Category Archives: Historical

The Origin of: Mystagogia

Welcome to the first entry of a very long series which I would love to call “The Origin Of”. Together we’ll explore some origins and history of our traditions, rites, and common devotions as Catholics. This particular subject is very close to my heart. I grew up Catholic, but I first learned to love The Church and our Lord when I was 8 years old. God gave me an angel, a guide, and by that time I called her “teacher”. She instructed me in meanings, and gave me an explanation to why we acted the way we did. She was patient, cheerful, and very smart on how to explain a very curious 8-year-old.

As I grow older, I realize that is that kind of instructions that made me fall completely in love with our Church and our faith.  It also helps me be aware of what I do in mass, while praying the rosary, confession, and our many devotions.

By writing this, I don’t pretend to be your (only) source of knowledge. I just want to share with you what I know, what I have investigated; I want you to feel the need of getting to really know our Church, and through it, get to know who Jesus really is. Not who you think He is, but who He IS. I want to share with you the reasons I love our Tradition. I pray you learn to love our Tradition, Rites and everything, and live every single one of them with true happiness, even when a smile is not at hand.

So let’s get started.

During early times of Christianity newly Baptized Christians went through a period of ‘Mystagogia’, a time in which they were introduced to deeper knowledge of the faith.  Small details of Rites and devotions (like the water in the baptism, the wine and bread, the rosary, the adoration of the cross) where explained.  During this time, all these wonderful newly baptized Christians used to wear white (more symbols).

But why was this so important? Well, we really can’t love what we do not know. The Catholic Church, and Its Founder, Our Lord, have always used symbols and material things to explain, represent, and reveal spiritual things. Things (facts) we cannot see, touch, or even imagine. And even when all spiritual things are invisible to our eyes, they are here.

Jesus made many miracles (still does!) on this earth. Notice my dear reader, miracles are symbols (don’t get me wrong, they have massive importance); a way of illustrating to us, his children, that He is in fact, GOD.

To give a basic example, water has always been a associated with “pure”, “purifying”, “cleaning”. In the baptism, the Original Sin is removed, our soul cleaned. So, water is symbol of the action of the Holy Spirit.

So as you see, we are going to be talking about the origin of these symbols, how they came to be and why.

When we stand, when we kneel, when we speak, when we listen, when we pray, when we remain in silence…..everything has a reason. Everything is to bring us closer to God.

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YOUCAT Series 7 – What We Believe: I Believe in God the Father

Questions 30 to 48
The remaining questions in Part 1 hone in more closely on the contents of the Creed. Here we will be looking specifically at God the Father.

I’m using a great deal of links to broaden your knowledge of the concepts in the YOUCAT this time. I hope you gain insight from them.

Q. 30
Although I am trying to not just cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1997) in our study, it is worth reading what it says about the One God,

These are the words with which the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed begins. The confession of God’s oneness, which has its roots in the divine revelation of the Old Covenant, is inseparable from the profession of God’s existence and is equally fundamental…Jesus himself affirms that God is “the one Lord” whom you must love “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”.

Q. 31
The General Directory For Catechesis explains why God gave Himself a name;

– Jesus, with the Kingdom, proclaims and reveals that God is not a distant inaccessible Being, “a remote power without a name” (332) but a Father, who is present among his creatures and whose power is his love.

Q. 32
Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote a wonderful encyclical on the splendor of truth, I highly recommend reading it when you have time.

Q. 33
Many people today have no idea of the concept of real love -that love is always coupled with suffering. Pope Benedict goes to explain,

“God has so loved us that he gave himself up for us: This is the message of the Cross, ‘mystery of death and of glory. ‘The cross reminds us that there is no true love without suffering, there is no gift of life without pain,”

Q. 34
So much wisdom in this question! How often, even during the day, when, on the whole, we are trying to put God first in our lives, do we slip up and think we will find fulfillment in our own wants?

This has some helpful strategies to help put God first in our lives.

Q. 35
On the Trinity,

[T]he concrete saving way that God gives grace to us corresponds to three distinct, interrelated ways of existing within God’s own being. God exists in a threefold manner, as first, second and third person, or as radically transcendent, incarnate and continually present, as we experience in the Christ event. In speaking of the triune God, we exercise a radical faith that, as Catherine LaCugna writes, “we do not know a shadow image of God but the real living God of Jesus Christ in their Spirit. The God who saves—this is God.”

