Lesson 8b: The Splendor of Moral Truth
The Encyclical The Splendor of Truth (Veritatis Splendor) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church make clear that true human happiness here and for eternity can be accomplished only by forming a Community of created persons. This Community of human persons must be centered in the Community of the Three Divine Persons who are the one and only God. Christian morality, therefore, means making the right choices of means that will lead us on the Way to Eternal Life. Making such choices consistently is possible only if we use the graced virtues given us in baptism and cultivated by following the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the development of doctrine expressed definitively in the Church by the bishops headed by the bishop of Rome.
Such morality, therefore, is founded on Truth and this moral Truth was given to the Jews in the Old Law summed up in the Ten Commandments and brought to perfection by Jesus in the Great Commandment of Love of God and Neighbor. Such Christian love, however, must be rooted in Faith and kept alive by Hope that with God's help we can certainly reach our goal not only as individuals but as the community of the Church open to all humanity. This Faith is made practical by the Virtue of Christian Prudence supported by the Holy Spirit in his gifts of Understanding and Wisdom. The Hope that is rooted in Faith is freed of worldly enslavement by the Virtues of Temperance and of Fortitude, the first controlling our appetites for pleasure, the second controlling our emergency appetites of fear and aggression. Finally, Love that gives life to all and includes all the virtues is made practical by the Virtue of Justice which enables us to escape selfishness and concern the rights of others. This Love, however, must above all be love of God. In fact it must be the love by which God loved us first in his Son Jesus Christ and thus made it possible to love him and our neighbor in return with the same love with which he loves us in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is why in the Apostles' Creed we express our faith in the "Communion of Saints," that is that all those who have followed the Way of Life or who are following it now already form the beginning of the Kingdom of God and pray to God for all the others.
Jesus himself is the center and head of this Kingdom that is his mystical Body, but the first of its citizens is his mother the Blessed Virgin Mary who is also the Mother of the Church. Mary was the perfect product of God's long education of the Chosen People whose faithfulness in its Remnant was fully realized in her. Even in her conception she had been freed by Christ from all sin and constantly grew in every virtue just as we are freed in baptism to grow in all the virtues. She, however, unlike us, remained completely faithful to this spiritual commitment. By her intercession she leads the entire Communion of Saints to pray for all.
In this way God's plan in his Creation is restored and completed. To our first parents, symbolized in the Bible as Adam and Eve, was given the responsibility of transmitting the promises and grace of God to all humanity. By freely departing from the Way of Life they exiled their descendants on the Way of Death. To this original sin has been added to our world all the distortions of God's creation that have resulted by the consequent sins of all humanity throughout history. Entering this distorted world the Way of Death seems open to every child and the Way of Life closed. But God has chosen to open the door again to us by the Incarnation of his son, Jesus, who has established the new Community of the Church in which we can be reborn in baptism and nourished by his Body and Blood in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the true Tree of Life from which Adam and Eve and their descendants would have received immortality if only they had been faithful.
We often speak today of "spirituality" as if it were something different from morals and moral theology. This distinction is a modern one with no deep roots in Catholic tradition. According to the Bible and Sacred Tradition, Christian morality and Christian life are themselves a "spirituality" since they are life and progress in the Holy Spirit of God. The Fourth Part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is devoted to the Lord' Prayer and to Prayer in general, i.e. to spirituality as the culmination of the Life in Christ described in Part III of the same Catechism. In our time not a few Catholics look for "spirituality" in New Age, "creation-centered theology," Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism and various techniques of meditation. It is sad that these Catholics are ignorant of the fact that in the Catholic Church the greatest mystics and spiritual guides are to be found and that meditative prayer should be a part of the life of every Christian.
In speaking of Christian morals we must be clear in our own mind that the Bible as well as Sacred Tradition do not present the good life as the mere following of rules or moral norms. Moral norms or laws are good and necessary guides that show us the true Way of Life and warn us against the pitfalls of the Way of Death. Yet much deeper and more fundamental are Faith, Hope, and Love centered in Jesus Christ, lived by the power of the Holy Spirit in which we grow through the Sacraments centered in the Eucharist that is Jesus himself actively uniting and forming the Christian Community, the Church. No spirituality is deeper and more accessible to every baptized Christian who prays with the Church.
Read the three encyclicals of John Paul II based on the Three Persons of the Trinity and containing a profound modern spirituality: Rich in Mercy (Dives in Misericordia), 1980 on the Father, The Redeemer of Humanity (Redemptor Hominis), 1979 on the Son, and On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World (Dominum et Vivificantem), 1986.
What is the relation of Christian spirituality to moral theology?
What is the Communion of Saints?
What is the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church?
How do you understand the Christian Covenant in comparison with the Mosaic Covenant?
What is the measure of the morally good and the morally bad in a biblically based Moral Theology?