, so know it likewise the Son and the Holy Ghost. God reads our hearts as we would read a book, and neither falsehood nor concealment can deceive Him nor save us.

God is All-Wise

God knows not only all that is, was, and will be, but He knows also how all things ought to be in order to be right; and, indeed, so right that they can not be made better, nor even conceived to be better. This knowledge-power of God we call wisdom: therefore we say that God is all-wise and that He knows how to direct all things to the most perfect degree.

This wisdom we can discover in the smallest insect as well as in the sun, in the dewdrop no less than in the ocean. Let the reader but consider his own body. How wonderfully artistic it is in all its parts! Man stands erect and looks toward heaven, whither his soul is tending, while the animal, coming as it does exclu- sively from the earth, to which it is soon to return, looks toward the ground. This upright figure of man consists of a harmonious collection of bones, sinews, tendons, nerves, and veins, all lending their aid to the maintenance of animal life, and so necessary, one to another, that the loss or injury to any one part brings suffering to the body. In the interior of the system are the wonderful vital organs. All the limbs ate flexible and work together in perfect harmony. Indeed, each limb is a work of art. The human eye forms a piece of mechanical ingenuity that could come from no other hand than that of an all-wise Creator.

As God, in His wisdom, knows thus how to direct all material things wisely, He knows also how to guide the destinies of men. He directs them in accordance with His own wisdom, and not with regard to our whims and notions. Hence we are often dissatisfied, because, in our imperfect knowledge and limited understanding, we would have things otherwise to please ourselves. For instance, when we are sick we fancy that if we were only once more restored to health we would never again yield to temptations, that we would even do great works for the honor and glory of God. But God knows that if we were strong and vigorous we would become forgetful of Him and run the risk of losing our souls. Hence, in His wisdom, He sometimes leaves us in bodily suffering in order that we may remember our dependence on Him and be restrained from evil-doing.

Knowing that if we were rich we would become slothful, He leaves us poor, so that we have to work and thus preserve our health and strength. He sends us want that we may be provident Happiness makes us proud and thoughtless and leads us away from salvation. Where would God’s wisdom be if all were wealthy, or if all were equally poor? In the first instance, everybody having enough, who would, work to make our clothes, to prepare our food, or to discharge other duties of life toward their fellow-men? Yes, we all have need of one another’s services. If all were equally poor who could give employment, or help of any kind, to another?

Sickness makes us humble, privation makes us inventive, poverty makes us patient, necessity compels us to use our hands and heads, and thus arises in the world that wonderful multiplicity and variety in trade and manufactures, arts and sciences, in all which we can not but discern the guidance of divine wisdom. Again, this difference between rich and poor fosters and brings into play the fairest virtues of neighborly love and of charity, all of which will one day meet with a suitable reward. Sometimes it is made quite apparent how God directs the destinies of individuals to a wise purpose. Who has not often pitied Joseph, the Egyptian, when sold into bondage by his unnatural brethren? But had it not been for this he would never have come into Egypt to be, as he afterward was, the saviour of his people.

Who has not felt compassion for Moses when he was placed, a mere infant, in a basket among the bulrushes on the banks of the Nile? Yet such abandonment prepared the way for him to become a famous liberator of his people. Aman, who would fain destroy the Jewish people, contributed largely to their prosperity. At the proper time Mardochai was raised to Aman’s forfeited position, while the latter was condemned to die on the scaffold intended for Mardochai. True, we seldom discover at first sight the wisdom of God in things happening around us. But that is not necessary, for the faith and confidence with which we throw ourselves into the arms of God are of far greater benefit to us than if we saw and understood all things.

God is Omnipotent

The power of God is no less than His wisdom. He can do all things whatsoever He will. And when He wills to do something He needs no time for it, He needs no tools or instruments, He needs no help, He needs no material to make it from. He can create out of nothing, as He has made the world out of nothing.

But out of what would God make the world? Out of something? But from what would that something come? The first something that would be created would certainly come from nothing.

That to God all things are possible was affirnied by the angel Gabriel to the Mother of God when she wondered how she was to become a mother, since she knew not man. “No word shall be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) But we ourselves see this from His countless wonderful works. If He could make all these things, what is there that He can not make? What is there that He can not make, who created the sun, moon, and stars, who holds the earth in its place in the universe, and who marks out to the heavenly bodies their paths and directs their movements over them? What is there impossible to Him who rules the waters of the mighty deep, who controls the elements, who stores the depths of the earth with precious metals, and who peoples the earth, air, and waters with myriads of living beings?

What He can do we may learn from the history of the people of Israel, who had countless proofs that the hand of the Lord was not shortened or weakened after the creation of the universe. Consider, for example, the miracles wrought by Moses in God’s name through His power, at the time of the departure from Egyptian bondage.

Pharao was unwilling to let the Israelites go. Then Moses showed him the credentials and proofs of his mission. Throwing his staff on the ground, it turned into a serpent. With the same staff he strikes the waters of the Nile and they are changed into blood, and all the fishes die. He stretches forth his hand over the rivers, brooks, and swamps, and the frogs come forth and cover all the land. He strikes the ground, and all the dust of the earth is changed into insects that beset men and cattle. He calls forth swarms of flies over the country, and the land of Goshen, where the Israelites dwelt, was spared. Pestilence came upon the horses, horned cattle, sheep, and camels of the Egyptians, while the live-stock of the Israelites was spared. Moses threw ashes up toward the heavens and running ulcers came upon the beasts of the field and men. He lifted his hand toward heaven and a heavy shower of hail fell upon the men and cattle of Egypt, but not on the cattle of the Hebrews. At the order of Moses locusts swarmed throughout the land, and all over Egypt a darkness was spread like a pall for three days, so that no one dared go abroad, while the children of Israel dwelt in light. Finally, God struck with the hand of death the first-born of the Egyptians. Moses wrought all these miracles at the instigation of God.

Again, when the chosen people left the land of Egypt a series of miracles were performed at frequent intervals all through the forty years that they spent on their way to the Promised Land. In a miraculous manner they were guided through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud in the daytime and by a pillar of fire at night. By a miracle they crossed the Red Sea, they were fed on miraculous manna, and were supplied with water from a rock also by miracle. By a miracle they were punished with fiery serpents, by a miracle the strong walls of Jericho fell down. All these things took place before the eyes of thousands of people, who narrated them to their children, just as Moses wrote them.

But the God of Pharao and the Israelites is even today Our God, equally terrible in His punishments, equally powerful to protect and to save. Hence, devout reader, learn to rejoice and to fear at the same time. Beware of provoking His mighty wrath and endeavor at all times to deserve His love and help.

God is Holy and Just

To the perfections of the divine nature belong, above all else, the unbounded abhorrence that God has for evil, and the infinite love with which He is devoted to good. This is what we call the holiness of God. God is indeed holy. He loves good and hates evil, and for that reason He loves only those who do good and rejects those who do evil. Hence Holy Writ says, “Thou hast loved justice and hated iniquity.” (Psalms 44:8) Of course there are holy men who love the good and hate iniquity, but their hatred for evil is not to be compared with God’s hatred for the same.

There have been saints on earth, such, for instance, as Saint Joseph of Cupertino, who were troubled and disgusted whenever a sinner was near them. But the saints must contend against evil till the last breath of their lives. Even Saint Paul, who was lifted up to the third heaven, assures us that he felt in his members a twofold law, namely, the love of God which attracted him to good, and the natural wickedness of his inclinations which all men have. And yet Saint Paul resisted evil even to the shedding of his blood. But God is the origin of all holiness. He is holiness itself. He is so pure that “the heavens are not pure in His sight” (Job 15:15) and that “in His angels He found wickedness” (Job 4:18). How deeply averse God is to sin we may see clearly from the deliverance to the Jews of His laws on Mount Sinai. The Lord proclaimed to them these laws amid so much solemnity that terror and awe must have taken possession of the people, especially when they heard the clash of trumpets, the rolling of the thunder, and saw the mountains smoking and felt the earth shaking under their feet.

They had previously received orders to prepare for the publication of the laws, and had even to wash their garments. Consider how dreadful God will be when man stands before Him charged with the transgression of His commandments!

Since God hates evil so intensely, some may think that He ought not to allow any evil to exist in the world. But evil exists in the world, not because God wills it, but rather because He permits it God permits evil because in many ways it is the cause of good, and because it is necessary that man should choose the good according to his free will, in order to merit reward. For instance, you love your enemy and, as the Gospel tells you to do, you bless those who curse you: how could you exercise such virtue if the evil of enmity did not exist? Why should God reward a man who can not be bad, who can not help being good? Consider the saints in heaven 1 See their joy, happiness and glory. Many of them owe much of their present happiness to the presence on earth of evil which they resisted and overcame. Evil indirectly contributes much to the honor that is given to God even on earth. This holiness of God is manifested in the lives of men. For He rewards the good and punishes the bad, not according to His whim, but just to the degree that they merit, according to the amount of good or bad that they have practised.

In this respect the great ones of the earth are of no importance before God if they break His commandments, as we see in the case of Saul, whom He had placed over His people as king, and whom He afterward deprived of his crown and his life when he violated the divine precepts. On the other hand, God rewarded the poor widow of Sarephta, who in her benevolence fed the prophet Elias, although she was among the lowliest of Israel’s people. God does not look at the greatness of the work, but at the good will, and He rewards as abundantly the simple offering of the poor widow as the handsome gift of the rich man.

He rewards not alone the zeal of Solomon, who built a temple in His honor, but also the drink of cold water given to the thirsty by a charity that can do no more. And in proportion as God’s rewards are grand and magnificent, in the same degree are His chastisements dreadful and severe. In His wrath He has destroyed whole cities, as Sodom and Gomorrha. He has prepared destruction for whole nations, as we see in the fate of Pharao and his Egyptians. Yes, at the time of Noe He destroyed the whole human race, when their sins cried to heaven! Thus God manifests His holiness through the exercise of His justice.

Let us therefore not be disturbed when we inquire why the world often goes prosperously with the bad, and adversely with the good. The evil man has no more chance of escaping his punishment than the good man has of losing his reward. David said long ago, “I have seen the wicked highly exalted and lifted up like the cedars of Libanus: and I passed by, and lo he was not, and I sought him, and his place was not found.” (Psalms 36:35,36) All in due time good fortune vanishes, and the misfortunes of the poor come to an end, as it stands written, “The poor man shall not be forgotten to the end, the patience of the poor shall not perish forever.” (Psalms 9:19)

In order to explain why God does not at once punish us we may observe two things:

1. God gives to the sinner abundance of time, that he may improve.

He kept Noe building the ark in the presence of all men during a period of a hundred and twenty years. When chastisement overtook them how could they justify their tardy blindness and wilful perseverance in sin? Many sinners have profited by God’s delay, to become better Christians. Saint Mary of Egypt lived in sin for many years. If God in His anger had destroyed her at the beginning, a saint would have been lost to the Church.

