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The “Catechism Collection”
The “Catechism Collection” will be a collection and synthesis of the best traditional catechisms available, which will clearly explain, in-depth, all the traditional subjects dealt with by catechisms—with the additional aspects of:
(1) Including more scriptural elements, both as proofs and as examples of the catechetical teaching.
(2) Relating the teaching to our daily life, both spiritually and practically.
(3) Looking at the moral consequences of the catechetical teaching—as regards what virtues should be practiced in applying the teaching, and what sins are committed against the teaching.
Challenging Times Require Challenging Catechetics
You cannot love what you do not know. You will not lay down your life for something you do not love GREATLY. Truth was made to be loved, but, before it can be loved, it must be known. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the “Little Flower”, once said that the reason that Jesus is so little loved is because He is so little known. We all know who Jesus is, but we know so little about Him. Likewise, we all know what the Faith is, but we know so little about it.
Pope St. Pius X once said that the greatest enemy of the Church was not Protestantism, nor paganism, nor the Masons, or some other body or group. He said that the greatest enemy of the Catholic Church was IGNORANCE. For it is the ignorance of Catholics that allows all kinds of false teachings and pitiful morals to enter into the fold. We know things, but we know too little. We know things, but too vaguely. We are content with a mere superficial knowledge of the Faith. We argue emotionally and not logically, using “two-bit” phrases haphazardly with an air of pretended intellectualism. That is why Catholics have succumbed to apostasy today. They are too dumb to know better and they don’t really want to know better, for the world and its worldliness offers a better package deal!
Not a “Drive-Thru” Catechism
Consequently and obviously, this is not going to be a “McDonald’s Drive-Thru” Catechism or an “Express Catechism Check-Out Line.” It will be a challenge to gather together, edit and produce and it will be a challenge to read and assimilate—yet such a challenge must be met at a time when our Faith is being challenged like never before. We, according to reputable prophecies, are living at time of apostasy, or loss of Faith, which ominously point towards Our Lord’s words: “The Son of man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, Faith on Earth?” (Luke 18:8).
Our Lady of Good Success, referring to our times, speaks of “the small number of souls, who hidden, will preserve the treasures of the Faith and practice virtue.” For the Faith will diminish as “the effects of secular education will increase … The Christian spirit will rapidly decay, extinguishing the precious light of Faith, until it reaches the point that there will be an almost total and general corruption of morals” … “Moreover, in these unhappy times, there will be unbridled luxury which, acting thus to snare the rest into sin, will conquer innumerable frivolous souls who will be lost.”
Our Lady of La Salette reinforces this, saying: “People will think of nothing but amusements” while the clergy, “the leaders of the people of God, have neglected prayer and penance, and the devil has bedimmed their intelligence. They have become wandering stars which the old devil will drag along with his tail to make them perish” because “by their wicked lives, by their irreverence and their impiety in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries, by their love of money, their love of honors and pleasures, the priests have become cesspools of impurity.”
Consequently, it will be easy for the devil to make the Faith crumble: “Lucifer, together with a large number of demons, will be unloosed from Hell; they will put an end to Faith little by little, even in those dedicated to God. They will blind them in such a way, that, unless they are blessed with a special grace, these people will take on the spirit of these angels of Hell. Several religious institutions will lose all Faith and will lose many souls … The true Faith to the Lord having been forgotten … the Church will witness a frightful crisis” (Our Lady of La Salette).
The Whittling-Away of the Faith
What is true in the natural and physical realm, is often also true for the supernatural and spiritual realm. In our natural life, we have to be always working upon certain things for mere survival alone. Each and every day we need water, food, sleep, exercise and protection from danger. If we neglect any or all of these things, nature will strike back in one way or another and we will suffer in some way. Even if we have all these things, but in an insufficient manner, then the same thing will happen—only more slowly. Eat poorly or eat junk food; drink too little water and too many sugary drinks or too much alcohol; regularly sleep too little; rarely exercise; be negligent about maintaining your home or car—and very soon things will start to go wrong and fall apart.
The same is true for our supernatural life. Our food is the Word of God—“Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Grace is water for our spiritual life—the water that is poured over us in our Baptism, signifies the grace that is poured into our souls. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Spiritual sleep or spiritual rest is where we withdraw ourselves from the world to restore spiritual energies through meditation and prayer. Protection from spiritual danger is the avoidance of the occasions of sin, which the world, the devil and our flesh bombards us with plentifully each day and which must be resisted by mortifications (meaning “to put to death” these assaults) and penance (which is paying for our past failings in this regard).
A Lack of Love is Fatal
Fr. Francis Spirago, author of The Catechism Explained, states that the teaching of the Faith should be “calculated to touch the heart and kindle the flame of charity towards God and one’s neighbor, and is not this the effect which every good hand-book of religion, every good sermon, every good catechetical instruction ought to produce? We already possess in abundance catechisms and religious manuals which appeal only to the intellect; books which do not aim at the warmth of expression and the fervent, persuasive eloquence which appeal to the heart, the force and vivifying power which affect the will through the influence of the Holy Spirit” (Preface, The Catechism Explained).
