Paragraph 6. Mary—Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church

963   Since the Virgin Mary’s role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated, it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. “The Virgin Mary... is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer.... She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’... since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.”502 “Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.”503 (484-507, 721-726)

I. Mary’s Motherhood with Regard to the Church

Wholly united with her Son...

964   Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. “This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death”;504 it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion: (534, 618)

Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim, born of her: to be given, by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: “Woman, behold your son.”505

965   After her Son’s Ascension, Mary “aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers.”506 In her association with the apostles and several women, “we also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation.”507

...also in her Assumption

966   “Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”508 The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians: (491)

In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death.509

...she is our Mother in the order of grace

967   By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity. Thus she is a “preeminent and... wholly unique member of the Church”; indeed, she is the “exemplary realization” (typus)510 of the Church. (2679, 507)

968   Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. “In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.”511 (494)

969   “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”512 (149, 501, 1370)

970   “Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men... flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it.”513 “No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.”514 (2008, 1545, 308)

II. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin 2673-2679

971   “All generations will call me blessed”: “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.”515 The Church rightly honors “the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs.... This very special devotion... differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.”516 The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.517 (1172, 2678)

III. Mary—Eschatological Icon of the Church

972   After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary. In her we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own “pilgrimage of faith,” and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey. There, “in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity,” “in the communion of all the saints,”518 the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother. (773, 829, 2853)

In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God.519


IN BRIEF

973   By pronouncing her “fiat” at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body.

974   The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body.

975      “We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ” (Paul VI, CPG § 15).


ARTICLE 10
“I BELIEVE IN THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS”


976   The Apostle’s Creed associates faith in the forgiveness of sins not only with faith in the Holy Spirit, but also with faith in the Church and in the communion of saints. It was when he gave the Holy Spirit to his apostles that the risen Christ conferred on them his own divine power to forgive sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”520

(Part Two of the catechism will deal explicitly with the forgiveness of sins through Baptism, the sacrament of Penance, and the other sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Here it will suffice to suggest some basic facts briefly.)

I. One Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins 1263

977   Our Lord tied the forgiveness of sins to faith and Baptism: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”521 Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, so that “we too might walk in newness of life.”522

978      “When we made our first profession of faith while receiving the holy Baptism that cleansed us, the forgiveness we received then was so full and complete that there remained in us absolutely nothing left to efface, neither original sin nor offenses committed by our own will, nor was there left any penalty to suffer in order to expiate them.... Yet the grace of Baptism delivers no one from all the weakness of nature. On the contrary, we must still combat the movements of concupiscence that never cease leading us into evil.”523 (1264)

979   In this battle against our inclination towards evil, who could be brave and watchful enough to escape every wound of sin? “If the Church has the power to forgive sins, then Baptism cannot be her only means of using the keys of the Kingdom of heaven received from Jesus Christ. The Church must be able to forgive all penitents their offenses, even if they should sin until the last moment of their lives.”524 (1446)

980   It is through the sacrament of Penance that the baptized can be reconciled with God and with the Church: (1422-1484)

Penance has rightly been called by the holy Fathers “a laborious kind of baptism.” This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn.525

II. The Power of the Keys

981   After his Resurrection, Christ sent his apostles “so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.”526 The apostles and their successors carry out this “ministry of reconciliation,” not only by announcing to men God’s forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith; but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, and reconciling them with God and with the Church through the power of the keys, received from Christ:527 (1444, 553)

[The Church] has received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven so that, in her, sins may be forgiven through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit’s action. In this Church, the soul dead through sin comes back to life in order to live with Christ, whose grace has saved us.528

982   There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. “There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest.”529 Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin.530 (1463, 605)

983   Catechesis strives to awaken and nourish in the faithful faith in the incomparable greatness of the risen Christ’s gift to his Church: the mission and the power to forgive sins through the ministry of the apostles and their successors: (1442, 1465)

The Lord wills that his disciples possess a tremendous power: that his lowly servants accomplish in his name all that he did when he was on earth.531

Priests have received from God a power that he has given neither to angels nor to archangels.... God above confirms what priests do here below.532

Were there no forgiveness of sins in the Church, there would be no hope of life to come or eternal liberation. Let us thank God who has given his Church such a gift.533


IN BRIEF

984   The Creed links “the forgiveness of sins” with its profession of faith in the Holy Spirit, for the risen Christ entrusted to the apostles the power to forgive sins when he gave them the Holy Spirit.