2. Complete reward and complete punishment will come only in the next world.

The most wicked sinner has something good in him, which God rewards in this life, since He can not reward it in the next. The best man has his faults, which God punishes in this world in order not to be compelled to punish them hereafter. Thus the justice of God is the same to all men. Of this thought, dear Christian, avail yourself and be so encouraged by it that you may never be found cold and indifferent in the service of God, ever remembering that, come weal or woe, you are always in the hand of God. Misfortune did not condemn Job, neither will good fortune justify you. With Saint Augustine pray, “Here, O Lord, cut, here burn; only spare me in eternity.”

God is Infinitely Good

God is the source not only of all power, wisdom, knowledge and holiness, but also of all love. “God is charity,” as the holy apostle, John, says. This love is plainly manifested by His benevolence toward all creatures.

“Thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which Thou hast made.” (Wisdom 11:25)

He bestows upon us, and indeed upon all creatures, untold benefits. This love or charity we call goodness. This goodness of God has given us life and an immortal soul; it maintains and supports us, and provides us each day with whatever we need. And how manifold are the gifts of God I He might have given to us the merest necessaries of life, for man can live easily on water, bread, milk, and meat. But He gave us an abundance of gifts, which nourish us, strengthen us, and enliven us; which not only sustain life, but make it pleasant and even luxurious. We are compelled in our astonishment to ask, “Whence comes this unlimited love of Our God?” Then to temporal benefits He adds eternal blessings. When, in the ingratitude of his heart, man abandoned God and committed sins upon sins He did not spare His only Son. That was, as Saint John says, the greatest proof of His love. “By this hath the charity of God appeared towards us, because God hath sent His only-begotten Son into the world that we may live by Him.” (1st John 4:9) After all this God can not withhold anything from us. After having given us the greater will He keep from us what is infinitely less? What could He deny to us after having sacrificed for bur salvation the life of His well-beloved Son? Where is the heart that is not deeply touched at the sight of such love? The very heathens have wept on hearing from their missionaries an account of what God has done out of His love for men. Should Christians, because they hear the story often, be less grateful than the heathens? Let us then love this good God, giving Him our hearts with all our love. The Lord has said, “I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?” (Luke 12:49) We, too, should desire to see this fire kindled and burning brightly, for what is it but the fire of love that ought to ascend to God from the altar of our heart?

God is Merciful and Patient

The love of God is manifested not merely in His goodness, but also in His mercy and patience toward sinners. God is merciful. He willingly pardons all repentant sinners. He is patient, for He waits long before chastising the sinner, in order to give him time to do penance. No sooner had Adam and Eve sinned than He showed His mercy. He punished them, it is true, but He would not abandon them to the hopeless and endless misery in which they would have been plunged if deprived totally of His grace. He did not wish to leave them a prey to the devil, nor to close against them the gates of heaven for which He had originally intended them. Hence, He promised them a Redeemer, the thought and expectation of whom, and the hope in whose coming, consoled our first parents in the grief for their lost happiness and led them on to sorrow and penance. And as He dealt with Adam and Eve so did He deal with all sinners who, after their sinning, came to Him with humble and contrite hearts. He washed away even the remembrance of their transgressions.

But in order that God may be merciful the sinner must be converted truly and really, and not merely apparently. Words are not sufficient, deeds are necessary; not useless tears, but avoidance of evil and doing of good are required. The sinner’s conversion must be like that of the Ninivites. Among the innumerable examples of God’s mercy contained in the Sacred Scriptures there is none more striking than this case of the Ninivites whom God, through His prophet, Jonas, threatened with destruction. “And the men of Ninive believed in God: and they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least” and the king caused it to be proclaimed that men and cattle should fast and that the people should cry to the Lord with all their strength. Nor did he proclaim to his subjects a mere outward fast, as of the body; he said “let them turn, every one of them, from their evil ways and from the iniquity that is in their hands.” The Ninivites did this, “And God saw their works, that they were turned from their evil way: and God had mercy with regard to the evil which He had said that He would do them, and He did it not.” (Jonas 3) If the sinner’s conversion be only as thorough as was that of the Ninivites he need not doubt of obtaining God’s mercy. God Himself promised it solemnly when He said through another of His prophets, Ezechiel, “As I live … I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” (Ezechiel 33:11) What God thus solemnly promised, His Son, Our Saviour, who Himself came to redeem sinners, has taught us in the beautiful parable of the prodigal son. Can a father’s heart know any pain more acute than that caused by the son who leaves his home and squanders his substance? Yet the father receives him back with joy and even prepares a banquet to celebrate the return. But first the son must make the advance, throw himself at his father’s feet, remain at home and by humility and obedience repair the wrong he has done. The same truth is taught by Jesus in the parables of the lost goat and the stray sheep. There can be no more tender figure than that of the anxious shepherd seek- ing the lost sheep, extricating it from the thorns and thistles, placing it upon his shoulders and carrying it home. This good shepherd is Our Saviour, whom the eternal Father has sent in search of sinners. Let us listen, then, to His gentle voice as He speaks to our hearts, “Behold, I stand at the gate, and knock.” (Apocalypse 3:20) Is not that mercy for sinners?

And how long Our Saviour continues to knock before He is tired! He does not at once hurl His thunderbolts on the godless. He waits, as in the days of Noe, to see whether men will become better. “Thou hast mercy upon all, and winkest at the sins of men for the sake of repentance” (Wisdom 11:24). Like the gardener with the unfruitful tree, God gives the sinner a chance. For three years the lord came seeking fruit on the fig-tree and found none. Then he let it be another year, until it was digged about and manured. It is thus God deals with sinners. When He sees the sinner persisting in his wickedness He not only gives him more time for repentance, but He re-doubles the proofs of His love, that the man, touched by the mercy of his Maker, may enter into his own heart. He sends him instructors and confessors. He seeks to bring him by crosses and afflictions. He bestows upon him grace after grace before He withdraws His hand from him and leaves him to his fate. While all this is very consoling, it is, on the other hand, dreadful when the sinner rejects the mercy of God. For, although God is merciful, He is also just. The vessel of divine grace, although capacious, is not inexhaustible. When it is emptied then is the vessel of divine wrath filled. Let us fear this last misfortune, and daily pray that God’s excess of mercy may not make our guilt greater.

God is True and Faithful

As God is infinite charity so also is He infinite truth, and as such He is the source of our faith. God is truthful, that is to say, He can neither deceive nor be deceived. It is man’s peculiar trait to err; to err is human. A man with the best intentions is liable to err, for his knowledge is uncertain and defective. Thus it was that the ancient philosophers erred. Although they made the most strenuous efforts and wasted their very lives in the study of God and things divine, they could not answer their own questions on these subjects and fell into the grossest errors concerning the Deity. Some taught that the sun was God, others the air, and others, again, worshiped fire. Many made images out of stone or metal or wood, and Worshiped them, while others, again, adored the plants and beasts of the field. We can know God only through His own revelation. Man, when left to himself, is liable to err from youth to his old age, and he must acknowledge that he errs every day of his life. Even with the best intentions he can not always know the truth, nor utter it. On the other hand, it often happens that a man has never any disposition to discover the truth. Thus many of our separated brethren, by reason of their intelligence and education, and because of the opportunities offered to them every day, might easily learn the truth taught by the Church. But, although the Lord has said, “He that is not with Me is against Me: and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth” (Luke 11:23), they will not embrace the truth. It is to them a matter of indifference what religion they live in. They can not discern Catholic truth, for they have no good will. Nay, more, men often have bad will and distort the truth. Such are they who, from pride or any other cause, fall away from the truth and seduce others to imitate them; such are they who lie, and their number is legion. But God can not do this. He can not err, for He is all-knowing. He cannot deceive, for He is eternal and infallible truth.

“It is impossible for God to lie,” says the Apostle Paul, in Hebrews 6:18. Yes, it is impossible for God to deceive, for by so doing He would contradict His divine nature – just as it would be contradicting God’s nature and essence to love evil and to dislike goodness, which would be essentially contradictory to His holiness. We may, therefore, believe with perfect security whatever He reveals – nay, we are bound to believe it under pain of damnation, for have we not heard that “he that believeth not shall be condemned”? (Mark 16:16) To distort the word of God, or to doubt it, is the greatest sin of which a man can be guilty, as we see in the case of Adam and Eve, who fell because they did not believe firmly.

This faith in God’s truthfulness the Catholic Christian should often awaken in his heart, as he arouses his faith in general when he says, “I believe firmly that all which Thou hast revealed is true, and I believe it because Thou art eternal truth and can neither deceive nor be deceived.”

But God is not only truthful in His assertions, He is likewise true in His promises. He is true, that is to say, He holds surely to what He promises, and fulfills what He threatens. To the good He has promised heaven, to the wicked He has threatened hell, and these promises and threats He fulfils as surely as He is God. No matter, therefore, how the pious man fares in this world, he is sure of the Lord’s inheritance. Though he may die, like Lazarus of old, in sorrow and misery at the rich man’s doorstep, Abraham’s bosom is ready to receive him, as hell will receive the impious man, though to the end of his life he may live undisturbed in his luxury and crime, like the rich man Dives. Heaven is firm and solid, the earth likewise. Both are borne on invisible shoulders. But God’s word is firmer than either. For, as the Lord Himself says, “Heaven and earth shall pass, but My word shall not pass” (Matthew 24:35). What God has promised will not fail, just because that can not fail which He promises. God is eternal and His word is everlasting; God is immutable and His kingdom is unchangeable. His Church and her teachings are unchanged and unchangeable; immovable, too, stand the decrees of the Lord and, therefore, all is unchangeable that He has promised or threatened.

How To Know God

We have now seen that God is a spirit, and that we therefore can not see Him with corporal eyes. But we can know something about a person without seeing him, as in our every-day life we know many things, things that we learn not from ourselves but from others. Thus we know of God that He exists, who He is, and what He is, without being able to see Him, but rather because He has been pleased to make Himself known.

God has been pleased to reveal Himself supernaturally. In order that man’s knowledge of Him might be the more safe and sure He has made Himself known, not in one way only, but in several ways, so that these several distinct ways of revelation, when taken together as a whole, form the most complete and most harmonious system. Deception is impossible, for one revelation is a proof of the other, and a revelation that would contradict another earlier and admitted revelation would most necessarily carry in and with itself the mark of falsity.

1. First of all, God has manifested Himself through the visible world which He made and which He governs. We can see His omnipotence, goodness, and wisdom displayed in the creation of the world, as we can also discover these same attributes of His in the manner with which He cares for created things. When we hear music at a distance we conclude that there must be performers, although we can not see them. A building that we may never have seen before gives us to understand at the first sight that an architect has drawn the plan which his workmen have reduced to practical form. In passing through a city at night, though we may not meet a soul, we know that it is the dwelling-place of many of our fellow-beings. When a ship has been wrecked on an unknown coast and the rescued crew, on reaching land, perceive smoke rising at a distance, they rejoice and say, “There are fellow-beings dwelling here.” The traveler, who, losing his way, wanders about bewildered through tewamp and moor, heather and woods, when he discovers a distant light shining through the gloom, quickens his steps toward that quarter, for he says to himself, “There must be a house there, where I may obtain food and shelter.” All these conclude from what they see to the existence of what they do not see, and so do we all, every one of us, in countless occurrences of every-day life.