To satisfy the demands of disinterested Catholics, catechisms, over time, have become like fast-food chains, dispensing the word of God in a minimalized and truncated package. Only the bare essentials! Bite-sized chunks! Yet those bare essentials barely suffice when the Faith is under attack and cannot bear the ferocity of the attack due to the ignorance of the faithful. A pocket-knife will help you do the bare essentials, but it will not win a war for you. The celebrated “Penny Catechism” is fine, if it serves a memory jogger for the greater and deeper intricacies of the Faith that you have already learnt, but if you intend to win others over to the Faith or defend your Faith with the “Penny Catechism”, you will find that a penny does not go very far!
To Keep the Faith, We Must Love the Faith
Those who want to keep the Faith, must love the Faith. Yet love is little when your knowledge is little. Or, at best, it is only a sentimental, emotional, illogical love that cannot explain itself—which is what we must do with the Faith, as St. Peter commands: “Being ready, always, to satisfy everyone that asketh you for a reason of that hope which is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). We love our family and friends because we know them well. There are plenty of better people out there—but we don’t know them and so we don’t love them. A supporter or a fan of a sports team, usually knows a lot about the team. If we want to be supporters or fans of the Faith, we had better know a lot about our Faith—otherwise our love will gradually grow cold, weaken and then fail. This happens in so many natural settings—spouses, who don’t work hard at keeping their love alive, will grow apart. Students, who do not love their studies, will gradually see their grades worsen and will eventually fail. Teachers, who do not love what they teach, will fail to communicate a love of the subject to most students. Athletes, who do not love their field of discipline, will perform poorly. A craftsman, who does not love his craft, will produce poor work.
Knowledge and Love
All of this is perfectly reflected in the shocking and terrifying statement by God: “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth!” (Apocalypse 3:16). This shows us what a lack of love fervor leads to—rejection by God. Therefore, we must not only KNOW our Faith, but work hard to ensure that we also LOVE our Faith. That is why we have been given those two powers of the soul—the intellect and the will. The intellect KNOWS things, while the will LOVES things. We sometimes call the intellect and will by the similar names of MIND and HEART. The mind KNOWS, the heart LOVES. Yet the danger for our days—which are days of apostasy according to many prophecies—is both a lack of Faith and lack of charity or love of the Faith. As Holy Scripture says: “The Son of man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, Faith on Earth?” (Luke 18:8). “And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). Knowledge leads to love, and love preserves knowledge by keeping it focused on what is loved.
It’s a Fight, Folks!
The true preservation of the true Faith requires true effort. “The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away” (Matthew 11:12), which is why St. Paul writes: “Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain … I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty: I so fight, not as one beating the air; but I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment!” (Mark 12:30).
But to love God wholeheartedly, we must wholeheartedly throw ourselves into knowing Him. How many people are like that? Most won’t do that! “God looked down from heaven on the children of men: to see if there were any that did understand, or did seek God. All have gone aside, they are become unprofitable together, there is none that doth good, no not one!” (Psalm 52:3-4). Most people want to “fast-track” most things that deal with God. They want a fast Mass, a fast Rosary, a short meditation, little or no spiritual reading—and little or no catechism. The fewer the pages in the catechism, the better! Try explain all that on the Day of Judgement—when you want to get into Heaven, but couldn’t be bothered with the things of Heaven while you were on Earth! You cannot fake-out God! What you sow is what you reap: “He who soweth sparingly, shall also reap sparingly!” (2 Corinthians 9:6).
Sowing and Reaping and Knowing
At the end of the day, “minimalists” will have a minimal chance of salvation. What is your interpretation of these words: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Luke 12:31) … “Love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength!” (Mark 12:30)? Does that call for minimal study about God, or maximum. Most people give at least ten times more attention to trivial, worldly things than they do to God. That’s trying to fake-out God. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Short Catechisms Are For Little Children, Not Adults
A catechism is meant to be a compendium of the Faith—yet people want it to be so small that it can fit in the pocket! A compendium of the Faith means a summary of the essentials of the Faith. How is it that we have nerve to trivialize the Faith when St. John says of Jesus: “There are also many other things which Jesus did; which, if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written!” (John 21:25). It is only the cheap Catholic who wants to be a minimalist! Sports fans can pore over material about their teams for hours a day! Teenagers can spend hours a day on the social media! On our Day of Judgment this will be brought to our attention, with words similar to: “For the children of this world are wiser than the children of light!” (Luke 16:8). In other words, the children of the world have put in far more hours into their worldliness than the children of God have put into godliness.