985   Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of the forgiveness of sins: it unites us to Christ, who died and rose, and gives us the Holy Spirit.

986   By Christ’s will, the Church possesses the power to forgive the sins of the baptized and exercises it through bishops and priests normally in the sacrament of Penance.

987   “In the forgiveness of sins, both priests and sacraments are instruments which our Lord Jesus Christ, the only author and liberal giver of salvation, wills to use in order to efface our sins and give us the grace of justification” (Roman Catechism, I, 11, 6).


Notes

502 LG 53; cf. St. Augustine, De virg. 6: PL 40, 399.

503 Paul VI, Discourse, November 21, 1964.

504 LG 57.

505 LG 58; cf. Jn 19:26-27.

506 LG 69.

507 LG 59.

508 LG 59; cf. Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus (1950): DS 3903; cf. Rev 19:16.

509 Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion, Feast of the Dormition, August 15th.

510 LG 53; 63.

511 LG 61.

512 LG 62.

513 LG 60.

514 LG 62.

515 Lk 1:48; Paul VI, MC 56.

516 LG 66.

517 Cf. Paul VI, MC 42; SC 103.

518 LG 69.

519 LG 68; cf. 2 Pet 3:10.

520 Jn 20:22-23.

521 Mk 16:15-16.

522 Rom 6:4; cf. 4:25.

523 Roman Catechism I, 11, 3.

524 Roman Catechism I, 11, 4.

525 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1672; cf. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 39, 17: PG 36, 356.

526 Lk 24:47.

527 2 Cor 5:18.

528 St. Augustine, Sermo 214, 11: PL 38, 1071-1072.

529 Roman Catechism I, 11, 5.

530 Cf. Mt 18:21-22.

531 Cf. St. Ambrose, De poenit. I, 15: PL 16, 490.

532 St. John Chrysostom, De sac. 3, 5: PG 48, 643.

533 St. Augustine, Sermo 213, 8: PL 38, 1064.

ARTICLE 11
“I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY”


988      The Christian Creed—the profession of our faith in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and in God’s creative, saving, and sanctifying action—culminates in the proclamation of the resurrection of the dead on the last day and in life everlasting.

989      We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.534 Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity: (655, 648)

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.535

990      The term “flesh” refers to man in his state of weakness and mortality.536 The “resurrection of the flesh” (the literal formulation of the Apostles’ Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our “mortal body” will come to life again.537 (364)

991      Belief in the resurrection of the dead has been an essential element of the Christian faith from its beginnings. “The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live.”538 (638)

How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.... But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.539

I. Christ’s Resurrection and Ours

The progressive revelation of the Resurrection

992      God revealed the resurrection of the dead to his people progressively. Hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole man, soul and body. The creator of heaven and earth is also the one who faithfully maintains his covenant with Abraham and his posterity. It was in this double perspective that faith in the resurrection came to be expressed. In their trials, the Maccabean martyrs confessed: (297)

The King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.540 One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him.541

993      The Pharisees and many of the Lord’s contemporaries hoped for the resurrection. Jesus teaches it firmly. To the Sadducees who deny it he answers, “Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?”542 Faith in the resurrection rests on faith in God who “is not God of the dead, but of the living.”543 (575, 205)

