THE GREAT TRUTHSThe main truths which make up the "True in doctrine" - truths which the apostle has to explain, defend and spread - are those which are necessary for everyone and contained in the key principles of wholesome philosophy and theology.
These concern the origin of the world and of human beings, God's providence in governing the world in general and human beings in particular, the end of the world and of human beings. Such natural and divine truths can be summed up in three points: everything comes from God, everything is ruled by God, everything returns to God.
Everything comes from God
God manifests himself to human beings through his works. The heavens, space, the seas, plants and
animals, all created things, invincibly affirm the existence of a Creator and more than sufficiently reveal his attributes: "invisibilia enim ipsius, a creatura mundi, per ea quæ facta sunt, intellecta, conspiciuntur."1
All this however is but a part of God's creation. The course of natural and human history is also God's work. As a matter of fact, if God lets us know of his Existence by means of sensible beings, it is by means of history that he reveals his Providence, directing all things mightily and lovably to their goal: "Attingit ergo a fine usque ad finem fortiter, et disponit omnia suaviter."2
In nature God appears as Creator, in history he reveals himself as Ruler, at the end of time he will appear as Love; what is today foreshadowed will, someday, be contemplated.
Having created the world for his glory, God set in place a natural order and a supernatural order, governed by his Providence, in such a way that both serve his lofty goal.
In the natural order we observe God's Providence in the progressive evolving of geological eras, in the gradual formation of land masses, in the distribution of animals, vegetables and minerals. But we admire it above all in the ethnographic process of development where, from a sole
person so many peoples have descended; in the intellectual, moral and material progress of human beings; in the rise and fall of vast empires that have come and gone in this world.
By way of his natural Providence, God guides the world from its first moments until it will be made new again when there will be "the new heavens and the new earth";3 he guides humanity from its earthly paradise to final judgment, and on to eternity.
In the supernatural order divine Providence is a greater outpouring of God's love for human beings. They came from his hands enriched with supernatural gifts, friends of the Most High, destined to enjoy God's beatific vision. By their sin humans shattered God's plan of creation. So divine Providence established a new plan, one more wonderful than the former - the plan of redemption. God prepared it during the course of the whole Old Testament. He realized it, in the fullness of time, in Jesus Christ. He completes it in humanity and in souls by means of the Church through the plan of sanctification.
God leaves human beings free. He does, however, want his glory; he wants human beings to compete with him to fashion history and to be cooperators with him in the order of grace. He allows the good and the bad to live together, but he will then give to each a just recompense: the just will have an everlasting reward and will praise his divine mercy for ever;
the bad, in the sight of all creation, will suffer condemnation and have to submit for ever to the rigors of divine justice.
The Last Judgment marks history's conclusion: God's providence and humanity's cooperation working together.
Everything is ruled by God
Here, too, we have to distinguish two elements. One is the natural, the other the supernatural. The natural serves the supernatural, like the State the Church, like the body the soul, like the temporal the eternal. Both then are at the service of God's glory, because everything that happens in this world has to result in God's glory.
In the course of history, as in nature, everything not only comes from God but everything is ruled, ordered, conserved and sustained by him. History is therefore, together with nature, the teacher of life - teacher in the field of truth, justice and worship.
The whole of Christian doctrine, the primitive revelation made by God to our progenitors, the Mosaic Revelation, Scripture, Tradition and all the dogmas of the Catholic Church are, in the course of history, guided by God.
Preaching love of
neighbor as the supreme expression of morality, Christianity turned the ideas of pagan civilization upside down. With its divine transcendence it gave the moral law a new authority: the human act rises to a supernatural value, inasmuch as it draws its inspiration not only from reason, but also from faith; and the Christian can carry out the good commanded not only by means of human effort but, what is more, through the power of grace.
Recognizing conscience as the intimate judge of good and evil, Christian morals posit a polarity between flesh and spirit, time and eternity, world and God, a polarity unknown to ancient thought.