A Challenge to Produce
To even think about this Catechism Collection or Catechetical Compendium is a challenge, for, as Fr. Clarke, the editor writing the Preface to Fr. Francis Spirago’s The Catechism Explained, correctly points that “Technical terms, in which almost all religious manuals abound, even those intended for children, are carefully eliminated from his pages, since, while useful and necessary for seminarians and theologians, they are out of place in a book intended for the laity. Popular manuals of religion ought to be couched in plain and simple language, like that used by Our Lord and the Apostles, easy of comprehension; for what we need is something that will touch the heart and influence the will, not cram the mind with knowledge unattractive to the reader. The state of society and the spirit of the age have also been, taken into consideration in the preparation of this book. The writer has endeavored in the first place to combat the self-seeking, pleasure-loving materialism of the day.” This sad state has worsened considerably since Fr. Spirago first compiled his 700+ page The Catechism Explained back in 1899 (republished in 1921, 1927, 1949 and 1993). Different facets of worldliness have come on the scene that simply did not exist back then—and these have to be duly covered.
Yet there are other worthy Catechisms that cannot be brushed aside—for they either contain elements that Fr. Spirago has not covered, or they explain certain things with either greater clarity or greater depth. The researching of all these Catechisms, comparing them, assessing them and blending them is not a “fast-track” project of the kind that is preferred today. Yet a Catechism has to relevant to the problems of its day, for, as the Preface of The Catechism Explained says that the “Catechism is, in fact, nothing more or less than an abstract of Our Lord’s teaching, and may be called a guide book for the Christian soul on the road to Heaven.” The lay of the land changes with each decade, as new side roads are added, that are meant to lead the Christian aside and astray. Therefore, Catechisms need to be “current” so to speak, dealing not only with teaching from the past, but also its application to the problems of the present time.
The challenge is that today's problems have become complicated, whereas the Catholic mind has become too simple, or "dumbed-down" for want of another expression. We are "dummies" as regards our knowledge of the Faith, yet very intelligent as regards things of the world. But a simple "dumb" answer cannot solve the complexities caused by today's sinfulness and worldliness.
A Challenge to Read
The above dilemma produces a problem akin to “growing pains” or perhaps “physiotherapy”, whereby the half-crippled mind has to be painfully forced through exercises that a normal mind would perform with ease—but since we have been “dumbed-down” in matters of the Faith, it is like having a person who has the body of a 40 year-old, but the mind of 10 year old. We are way behind in our religious development, but way advanced in our worldly development. Yet, as they say, “No pain, no gain!” So rather than produce just another simplistic, dumbed-down Catechism for the fast-track Catholics of the world, who don’t have time to think in any real depth, but only have time for a “two-bit” quickie answer on matters of the Faith, we will try to produce a thought provoking (thus pain inducing and time consuming) Catechism that goes into depth, rather than skims the surface.
Modern Mushy Minds
Our minds have atrophied and have been turned to mush by the worldliness of our times. Yet, the mental muscle is necessary if we are to keep our Faith in these times of apostasy. Remember that, merely 50 years ago, better minds than ours grasped the Faith far better than we do today—yet they ended up going down the fatal road of Modernism, Liberalism and Ecumenism. If such strong minds could fall by the wayside, then there but for the grace of God go we! Therefore, allied to the learning of the Faith, must be the praying of the soul—as Our Lord said: “And He spoke also a parable to them, that we ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). Hence the wisdom of the ancient adage: “Pietas cum doctrina, et doctrina cum pietate”—literally meaning “piety with doctrine, doctrine with piety.” We could paraphrase that to say: “Unite prayer with doctrinal learning, and doctrinal learning with prayer.” The Catechism should be able to furnish material for rich and fruitful meditation, while meditation on the truths of the Catechism should strengthen our Faith and a love of it.
Pope St. Pius X on Religious Knowledge
In his papal encyclical, Acerbo Nimis (1905), Pope St. Pius X writes: “It is a common complaint, unfortunately too well founded, that there are large numbers of Christians in our own time who are entirely ignorant of those truths necessary for salvation. And when we mention Christians, We refer not only to the masses or to those in the lower walks of life - for these find some excuse for their ignorance in the fact that the demands of their harsh employers hardly leave them time to take care of themselves or of their dear ones - but We refer to those especially who do not lack culture or talents and, indeed, are possessed of abundant knowledge regarding things of the world but live rashly and imprudently with regard to religion. It is hard to find words to describe how profound is the darkness in which they are engulfed and, what is most deplorable of all, how tranquilly they repose there. They rarely give thought to God, the Supreme Author and Ruler of all things, or to the teachings of the faith of Christ. They know nothing of the Incarnation of the Word of God, nothing of the perfect restoration of the human race which He accomplished. Grace, the greatest of the helps for attaining eternal things, the Holy Sacrifice and the Sacraments by which we obtain grace, are entirely unknown to them. They have no conception of the malice and baseness of sin; hence they show no anxiety to avoid sin or to renounce it.