994      But there is more. Jesus links faith in the resurrection to his own person: “I am the Resurrection and the life.”544 It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood.545 Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life,546 announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order. He speaks of this unique event as the “sign of Jonah,”547 the sign of the temple: he announces that he will be put to death but rise thereafter on the third day.548 (646)

995      To be a witness to Christ is to be a “witness to his Resurrection,” to “[have eaten and drunk] with him after he rose from the dead.”549 Encounters with the risen Christ characterize the Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with him, and through him. (860, 655)

996      From the beginning, Christian faith in the resurrection has met with incomprehension and opposition.550 “On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body.”551 It is very commonly accepted that the life of the human person continues in a spiritual fashion after death. But how can we believe that this body, so clearly mortal, could rise to everlasting life? (643)

How do the dead rise?

997      What is “rising”? In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection. (366)

998      Who will rise? All the dead will rise, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”552 (1038)

999      How? Christ is raised with his own body: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself”;553 but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, “all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear,” but Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” into a “spiritual body”:554 (640, 645)

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel.... What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.... The dead will be raised imperishable.... For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.555

1000    This “how” exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith. Yet our participation in the Eucharist already gives us a foretaste of Christ’s transfiguration of our bodies: (647, 1405)

Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God’s blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection.556

1001    When? Definitively “at the last day,” “at the end of the world.”557 Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ’s Parousia: (1038, 673)

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.558

Risen with Christ

1002    Christ will raise us up “on the last day”; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. For, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, Christian life is already now on earth a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ: (655)

And you were buried with him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.... If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.559

1003    United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains “hidden with Christ in God.”560 The Father has already “raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”561 Nourished with his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ. When we rise on the last day we “also will appear with him in glory.”562 (1227, 2796)

1004    In expectation of that day, the believer’s body and soul already participate in the dignity of belonging to Christ. This dignity entails the demand that he should treat with respect his own body, but also the body of every other person, especially the suffering: (364, 1397)

The body [is meant] for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?... You are not your own;... So glorify God in your body.563

II. Dying in Christ Jesus

1005    To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must “be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”564 In that “departure” which is death the soul is separated from the body.565 It will be reunited with the body on the day of resurrection of the dead.566 (650)

Death

1006    “It is in regard to death that man’s condition is most shrouded in doubt.”567 In a sense bodily death is natural, but for faith it is in fact “the wages of sin.”568 For those who die in Christ’s grace it is a participation in the death of the Lord, so that they can also share his Resurrection.569

1007    Death is the end of earthly life. Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change, grow old and, as with all living beings on earth, death seems like the normal end of life. That aspect of death lends urgency to our lives: remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfillment:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth,... before the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.570

1008    Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin.571 Even though man’s nature is mortal, God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin.572 “Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned” is thus “the last enemy” of man left to be conquered.573 (401, 376)

1009    Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father’s will.574 The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.575 (612)

The meaning of Christian death 1681-1690

1010    Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”576 “The saying is sure: if we have died with him, we will also live with him.”577 What is essentially new about Christian death is this: through Baptism, the Christian has already “died with Christ” sacramentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ’s grace, physical death completes this “dying with Christ” and so completes our incorporation into him in his redeeming act: (1220)

It is better for me to die in (eis) Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. Him it is I seek—who died for us. Him it is I desire—who rose for us. I am on the point of giving birth.... Let me receive pure light; when I shall have arrived there, then shall I be a man.578

1011    In death, God calls man to himself. Therefore the Christian can experience a desire for death like St. Paul’s: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ.”579 He can transform his own death into an act of obedience and love towards the Father, after the example of Christ:580 (1025)

My earthly desire has been crucified;... there is living water in me, water that murmurs and says within me: Come to the Father.581

I want to see God and, in order to see him, I must die.582

I am not dying; I am entering life.583

1012    The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church:584

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended.
When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death
we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.585

1013    Death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When “the single course of our earthly life” is completed,586 we shall not return to other earthly lives: “It is appointed for men to die once.”587 There is no “reincarnation” after death.

