CCC 126 We can distinguish three stages in the formation of the Gospels:
1. The life and teaching of Jesus. The Church holds firmly that the four Gospels, “whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day when he was taken up.”1
2. The oral tradition. “For, after the ascension of the Lord, the apostles handed on to their hearers what he had said and done, but with that fuller understanding which they, instructed by the glorious events of Christ and enlightened by the Spirit of truth, now enjoyed.”2
3. The written Gospels. “The sacred authors, in writing the four Gospels, selected certain of the many elements which had been handed on, either orally or already in written form; others they synthesized or explained with an eye to the situation of the churches, the while sustaining the form of preaching, but always in such a fashion that they have told us the honest truth about Jesus.”2
CCC 333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God “brings the firstborn into the world, he says: ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’”4 Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church’s praise: “Glory to God in the highest!”5 They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.6 Again, it is the angels who “evangelize” by proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection.7 They will be present at Christ’s return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgement.8
CCC 474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal.9 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.10
CCC 512 Concerning Christ’s life the Creed speaks only about the mysteries of the Incarnation (conception and birth) and Paschal mystery (passion, crucifixion, death, burial, descent into hell, resurrection and ascension). It says nothing explicitly about the mysteries of Jesus’ hidden or public life, but the articles of faith concerning his Incarnation and Passover do shed light on the whole of his earthly life. “All that Jesus did and taught, from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven”,11 is to be seen in the light of the mysteries of Christmas and Easter.
CCC 659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”12 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.13 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.14 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.15 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.16
CCC 672 Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel17 which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love and peace.18 According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church19 and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.20
CCC 673 Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent,21 even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.”22. This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”.23
CCC 697 Cloud and light. These two images occur together in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In the theophanies of the Old Testament, the cloud, now obscure, now luminous, reveals the living and saving God, while veiling the transcendence of his glory – with Moses on Mount Sinai,24 at the tent of meeting,25 and during the wandering in the desert,26 and with Solomon at the dedication of the Temple.27 In the Holy Spirit, Christ fulfills these figures. The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and “overshadows” her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus.28 On the mountain of Transfiguration, the Spirit in the “cloud came and overshadowed” Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and “a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’”29 Finally, the cloud took Jesus out of the sight of the disciples on the day of his ascension and will reveal him as Son of man in glory on the day of his final coming.30
CCC 730 At last Jesus’ hour arrives:31 he commends his spirit into the Father’s hands32 at the very moment when by his death he conquers death, so that, “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,”33 he might immediately give the Holy Spirit by “breathing” on his disciples.34 From this hour onward, the mission of Christ and the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”35
CCC 735 He, then, gives us the “pledge” or “first fruits” of our inheritance: the very life of the Holy Trinity, which is to love as “God [has] loved us.”36 This love (the “charity” of 1 Cor 13) is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received “power” from the Holy Spirit.37
CCC 857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:
– she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles,”38 the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;39
– with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching,40 the “good deposit,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;41
– she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor”:42
You are the eternal Shepherd
who never leaves his flock untended.
Through the apostles
you watch over us and protect us always.
You made them shepherds of the flock
to share in the work of your Son. ..43
CCC 1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.44 On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit,45 a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.46 Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age.47 Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.48
CCC 1556 To fulfill their exalted mission, “the apostles were endowed by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and by the imposition of hands they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit, which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration.”49
CCC 1565 Through the sacrament of Holy Orders priests share in the universal dimensions of the mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles. The spiritual gift they have received in ordination prepares them, not for a limited and restricted mission, “but for the fullest, in fact the universal mission of salvation ‘to the end of the earth,”’50 “prepared in spirit to preach the Gospel everywhere.”51
1 DV 19; cf. Acts 1:1-2.
2 DV 19.
3 DV 19.
4 Heb 1:6.
5 Lk 2:14.
6 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13,19; 4:11; 26:53; Mk 1:13; Lk 22:43; 2 Macc 10:29-30; 11:8.
7 Cf. Lk 2:8-14; Mk 16:5-7.
8 Cf. Acts 1:10-11; Mt 13:41; 24:31; Lk 12:8-9. The angels in the life of the Church
9 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:18-20, 26-30.
10 Cf. Mk 13:32, Acts 1:7.
11 Acts 1:1-2.
12 Mk 16:19.
13 Cf Lk 24:31; Jn 20:19, 26.
14 Cf. Acts 1:3; 10:41; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:15; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4.
15 Cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33; 7:56; Lk 9:34-35; 24:51; Ex 13:22; Mk 16:19; Ps 110:1.
16 1 Cor 15:8; cf. 9:1; Gal 1:16.
17 Cf. Acts 1:6-7.
18 Cf. Is 11:1-9.
19 Cf. Acts 1:8; I Cor 7:26; Eph 5:16; I Pt 4:17.
20 Cf. Mt 25:1, 13; Mk 13:33-37; I Jn 2:18; 4:3; I Tim 4:1.
21 Cf. Rev 22:20.
22 Acts 1:7; Cf. Mk 13:32.
23 Cf. Mt 24:44; I Th 5:2; 2 Th 2:3-12.
24 Cf. Ex 24:15-18.
25 Cf. Ex 33:9-10.
26 Cf. Ex 40:36-38; 1 Cor 10:1-2.
27 Cf. 1 Kings 8:10-12.
28 Lk 1:35.
29 Lk 9:34-35.
30 Cf. Acts 1:9; cf. Lk 21:27.
31 Cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.
32 Cf. Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30.
33 Rom 6:4.
34 Cf. Jn 20:22.
35 Jn 20:21; cf. Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47-48; Acts 1:8.
36 1 Jn 4: 12; cf. Rom 8:23; 2 Cor 1:21.
37 Acts 1:8; cf. 1 Cor 13.
38 Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14.
39 Cf. Mt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:7-8; Gal 1:1; etc.
40 Cf. Acts 2:42.
41 Cf. 2 Tim 1:13-14.
42 AG 5.
43 Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I.
44 Cf. Ezek 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2.
45 Cf. Lk 12:12; Jn 3:5-8; 7:37-39; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8.
46 Cf. Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-14.
47 Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17-18.
48 Cf. Acts 2:38.
49 LG 21; cf. Acts 1:8; 24; Jn 20:22-23; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6-7.
50 PO 10; OT 20; cf. Acts 1:8.
51 OT 20.