Article 44 – Catechism of the Catholic Church Series
Paragraphs 456-469 Only Son of God
In the entire history of humanity there are only two really important events — the Incarnation and the Redemption. The Incarnation, means that for love of you and me God became human. The Redemption, means that for love of us God suffered and died on the Cross. Life is truly worth living only because of these two facts!
In this section of the Catechism we focus on the Incarnation, acknowledging the birth of Jesus as the glorious climax of the Incarnation, which began when Mary consented to become the Mother of Jesus nine months before. In this mystery of the Incarnation God plays the leading role, just as he does in the Redemption. We can call God the producer and director of the entire scene. He picked the cast: a humble carpenter and a young Jewish maiden; and he wrote the lines. It is God, through his Church, who continues to give us the meaning and the lesson to be learned from this event.
Recall that a census had been ordered by the Emperor of Rome, and each was to return to the family city to be enrolled. Joseph took Mary, his wife, who was expecting the birth of her .rstborn child, from Nazareth to the city of their family, Bethlehem, the City of David. As they entered Bethlehem that night they were tired and weary from their journey of three or four days. The time for Mary’s delivery was close at hand; so it was urgent that they .nd shelter. The public inn was crowded; and, for one reason or another, other places would not accommodate them. Finally Joseph found a stable, a cave in the side of a hill just outside the City. It was here that, later that evening, the Mother gave birth to her Child, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and made a crib for him in the stall from which the animals ate.
Why did this event of the Incarnation take place? The Catechism begins this section by asking the same question in different words, “Why did the Word Become Flesh?” The Catechism explains,the Word became .esh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God, who loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins” (ccc 457).
It continues to explain that our human nature needed healing as a result of original sin and we “awaited a Savior” (ccc 457). In the words of the Catechism: “Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us” (ccc 457). Saint John had previously explained in his gospel: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” ( Jn 3:16).
This section of the Catechism tells us that Christ, the eternal Word of God, became .esh for the following reasons: — “… so that we might know God’s love” (ccc 458).— “… to be our model of holiness” (ccc 459).
— “… to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (ccc 460).
— “… in order to accomplish our salvation” (ccc 461).
Paragraph 464 then states succinctly: “The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man.”
Having said all of the above, the early centuries of Christianity were a time of upheaval when the Church had to defend and clarify this truth of faith about the Incarnation against the heresies (false teachings) that sought to undermine it. Sacred Scripture foretold that this would happen. In a second letter to his young protg, Timothy, Saint Paul wrote: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” ( 2 Tm 4:3–4).
Some of these myths or heresies included: 1. Gnostic Docetism (1st & 2nd centuries): denied Christ’s “true humanity” (ccc 465). Purported that Jesus only appeared to be human.
2. Arianism (4th century): denied that Christ is of one essence, nature, or substance with God the Father. Falsely asserted that Christ is not consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father, and is therefore not like Him. He is “from another substance than that of the Father” (ccc 465).
3. Nestorianism (5th century): claimed that “Christ as a human person [was] joined to the divine person of God’s Son” (ccc 466). In other words, Mary only bore Christ’s human nature in her womb and not “God Incarnate” in her womb, according to this heresy.
4. Monophysites (5th century): asserted that in the person of Jesus Christ there was only one, divine nature rather than two natures, divine and human, as affirmed at the Church’s Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. This heresy “affirmed that the human nature had ceased to exist … in Christ when the divine person of God’s Son assumed it” (ccc 467).
Unfortunately, in our own day we continue to encounter several variations of these and other heresies in our world (and sometimes in our Church among those who are not properly catechized).
The .nal part of this section of the Catechism states emphatically that “the Church thus confesses that Jesus is inseparably true God and true man. He is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother …” (ccc 469).
Father John G. Hillier, Ph.D., serves as Assistant Chancellor to the Bishop and the bishop’s liaison to persons with disabilities