1014    The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the ancient litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: “From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord”;588 to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us “at the hour of our death” in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death. (2676-2677)

Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience.... Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren’t fit to face death today, it’s very unlikely you will be tomorrow.... 589

Praised are you, my Lord, for our sister bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe on those who will die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they who will be found
in your most holy will,
for the second death will not harm them.590


IN BRIEF

1015    “The flesh is the hinge of salvation” (Tertullian, De res. 8, 2: PL 2, 852). We believe in God who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh.

1016    By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives for ever, so all of us will rise at the last day.

1017    “We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess” (Council of Lyons II: DS 854). We sow a corruptible body in the tomb, but he raises up an incorruptible body, a “spiritual body” (cf. 1 Cor 15:42-44).

1018    As a consequence of original sin, man must suffer “bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned” (GS § 18).

1019    Jesus, the Son of God, freely suffered death for us in complete and free submission to the will of God, his Father. By his death he has conquered death, and so opened the possibility of salvation to all men.


Notes

534 Cf. Jn 6:39-40.

535 Rom 8:11; cf. 1 Thess 4:14; 1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14; Phil 3:10-11.

536 Cf. Gen 6:3; Ps 56:5; Isa 40:6.

537 Rom 8:11.

538 Tertullian, De res. 1, 1: PL 2, 841.

539 1 Cor 15:12-14.

540 2 Macc 7:9.

541 2 Macc 7:14; cf. 7:29; Dan 12:1-13.

542 Mk 12:24; cf. Jn 11:24; Acts 23:6.

543 Mk 12:27.

544 Jn 11:25.

545 Cf. Jn 5:24-25; 6:40, 54.

546 Cf. Mk 5:21-42; Lk 7:11-17; Jn 11.

547 Mt 12:39.

548 Cf. Mk 10:34; Jn 2:19-22.

549 Acts 1:22; 10:41; cf. 4:33.

550 Cf. Acts 17:32; 1 Cor 15:12-13.

551 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 88, 5: PL 37, 1134.

552 Jn 5:29; cf. Dan 12:2.

553 Lk 24:39.

554 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 801; Phil 3:21; 1 Cor 15:44.

555 1 Cor 15:35-37, 42, 52, 53.

556 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4, 18, 4-5: PG 7/1, 1028-1029.

557 Jn 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24; LG 48 § 3.

558 1 Thess 4:16.

559 Col 2:12; 3:1.

560 Col 3:3; cf. Phil 3:20.

561 Eph 2:6.

562 Col 3:4.

563 1 Cor 6:13-15, 19-20.

564 2 Cor 5:8.

565 Cf. Phil 1:23.

566 Cf. Paul VI, CPG § 28.

567 GS 18.

568 Rom 6:23; cf. Gen 2:17.

569 Cf. Rom 6:3-9; Phil 3:10-11.

570 Eccl 12:1, 7.

571 Cf. Gen 2:17; 3:3; 3:19; Wis 1:13; Rom 5:12; 6:23; DS 1511.

572 Cf. Wis 2:23-24.

573 GS 18 § 2; cf. 1 Cor 15:26.

574 Cf. Mk 14:33-34; Heb 5:7-8.

575 Cf. Rom 5:19-21.

576 Phil 1:21.

577 2 Tim 2:11.

578 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom., 6, 1-2: Apostolic Fathers, II/2, 217-220.

579 Phil 1:23.

580 Cf. Lk 23:46.

581 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom., 6, 1- 2: Apostolic Fathers, II/2, 223-224.