Thus from the world we infer there must be a Creator, and from the manner of its creation and maintenance we conclude to the power of goodness and wisdom of the Ruler. Though God’s existence is not of itself visible to our eyes it is visible in the created world. Hence Saint Paul says, “The invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made: His eternal power and divinity also” (Romans 1:20). We may say simply, as there is not anything that has made itself, neither could the world make itself. As it is impossible for anything that has been decomposed by the action of blind forces (such, for instance, as a ruined temple, which an earthquake, a flood, or a fire has destroyed), to present a regular form or plan and have order and cohesion, so would it be absurd to look for order and harmony in the universe, if it had been brought about by the blind forces of nature or called into existence by any other agency than the will and power of an intelligent Being. Most positively and clearly do the purpose, design, and wonderful construction of the uni- verse point to Him who, as the Holy Scripture saith, has “ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight.” (Wisdom 11:21)

2. Beside those evidences of God’s revelation which come to us through the senses from outward nature, each one among us has an inward intuition of God, within himself. This intuition, which is wanting to no one, comes to us through the voice of conscience, and ever speaks plainly and positively to each individual the will of God. While God’s power, wisdom, and goodness are made known by the visible world, His holiness and justice are revealed rather through conscience. This voice warns us that we ought to fear the presence of an invisible judge of evil, for it fills the heart of the man who breaks the commandments with fear and trembling. Why does a man ieel so much afraid when he commits a sin altogether secret and unknown to anybody but himself? Why is he so timid, why does he, by his trembling, betray outwardly the inward anxiety of his heart? Why does the blush come to his face, even when no one suspects or blames him, why is he so restless, so dissatisfied with himself? Because his conscience bears testimony against him that he has done wrong, that he dare not face God, and that although he may escape human censure he shall not escape tMe judgment of God. On the other hand, when he has done right and good, even though no one knows it and he has no reward, that same voice of conscience fills his heart with peace and satisfaction and bids him hope in a just rewarder of good, in God Himself, who can and will reward all things. Thus conscience is a guide for all men, and hence we can understand how it is that men who are without the influence of Christianity have some notion of the difference between good and bad and act accordingly. Hence Saint Paul says, “When the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law, these having not the law are a law to themselves; . 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 defend- ing, one another.” (Romans 2:14,15) In vain and falsely do men pretend to say that this interior voice of conscience is a mere prejudice. A man may be able to overcome prejudices when he once knows the truth. Fear and hesitancy disappear when one has become habituated to a thing. But conscience will not suffer itself to be overcome. Although a man, by a false reasoning with himself, and by plunging into the distractions and pleasures of the world, may succeed in stifling and silencing its voice for a time, it will awake and speak in loud tones during the silent hours of the night. While on his death-bed it will insist on sending its sharp and penetrating tones to the very depths of his troubled heart. Nor is this any prejudice in man, it belongs to his nature, for it is the internal revelation and manifestation of his Creator.

3. Moreover, in order that there might be no room left for the slightest doubt, God was pleased to confirm by His own powerful and explicit word all that the visible world proclaims and teaches, and also the promptings of our conscience. Hence He taught us to know Himself chiefly by a revelation which He hath sent to us, first by His own prophets and afterwards by His own divine Son. Prom Adam, to whom God first revealed Himself, down to the time of Christ, was a succession of supernaturally enlightened men to whose souls God was pleased to speak either personally or by means of His Holy Spirit. Thus the knowledge of the true God could never be extinguished among men as long as it was preserved by one single nation, the Jews.

But these prophets were merely signals, all pointing to Christ, the Son of the living God, to the Messias who alone knows God, because He is from Him for all eternity and is God Himself. Although God spoke to Moses He appeared to him under a form that could be seen by his corporal eyes, so that it is ever true “no man hath ever seen God” as He really is, but “the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father hath revealed it to us.” Thus the revelation through Christ is the revelation of all revelations, the revelation from God and through God Himself.

There is but one God

We believe in God, and only in one God. Before Christ, Our Lord, the Redeemer of the world, all men, with the exception of the Jews to whom truth had been revealed by the prophets, believed in many gods. They worshiped not only the sun, moon, and stars, but also their fellow-beings, animals, plants, and lifeless figures of gold, silver, brass, wood, and stone. Men feared these gods and brought offerings to them. The whole earth was filled with an idolatry at once horrible and ridiculous.

There is but one God, for He Himself so taught the Israelites by the mouth of His prophet, Isaias, “I am the first, and I am the last, and beside Me there is no God; who is like to Me?” (Isaias 44:6-7) Our own intuition teaches us the same truth. For if God created all things, who could have created Him? Of course it would have to be some still greater God. Thus we ever arrive at the same conclusion that there is some one who, though giving existence to everything else, must himself have been ever uncreated.

Again, from the purposes, order, and harmony in the world we can infer that there is but one God. If there were two rulers one would run counter to the other. Each would have his own individual will, and there would be disorder, for there would be difference of purpose. If it is not true that there is but one God then there is no God, for in all creation we see the working of but one God. Hence, also, we do not say, “I believe God,” but “I believe in God,” for we believe no other being as we believe in this one only God. In the expression, “I believe in God,” there is implied, beside belief, a surrender to Him of our feelings. Having already contemplated the infinite perfections of the Deity we have learned not only to believe, but also to give ourselves up to Him with unlimited love and confidence. Without this confidence our belief would not be the belief of the children of God. Even the devils believe, but they tremble. Not so with the children of God; they believe, but they also love Him and hope in Him.

To you, dear Christian, this God now says, “Son, give Me thy heart.” (Proverbs 23:26) Even if God did not ask your heart, to whom else would you give it but to Him? What would you love more than God? Cry out with Saint Augustine, “O my God, grant me the grace to know and to love Thee.”


In the first article of the Apostles’ Creed the Catholic Christian professes his faith in the Deity as God the Father. We style God, our Father because we hold the same relation to Him that the child does to its earthly father. Yes, He is indeed our Father; parents are only His representatives. From God comes all that we possess, from Him comes “every perfect gift” (James 1:17), although conferred apparently by human hands. To Him do we pray confidingly, “Abba, Father.” (Mark 14:36). But there is still another mysterious divine fatherhood. For God is not only one person, but three persons, the first of whom we call Father, the second the Son, and the third the Holy Ghost. Nor are these three names chosen without design and meaning, for they signify the relations the three persons bear toward one another, and in which, too, they have been revealed to us; for did not Our Saviour tell His apostles to baptize all in the name of the triune God, using the words, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”? (Matthew 28:19) There is no contradiction here, for we do not say that the three persons are three Gods, or one person is three persons, but we say that “three persons are one God,” and they are one God for the reason that they have one and the same being and one and the same nature.

These three persons are all from eternity, all three are equally powerful, equally good, equally perfect. They all three possess the same attributes in the same degree, distinct only in the fact that there are three persons, each of them subsisting in and of Himself, three persons in one Being. True, we call them the first, second, and third, but we do not call them such because one existed before another, or one is mightier than another, but because in sacred history they appear in that order, and because the work begun by them, namely, the creation, redemption, and sanctification, was begun, continued, and completed in this order of succession.

Yet, in order to distinguish the difference of persons, we say that the Father is from all eternity, the Son proceeds from the Father, the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son. But on this account no one is older than another, but all three persons are equally eternal. Yet we are not to believe that the Father does anything without the Son and the Holy Ghost. All that is done by God is done by the Father through the Son and the Holy Ghost. Hence, when we say, Who made you? God the Father. Who redeemed you? God the Son. Who sanctified you? God the Holy Ghost – we must understand that all three of the divine persons began and accomplished this work together. It is only in point of time that these three persons have come to us in revelation. Of course we can not comprehend this, for in order to comprehend “God we would have to be more than God. As one circle can be encompassed and encircled only by a circle greater than itself, so God’s nature or being could be comprehended only by a nature exceeding the divine nature. Hence the prophet Jeremias says, “Great art Thou, O Lord, and incomprehensible in thought.” It is no disgrace for the human intellect to bow down in faith before Him who, though He made that intellect, has set limits to it – “Thus far shalt thou go and no farther.”

Let us not forget that we are indebted to the three divine persons for all that we have, but more especially for the fact that in our baptism we were all dedicated to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Let us ever remember what we promised to them through bur sponsors at baptism. There are two special days in the year on which we should more particularly honor, adore, and thank the adorable and blessed Trinity, namely, the anniversary of our baptism, when we ought to renew our baptismal promises, and on Trinity Sunday, which occurs each year eight days after Pentecost. For after having contemplated and admired in Advent-time the work of the Father, and at Christmas and Easter the work of the Son, and at Whitsuntide the work of the Holy Ghost, the festival of the Blessed Trinity is admirably adapted to bring back to our memories once more all the blessings for which we are indebted to the three divine persons, and so, by the remembrance of these graces received, to renew and strengthen our gratitude and love. Not only on special festivals, but on each day of our lives, we ought to pay to the three divine persons the tribute of our praise and reverence. It is for this purpose that the Church teaches us to begin and end so many of our prayers and other devotions with that beautiful doxology, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”


In the words, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,” our holy Church teaches us that all which exists beside God, the visible and the invisible, is His work; that is to say that God has brought all these things into existence out of nothing. This truth is also taught by the Holy Scripture when it says, “In the beginning God made heaven and earth.”

From this teaching of the Church it follows:

1. That the world was made by God in time, and therefore it does not exist from eternity. This teaching is also conformable to our reason. In nature we see nothing but progressive action, and when we fancy that we have discovered a cause or a motive-power of certain effects, closer observation discovers over and over again one series of causes and effects. What nature is in its individual parts, the whole world is in general, namely, one vast process or action, that is to say, something brought forth or developed. But it is only God that can have brought it forth, that is, created it, for He alone, as the Omnipotent, can produce something out of nothing. All further attempts at illustration are unsatisfactory. “In the beginning God created heaven and earth” are the words of Holy Scripture, simple, plain, intelligible to all.