“And so they arrive at life’s end in such a condition that, lest all hope of salvation be lost, the priest is obliged to give in the last few moments of life a summary teaching of religion, a time which should be devoted to stimulating the soul to greater love for God. And even this as too often happens only when the dying man is not so sinfully ignorant as to look upon the ministration of the priest as useless, and then calmly faces the fearful passage to eternity without making his peace with God. And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: ‘We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.’ How many and how grave are the consequences of ignorance in matters of religion! And on the other hand, how necessary and how beneficial is religious instruction! It is indeed vain to expect a fulfillment of the duties of a Christian by one who does not even know them.
“For this reason the Council of Trent, treating of the duties of pastors of souls, decreed that their first and most important work is the instruction of the faithful. It therefore prescribes that they shall teach the truths of religion on Sundays and on the more solemn feast days; moreover during the holy seasons of Advent and Lent they are to give such instruction every day or at least three times a week. This, however, was not considered enough!
“Perhaps there are some who, wishing to lessen their labors, would believe that the homily on the Gospel can take the place of catechetical instruction. But for one who reflects a moment, such is obviously impossible. The sermon on the holy Gospel is addressed to those who should have already received knowledge of the elements of faith. It is, so to speak, bread broken for adults. Catechetical instruction, on the other hand, is that milk which the Apostle Peter wished the faithful to desire in all simplicity like newborn babes. The task of the catechist is to take up one or other of the truths of Faith, or of Christian morality, and then explain it in all its parts; and since amendment of life is the chief aim of his instruction, the catechist must needs make a comparison between what God commands us to do and what is our actual conduct. After this, he will use examples appropriately taken from the Holy Scriptures, Church history, and the lives of the saints ― thus moving his hearers and clearly pointing out to them how they are to regulate their own conduct. He should, in conclusion, earnestly exhort all present to dread and avoid vice and to practice virtue.
“We are indeed aware that the work of teaching the Catechism is unpopular with many, because, as a rule, it is deemed of little account and for the reason that it does not lend itself easily to the winning of public praise. But this in Our opinion is a judgment based on vanity and devoid of truth. We do not disapprove of those pulpit orators who, out of genuine zeal for the glory of God, devote themselves to defense of the Faith and to its spread, or who eulogize the saints of God. But their labor presupposes labor of another kind―that of the catechist. And so, if this be lacking, then the foundation is wanting; and they labor in vain who build the house.
“Too often it happens that ornate sermons which receive the applause of crowded congregations serve but to tickle the ears and fail utterly to touch the hearts of the hearers. Catechetical instruction, on the other hand, plain and simple though it be, is the word of which God Himself speaks, through the lips of the prophet Isaias: ‘And as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return no more thither, but soak the earth and water it, and make it to spring and give seed to the sower and bread to the eater: so shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth. It shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it’ (Isaias 55:10-11). We believe the same may be said of those priests who work hard to produce books which explain the truths of religion. They are surely to be commended for their zeal, but how many are there who read these works and take from them a fruit commensurate with the labor and intention of the writers? The teaching of the Catechism, on the other hand, when rightly done, never fails to profit those who listen to it.
“On every Sunday and holy day, with no exception, throughout the year, all parish priests and in general all those having the care of souls, shall instruct the boys and girls, for the space of an hour from the text of the Catechism on those things they must believe and do in order to attain salvation. Since it is a fact that in these days adults need instruction no less than the young, all pastors and those having the care of souls shall explain the Catechism to the people in a plain and simple style adapted to the intelligence of their hearers. This shall be carried out on all holy days of obligation, at such time as is most convenient for the people, but not during the same hour when the children are instructed, and this instruction must be in addition to the usual homily on the Gospel which is delivered at the parochial Mass on Sundays and holy days. The catechetical instruction shall be based on the Catechism of the Council of Trent; and the matter is to be divided in such a way that in the space of four or five years, treatment will be given to the Apostles’ Creed, the Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Precepts of the Church.
“No matter what natural facility a person may have in ideas and language, let him always remember that he will never be able to teach Christian doctrine to children or to adults without first giving himself to very careful study and preparation. They are mistaken who think that because of inexperience and lack of training of the people the work of catechizing can be performed in a slipshod fashion. On the contrary, the less educated the hearers, the more zeal and diligence must be used to adapt the sublime truths to their untrained minds; these truths, indeed, far surpass the natural understanding of the people, yet must be known by all - the uneducated and the cultured ― in order that they may arrive at eternal happiness.
“We again insist on the need to reach the ever-increasing numbers of those who know nothing at all of religion, or who possess at most only such knowledge of God and Christian truths as befits idolaters. How many there are, alas, not only among the young, but among adults and those advanced in years, who know nothing of the chief mysteries of Faith.