Q. 36
St Theresa of Avila on the Trinity.

Q. 37
The line that stands out for me here is ‘… father and mother stand for origin and authority, for what is protective and supportive.’

Read this page for some Saints’ quotes on the subject of obedience.

Q. 38
Encyclical on the Holy Spirit (1986),

Q. 39
A discussion on who Jesus is;

For all men of good will to whom creation speaks as a wonderful work of God, for all honest men who feel within themselves the experience of emptiness and of hunger for truth and justice for all men who search for a meaning in life and a destiny to pursue, for all of those and to all of them Christ offers Himself as the way, the truth and the life which begin and end with God.

Q. 40
The word almighty here is worth further analysis I believe.

Q. 41
This is the best description on the topic of evolution and creation; it makes St Thomas Aquinas’ teachings much more easy to understand compared to anything else I’ve read.

Q. 42
How was the Genesis account of creation interpreted before Darwin?:

The history of Christian thought has not been consistently dominated by proponents of a literal interpretation of Genesis. The discoveries of modern science should neither be seen as the instigator of some abandonment of trust in Scripture, nor as contradictory to Scripture, but as guideposts toward a proper understanding of Scripture’s meaning.

Q. 43
See How do randomness and chance align with belief in God’s sovereignty and purpose?

And from Catholics/Free Will/ Predestination;

The only proper framework to understand predestination must be rooted in the notion of a communion of persons in love. Why? The nature of God as Trinity is this very kind of communion and God created man to share in that “blessed life” (cf. Catechism, no. 1). This communion of love demands freedom of will. For love is not something thrust upon a person, but offered as a gift. This communion of love in the Trinity is also the basis for evangelization in the Church (cf. Catechism, no. 850). As this is the very essence of the relationship between God and man, everything in one way or another must refer back to it and be measured by it. As this was God’s purpose in creating man, it is also intimately tied to our redemption and our ultimate destiny. God is love (1 Jn. 4:8).

Q. 44
These two pages (one and two), on the topic of Creation, are helpful to understand this question.

Q. 45
The more that you can understand the principle of natural law the better. It can be used as a foundation for dialogue on contemporary issues such as euthanasia, abortion and same-sex marriage. Hence, it is writen about in the context of its relationship to democracy in Evangelium Vitae and it is also discussed in the Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine ;

138. In the exercise of their freedom, men and women perform morally good acts that are constructive for the person and for society when they are obedient to truth, that is, when they do not presume to be the creators and absolute masters of truth or of ethical norms[261]. Freedom in fact does not have “its absolute and unconditional origin … in itself, but in the life within which it is situated and which represents for it, at one and the same time, both a limitation and a possibility. Human freedom belongs to us as creatures; it is a freedom which is given as a gift, one to be received like a seed and to be cultivated responsibly”[262]. When the contrary is the case, freedom dies, destroying man and society[263].

139. The truth concerning good and evil is recognized in a practical and concrete manner by the judgment of conscience, which leads to the acceptance of responsibility for the good accomplished and the evil committed. “Consequently in the practical judgment of conscience, which imposes on the person the obligation to perform a given act, the link between freedom and truth is made manifest. Precisely for this reason conscience expresses itself in acts of ‘judgment’ which reflect the truth about the good, and not in arbitrary ‘decisions’. The maturity and responsibility of these judgments — and, when all is said and done, of the individual who is their subject — are not measured by the liberation of the conscience from objective truth, in favour of an alleged autonomy in personal decisions, but, on the contrary, by an insistent search for truth and by allowing oneself to be guided by that truth in one’s actions”[264].

140. The exercise of freedom implies a reference to a natural moral law, of a universal character, that precedes and unites all rights and duties[265]. The natural law “is nothing other than the light of intellect infused within us by God. Thanks to this, we know what must be done and what must be avoided. This light or this law has been given by God to creation”[266]. It consists in the participation in his eternal law, which is identified with God himself[267]. This law is called “natural” because the reason that promulgates it is proper to human nature. It is universal, it extends to all people insofar as it is established by reason. In its principal precepts, the divine and natural law is presented in the Decalogue and indicates the primary and essential norms regulating moral life[268]. Its central focus is the act of aspiring and submitting to God, the source and judge of everything that is good, and also the act of seeing others as equal to oneself. The natural law expresses the dignity of the person and lays the foundations of the person’s fundamental duties[269].