2. God made the world out of nothing. The meaning of this is (a) that God did not form the earth out of preexisting matter, and (b) that it has not emanated out of the divine Being. This thought is very beautifully expressed by Saint Augustine in the words, “The works have proceeded out of nothing through Thee, but not out of Thee, not out of matter that is not Thine, or that was already brought into existence.” (Confessions 13:13) That God created the world out of nothing is a doctrine frequently and emphatically taught in Holy Scripture. The opinion that the world is an emanation from the being or nature of God is equally opposed to Scripture and to human reason. This heresy, or so-called pantheism, had its rise among the ancient pagan philosophers, and recently it has been revived by modern anti-Christian teachers. The fallacy that there exists no supreme being distinct from nature, and that God is identical with nature, so that everything is God and the same being as God, was expressly condemned by Pius IX in his learned encyclical, and most emphatically and unanimously rejected by the bishops at the Vatican Council. And very naturally. For every man carries within him a certain consciousness that he is essentially something beside the inanimate and irrational world surrounding him. Now, if, according to the teachings of the pantheists, everything that exists bears within itself a portion of the divine Being, such a consciousness of essential individual being could not exist in any man. Moreover, the theory is in full contradiction of God’s freedom; and it is in fact a subversion of His freedom to believe God to exist in every created thing. For God, who is essentially and absolutely free, could not be, even as to a portion of His being, restrained to or confined in the stone which the small boy can throw whithersoever he will. Nor could He, although living, be restrained and unconscious in the animal, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, free and self-conscious in man. For the same reason, good and bad, true and false, right and wrong, which all exist in the world, could not be equally emanations from the same God-head. These and similar absurd contradictions human reason is powerless to understand, much less to explain. They are directly repugnant to reason, and hence pantheism is an unreasonable doctrine.

3. God created the world through His omnipotent will. When contemplating this truth we are confronted with a mystery whose depths we are unable to fathom. Yet it is not contradictory to or against our reason. A man’s will moves his whole body, and all the separate members of it. It commands the hand, for instance, to perform the most skilled works of art, or to procure nourishment for the body; and yet this wonderful connection between mind and matter, the influence of the will over the body, has never been seen or explained by anybody. Nevertheless, we can not deny the existence of the connection. Thus there are, even in natural life, truths which we must admit and recognize, although they are involved in mystery. How unreasonable, then, it would be for us to wish to deny the creation of the world by God, for the bare reason that we can not understand it! Yet what better grounds can be alleged for the existence of the world? Therefore, when the Sacred Scripture teaches that the universe was made purely by the will of God, it teaches a truth which, although incomprehensible to our understanding, is not at all unreasonable or impossible.

Moreover, as God can will only what is good, and with His will has created the world, it follows that He made the world good. “And God saw all the things that He had made: and they were very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

It is not the less true and evident that God was free in creating the world, and that He did it because He was pleased to do it. The will of God knows no constraint because He knows no superior lord or master.

4. God created the world to His own honor and glory. An all-wise God can not even act without a method and object, hence He could not create at random and without a purpose. But if God has a purpose when creating, it must be a good one and worthy of Himself. But that can be only God Himself. Hence He Himself must be the object of creation. From the creation man should learn to know God, to love Him, to adore and to serve Him. That is the purpose of the world: the glory of God, which is offered to God in His creatures.

The Six Days of Creation

On the question of the meaning of the six days of creation, Schmid, in his Catechetical Repertory, volume 1, page 208 says, “Men are today very much divided in opinion regarding the length of time denoted by the words ‘six days’; whether, for instance, each one of these six days is our day of twenty-four hours’ length or whether it denotes one of those longer and more indefinite periods of time called evolution-periods. However, as the Church has as yet uttered no defined teaching on the subject, every individual is entitled to hold his own opinion.

“Those who hold that they are our ordinary six days point to the almighty power of the Creator, which is only shown forth the more strikingly by the shortness of the time employed in creation. Then they quote on their side the expression used in the Bible after each act of creation, namely, ‘morning and evening,’ as well as the numbering of the days preceding the Sabbath, as in Exodus 20:11.

“On the other hand, the advocates of the evolution- periods affirm that by the term ‘six days’ are to be understood six grand revolutions or transition periods. For, apart from the fact that the word used in the Hebrew language to designate our word ‘day’ admits of a more extended meaning, it is also to be remembered that some of those creation-days required necessarily longer periods of time, if we assume that the same laws of change in nature were in operation then that are now prevailing. To these belong the creation of the earth, the chemical reactions, the dissolutions, the precipitations, the burrowings, and other changes that must have taken place, and also the geological process from imperfect forms to perfect classes, during each single act

“In his book called ‘The City of God’ (11:7) Saint Augustine says, ‘It is difficult, or rather impossible, for us to think, and still more so to express, what these days are.’ Saint Cyprian estimates the seven creation-days to have been a period of seven thousand years.

“In Hebrew the word for day is Jom and denotes an undefined space of time, as we have in Isaias, the Lord shall be exalted in that day‘ and, again, ‘in that day a man shall cast away his idols’ (Isaias 2:17-20). In English it is often the same, as when we say, for instance, ‘He was a great man in his day, etc.’ In Hebrew ‘every evening’ is hereby and ‘every morning’ is boker, which words, while meaning really morning and evening, also signify transition, alteration, order, dispensation, a passing, etc. Now, as each new creation act must begin with a violent disturbance amid the forces of nature and end with the completion of the thing to be created, what term is more applicable than one expressing transition or beginning and ending?”

Our Sorrows and Trials

If God, then, is good and beneficent toward all men, if in His providence He cares for them as a father cares for his children, whence come the endless trials and tribulations with which every creature is so heavily and persistently beset and afflicted? This question is often asked. This thought forces itself upon many in their hours of deep distress and desolation. Let such persons carefully read what follows, and they will soon find themselves reconciled to the mysterious ways of divine providence.

Passages from the Scriptures and the Fathers

“Shall there be evil in a city, which the Lord hath not done?” (Amos 3:6)

“Blessed is the man whom God correcteth: refuse not therefore the chastising of the Lord: for He woundeth, and cureth: He striketh, and His hands shall heal.” (Job 5:17-18)

“My son, reject not the correction of the Lord: and do not faint when thou art chastised by Him: for whom the Lord loveth, He chastiseth: and as a father in the son He pleaseth Himself.” (Proverbs 3:11,12)

“As the gold is tried in the crucible that it may be cleansed from all dross, so thou art purified in the furnace of affliction, in order to appear brighter.” (Saint Isidore of Seville)

“Tribulation is a valuable good, and the mother of all virtues.” (Saint John Chrysostom)


Creation, Ranks, and Nature of the Angels

Together with the earth, God created heaven, the invisible world, the dwelling-place of the blessed, and placed in it the countless spiritual beings whom we call angels. Thus there are creatures higher than men, and who are destined specially to the service of God. When we call these beings spirits, we say what they are. When we call them angels we describe their office as messengers, for the word “angel” means messenger.

They are countless in number, for the prophet Daniel, when describing them, says, “Thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him.” (Daniel 7:10)

Fall of the Angels – Their Punishment

These angels, like man before his fall, were good and happy. They were included in the words, “God saw all the things that He had made: and they were very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Not only were they exempt from every fault and imperfection, but they were, moreover, as most of the Fathers of the Church teach, endowed with a special supernatural grace that made them worthy to stand before the throne of God. Besides they were enriched with the gift of perception, wisdom, and strength. But, alas, let us tremble at the thought: Sin crept in among the angels and many of them yielded to temptation. Although we do not know with certainty how this took place, we may easily infer. As the angels had free will it was fitting that they should merit the gratuitous supernatural grace of God which had been given to them, and that they should show themselves worthy of it. Hence God subjected them to a test, in which many failed.

The sin they committed may have been, as it was with man, the sin of disobedience, for with them, too, “The beginning of the pride of man is to fall off from God.” (Ecclesiasticus 10:14) Forgetting that they owed all their endowments to the goodness of God, they became proud and haughty, and for this very reason they were punished with the loss of these gifts and graces. From the pinnacle of the most perfect happiness they were hurled by the Almighty into the lowest depths of misery, from heaven to hell, and from bright and happy spirits they were transformed into hideous devils, – once the friends of God they are now His blasphemous enemies. Nor did God forgive these wicked spirits, “for He spared not the angels that sinned, but delivered them drawn down by infernal ropes to the lower hell, unto torments, to be reserved unto judgment.” (2 Peter 2:4) Further details of their fall are given in the Apocalypse. “There was a great battle in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven.” (Apocalypse 12:7,8) According to the opinion of most of the Fathers this dragon, or leader of the fallen angels, was one of the highest and principal angels, called Lucifer, or light-bearer, which name indicates his high rank and office.

This Lucifer, with his unhappy followers, rebelled against his Creator. But another angel set himself up against this revolt, exclaiming, “Mi-cha-el, who is like to God?” This Saint Michael, with his faithful followers, fought and defeated their rebellious opponents, and, thus proving their fidelity, passed safely through the test and were admitted to perfect glory, where they still dwell and shall dwell forever, never again committing a fault. We know not how many angels fell, though in the Apocalypse the following is said of the dragon Lucifer, “His tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven” (Apocalypse 12:4), giving us to understand that, while an appalling number of angels fell, the great majority remained true and faithful.

The Relations of the Evil Spirits with us

The fallen angels still possess the power and knowledge given to them at the time of their creation, and they abuse them for the furtherance of evil. They are the enemies not only of God, but of all men, whom they tempt and thwart and whom they endeavor to deprive of their sonship to God and their chances for heaven. Power is also given to them to harm men in their bodies, as we see in the case of the pious Job, who was sorely tormented in his body and even in his worldly substance by the devil in his efforts to shake Job’s confidence in God. But from this very history of Job we see plainly that the devil can not hurt our souls unless we will it. Job amid all his afflictions did not give up confidence in God, and hence the assaults of the devil, instead of injuring him, resulted to his benefit and preservation. On the other hand Eve was led to disobedience, and Judas to the sin of despair, by the devil. Such examples prove to us the innate hatred of Satan for us and explain why Saint Peter truthfully terms him a ferocious lion greedy to destroy whatever comes before him. “Your enemy,” says he, “goeth about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” Thus we see that we have also invisible enemies against whom we must defend ourselves.

The power of the devil to injure our souls depends very much upon ourselves, for we have means to withstand him. These means are prayer and a God-fearing life. For it is sin chiefly that gives the evil spirit power over lis. The devil has the less power over a man if he lead a life of purity and integrity. To resist evil is to thwart the devil and to put him to flight. As Saint James says, ” Resist the devil and he will fly from you” (James 4:7). We find this truth verified in the case of Tobias and Sara. Sara, the daughter of Raguel, had seven husbands, all of whom were strangled by the evil spirit. Tobias did not fall into his power, because he had not sought Sara from unworthy motives. On the contrary he said to her, “Let us pray to God to-day, and to-morrow and the next day, because for these three nights we are joined to God: and when the third night is over, we will be in our own wedlock; for we are the children of saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God. So they both arose and prayed earnestly both together that health might be given them. And Tobias said: Lord God of our fathers, may the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the fountains, and the rivers, and all Thy creatures that are in them, bless Thee. Thou madest Adam of the slime of the earth, and gavest him Eve for a helper. And now, Lord, Thou knowest that not for fleshly lust do I take my sister to wife, but only for the love of posterity, in which Thy name may be blessed forever and ever.” (Tobias 8:4-9)

Thus prayer and a God-fearing mind were the weapons of Tobias, as they ought also to be ours in our conflicts with the devil. We ought to be fearless in this contest, for the Church places within our easy reach abundant and powerful means to enable us to overcome every assault. For that purpose she blesses water, salt, oil, and other things, even the very house we live in, using prayers calculated to defeat all the devil’s evil designs. The sign of the cross, too, is a powerful means of defense against bodily evils.