"In consequence of this ignorance, they do not consider it a crime to excite and nourish hatred against their neighbor, to enter into most unjust contracts, to do business in dishonest fashion, to hold the funds of others at an exorbitant interest rate, and to commit other iniquities no less reprehensible. They are, moreover, ignorant of the law of Christ, which not only condemns immoral actions, but also forbids deliberate immoral thoughts and desires. Even when for some reason or other they avoid sensual pleasures, they nevertheless entertain evil thoughts without the least scruple, thereby multiplying their sins above the number of the hairs of the head.
"These persons are found, we deem it necessary to repeat, not merely among the poorer classes of the people or in sparsely settled districts, but also among those in the higher walks of life, even, indeed, among those puffed up with learning … Reflect on the great loss of souls due solely to ignorance of divine things” (Pope St. Pius X, Acerbo Nimis).
Introduction & Table of Contents
Lesson #1 The Knowledge of God
Lesson #2 Revelation Scripture & Tradition
Lesson #3 It's All About the Faith
Lesson #4 The Cross & the Creed
Lesson #5 Existence of a Supreme Being
Lesson #6 The Divine Essence of God
Lesson #7 The Perfection of God (Part 1)
Lesson #8 The Perfection of God (Part 2)
Lesson #9 The Blessed Trinity
Lesson #10 The History of Creation
Lesson #11 Divine Providence
Lesson #12 The Christian Under Suffering
Lesson #13 Angels and Devils
Lesson #14 The Creation of Man
Lesson #15 Original Sin
Lesson #16 The Redemption & the Redeemer
Lesson #17 Promise & Prophecies on Christ
THE PROMISE OF THE REDEEMER
God forgave fallen man, though He had not forgiven the angels. Man’s sin was not so grievous; he had less light and knowledge, and moreover was tempted by them. Besides, he at once to some extent confessed and lamented his sin. Lastly God would not, for the guilt of one, thrust down into eternal banishment from Himself the whole race of men.
1. Immediately after the Fall God promised man a Redeemer.
For He said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head” (Genesis 3:15).
The seed of the woman here referred to is Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the woman is in all probability the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is to be a complete enmity between Our Lord and His holy Mother on one side, and the devil and his friends on the other. These words of almighty God are a promise that the power of the devil should be destroyed, and that the whole race of men, who through Original Sin had fallen under the power of the devil, in that he had great influence over them in persuading them to sin, should be freed from their subjection to him. These words are called the Protevangelium or First Gospel, inasmuch as they are the first promise of a Redeemer to come. Yet He was not to come at once. Man had to learn by experience and by suffering the evil of sin, and by seeing the effects of God’s anger against it, e.g., in the Flood, the destruction of the cities of the plain, in the destruction of the Tower of Babel, etc.
2. Two thousand years later God promised to Abraham that the Redeemer should be one of his descendants.
Abraham lived in Ur in Chaldea, and later in Haran in Mesopotamia. He preserved amid the idolatry around him the worship of the true God. God commanded him to leave his father’s house, and journey forth into a land which was to be shown him. In reward for his prompt obedience God promised him that in him all the families of the Earth should be blessed (Genesis 12:2-3). He directed his steps towards the fertile land of Palestine, and promised him a numerous posterity. Abraham is called the father of the faithful (Romans 4:11). God repeated the same promise when the three angels visited Abraham (Genesis 18:18), and again when Abraham, in obedience to God’s command, offered up his only son Isaac (Genesis 22:17).
The same promise that God had made to Abraham He repeated to Isaac and to Jacob, and one thousand years later to King David.
God appeared to Isaac when he was about to fly into Egypt on account of the famine in Palestine (Genesis 26:2 seq.), and to Jacob when he was flying from his brother Esau, and saw the ladder reaching to Heaven (Genesis 28:12), and repeated to each the same promise. To King David the prophet Nathan announced, by God’s command, that He would raise up to him a son whose throne should be established forever (2 Kings 7:13). The men who belonged to the family from which Christ was to be born were termed patriarchs. All the patriarchs reached a good old age. God had ordained this in order that they might hand down the knowledge of Him to their posterity.
3. At a later time God sent the prophets, and through their mouth foretold many things about the coming, the birth, the person, the sufferings, the death, and the final triumph and glory of the Redeemer.
The prophets were men enlightened by God (men of God), who spoke to the people of Israel in God’s name and with His authority. Their chief task was to keep the people from sin, and to reprove them when they had sinned, and also to prepare the mind of men for the advent of the Redeemer. They were from different classes in society; Isaias was of royal blood, Amos was a herdsman, Eliseus was called from the plough to the prophetical office.
God gave them the power of working miracles, of foretelling His judgments, and also of prophesying respecting the Messias. Most of them lived a life of penance; they were held in great veneration by the people, but were persecuted and in many cases suffered a violent death (Matthew 23:30). There were in all about seventy prophets.
Moses was one of the greatest of the prophets (Deuteronomy 34:10), and Isaias was greater still, on account of his clear prophesies respecting the Messias. The last of the prophets was Malachias, who prophesied about B.C. 450. Sixteen of the prophets left writing behind them. Four of these are called the greater prophets (Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, Daniel); twelve the lesser prophets, on account of the smaller amount of their writings.