582 St. Teresa of Avila, Life, chap. 1.

583 St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Last Conversations.

584 Cf. 1 Thess 4:13-14.

585 Roman Missal, Preface of Christian Death I.

586 LG 48 § 3.

587 Heb 9:27.

588 Roman Missal, Litany of the Saints.

589 The Imitation of Christ, 1, 23, 1.

590 St. Francis of Assisi, Canticle of the Creatures.

ARTICLE 12
“I BELIEVE IN LIFE EVERLASTING”


1020    The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life. When the Church for the last time speaks Christ’s words of pardon and absolution over the dying Christian, seals him for the last time with a strengthening anointing, and gives him Christ in viaticum as nourishment for the journey, she speaks with gentle assurance: (1523-1525, 2677, 336)

Go forth, Christian soul, from this world

in the name of God the almighty Father,

who created you,

in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God,

who suffered for you,

in the name of the Holy Spirit,

who was poured out upon you.

Go forth, faithful Christian!

May you live in peace this day,

may your home be with God in Zion,

with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,

with Joseph, and all the angels and saints....

May you return to [your Creator]

who formed you from the dust of the earth.

May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints

come to meet you as you go forth from this life....

May you see your Redeemer face to face.... 591

I. The Particular Judgment

1021    Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.592 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul—a destiny which can be different for some and for others.593 (679)

1022    Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven—through a purification594 or immediately,595—or immediate and everlasting damnation.596 (393, 1470)

At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.597

II. Heaven

1023    Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they “see him as he is,” face to face:598 (954)

By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints... and other faithful who died after receiving Christ’s holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died,... or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death,... ) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment—and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven—have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.599

1024    This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity—this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed—is called “heaven.” Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness. (260, 326, 2794, 1718)

1025    To live in heaven is “to be with Christ.” The elect live “in Christ,”600 but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.601 (1011)

For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.602

1026    By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has “opened” heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ. (793)

1027    This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”603 (959, 1720)

1028    Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man’s immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory “the beatific vision”: (1722, 163)

How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God,... to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends.604

1029  In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God’s will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him “they shall reign for ever and ever.”605 (956, 668)

III. The Final Purification, or Purgatory

1030    All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031    The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607 (954, 1472)

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608

1032    This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: (958, 1371, 1479)

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611

IV. Hell

1033    We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”612 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.613 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.” (1861, 393, 633)

1034  Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna,” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.614 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather... all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,”615 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”616

1035  The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.”617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs. (393)

1036    The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”618 (1734, 1428)

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.”619

1037    God predestines no one to go to hell;620 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”:621 (162, 1014, 1821, 678-679)

Father, accept this offering
from your whole family.
Grant us your peace in this life,
save us from final damnation,
and count us among those you have chosen.622

V. The Last Judgment

1038    The resurrection of all the dead, “of both the just and the unjust,”623 will precede the Last Judgment. This will be “the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man’s] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”624 Then Christ will come “in his glory, and all the angels with him.... Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.... And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”625 (1001, 998)

1039  In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare.626 The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life: (678)

All that the wicked do is recorded, and they do not know. When “our God comes, he does not keep silence.”... he will turn towards those at his left hand:...” I placed my poor little ones on earth for you. I as their head was seated in heaven at the right hand of my Father—but on earth my members were suffering, my members on earth were in need. If you gave anything to my members, what you gave would reach their Head. Would that you had known that my little ones were in need when I placed them on earth for you and appointed them your stewards to bring your good works into my treasury. But you have placed nothing in their hands; therefore you have found nothing in my presence.”627

1040    The Last Judgment will come when Christ returns in glory. Only the Father knows the day and the hour; only he determines the moment of its coming. Then through his Son Jesus Christ he will pronounce the final word on all history. We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvellous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end. The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death.628 (637, 314)

1041    The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them “the acceptable time,... the day of salvation.”629 It inspires a holy fear of God and commits them to the justice of the Kingdom of God. It proclaims the “blessed hope” of the Lord’s return, when he will come “to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all who have believed.”630 (1432)

VI. The Hope of the New Heaven and the New Earth 2854

1042    At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed: (769, 670, 310)

The Church... will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.631

1043    Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new earth.”632 It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.633 (671, 280, 518)

1044  In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men.634 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”635