The precepts of the natural law have been reaffirmed in their purity; the family (a stable society) sanctified, society's relationship with the State based on the principle that "all authority comes from God"4 and consequently on a sharing of God's power.
As regards individual relations, the first and essential precept, the one expressed in the two commandments of charity which embrace in a sole act God and one's neighbor, contains the whole of morality.
The Christian is aiming not just for a temporal goal alone - the individual's peace in his personal, social and international relations - but for a supernatural goal: the beatific vision of God, the reign of God, the salvation of humankind.
Individuals, their works, their institutions, the whole of humanity are all being propelled towards eternity, towards Christ, towards God. God likewise guided the life of Jesus Christ: his sublime teaching, his example, his passion, his resurrection into glory, and the institution of the Church and the descent of the Holy Spirit. So, too, the doctrine of the Apostles and the Church, from Saint Paul's fourteen Letters to the ecumenical Councils and the latest definitions.
Likewise was the Church always assisted by God in its battles with the heretics of every age to defend the integrity of Catholic dogma; sustained by him in the Gospel's arduous advance among all peoples - civilized and barbarian; guided by him in the struggle against the absolutism of Emperors, against the ever-present revival of paganism and the pseudo-Reformation, against would-be Philosophy, Rationalism and Modernism.
The whole of dogma is an outcome of God's providential assistance.
An example of the universal and omnipotent sovereignty of God's providence is the moral good, or, in other words, justice in the scriptural sense, the whole of morals, virtue and holiness, at all levels - individual, family and State.
Lastly, worship is ruled by God. We can look at how nations have conducted themselves down the ages towards religion. We can examine the outward evolution of worship; admire the steady
advance that the Mass, the Sacraments, the Sacramentals and the whole of Liturgy have made down through the centuries, to reach the point where we have them at present, while yet remaining substantially unchanged.
The comparison between the history of the one true religion and the history of countless false religions highlights clearly the infinite superiority of the former over the others; it makes us perceive the true homage that we must give to God.
Everything returns to God
God is at the beginning of all things, in the course of all things, and at the end of all things: "Ego sum alpha, et omega."5
At the end everything will be renewed: "Ecce ego nova facio omnia."6 "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God" says Saint Paul "and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved."7
We will be glorified in Jesus Christ. For it pleased the Father to restore all things in his Son whom he constituted heir of a universal kingdom.
Man should have become creation's voice to ring out God's praises. Instead, "cum in honore esset, non intellexit";8 he failed to glorify God in the way he merited and so God assumed the creature in the human nature of Jesus Christ, in order to unite that nature to the divine Word. Then was a hymn sung to the heavenly Father which is beyond all praise; a hymn that is sung by man and which has the infinite value of the divine person. It is a hymn that will last for ever. It had its beginning at Bethlehem, it reached its highest peak on Calvary, while at the universal judgment it will take on a new and melodious harmony that will have no end. The Son contemplates the Father, and in the Son the just too will contemplate the Father. The Son will have a kingdom, and the subjects of this kingdom will be led into the Father's presence to glorify him in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, love of the Father and of the Son, will be the soul of this happy kingdom.
God's goal in creation's work will be achieved and, we could say, surpassed, for grace superabounds where sin abounded: God does what is his will in heaven and on earth.
Conclusion - If the apostle writer wants to undertake a work for God's glory which will be of benefit to himself and to others, he has to be not only well versed in religion,
but also convinced of the above three principles. He is to be a person who is upright, a person who obeys the natural law and the precepts of Christ; a person who puts his trust in God, is aware of God's presence, aims for God and makes every word that flows from his pen the serious object of his examination of conscience.
1 Rom 1:20. * "Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made."
2 Wis 8:1. * "She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well."
3 Is 66:22.
4 * Cf. Rm 13:1: "Let all be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God."
5 Rev 1:8. * " 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
6 Rev 21:5. * "Behold, I make all things new."
7 Rom 8:19,23-24.
8 Ps 48:21. * (Ps 49:20): "Man cannot abide in his pomp, he is like the beasts that perish."