The Good Angels

In our struggles against evil spirits we are assisted by the good angels. They love God and pray to Him for us. They guide us in a mysterious way, inciting us to good, upholding and preserving us in adversity. Thus they led Lot out of Sodom and Gomorrha and preserved him from destruction. The holy archangel Raphael conducted Tobias to Rages and back again in safety. Each one of us has such a celestial guide whom we call our angel guardian. One of these it was that rescued Saint Peter from the prison into which he had been cast, and even the faithful, on first meet- ing Saint Peter after his delivery, would hardly believe that it was he and said that it must be his angel (Acts 12:15). Here we see the application of David’s statement, “He hath given His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” (Psalms 90:11)

It is our duty to be very fond of our guardian angels and by our childlike innocence and reverence to show to them our gratitude, that they may be pleased to remain with us. Let us pray every day to our guardian angels and never do anything that may have the effect of turning them away from our side and causing them pain. Moreover, as every Christian has his own special guardian angel, we must honor these angels in the persons of our fellow-beings by respecting our neighbors and avoiding any act, deed, or thought that would trouble these blessed spirits. Like them we, too, should be the guardian angels of our fellow-creatures, for then our own angels will be the happier in guiding and protecting us.


Creation of Man – His Primitive Condition

The creation of the first man and woman is thus described in the Holy Scriptures, “And God said: let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26) “And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth; and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul…. And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself…. Then the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon Adam: and when he was fast asleep, He took one of his ribs, and filled up flesh for it. And the Lord God built the rib which He took from Adam into a woman: and brought her to Adam. And Adam said: This is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:7-23) “And God created man to His own image: to the image of God He created him, male and female He created them. And God blessed them, saying, Increase and multiply and fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:27,28)

According to this biblical account it necessarily follows that:

1. Man consists of a body and soul, so that the spiritual and corporeal creation are united in him.

The body of man is taken from the earth and is therefore material, and subject to the laws of matter or the sensible world. Not so the soul. It is the breath of God, though not God Himself; it is not material but spiritual. The body was created rather for the natural life, the soul for the spiritual life. “The dust returns into its earth, from whence it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7) Through his body man is in communication with other visible creatures, has to a certain extent the same needs, the same forces, the same weaknesses, while, with regard to his soul, he stands necessarily higher than all.

The soul of man is an element that we discover in no other visible being, and consequently can not possibly have had its origin in such created things. From material things only material things can come, while a spirit must necessarily come from a spirit.

2. Man is the image of God, created by God, and for God.

Whereas, with regard to every other created being, God simply said, ” Let it be,” when about to create man He seemed to invite the cooperation of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity, for His words were, “Let us make man,” as if to signify thereby that man was to be in a special sense a work, an image, and a child of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

The image of God in man in his primitive state was distinguished as natural and supernatural. The natural image consisted of such qualities as belong necessarily to the nature of man, and without which human nature can not be conceived. Among these attributes are immortality of the, soul, reason, and free will. The supernatural likeness does not belong to the essence of human nature, as it is only granted or loaned to it by God in His love, for its fuller perfection and ornament. It consists of sanctifying grace, with its resulting virtues of holiness and justice. Man was a friend, a child of God.

That the soul of man is a reasoning, free, immortal essence, subsisting in itself, is proved not only by divine revelation, but by our own reason.

(a) The human soul has an existence of its own, and, for that reason, is an image of the eternal God who exists through, of, and by Himself. I am sure, positively certain and convinced that my spiritual being exists, and exists separately from any other. I think, feel, and will freely for myself, and I know that I am not a part of anything else. Equally clear is it to me that my soul is one and indivisible, that it was the same yesterday as it is torday and will be to-morrow. Equally do I know that it is essentially something other than the material body in the whole or in a single part of it I know that this soul of mine is a spirit and that it is subjected only to the laws of spirit

(b) The human soul is endowed with reason and free. Man possesses not only a material intellectual power of acquiring knowledge, but also an immaterial one, that is to say, he comprehends not only what is subject to the senses, but also that which can not be appreciated by the senses. By means of his spirit he forms judgments and ideas. He explores in the visible world according to invisible laws. He carries within him ideas, as, for example, ideas of good and bad, of right and wrong, of God, of time, and eternity, and such like – ideas perceptible to the senses, but which he does not find expressed in the visible world.

Man possesses also a free will. He may decide what side he will follow. He may pursue the path of iniquity simply because it pleases him to do so; or he can, if he wish, flee from vice and keep far away from it

(c) The soul of man is immortal. The Holy Scriptures teach this truth in many places, but especially in those passages where there is question of the everlasting happiness of man, or everlasting pain and punishment for sin. But the Holy Scriptures also teach expressly the doctrine of the immortality of the souL Thus we find in the 28th verse of the 10th chapter of Saint Matthew “Fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul;” and, again, in the 23d verse of the 2d chapter of Wisdom it is written, “God created man incorruptible, and to the image of His own likeness He made him.”

3. A divine revelation, through the Holy Scriptures, teaches this doctrine; so, too, does our own reason prove the immortality of the soul.

It can not be doubted for a moment that it is possible for the soul to exist without the body and that it is therefore immortal. It has been previously asserted that the soul has a distinct existence, which truth is often observed in the sick and dying. If the existence of the soul were necessarily bound up in the existence of the body, or if the spirit of man were merely the product of bodily action, it would necessarily follow that sickness and gradual decadence of the body would be attended by gradual decadence of the soul and mind. But we often find the contrary to be the case. Frequently, when the body lies enfeebled and almost dead upon the bed of sickness, the mind continues sound and vigorous, and not only capable of embracing physical perceptions but often it elevates itself in a surprising manner to the supernatural, divine, and eternal. How is this possible? It can be accounted for only because the soul, having a separate existence, leads a life of its own, and thus can exist without the aid of the bodily senses.

The possibility of the existence of the soul independently of the body, and its consequent immortality, is therefore clear. But let us see if this possibility is verified in a real and actual immortality.

(a) This truth is evident from the soul’s longing after happiness. This longing exists in every man. But in what does happiness consist? In such a condition of things where all our desires are granted and gratified. But, as the world with all its goods must come to an end, it is evident that it can not make man happy. The condition of happiness necessarily implies and requires undisturbed and unending possession, which implies in itself the idea of eternity. Now, as every man contains within himself this longing for happiness we conclude with reason that his soul must be immortal, for it can never be appeased in this world

In the attainment of this happiness lies the highest aim of human endeavors, and it would be the same as annihilating the whole dignity of man to assume it as a foregone conclusion that he could not attain this sublime end of his creation. Moreover such an assumption would impugn the wisdom and justice of God. For, as He has implanted in the soul of man this striving and longing for happiness, He must have made it possible to obtain such happiness, which, as has been shown, is impossible in this world and possible only in eternity. To adduce a comparison: We speak of the instinct of the animal. In accordance with this instinct many of them avoid poisonous plants, and when sick know how to find curing and healing herbs. Their instinct is therefore a presentiment, though an unknown one, of some existing antidote. In no other way can we explain this faculty of the animals. In a similar, though infinitely higher way, can we, from the longing and seeking of the human soul, argue in favor of a really existing happiness, a cure for all our evils here below. Hence the soul is immortal.

{b) The immortality of the soul is proved from its own inward consciousness of immortality. To the human intellect the thought is repugnant that with the death of the body all, even the intellectual life, must die. As long as man dwells here below he is obliged to work, to struggle and to strive, and there is no man who in his old age can say he has accomplished his whole destiny, carried out all his plans, attained every object, fulfilled every purpose, fought out the battle of life to a victorious ending, realized all his hopes and gratified all his desires. If, then, human life is a vain strife, if the longings of the soul can not be appeased, it becomes impossible for man to be satisfied with a mere earthly existence. He must appreciate the necessity of an everlasting life, where the highest idea of man will be realized.

Again, this idea of immortality must be founded on divine truth, for man could not have learned it from nature or the world. All that we see in the world is changeable, passing, and liable to decay and death. Whence, then, could man acquire the thought of an immortality? It can come only from God, the Creator; it is a thought of truth.

(c) It is evident from man’s longing after justice, and the moral well-being of the world. It is inborn in man to. recognize reward for good and penalty for evil. The man does not live who would desire the contrary. Now, in this world we do not find this fair and just polity. On the contrary. Too often does vice triumph here, while virtue groans under wrong and injustice. If we would not go altogether astray in our notions of God and justice, if we would not conceive false ideas of the real and true, and of moral well-being, we must believe in an everlasting life, in the immortality of the soul, where virtue will be properly rewarded and vice be punished in proportion to its deserts. Hence faith in the immortality of the soul is the best and surest foundation of morality in society. The moral restraint necessary for society is dependent in a great measure on the sacrifice of individual liberty and is attainable only where the individual battles with his low egotism and with his passions and other inordinate inclinations.

If there be no prospective compensation to uphold and to strengthen, where will man find a sufficient motive for persevering in this distasteful and wearisome struggle, even in his own interior, for the good of society? Emancipation from all restraint must follow. The history of all nations proves this. With the belief in immortality stands or falls the moral code of every people.

(d) The immortality of the soul can also be proved from the universal concurrence of all people in such belief. No nation has ever existed that did not hold and teach, in some form or other, the immortality of the soul, that is to say, a belief in its continued existence in another world. This belief, then, founded as it is in nature, and in the sound sense of mankind, can not be denied without sinning against the testimony of all men.

4. Together with his natural and supernatural likeness to God man possessed, in his primitive condition, before he sinned, many other sublime and supernatural prerogatives, both in soul and body.

The chief prerogative of the soul was its freedom from the domination of the passions. Our first parents, before their fall, knew nothing about a conflict with the inordinate lusts of the senses. In pure innocence they walked before the eyes of the Lord, for sensual perversion was the first fruit of sin.

The chief and most precious prerogative of the body consisted in its having been created free from suffering, and immortal. The Book of Wisdom teaches us this truth in the 23d verse of the 2d chapter, where it says, ” God created man incorruptible, and to the image of His own likeness He made him. But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world.” Saint Paul also teaches, in Romans 5:12, “By one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death.” The human body, beside being free from death, was also free from every pain and infirmity. For pain, infirmity, and evil first made their appearance with sin and in consequence of it.

The Trial and Fall of our First Parents

God had created man in holiness and justice. But this state depends not on force and compulsion; on the contrary it was becoming that man created in freedom should prove himself deserving of this happy state. Hence God subjected him to a test

His trial consisted, as the Bible informs us, in the command, “Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat, for in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.” (Genesis 2:16,17) It is here self-evident that the eating of the fruit of this or that tree was not sinful, but that the sin consisted in the transgression of the plainly expressed will of God.