1045  For man, this consummation will be the final realization of the unity of the human race, which God willed from creation and of which the pilgrim Church has been “in the nature of sacrament.”636 Those who are united with Christ will form the community of the redeemed, “the holy city” of God, “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”637 She will not be wounded any longer by sin, stains, self-love, that destroy or wound the earthly community.638 The beatific vision, in which God opens himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion. (775, 1404)

1046    For the cosmos, Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of the material world and man: (349)

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God... in hope because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay.... We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.639

1047    The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, “so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,” sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.640

1048   We know neither the moment of the consummation of the earth and of man, nor the way in which the universe will be transformed. The form of this world, distorted by sin, is passing away, and we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men.”641 (673)

1049    “Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come. That is why, although we must be careful to distinguish earthly progress clearly from the increase of the kingdom of Christ, such progress is of vital concern to the kingdom of God, insofar as it can contribute to the better ordering of human society.”642 (2820)

1050  “When we have spread on earth the fruits of our nature and our enterprise... according to the command of the Lord and in his Spirit, we will find them once again, cleansed this time from the stain of sin, illuminated and transfigured, when Christ presents to his Father an eternal and universal kingdom.”643 God will then be “all in all” in eternal life:644 (1709, 260)

True and subsistent life consists in this: the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, pouring out his heavenly gifts on all things without exception. Thanks to his mercy, we too, men that we are, have received the inalienable promise of eternal life.645


IN BRIEF

1051  Every man receives his eternal recompense in his immortal soul from the moment of his death in a particular judgment by Christ, the judge of the living and the dead.

1052  “We believe that the souls of all who die in Christ’s grace... are the People of God beyond death. On the day of resurrection, death will be definitively conquered, when these souls will be reunited with their bodies” (Paul VI, CPG § 28).

1053  “We believe that the multitude of those gathered around Jesus and Mary in Paradise forms the Church of heaven, where in eternal blessedness they see God as he is and where they are also, to various degrees, associated with the holy angels in the divine governance exercised by Christ in glory, by interceding for us and helping our weakness by their fraternal concern” (Paul VI, CPG § 29).

1054  Those who die in God’s grace and friendship imperfectly purified, although they are assured of their eternal salvation, undergo a purification after death, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of God.

1055  By virtue of the “communion of saints,” the Church commends the dead to God’s mercy and offers her prayers, especially the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, on their behalf.

1056  Following the example of Christ, the Church warns the faithful of the “sad and lamentable reality of eternal death” (GCD 69), also called “hell.”

1057    Hell’s principal punishment consists of eternal separation from God in whom alone man can have the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1058  The Church prays that no one should be lost: “Lord, let me never be parted from you.” If it is true that no one can save himself, it is also true that God “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4), and that for him “all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).

1059  “The holy Roman Church firmly believes and confesses that on the Day of Judgment all men will appear in their own bodies before Christ’s tribunal to render an account of their own deeds” (Council of Lyons II [1274]: DS 859; cf. DS 1549).

1060  At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. Then the just will reign with Christ for ever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed. God will then be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28), in eternal life.


“Amen”

1061    The Creed, like the last book of the Bible,646 ends with the Hebrew word amen. This word frequently concludes prayers in the New Testament. The Church likewise ends her prayers with “Amen.” (2856)

1062  In Hebrew, amen comes from the same root as the word “believe.” This root expresses solidity, trustworthiness, faithfulness. And so we can understand why “Amen” may express both God’s faithfulness towards us and our trust in him. (214)

1063    In the book of the prophet Isaiah, we find the expression “God of truth” (literally “God of the Amen”), that is, the God who is faithful to his promises: “He who blesses himself in the land shall bless himself by the God of truth [amen].”647 Our Lord often used the word “Amen,” sometimes repeated,648 to emphasize the trustworthiness of his teaching, his authority founded on God’s truth. (215, 156)