141. In the diversity of cultures, the natural law unites peoples, enjoining common principles. Although its application may require adaptations to the many different conditions of life according to place, time and circumstances,[270] it remains immutable “under the flux of ideas and customs and supports their progress … Even when it is rejected in its very principles, it cannot be destroyed or removed from the heart of man. It always rises again in the life of individuals and societies”[271]

Its precepts, however, are not clearly and immediately perceived by everyone. Religious and moral truths can be known “by everyone with facility, with firm certainty and without the admixture of error”[272] only with the help of Grace and Revelation. The natural law offers a foundation prepared by God for the revealed law and Grace, in full harmony with the work of the Spirit[273].

142. The natural law, which is the law of God, cannot be annulled by human sinfulness[274]. It lays the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community and for establishing the civil law that draws its consequences of a concrete and contingent nature from the principles of the natural law[275]. If the perception of the universality of the moral law is dimmed, people cannot build a true and lasting communion with others, because when a correspondence between truth and good is lacking, “whether culpably or not, our acts damage the communion of persons, to the detriment of each”[276]. Only freedom rooted in a common nature, in fact, can make all men responsible and enable them to justify public morality. Those who proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow men and cooperate with them[277].

143. Freedom mysteriously tends to betray the openness to truth and human goodness, and too often it prefers evil and being selfishly closed off, raising itself to the status of a divinity that creates good and evil: “Although he was made by God in a state of holiness, from the very onset of his history man abused his liberty, at the urging of the Evil One. Man set himself against God and sought to attain his goal apart from God … Often refusing to acknowledge God as his beginning, man has disrupted also his proper relationship to his own ultimate goal as well as his whole relationship toward himself and others and all created things”[278]. Human freedom needs therefore to be liberated. Christ, by the power of his Paschal Mystery, frees man from his disordered love of self[279], which is the source of his contempt for his neighbour and of those relationships marked by domination of others. Christ shows us that freedom attains its fulfilment in the gift of self[280]. By his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus places man once more in communion with God and his neighbour.

Many Catholics have no idea about the richness of Catholic social teaching; so when you have time it will be really worthwhile to get aquatinted with the whole Compendium!

This is another of my favorites on natural law.

St Thomas Aquinas, moreover, was the one who developed the understanding of natural law from ancient greek philosophy, work by Saint Augustine and revelation. Even though many others have approaches to Natural Law, St Thomas Aquinas is still acknowledged by the Church as the most regarded. For more on its history go here.

– A slideshow on Natural Law.

Useful information on the basis of Natural Law, especially when debating for its existence with someone who follows a secular humanist life philosophy, such as one defined by John Hagee;

Secular humanism by its very nature rejects the belief in God as well as the belief that man needs to submit to a moral code proposed by a higher power. It rejects the belief in spirit and supernatural and takes on a “naturalistic” philosophy that embraces science rather than faith. It teaches that there is no god and that what you see in the physical realm is all that exists. The secular humanist does not believe in sin, the concept of need for a savior, in miracles or supernatural experiences on earth or in life after death.

One area that must be considered is that there is no sin or concept of good and evil, as described in Scripture, in secular humanism. Additionally, there is no demonic or angelic activity. Without the concepts of “good and evil” contributing to a moral code, the secular humanist looks towards science to describe and explain human behavior as well as to develop an individual moral code. According to the Secular Humanism Declaration,“It should be noted that secular humanism is not so much a specific morality as it is a method for the explanation and discovery of rational moral principles.”

Q. 46
For a discussion on how to interpret Genesis see these two pages, here and here.

Q. 47
Time for Sabbath Rest?

Q. 48
Ways to glorify God

Reflection Questions
• What does ‘utilitarianism’ mean?

• What is the difference between the terms ‘greater good’ and ‘common good’?

YOUCAT Series 4 – What We Believe: God Approaches Us Men

Questions 7 to 19
This section explains how God reveals Himself to us from the beginning of creation through the prophets and in the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Q. 7
Most importantly, in this question we find out that God reveals Himself when we read Sacred Scripture.

Q. 8
Here is a great article which sheds some light on the New Covenant that God gave His Church.

Q. 9
Another way that Jesus reveals Himself to us is in our suffering.

This piece about a dying 18-year-old demonstrates well how Jesus shows Himself to us when we suffer.