Our first parents failed in this trial, for, yielding to the temptation of the serpent, they ate the fruit. The serpent said to the woman, the Holy Scriptures tell us, “Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise? And the woman answered him, saying, Of the fruit of the trees that are in paradise we do eat: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat; and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die. And the serpent said to the woman, No, you shall not die the death. For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat and fair to the eyes and delightful to behold, and she took of the fruit thereof and did eat, and gave to her husband who did eat.” (Genesis 3:1, et al)

Thus the sin of our first parents was completed. They had transgressed God’s command. The manner and rapidity with which this first sin was begun and developed gives us an insight into the nature of every sin. It was a sin that began first with human weakness and want of foresight. The woman tarried near the tree, listened to the tempter, and looked at the forbidden fruit.

It was a sin of disobedience. Man ceased to obey God, and obeyed, rather, the devil.

It was a sin of pride. The serpent said, “You will be like unto gods, knowing good and evil;” they yielded and permitted themselves to be led into error.

It was a sin of sensuality, both on the part of Eve and Adam. Eve ate out of an inordinate desire for a palatable fruit, Adam ate to please Eve.

The Punishment of Sin

The punishment which our first parents underwent because of their sin is described in the Holy Scriptures as follows, ” And the eyes of them both were opened: and when they perceived themselves to be naked, they sewed together fig-leaves and made themselves aprons. And when they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in paradise at the afternoon air, Adam and his wife hicj themselves from the face of the Lord God, amidst the trees of paradise. And the Lord God called Adam, and said to him, Where art thou? And he said: I heard Thy voice in paradise: and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself. And He said to him: And who hath told thee that thou wast naked, but that thou hast eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat? And Adam said: The woman, whom Thou gavest me to be my companion, gave me of the tree, and I did eat And the Lord God said to the woman: Why hast thou done this? And she answered: The serpent deceived me, and I did eat. And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will put enmities between thee and the woman and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.

“To the woman also He said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee; And to Adam he said: Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, cursed is the earth in thy work: with labor and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herbs of the earth. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return. And Adam called the name of his wife Eve: because she was the mother of all the living. And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.

“And He said: Lo Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil: now therefore lest perhaps he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever. And the Lord God sent him out of the paradise of pleasure, to till the earth from which he was taken. And he cast out Adam: and placed before the paradise of pleasure Cherubim and a flaming sword, turning every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:7-24)

This biblical narrative shows to us, as the consequences of sin, the following facts:

(a) The awakening of sensuality. They knew for the first time that they were naked and endeavored to cover themselves,

(b) The blinding of the intellect, and a false conscience. They imagined they could hide themselves from God and dreaded His presence,

(c) The perversity of the heart One tries to throw the blame on the other heartlessly and becomes the complainant. Aye, Adam even blames God indirectly for giving him the woman who led him astray,

(d) With all this was involved necessarily the loss of sanctifying grace, and with it the fall from a state of holiness and justice,

(e) The anger of God, which condemned man to the troubles of life, banished him from the garden of paradise, deprived him of the immortality of the body, left him liable to temptations from the world, the flesh, and the devil, and finally gave him the prospect of everlasting abandonment and rejection.

As regards the consequences of the first sin on man’s likeness to God, that likeness, in as far as it was supernatural, was totally destroyed. But the natural likeness was not lost, it was only weakened and disfigured. Reason, especially in its bearing on the knowledge of God and of divine things, was confused, while the free will of man was perverted toward evil. The bonds uniting God and man were burst asunder, and a deep chasm was made between heaven and eartlu The heavens were sad and the devil rejoiced.

Original Sin

The consequences of sin affected not only our first parents, but descended from them to all their posterity, in the natural generation. In this sense the sin of our first parents is called the sin of inheritance.

This doctrine was expressly defined and declared by the Catholic Church in the fifth century against Pelagius, and again in a special manner at the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. Here she teaches, ” If anyone hold that Adam’s transgression injured himself only, and not his posterity, and that he lost for himself only and not for us the sanctity and justice received from God; or that, after his repentance, he transmitted by the sin of obedience, to the whole human race, only death and the pains of the body, and not sin, which is the death of the soul, let him be anathema.

“If any one hold that this sin of Adam’s, which is one in its origin, and which is transmitted to all by generation and not by imitation, is inherent to each one, can be taken away either by the power of nature, or by any other means, save and except the merits of Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.”

This is the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in which, however, she expressly declares the Blessed Virgin Mary to be free from original sin. This doctrine also contains within itself the following points:

The inheritance of the sin of Adam by all men, except the Blessed Virgin Mary

As chief progenitor of the whole human family Adam contained within himself the germ of it, to which germ he communicated his spiritual qualities with all their weaknesses and defects, somewhat similar to the way in which ordinary parents transmit their bodily peculiarities to their children. This doctrine is taught by the Holy Scriptures, Tradition, and the testimony of all men. “Behold I was conceived in iniquities: and in sins did my mother conceive me,” says the Psalmist in Psalms 1:7, while Saint Paul writes, in Romans 5:12: “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.” As early as the second century the holy martyr Saint Justin taught, “The human race has fallen into death with Adam.” Saint Athanasius in the fourth century said, “After Adam had fallen sin was poured out upon all men.” Countless others teach the same. Moreover, this consciousness of depravity by sin among men is not exclusively Christian, it is general everywhere. Heathens have recognized it, as well as Jews and Christians. “The whole life of man,” said the ancient pagan Democritus, “is one continued sickness from his birth to his death.” Euripides complains thus: “We recognize good and acknowledge it, but fail to accomplish it.” Similar avowals have been made by nearly all the ancient heathen philosophers. They acknowledge the evil consequences of sin, but know not how to explain them.

The entailing upon man of all the effects of sin

As fire leaves behind it a track of blackened, charred devastation, so does sin leave behind it certain inevitable desolating results. We have seen what the effects of sin were upon the first man and woman. These consequences must remain the same for all the descendants of Adam, for Adam’s sin itself has been transmitted to them all. They were deprived of their state of holiness and justice, their reason was clouded, weakened, and confused, their will inclined to evil. Afflictions, sufferings, and death are the portion of the human body. Lust of the senses, and sin in all its forms, have become the torment of the soul.

That the ever Blessed Virgin Mary, through the anticipated merits of Jesus, must have been spared from this disaster to human nature, is clear to all if we only remember the one truth: that she was chosen to be the Mother of God, for Jesus Christ, her Son, who is infinite holiness itself, could not assume human nature from a body tainted with sin.

Redemption possible through Jesus Christ only

The gulf of separation between God and man was made by sin, and man’s guilt before God was infinite. Who could eliminate this guilt? Man being in a state of sinfulness was incapacitated to do it. An infinite guilt demands an infinite atonement or satisfaction which all the men ever created, even if atoning together, could never be competent to effect. God alone is able to effect it Hence in the fulness of time Jesus Christ came to redeem man, for “He had pity on the multitude.”


Preparation of Mankind for the Coming of the Saviour

From Adam to the Deluge

When Adam and Eve were driven out of paradise they were moved by the grace of God to repentance. The Doctors and the Fathers of the Church are all of the opinion that Adam and Eve, after having led a life of penance, died in the hope and expectation of the promised Redeemer. In the Book of Wisdom 10:1,2, it is expressly affirmed, “Wisdom preserved him, that was first formed by God the father of the world, when he was created alone, and she brought him out of his sin, and gave him power to govern all things.” Adam lived to be 930 years old. An old tradition says he was buried on Mount Calvary, and that the cross of Christ was afterward planted in Adam’s grave. It is in accordance with this tradition that, in many pictures of the crucifixion, a death’s head entwined with a serpent is seen at the foot of the cross. It is the skull of the first Adam at the feet of the second Adam dying in atonement for the sin of the first.

Adam and Eve lived to see the affliction of having one of their sons murdered and another become his murderer. Cain, their first-born, slew Abel out of jealousy, and thus we see coming on the members of the second generation of the human family the sad and bitter consequences of sin, which drove Lucifer out of heaven and expelled our first parents from the garden of Eden. Cain wandered restlessly over the face of the earth, bearing on his brow the brand of infamy. His guilty conscience would not permit him to dwell in the open country under the light of heaven, and he built for himself walls to protect him. His descendants were as godless as himself. In place of Abel another son was sent by God to Adam, named Seth, who became the progenitor of a God-fearing race of people. But sin continued to prevail more and more on the earth, and even the good were led astray.

In the time of Noe, who belonged to the tenth generation, God saw the sinfulness of men, all of whose thoughts, words, and acts tended to evil. He resolved, therefore, to destroy in a universal deluge the whole race, with the exception of the God-fearing Noe, his three sons and their wives whom He saved in the ark, into which at His command they entered, taking with them a pair of every kind of animal. After Noe left the ark God gave him His bless- ing, and, as the vegetable world had been very much impaired and lessened by the waters of the Deluge, permission was given to man to use the flesh of animals, though it was not allowed to use meat in blood.

Noe planted for the first time the grape-vine. From that period the days of men decreased and dwindled down to the ordinary length of a lifetime.

From the Deluge to Abraham

But very soon after the Deluge mankind again became forgetful of its God and His severe chastisements. Men and women, losing sight of their Creator, gave themselves up to the gratification of unholy desires. Yet they should have remembered God, for they saw before their eyes His glory, splendor, majesty, and power variously manifested in every department of creation. But they became unmindful of the Creator and went after the creature. They adored the sun, modn, and stars, supposing that these inanimate creatures brought them the blessing of fruitf ulness on the earth, completely overlooking Him who made them all. Men deified their fellow-men who happened to be a little above them, and forgot completely that the intellect of man, which produces such wonderful effects, is an emission of the breath of God. Finally they went so far as to worship even the animals, in fear it they were ferocious and to be dreaded, in thankfulness if they were useful animals.

At last they bent their knees before idols of wood and stone. This was the deepest degradation to which men could sink.

Yet God did not abandon altogether these idolaters to their dismal fate, for He often bestowed graces upon them in order to prepare them for the coming of the Redeemer. He caused extraordinary men to rise up among them, who saw and understood that their worship was unworthy.

He even sent prophets among them, such, for example, as Jonas to the people of Ninive. He even permitted things to come to such a pass among men that the very idolatry in which they lived became their own punishment and the cause of deep misery, and they began to realize their wretched condition, though they did not know how to help themselves. Hence the Book of Wisdom 12:23, says, “Thou hast also greatly tormented them, who in their life have lived foolishly and unjustly, by the same things which they worshiped.”

Hence, when the doctrine of salvation and redemption was preached by a Saviour and His disciples, all who had good will eagerly drank in this comforting teaching and held to it as their only means of escape from their dreadful misery.

Many other favors did God grant to men as so many means of keeping alive in their breasts the true belief and comforting hope in the future Redeemer. He set apart a chosen people who were to preserve this faith and to perpetuate it Nor did He choose a nation already existing, but built up for His own purpose a new one which had not been tainted with idolatry.

