July 2022: The SOURCES OF CATHOLIC FAITH
Blessed Sacrament Catholic Parish is celebrating the Year of Catechesis from July 2022 – June 2023. The theme of the Year is: Journeying Together in Renewing our Faith. Each month, a new topic is addressed.
July 2022 Topic: The SOURCES OF CATHOLIC FAITH
The object of Catholic Christian Faith is God Himself. From Catechism of the Catholic Church, we learnt that God created us:
- To know Him
- To Love Him
- To Serve Him
- And lastly to be with Him in Heaven
The Catholic Faith is anchored in four main pillars, namely; the Creed, Prayer, the Sacraments and Morality. All these four are derived from the source of Catholic Faith
SOURCES OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH
- Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and Magisterium, are regarded as the three major sources of the Catholic Christian Faith.
- “It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature.” (ccc. 51)
- God reveals Himself to man and in return man responds through faith to God’s revelation.
- The revelation of God in Jesus Christ is transmitted through Sacred Scripture and Tradition as one common source. The word of God in written and oral form is interpreted authentically by the Magisterium (Teaching Office of the Church).
A. SACRED SCRIPTURES
- The Sacred Scripture (Bible) is the speech of God as put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.
- The Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2nd Tim 3:16.
- Although the Bible is made up of many books, together those books tell one story.
- God created us perfect in the beginning, but our first parents, through free will sinned and brought death upon themselves and their descendants.
- The rest of the Bible tells how God gave human beings the means to salvation.
- We learn how God chose the people of Israel to lead all the people back to Himself, and how God the Father completed the work in His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and his sacrifice on the cross.
- Finally we learn the truth about the end of history: good triumphs, evil fails, and the people of God live forever in paradise. That is the story of our Faith.
How the Bible was Written
The Bible is a collection of many works written by different authors at different times and in different languages. Majorly the Bible was written in three languages. i.e. Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.
The Canon of the Bible
- The Canon of the scripture is the list of books proper for the reading in the liturgy.
- Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church came up with a list of approved books.
- The inclusion of a book in the canon meant it was divinely inspired.
- The whole Church, meeting in a general council (Council of Trent 1545 to 1563) decided on the canon of the Bible.
- The Canon of the bible is divided into two sections
- The old Testament
- The New Testament
The Old Testament
The Old Testament was written in preparation and anticipating the coming of Christ. The Catholic Bible is composed of the 46 books of the Old Testament
The Old Testament is further divided into;
- Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
- Historical books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees
- Wisdom books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach
- Prophetic books: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
There are seven (7) extra books in the Old Testament of the Catholic Bible. These are;
- The Catholic Old Testament Canon contains seven books not found in Protestant Bibles. These books are Judith, Tobit, Baruch, Wisdom, Sirach and 1 & 2 Maccabees.
- In addition, the Catholic Bible has longer versions of the books of Esther and Daniel. Catholics sometimes call these books deuterocanonical (meaning “second” canon). Protestants call them apocryphal (meaning “hidden”).
- Why the extra books? The Old Testament books were written in both Hebrew and Greek, the latter having the seven above named books. As the gospel spread to Greek-speaking Jews and Gentiles, the Church generally used the Greek edition, also called the Septuagint.
- When Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, translated the Old Testament in the sixteenth century, he used the Hebrew canon which did not contain the above seven books.
The New Testament
The New Testament
- The New Testament, whose central object is Jesus Christ, conveys to us the ultimate truth of Divine revelation.
- The New Testament has the following divisions;
- The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
- Historical book: Acts of the Apostles
- Pauline epistles: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews
- General (Catholic) epistles: James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude,
- Apocalypse: Revelation
B. SACRED TRADITION
- For the catholic believers, the Word of God alone is supreme. But the Scriptures are not the only source for God’s Word, as the scriptures themselves will tell you.
- In 2nd Thessalonians 2:15, St. Paul reminds the Thessalonian believers that they must hold fast to the traditions that the apostles have passed down either in writing or by word of mouth.
- Also in the Gospel of John: “There was much else that Jesus did; if it were written down in detail, I do not suppose the world itself would hold all the books that would be written." The New Jerusalem Bible. 1985 (Jn 21:25).
- The word Tradition literally means “what is handed on.” Tradition refers to the process by which the message of Christ is transmitted from one generation to another.
- In the early days of Christianity, the transmission of God’s Word occurred through the oral preaching of the Apostles, through the communal and worship life of the first Christians and through anything that contributed to the sanctification of the people.
- In the early decades of Christianity, the Word of God was not transmitted in written form because the books of the New Testament were not yet written.
- When the books of the New Testament were written, they became an invaluable and infallible source of Divine Revelation. But Divine Revelation also continued to be passed on orally and in the communal and worship life of the Church.
- When the term Tradition is used in the context of the early decades of Christianity, it is referred to as Apostolic Tradition because of its closeness to the time of the Apostles.
- In time, Sacred Tradition came to include the writings of the early Church Fathers. These writings are very important for a true and authentic understanding of God’s Word (both oral and written) because these men lived and wrote in the generations after the apostles. They were the recipients of what we called above Apostolic Tradition.
- Creedal statements of faith by early Church councils also became a part of Sacred Tradition. As aspects of Christian belief were erroneously or falsely interpreted, the Church formulated creedal statements of faith like the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. Such creedal statements helped the faithful to steer clear of false teachings and profess what was true doctrine.
- Another aspect of Sacred Tradition is that Catholic beliefs that are only found in seed form in Scripture later blossomed as the Church continued to meditate on Scripture. Examples of this are beliefs about Mary and about Purgatory.
Distinguishing Tradition from human traditions.
- As we use the term Tradition, it is important that we distinguish it from human traditions (sometimes called tradition with a small ‘t’). The latter refers to man-made rules, customs, and practices that are connected to core teachings of the Church but are not in themselves core Church teachings.
- For example, Catholic belief in the real presence of Jesus in the bread and wine at Mass is a core Church teaching that cannot be changed. Hence a Sacred Tradition. But how we celebrate the Mass belongs to human tradition.
- The sacrament of Holy Orders belongs to Tradition with a large ‘T’. The Church has no authority to state that it will no longer have this sacrament. But the practice of mandatory celibacy for all seeking ordination is a human tradition or belongs to tradition with a small ‘t’.
C. MAGISTERIUM (The Teaching Office of the Church)
- The true interpretation of both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition is expressed in the infallible teaching of the Church, the Magisterium.
- Infallible means that, because of the divine help of Christ himself, the Church cannot teach error in matters of faith.
- The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates.
- To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:
- "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #891)
- The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council. (ccc #891)
- “When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed," and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.” (ccc #891)
The Church, forcefully and specially exhorts all the Christian faithful to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ by frequently reading the Sacred Scriptures and holding firm to the Sacred Tradition as handed on by the Apostles and the Church Fathers.
The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in the written form or in the form of Tradition has been entrusted to the Bishops in communion with the successor of St. Peter, the Bishop of Rome.
Therefore, in the Sacred Scriptures, the Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength.
I suggest that each family should strive to have the following books;
- A Bible with Deuterocanonical Books
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church
- The Vatican II Documents
- The Code of the Canon Law
You can also visit credible websites like EWTN to learn more about the Catholic Faith.
By: Rev. Fr. Dominic Muturi Njuguna