4. Of the advent of the Messias the prophets have given the following account:
1. The Messias was to be born in Bethlehem.
Micheas says: “Thou Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda; out of thee shall come forth unto me He Who is to be the Ruler in Israel; and His going forth is from the beginning unto the days of eternity” (Micheas 5:2). Hence the three kings were informed that Christ would be born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:5).
2. The Messias was to come at a time when the Temple was still standing.
When the Jews after their return from captivity began to rebuild the Temple, the old men who had seen the former Temple began to weep. They saw from the character of the foundations that the new Temple would not be as large, nor as beautiful as the old one. The prophet Aggeus comforted them by telling them that in this new Temple “the Desired of all nations should come, and fill it with glory” (Aggeus 2:8-10). But this second Temple was destroyed by Titus seventy years after Christ, and was never rebuilt.
3. The Messias was to come when the Jews no longer were an independent kingdom.
Jacob, in blessing his sons before his death, said to Juda: “The scepter shall not be taken away from Juda, till He come that is to be sent, and to Him shall be the expectation of the nations” (Genesis 49:10). From this time the tribe of Juda was the leading tribe (Numbers 2:3-9). King David was of the tribe of Juda, and so were his successors up to the captivity in Babylon. Zorobabel, who brought the Jews back from captivity, was of the same tribe. When the Jews regained their liberty, they were under the rule of the Machabees, who also belonged to Juda. It was not till the year 39 B.C. that the Jewish monarchs were deprived of their sovereignty, and Herod the Great, a foreigner and a pagan, was raised to the throne by the authority of the Romans.
In the time of Herod a Redeemer was looked for all over Judea. Herod was alarmed at the inquiry of the Magi for the new-born King (Matthew 2:3); the Jewish people thought that St. John the Baptist was the Messias (Luke 3:15); the Samaritan woman to whom Our Lord talked at Jacob’s well was looking forward to the advent of the Messias (John 4:25). The chief priest conjured Jesus to tell them whether He was the Messias (Matthew 26:63). As many as sixty impostors about this time gave out that they were the Christ, and deceived many. Even among the heathen there was, at the time of Christ, an expectation of a deliverer, who would banish crime and restore peace to the world (Cf. Virg., Ecl. 9).
4. The prophet Daniel (605-530) foretold that from the rebuilding of Jerusalem (453), until the public appearance of the Messias, there would be sixty-nine weeks of years, and until the death of the Messias sixty-nine, and a half weeks of years.
This prediction was revealed to him by the archangel Gabriel, as he was one day offering the evening oblation, and was praying for the deliverance of his people out of captivity. Cyrus, in the year 536, gave the Jewish people leave to return to Palestine and to rebuild their city. In the year 453 the King Artaxerxes gave his cup-bearer Nehemias full powers to fortify Jerusalem; this had not been allowed by Cyrus, on account of which the Jews had been exposed to the constant attacks of their enemies. Now if we add to 453 sixty-nine weeks of years (483 years) we have the date of the commencement of Christ’s public ministry or if we add sixty-nine and one half weeks of years (486½ years) we have the date of the crucifixion (A.D. 33½).
5. The Messias was to be born of a virgin of the House of David.
As a sign God gave to King Achaz the following prophecy: “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel [God with us]” (Isaias 7:14). And of the tribe of which the Messias is to be born the prophet Jeremias says: “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise up to David a just branch, and a king shall reign and shall be wise, and shall execute judgment and justice on the Earth” (Jeremias 23:5), and His name shall be “the Lord our just One.”
6. The Messias was to be preceded by a precursor or forerunner, who was to preach in the desert, and to live an angelic life.
Isaias says of this forerunner, that he was to be “the voice of one crying in the desert: ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a path for our God!’” (Isaias 40:3). And God says through the mouth of Malachias: “Behold, I send My angel, and he shall prepare My way before My face. And presently the Lord, Whom you seek, shall come to His Temple” (Malachias 3:1). This precursor was St. John the Baptist.
7. With the Messias a new star was to appear.
The prophet Balaam announced to the King of Moab, when the Israelites were approaching: “I shall see Him, but not now; I shall behold Him, but not near; a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise up from Israel” (Numbers 24:17).
8. The Messias was to be adored by kings from distant lands, and they were to bring Him gifts (Psalm 71:10).
9. At the time of the birth of the Messias many children were to be put to death.
We read in the prophet Jeremias: “A voice was heard on high, of lamentation and mourning and weeping; of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted, because they are not” (Jeremias 31:15). Rachel here represents the Jewish people. She died in Bethlehem and was buried there (Genesis 25:19).