At Haran in Armenia dwelt a man who, with his father Thare, had emigrated from Ur in Chaldea because idolatry was creeping into his family. But even in that distant land his kinsmen were not free from idolatry. By his subjects this man was called Abram, which means revered father. Afterward God bestowed upon him the name Abraham, which means father of a multitude. To this Abraham came the summons of the Lord, calling upon him to go forth into a strange country, the land of Chanaan, there to dwell away from his family. Without hesitation Abraham obeyed the call of God and, taking Sarai, his wife, and Lot, his brother’s son, gave himself up completely to the leading hand of God, who then made a covenant with him and promised him a generation as numerous as the sands of the sea.

On the other hand, Abraham was required to promise for himself and his family to worship only the one true God and to keep His commandments. As long as these conditions were observed by these people God was to bless them and to defend them against all their enemies. Out of their race, too, was the future Redeemer to be born. Such was the covenant made by God with Abraham, in token of which he was to have himself and all his male descendants circumcised. This bodily circumcision was the foreshadowing of our spiritual circumcision of heart and intellect by faith and renunciation of passion in the new law.

God kept His promise and blessed Abraham, though He manifested the power of His justice toward the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha, which He destroyed with fire and brimstone because of their sins. Abraham became so powerful that he was soon able to wage war against several kings. Thus on one occasion some hostile tribes made a raid and took away Lot into captivity. But Abraham pursued them, liberated Lot, and recaptured the plunder. On his way home he was met by Melchisedech, King of Salem, who offered him bread and wine, “for he was the priest of the most high God.” (Genesis 14:18) Abraham gave him the tithes of all.

Abraham was one hundred years old when he begat Isaac. When this son was well grown up Abraham’s obedience was subjected to a very severe test, for he received from God a command to offer up in sacrifice on Mount Moriathis only son, on whose life depended the fulfilment of the promise of the numerous progeny. Yet Abraham obeyed without a murmur. God, however, arrested the uplifted sword as it was about to fall with certain death on the neck of Isaac, and He renewed His covenant with Abraham, namely, that in his seed all generations of the earth would be blessed.

Thus is prompt, believing obedience followed by its reward. So shall we be rewarded if we obey the commandments of God with faith and confidence.

The offering of Melchisedech and the sacrifice of Isaac are not merely facts belonging to the Old Testament They are figures or types, that is to say, occurrences calculated and intended to point out and pre-figure future and more significant events. The later incident is much loftier and entirely spiritual. All these symbols have a bearing on the mystery of the Redemption. Thus the offering of Melchisedech, king of Salem, is explained to us by Saint Paul, the Apostle, where he says, ” This Melchisedech was king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him: to whom also Abraham divided the tithes of all: who first indeed by interpretation is king of justice: and then also king of Salem, that is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but likened unto the Son of God” (Hebrews 7:1-3). Just as Melchisedech appears in sacred history and then disappears, without our knowing whence he came or whither he went, without our having heard of him previously or subsequently, or without any knowledge of his genealogy, so did the Saviour appear in the world and then disappear, and from all eternity He knew no genealogy. He is our King of justice and peace, for by His obedience we have been transformed from disobedient children to just men, and with our reconciliation to God we have again secured peace. As this Melchisedech, because he was a priest of the most high God, brought forth bread and wine, so does Jesus Christ, in His prerogative of eternal High Priest, offer Himself up to His heavenly Father under the forms of bread and wine. Thus, to-day, in holy Mass, is literally fulfilled all that was prefigured in the sacrifice of Melchisedech. As Abraham for God’s sake was ready to sacrifice his only son, so did God offer up His only Son for the sake of mankind.

As Isaac ascended Mount Moria, carrying on his own shoulders the wood for the fire of sacrifice, so did Our Saviour, with the wood of the cross on His shoulders, ascend Golgotha as a willing victim, who opened not His mouth, but was led as a sheep to the slaughter.

Thus Calvary became a second Moria, or mountain of view, for God looked down from heaven upon it and witnessed the painful obedience of His Son. Today He looks down reconciled on all men; and we gaze with reverence and devotion at Calvary, our altar and sanctuary, from which came salvation. Thus Isaac and Melchisedech are figures of Our Redeemer.

From Abraham to King David

The blessing of God descended from Abraham to Isaac, who had two sons, Esau and Jacob. But Esau, although he was the first-born, was from his mother’s womb rejected by God, while Jacob was chosen, because God saw that the rough disposition of Esau would render him unworthy to be the patriarch of a chosen people. And Esau was so really uncouth that he sold his birthright, and with it the blessing of God, to Jacob for a miserable mess of pottage. Thus Jacob was not only the choice of God, but also the rightful possessor of the promise.

Jacob had twelve sons. The envy of his brethren toward Joseph, the youngest, was the cause of his misfortune which, when afterward changed into his prosperity, led the simple shepherd-boy to the foot of the throne of Egypt and placed him in a position not only to save his aged father, his brethren and their families from hunger, but also to assign a place to his family where they grew to be a nation, without coming in contact with other peoples, thus escaping the taint of idolatry. For Joseph, when presenting his father and brethren to the king, had previously instructed them that, to the question of the king regarding their avocations, they should answer that they were shepherds from their youth. They did so, and as the Egyptians had an aversion for all shepherds, the king located them in a territory of their own in the land of Goshen, where they had for themselves a tract of most fruitful country, entirely detached from the other inhabitants of Egypt. Here they grew to be so numerous and powerful that they awakened the fears of the Egyptians. On this account they were after- ward oppressed in many ways, and indeed were doomed to extinction, for the king ordered all their male children to be cast into the river and drowned. But when their distress was at its highest point God raised up a liberator for His people. Moses, who as an infant should have shared the fate of other Hebrew children, escaped through the miraculous interposition of Providence, and lived at the court of the Egyptian king.

One day, seeing an Egyptian abusing an Israelite, he slew him, and was consequently obliged to fly, and to spend forty years in the desert, where he tended sheep. There God appeared to him in the midst of a burning bush and sent him, with his brother Aaron, back to Egypt, to demand from the king the freedom of their people. When the king refused, Moses performed those miraculous deeds which we read of when studying the chapter on the omnipotence of God.

At last Moses led his people unharmed through the Red Sea, while the pursuing Egyptians were drowned. During forty years the Israelites were kept wandering in the desert, where God fed them with the miraculous food called manna, and supplied them with water out of the rock. The whole journey was a continued succession of miracles, in which they could discern and acknowledge the powerful protection of their God.

But they also felt sometimes the power and severity of God’s chastisements. Once they found fault with God and Moses, and clamored to be led back to Egypt because there they had flesh and onions to eat, while in the desert they had but manna for their food. Then God sent fiery serpents among them and many who were bitten died. Then they had recourse to Moses who, at the inspiration of God, erected a brazen serpent, and all who looked upon it were healed. In this and in many other ways God proved to them that He would protect them if they would adhere to the covenant, and punish them if they became disobedient.

The above described miracles are again so many symbols whereby the Hebrews were to be prepared for the still greater miracles that would be wrought by Christ Thus the passage through the Red Sea pre-figured the liberation of mankind from the tyranny of sin through the crimson blood of Jesus Christ. Like the Israelites of old, so we, too, shall be rescued by the blood of Christ if we believe. “By faith,” says Saint Paul, “they passed through the Red Sea.” (Hebrews 11:29)

The manna was a figure of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. As the manna was a miraculous food descending from heaven to nourish the Israelites while they were in the desert, and until they reached the Promised Land, so is the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar a miraculous food for our souls coming down from heaven to be our nourishment in the desert of this life, until we shall be set free and be permitted to enter the land of glory where faith ceases and seeing begins. Hence it was that our blessed Lord began also to speak of the manna when He promised the Holy Eucharist to the Jews, and in the wonderful food of the manna He showed to them what was possible to the power of God.

The water brought forth from the dry rock by miracle was a figure of the living water which we receive from Jesus Christ, the living rock, namely, the word of God. For Christ said to the Samaritan woman, “He that shall drink of the water that I will give him, shall not thirst forever; but the water that I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing up into life everlasting.” (John 4:13,14)

Finally, the brazen serpent is a figure of Our Saviour raised upon the cross, by whom all will be healed in the necessities of their souls if with faith and confidence they look upon Him as the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world, as He Himself declares in the words, ” As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” (John 3:14,15)

But the passage through the Red Sea, as well as the feeding with manna, and the water from the rock, all teach us, in so far as they are figures, that what serves to the salvation of some serves to the condem- nation of others. The sufferings of Christ, the Holy Sacraments, and the word of God, exercise a salutary influence on those who cooperate with them, while they condemn others though using these same means of grace. Therefore we should not merely abandon ourselves to grace, we should cooperate with it. Hence St. Paul writes, “I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea: and did all eat the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink (and they drank of the spiritual rock, that followed them: and the rock was Christ), but with the most of them God was not well pleased.” (1st Corinthians 10:1-5)

It was during their sojourn in the desert that the Israelites received from God the ten commandments which constituted at once their civil and religious law; for the Jews were to enter the Land of Promise as a well-regulated nation. Yet, in punishment for their incessant murmurings and pusillanimity, not one of those who had come out of Egypt was permitted to enter the Land of Promise, not even Moses or Aaron. Only two men were excepted, Josue and Caleb. These were to be the leaders of an entirely new nation that would know nothing of Egypt and its idolatries, and who had been brought up in the fear of the Lord in the desert.

Moses lived to be one hundred and twenty years old. From Mount Nebo he was permitted to look into the land of Chanaan. After that he died and “no man hath known of his sepulcher until this present day.” (Deuteronomy 34:6) God deprived the people of Israel of the body of Moses, lest they should be tempted to worship it.

Josue, taking the place of Moses, led the people of Israel into the Land of Promise, defeated the inhabitants who opposed his march, parceled out the territory and established a community. They had now to live without a leader, for Josue also died. They elected judges; and when they fell into distress God raised up special men who gathered the people about them and saved Israel. Among these judges were Othoniel, Aod, Samgar, Barach, Gedeon, Abimelech, Thola, Jair, Jephte, Samson, and others. The last and most renowned was Samuel, the prophet. From Samuel the people demanded a king, and at the command of God he anointed Saul, the son of Cis, out of the tribe of Benjamin. But Saul, not adhering to the commandments of God, was rejected, and in his place was chosen David, a pious shepherd-boy, a son of Jesse, who, after many undeserved persecutions, was recognized by all the Israelites as their king, after Saul’s death.

From King David to the Fulness of Time

David was a renowned king and prophet who received from God the promise that out of his family the Messias, or promised king, should be born. He carried on successful warfare against the enemies of Israel, built the castle of Sion in Jerusalem, had the ark of the covenant brought thither in which the stone tables of the ten commandments, some relics of the manna, and the ever-blooming rod of Aaron, which was a symbol of the perpetual priesthood in the family of Aaron, were kept, and he made Israel rich and powerful. But, although a great king, David was greater as a prophet, ordering the mode of religious worship, adding to it dignity and solemnity, and composing the Psalms, those sacred canticles of praise, that have ever since been chanted in divine service. It was because of all this that God promised to him, “Thy house shall be faithful, and thy kingdom forever before thy face, and thy throne shall be firm forever ” (2 Kings 7:16). God also renewed in his favor the covenant

He had made with Abraham, promising him an inheritance whose empire should endure for all eternity. Hence Abraham is to be considered the first, and David the second, progenitor of the Redeemer, according to his earthly genealogy.