1064  Thus the Creed’s final “Amen” repeats and confirms its first words: “I believe.” To believe is to say “Amen” to God’s words, promises and commandments; to entrust oneself completely to him who is the “Amen” of infinite love and perfect faithfulness. The Christian’s everyday life will then be the “Amen” to the “I believe” of our baptismal profession of faith: (197, 2101)

May your Creed be for you as a mirror. Look at yourself in it, to see if you believe everything you say you believe. And rejoice in your faith each day.649

1065  Jesus Christ himself is the “Amen.”650 He is the definitive “Amen” of the Father’s love for us. He takes up and completes our “Amen” to the Father: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God”:651

Through him, with him, in him,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours,
almighty Father,
God, for ever and ever.

AMEN.


Notes

591 OCF, Prayer of Commendation.

592 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.

593 Cf. Lk 16:22; 23:43; Mt 16:26; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23.

594 Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274): DS 857-858; Council of Florence (1439): DS 1304-1306; Council of Trent (1563): DS 1820.

595 Cf. Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000-1001; John XXII, Ne super his (1334): DS 990.

596 Cf. Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1002.

597 St. John of the Cross, Dichos 64.

598 1 Jn 3:2; cf. 1 Cor 13:12; Rev 22:4.

599 Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000; cf. LG 49.

600 Phil 1:23; cf. Jn 14:3; 1 Thess 4:17.

601 Cf. Rev 2:17.

602 St. Ambrose, In Luc., 10, 121: PL 15, 1834A.

603 1 Cor 2:9.

604 St. Cyprian, Ep. 58, 10, 1: CSEL 3/2, 665.

605 Rev 22:5; cf. Mt 25:21, 23.

606 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1304; Council of Trent (1563): DS 1820; (1547): 1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000.

607 Cf. 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7.

608 St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4, 39: PL 77, 396; cf. Mt 12:31.

609 2 Macc 12:46.

610 Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274): DS 856.

611 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in 1 Cor. 41, 5: PG 61, 361; cf. Job 1:5.

612 1 Jn 3:14-15.

613 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

614 Cf. Mt 5:22, 29; 10:28; 13:42, 50; Mk 9:43-48.

615 Mt 13:41-42.

616 Mt 25:41.

617 Cf. DS 76; 409; 411; 801; 858; 1002; 1351; 1575; Paul VI, CPG § 12.

618 Mt 7:13-14.

619 LG 48 § 3; Mt 22:13; cf. Heb 9:27; Mt 25:13, 26, 30, 31-46.

620 Cf. Council of Orange II (529): DS 397; Council of Trent (1547): 1567.

621 2 Pet 3:9.

622 Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 88.

623 Acts 24:15.

624 Jn 5:28-29.

625 Mt 25:31, 32, 46.

626 Cf. Jn 12:49.

627 St. Augustine, Sermo 18, 4: PL 38, 130-131; cf. Ps 50:3.

628 Cf. Song 8:6.

629 2 Cor 6:2.

630 Titus 2:13; 2 Thess 1:10.

631 LG 48; cf. Acts 3:21; Eph 1:10; Col 1:20; 2 Pet 3:10-13.

632 2 Pet 3:13; cf. Rev 21:1.

633 Eph 1:10.

634 Cf. Rev 21:5.

635 Rev 21:4.

636 Cf. LG 1.

637 Rev 21:2, 9.

638 Cf. Rev 21:27.

639 Rom 8:19-23.

640 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 5, 32, 1: PG 7/2, 210.

641 GS 39 § 1.

642 GS 39 § 2.

643 GS 39 § 3.

644 1 Cor 5:28.

645 St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. illum. 18, 29: PG 33, 1049.

646 Cf. Rev 22:21.

647 Isa 65:16.

648 Cf. Mt 6:2, 5, 16; Jn 5:19.

649 St. Augustine, Sermo 58, 11, 13: PL 38, 399.

650 Rev 3:14.

651 2 Cor 1:20.