10. The Messias was to fly to Egypt, and to return again from thence (Osee 11:11).
5. Of the person of the Messias the following prophecies had been uttered:
1. The Messias was to be the Son of God (Psalm 2:7).
Through the prophet Nathan God promises David the Redeemer, and says: “He will call Me Father and I will call Him Son” (2 Kings 7:14). In a psalm God addresses the Messias: “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee” (Psalm 2:7).
2. He shall be at the same time both God and man.
Isaias says: “A Child is born to us, and a Son is given to us; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God, the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of peace” (Isaias 9:6).
3. He was to be a great worker of miracles.
“God Himself shall come and save you. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as the hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be unstopped” (Isaias 35:5-7).
4. He was to be a priest like to Melchisedech.
“The Lord hath sworn and He will not repent: Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedech” (Psalm 109:4). Christ offered bread and wine at the Last Supper, and offers it daily in Holy Mass through the hands of the priests who are His representatives.
5. He was to be a prophet or teacher of the people.
To Moses God had said: “I will raise up unto them a prophet, out; of the midst of thy brethren, like to thee” (Deuteronomy 18:18). Hence the Jews named the Messias: “the Prophet Who was to come into the world” (John 6:14). As prophet the Messias was to teach and to prophesy. He was also to be the teacher of the nations (Isaias 49:1-6).
6. He was to be King of a new kingdom (Jeremias 23:5), which was never to be destroyed, and was to embrace all other kingdoms (Daniel 2:44).
This kingdom is the Catholic Church, or the Church of the whole world. Before Pilate Christ proclaimed Himself a king, and said: “My kingdom is not of this world,” i.e., His kingdom was to be a spiritual one (John 18:36).
6. Of the sufferings of the Messias the prophets spoke as follows:
1. The Messias was to enter into Jerusalem riding on an ass (Zacharias 9:9).
2. He was to be sold for thirty pieces of silver. “And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and I cast them into the house of the Lord” (Zacharias 11:12-13).
The words of Zacharias were exactly fulfilled; Judas threw down the money in the Temple, and with it was bought a field belonging to a potter, as a burying-place for strangers (Matthew 27:5-7).
3. He was to be betrayed by one who ate at the same table with Him (Psalm 40:10).
Judas went out from the Last Supper to betray his Master (John 13:30).
4. His disciples were to forsake Him at the time of His Passion (Zacharias 13:7).
5. He was to be mocked (Psalm 21:7), beaten, spat upon (Isaias 1:6), scourged (Psalm 72:14), crowned with thorns (Canticles 3:11), and given gall and vinegar to drink (Psalm 68:22).
The chief priests and Scribes at the crucifixion mocked Our Lord, and said among themselves: “He saved others; Himself He cannot save” (Mark 15:31; Cf. 5:29). In the house of Annas a servant gave Him a blow (John 18:22). In the house of Caiphas, when He declared Himself the Son of God, the servants spit upon His face, and gave Him blows; Pilate had Him scourged (John 19:1), and handed Him over to the soldiers, who crowned Him with thorns, put upon Him a purple robe (in mockery of the imperial purple), struck Him on the head with a reed, and derided Him (Mark 15:15-19). On Golgotha they gave Him to drink wine mixed with gall, which, when He had tasted it, He would not drink (Matthew 27:34).
6. For His garments lots were to be cast (Psalm 21:19).
The soldiers divided His garments into four parts, and gave to each soldier a part. His coat they would not divide, for it was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They therefore cast lots for it (John 19:23).
7. His hands and feet were to be pierced with nails (Psalm 21:17).
Our Lord was really fastened by nails to the cross; for He showed to St. Thomas the wounds in His hands and feet, and told him to place his finger in them (John 20:27). The usual practice was to tie condemned criminals to the cross with ropes.
8. He was to die between two evil-doers.
The prophet Isaias says: “They shall give the ungodly for His burial, and the rich for His death” (Isaias 53:9). He died between two highway robbers, who were crucified at the same time with Him (Luke 23:33).
9. He was to be patient as a lamb in His sufferings (Isaias 53:7), and was to pray for His enemies (Isaias 53:12).
10. He was to die willingly and for our sins (Isaias 53:47).
7. Of the glory of the Messias the prophets made the following predictions:
1. He was to make His grave with the rich (Isaias 53:9), and it was to be glorious (Isaias 11:10).
2. His body was not to undergo corruption (Psalm 15:10).
3. He was to return to Heaven (Psalm 67:34), and was to sit on the right hand of God (Psalm 109:1).
4. His doctrine was to spread from Jerusalem and from Mount Sion over the whole world (Joel 2:28; Isaias 2:3).
The hall of the Last Supper, where the apostles received the Holy Ghost, was situated on Mount Sion.
5. The heathen nations of the whole Earth were to be received into His kingdom, and to adore Him (Psalm 21:28-29).
6. The Jewish people, who had put the Messias to death, were to be severely punished, and scattered over the face of the Earth (Deuteronomy 28:64).