David’s successor in the kingdom was his son, Solomon, who built at Jerusalem a sumptuous temple in which the divinely-ordained public worship shadowed the graces and mysteries of the New Testament. In beauty and splendor this temple exceeded all conception. It was built on Mount Moria where Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac. There were to be offered up all the sacrifices until the true Paschal Lamb should be sacrificed, and it was strictly forbidden to offer up sacrifice in any other place than Jerusalem. In this temple, too, all the Jews, as soon as they had attained their twelfth year of age, were compelled to meet three times a year in order to assist in the celebration of the three principal festivals.

Solomon was surnamed the Wise on account of his great knowledge, a gift given to him by God the Lord, being the favor that Solomon asked for from Heaven in preference to all others. He died leaving his son Roboam his successor. This king having in many ways displeased and even oppressed his subjects, ten whole tribes fell away from their allegiance to him and chose Jeroboam for their ruler. Only the tribes of Juda and Benjamin remained loyal to Roboam. These two separate kingdoms stood side by side – the kingdom of Juda, composed of the tribes of Juda and Benjamin, whose capital city was Jerusalem, and the kingdom of Israel, whose seat of government was Sichem.

Soon after idolatry made its way into Israel, and later into Juda. In punishment thereof God permitted this people, who forgot their dependency on Him, to be led into captivity – the Israelites at Ninive, by King Salmanasar – and the Jews, one hundred years later, into the Babylonian captivity, by King Nabuchodonosor.

When, finally, by the favor of God, they were liberated from their severe penalties, they adhered firmly to the divine law, and waged war bravely and successfully against their enemies, having chosen for their leaders such distinguished men as the Machabees and others. They preferred to suffer death rather than to violate the religious precepts given them by God. Thus the aged Eleazar and the mother of the Machabees, with her seven sons, died the death of martyrs.

Later on we find the Jews under the dominion of the Romans, divided into four principalities with four rulers called kings, though their power was little more than nominal, for they were subject to a Roman governor living at Jerusalem. During the time of our blessed Lord on earth Herod was one of these four petty kings.

During this period of their existence God also raised up worthy men who advised and exhorted the people to remain true to their God. These warned the Jewish people, foretelling that they would be overtaken by the chastisements of Heaven. In times of want they encouraged them to turn toward God, who would help them. Enl ightened by the Holy Spirit these men assured them that a Saviour would soon rise up among them, who would rescue them from their miserable condition. So truthfully did they portray the person and life of the Saviour that when He did come the Jews should have recognized Him as their Lord and Messias. These men were called prophets, or seers of the future, because they uttered many predictions concerning the future Redeemer of all men.

The following are the most remarkable predictions of the ancient prophets:

1. Concerning the place and time of the birth of the Messias – at Bethlehem, of a virgin mother out of the tribe of David, at a time when the Jews would be without their own government.

2. Concerning the circumstances of the life and death of Christ He was to be poor and to live unknown to men, to work many miracles, to be condemned innocently, because of the sins of men to be put to death without opening His mouth, to endure derision and ignominy, to pray for His enemies – even for those who scourged Him and struck Him in the face, to have gall and vinegar administered to quench His thirst, and even to be robbed of His garments, which were raffled by His executioners.

3. Concerning His resurrection and ascension. He was not to see corruption, nor to remain in His grave, but to sit at the right hand of His Father.

4. Concerning the founding and lasting existence of His Church. He was to gather all nations about Him, His grave was to be glorified, He was to establish a kingdom without end, and His throne was to stand for all eternity.

These predictions concerning the Saviour were uttered several centuries before His coming, and found their way largely even among the heathen nations. Thus the Roman historians mention that the Jews believed that a time would come when one man would reign over the whole earth. The Persians, when the star appeared in the East, were prepared to believe that the Messias had been born. Even in Jerusalem, at the time of the birth of Christ, so prevalent was the opinion that the coming of the Messias, who was called the Anointed, could not be much longer delayed, that the venerable Simeon and the devout Anna came every day to the Temple as being the most likely place to learn the truth, for there were the greatest gatherings of the people. When Saint John appeared and began to preach it was so confidently hoped that he was the promised Messias that the elders and chief priests sent an embassy to him to inquire, ” Who art thou? And he confessed, and did not deny: and he confessed: I am not the Christ ” (John i. 19, 20). And when Jesus said to Nathanael, ” Because I saw thee under the fig-tree, thou believest: greater things than these shalt thou see. . . . Nathanael answered him, and said: Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the king of Israel.” (John 1:50 and 49) Andrew also said to Simon, “We have found the Messias.” (John 1:41)

The Fullness of Time

When all was prepared for the great atonement “the fulness of time was come” (Galatians 4:4), namely, the time when all was fulfilled that God intended as preparation, and that was to be verified in accordance with the prophecies. This was about four thousand years after the creation of the world. And, indeed, the Saviour came only at the end of four thousand years, for it was necessary that mankind should know from long experience how deep was the misery into which sin had plunged them, and that no one but God could save them. At the birth of Christ society was in such a condition that, although it could not much longer tolerate its own wretchedness, it was totally unable to discover a remedy. It had fared as all men in all times fare who deny the one true God and despise His teachings. Men were prostrate in idolatry and other vices, holding good for evil and evil for good. The more intelligent had ceased to believe in the absurd stories of mythology, yet knew not where to find God. The Jews alone knew the true God, though they knew Him but imperfectly. They had no notion of the Blessed Trinity, knew nothing of cleanness of heart, nothing about endless justness, while their worship of God was little more than perfunctory.

Finally, when spiritual distress was at its worst and spiritual misery the most profound, divine help came, for the Saviour was born.

How miserable and unhappy men were before the Messias was born I How happy are we in our day who, living after Christ’s coming, have received holy baptism and been lifted up in the true faith. Hence we can not thank God sufficiently that to us has been granted the grace and favor to know the promised Redeemer of the world, for whom all the patriarchs longed and sighed. While we love our blessed Lord we must also beseech Him to enter our hearts and to dwell therein forever, in order that we may become partakers of the graces which He purchased for us. To aid us in learning the happiness of the redeemed and the misery of the unredeemed the Church has set apart a period of time and devoted it to pious prayer and meditation, and called it Advent, which signifies “the Approach” – namely, of Christ. Consisting of the four weeks immediately preceding Christmas it corresponds to the four thousand years during which the world waited for the Messias. On the first Sunday of Advent the Gospel of the day brings us comfort, saying, “your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21:28) In the Gospel of the second Sunday our attention is called to the works of Our Saviour: “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them ” (Matthew 11:5), the purpose being to enable us the better to appreciate the grace of spiritual redemption which has illuminated darkness, pointed out the right way, purified the tainted, and aroused sinners from their lethargy.

In the Gospel of the third Sunday of Advent Saint John points out to the Jews that Isaias had already foretold the Messias and His forerunner. Finally, in the Gospel of the fourth Sunday we are told who was at that time the reigning emperor, who was governor, who were the tetrarchs, or four princes, in order that even from a historical point of view it may be proved that Christ, the Son of God, really dwelt on earth. Moreover, in accordance with the tone of the Gospels, the season of Advent should arouse in us a heartfelt longing for Our Saviour, His divine grace, for spiritual food and light of soul. For this object are celebrated the Rorate Masses, so called because the service begins with the word “Rorate” – “Rain down dew, ye heavens, and let the heavens rain the just One, let the earth open and the Saviour come forth.”

These are the words of the officiating priest when he begins the Introit, crying out with the prophet Isaias, and giving vivid expression to the profound emotional longing which we should all have for Jesus. These Rorate Masses are celebrated at break of day, in order to signify that the world has reached the end of its dark night and is entering upon the beginning of a new day, the day of regeneration and light.

Prophecies Concerning the Messias

Besides the 53d chapter of Isaias, which affords a striking portrayal of the future Saviour, the following are very remarkable:

1. “The scepter shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till He come that is to be sent, and He shall be the expectation of nations.” (Genesis 49:10)

2. His descent from David. “Behold the days come, saith the Lord; and I will raise up to David a just branch: and a king shall reign and shall be wise: and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” (Jeremias 23:5) “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness, and He shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaias 11:1,2)

3. His miraculous birth. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel, [meaning God with us]” (Isaias 7:14)

4. Bethlehem to be His birthplace. “And thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda: out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel, and His going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity” (Micheas 5:2).

5. His name. “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in God, my Jesus” (Habacuc 3:18).

6. The offerings of the three kings. “The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents, the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts” (Psalms 71:10).

7. The slaughter of the innocents. “Thus saith the Lord: a voice was heard on high of lamentation, of mourning, and weeping of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not ” (Jeremias 31:15)

8. The precursor of the Messias. “The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see, that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken.” (Isaias 40:3,5). “Behold I send My angel, and he shall prepare the way before My face: and presently the Lord whom you seek, and the angel of the testament whom you desire, shall come to His temple. Behold He cometh, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Malachias 3:1)

9. His miracles. “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap up as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free.” (Isaias 35:5)

10. His entry into Jerusalem. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold thy King will come to thee, the Just and Saviour: He is poor and riding upon ah ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zacharias 9:9)

11. His gentleness. “He shall not cry, nor have respect to person, neither shall His voice be heard abroad. The bruised reed He shall not break, and smoking flax He shall not quench: He shall bring forth judgment in truth.” (Isaias 42:2,3)

12. The blood-money of Judas and its use. “And I said to them: if it be good in your eyes, bring hither My wages: and if not, be quiet. And they weighed for My wages thirty pieces of silver.” (Zacharias 11:12)

13. His patience (Isaias 53).

14. His crucifixion and wounds. “They have dug My hands and feet: they have numbered all My bones. And they have looked and stared upon Me. They parted My garments amongst them, and upon My vesture they cast lots.” (Psalms 21:17,19)

15. The draught of vinegar. “They gave Me gall for My food: and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” (Psalms 68:22)

16. The signs at His death. ” It shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord: that the sun shall go down at midday, and I will make the earth dark in the day of light: And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation: and I will bring up sackcloth upon every back of yours, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the latter end thereof as a bitter day.” (Amos 8:9,10)

17. The piercing of His side. “They shall look upon Me, whom they have pierced.” (Zacharias 12:10)

18. His resurrection. “Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell: nor wilt Thou give Thy holy one to see corruption.” (Psalms 15:10)

19. His glory among the heathens. “In that day shall be the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of people, Him the Gentiles shall beseech, and His sepulcher shall be glorious.” (Isaias 11:10)

– text taken from An Explanation of the Apostle’s Creed: A Thorough Exposition of Catholic Faith, by Father H Rolfus, D.D., published by Benziger Brothers, 1907; it has the Imprimatur of +John M Farley, Auxiliary Bishop and Adminsitrator of New York, June 1902