As Blessed Mother Theresa spoke:

One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, “You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus–a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.” And she joined her hands together and said, “Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.”

Q. 10
An article on private revelation;

Public revelation is binding on all Christians, but private revelation is binding only on those who receive it. The Catholic Church teaches that public revelation was completed, and therefore was concluded, with the death of the last apostle (Vatican II, Dei Verbum 4), but private revelation has continued.

Q. 11
The next question in the YOUCAT talks about handing on the faith;

I believe our greatest challenge today as Catholics is to get people to think differently in a culture that has become highly secularized.

Indeed, Cardinal Ratzinger once said:

The Greek word for converting means: to rethink—to question one’s own and common way of living; to allow God to enter into the criteria of one’s life; to not merely judge according to the current opinions. Thereby, to convert means: not to live as all the others live, not do what all do, not feel justified in dubious, ambiguous, evil actions just because others do the same; begin to see one’s life through the eyes of God; thereby looking for the good, even if uncomfortable; not aiming at the judgment of the majority, of men, but on the justice of God—in other words: to look for a new style of life, a new life.

For the full-text of this essay see here.

Q. 12
This question sums up what it is to be a ‘child of light’, in other words, touched by God’s Word.

As Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical on the Splendor of Truth explains brilliantly,

Called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, “the true light that enlightens everyone” (Jn 1:9), people become “light in the Lord” and “children of light” (Eph 5:8), and are made holy by “obedience to the truth” (1 Pet 1:22).

What this quote means by truth is what is inspired by the Holy Spirit and preserved in the Apostolic Church by its teaching authority (the Magisterium).

Q. 13
See The Magisterium or Teaching Authority of the Church ;

“The task of authoritatively interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on [Scripture or Tradition], has been entrusted exclusively to the living Magisterium of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Q. 14
See the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, from the Second Vatican Council – Dei Verbum

Q. 15
See Are the Gospels Myth?;

Christianity, more than any other religion, is rooted in history and makes strong — even shocking — claims about historical events, most notably that God became man and dwelt among us. Of course, some Christians of a less-than-orthodox persuasion are content to discard large chunks of the Gospels as unnecessary (or even “offensive”) or to interpret as “mythological” or “metaphorical” nearly each and every event and belief described therein. But such is not the belief of the Catholic Church (or of the Eastern Orthodox churches and most conservative Protestants). As the Catechism of the Catholic Church flatly states: “Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith” (CCC 463).

Q. 16
Here is a piece called, Approaching and Appreciating the Sacred Scriptures, which tells us, as well as what is described in its title, of the wonderful story of the conversion of Saint Augustine and his love of the Bible

Q. 17
In the following quote, Pope John Paul II discusses the meaning of the Old Testament in his encyclical Mulieris Dignitatem – On the Dignity and Vocation of Women,

The whole Old Testament is mainly concerned with revealing the truth about the oneness and unity of God. Within this fundamental truth about God the New Testament will reveal the inscrutable mystery of God’s inner life. God, who allows himself to be known by human beings through Christ, is the unity of the Trinity: unity in communion. In this way new light is also thrown on man’s image and likeness to God, spoken of in the Book of Genesis. The fact that man “created as man and woman” is the image of God means not only that each of them individually is like God, as a rational and free being. It also means that man and woman, created as a “unity of the two” in their common humanity, are called to live in a communion of love, and in this way to mirror in the world the communion of love that is in God, through which the Three Persons love each other in the intimate mystery of the one divine life. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God through the unity of the divinity, exist as persons through the inscrutable divine relationship. Only in this way can we understand the truth that God in himself is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:16).


Q.18
Lastly, we move on to the New Testament which Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger described in his book, “The New Covenant: A Theology of Covenant in the New Testament”: ‘Christology thus appears as a synthesis of the covenantal theology of the New Testament, which is grounded in the unity of the entire Bible.’

Q. 19
See, The Mass is not entertainment ;

“Although the homily should be on the Scripture readings and the other liturgical texts, some way has to be found to cover the whole area of Catholic faith in a period of three years because many Catholics are really ignorant of fundamental matters. That is a fact nobody can deny.”

Reflection Questions

• How often do you contemplate the face of Jesus?

• What does the term ‘relativism’ mean?

Note: There is a new free YOUCAT App at the iTunes App Store that you might like to check out!