The city of Jerusalem was to be destroyed as well as the Temple; the Jewish sacrifices and the Jewish priesthood were to cease, and the Temple was never to be rebuilt (Daniel 9:26-27; Osee 3:4).
7. In every place throughout the world, a “clean oblation” (Holy Mass) was to be offered to Him (Malachias 1:11).
8. He will one day judge all men (Psalm 109:6).
Before the Day of Judgment Elias will be again sent on the Earth (Malachias 4:5).
8. The Messias was announced through many types.
The twilight announces the approach of the sun; so the lives of the patriarchs announced and foreshadowed the coming of Christ.
Almost all the ceremonies of the tabernacle foreshadowed the ceremonies of the religion of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17). The relation of the whole of the Old Testament to the New is that of the shadow to the substance (Hebrews 10:1), of the image to the object that it represents. The ancient covenant was the veil which concealed the new. The persons and things which thus represent in the Old Testament the persons and things of the New, are called types.
The types of the Messias were as follows: Abel, Noe, Melchisedech, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Jonas, the archangel Raphael, the Paschal Lamb, the offering on the Day of Atonement, the brazen serpent, and the manna.
● ABEL was the first of just men; Christ the first of the saints; Abel was a shepherd and offered to God an acceptable offering; he was gentle as a lamb, but he was hated by his brother and murdered by him.
● NOE was the only just man among all those around him; Christ alone was without sin. Noe, amid his course of preaching, built the ark; so Christ the Church. Noe saved the human race from temporal death; so Christ from eternal death. Noe’s sacrifice on his quitting the ark was the beginning of a new covenant; so Christ’s so leaving the world.
● MELCHISEDECH, i.e., king of justice, was King of Salem [Jerusalem], i.e., King of peace; Christ was both King and Priest; He offered to God bread and wine. Isaac was the only-begotten and well-beloved son of his father. He himself carried the wood on which he was to be sacrificed, and offered himself willingly; he was restored to his father, and from him sprang a countless offspring.
● JACOB was persecuted by his brother, but afterwards was reconciled to him. Though the son of a rich father he wandered in a strange land and there won his bride by long service; so Christ the Church. He had twelve sons, of whom one was the beloved son; so Christ had twelve disciples, of whom St. John was the beloved disciple.
● JOSEPH, the well-beloved son of his father, was hated by his brethren, and sold by them for a few pieces of silver; after great humiliation he was raised to the highest honor, and by his counsel saved the whole people from death. Heralds proclaimed that all should bow the knee before him and he was reconciled to his brethren.
● MOSES when a little child, escaped the cruel command of the king, spent his youth in Egypt, fasted forty days before the publication of the ancient law, freed the Israelites from slavery, and brought them to the Promised Land, worked miracles in proof of his divine mission, interceded for the people to God (Exodus 32:11; Numbers 14:13); appeared on Mount Sinai with a shining countenance (as Christ on Thabor), and was the mediator of the ancient covenant.
● DAVID was born in Bethlehem, spent his youth in a humble state, vanquished the giant Goliath, the enemy of the people of the Lord: was King of Israel, had much to suffer, and triumphed over all his enemies.
● JONAS was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale (Matthew 12:40), and preached penance to the Ninivites.
● The ARCHANGEL GABRIEL came down from Heaven to conduct safely on his journey one of the children of men; delivered Tobias from blindness, and Sara from the devil.
● The PASCHAL LAMB was slain just before the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and therefore on the Friday preceding the paschal Sabbath; it was offered to God and afterwards eaten; it was to be without spot, and in the prime of its age; not a bone of it was to be broken (John 19:36); its blood sprinkled on the posts of the door preserved from temporal death, as the blood of Christ from spiritual death. It was eaten on the eve of the departure of the Israelites to the Promised Land; so Our Lord is given as Viaticum on our departure for Heaven.
● The EMISSARY GOAT OR SCAPEGOAT on the day of expiation was presented by the high priest before the Lord, and the priest then laid his hands upon its head, in order thereby to signify that the sins of all the people were transferred to it, and it was then driven out to die in the desert (Leviticus 16:10). So Christ had the sins of the whole world laid upon Him, and passed from Heaven into the desert of this sinful world to die for us.
● The BRAZEN SERPENT in the desert was set up on a piece of wood, and all who looked upon it were healed of the bite of the fiery serpents (Numbers 21:6-9). So Christ was raised up on the wood of the cross, and all who look to Him with faith and hope are saved from the deadly effects of sin. Hence Our Lord says: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (John 3:14-15).
● Lastly, THE MANNA is a type of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar; it was white and small, came down from Heaven every day, was to be consumed in the early morning, was given only during the journey through the desert, and contained in itself all sweetness. In all these things it resembles the Blessed Sacrament. Our Lord says that there is this difference between the manna and the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar: that Moses did not give the Israelites bread from Heaven, but that the Blessed Sacrament is the bread that came down from Heaven, and giveth life to the world (John 6:32-33).