Christ in the Creed: Birth
“The Lengthening Shadow of Cross Bars”
Peace be to you.
In these next few lessons, we will be treating the Creed. It is to be noted that the Creed almost summarizes a life.
How quickly it passes over the public life of our Lord:
- He was born, He suffered, He was buried, He rose and then He sat at the right hand of the Father in Glory.
- This is destined to be the summary of every human life.
- Note, too, how it was divided, the Life of Our Lord:
- thirty years Obeying,
- three years Teaching,
- three hours Redeeming.
Birth: The Lengthening Shadow of Cross Bars
First we begin with His birth.
- Caesar Augustus, the master bookkeeper of the world, was seated at his desk at the Tiber in Rome and before him was a map. It was labeled Orbis Terrarum Imperium Romano. Because he was master of the world, he was going to take a census of the world, for all the civilized nations of the world were subject to Rome. There was only one capital in the world, that was Rome, there was only one official language, Latin, and there was one ruler, Caesar.
- So to every outpost, to every satrap, to every governor the order went out. Every Roman must be enrolled in his own city. On the fringe of the empire, in the little village of Nazareth, solders tacked up on the wall the order for all citizens to register in the towns of their family origins.
- Joseph, a carpenter, a very obscure descendant of the great King David, was obliged for that very fact to register in Bethlehem, which was the City of David, and in accordance with the edict, Mary and Joseph set out from the village of Nazareth for the village of Bethlehem which lies about five miles on the other side of Jerusalem, that is to say, after they had made the journey from Nazareth.
- Five hundred years earlier it had been prophesied by the great prophet Macaias (Micah) that Our Blessed Lord would be born in the city of Bethlehem.
- He dies in the great city of Jerusalem, that the dehumanize of His crucifixion may be known to all, but the glory of His birth is hidden in the least of the cities.
- Mary is now with child, waiting birth and Joseph is full of expectancy as he enters the city of his own family. He searched for a place where He to whom Heaven and Earth belonged might be born.
- Could it be that the Creator would not find room in His own Creation? Certainly, thought Joseph, there would be room in the village inn. There is room for the rich, there is room for those who were clothed in soft garments, there was room for everyone who had a tip to give to the innkeeper, but when finally the scrolls of history are completed down to the last words of time, the saddest lines of all will be: “There was no room in the inn.”
- No room in the inn but there was room in the stable.
The inn is the gathering place of public opinion, the focal point of the world’s moods, the rendezvous of the worldly, the rallying place of the popular and the successful, but there is no room in the place where the world gathers.
- The stables, ah, that is a place for outcast, the ignored and the forgotten. The world might have expected the Son of God to be born in an inn. The stable would certainly be the last place in the world where one would look for Him.
- The lesson is, “Divinity is always where you least expect to find it.”
- So, the Son of God made Man is invited to enter into His own world through a back door. Exiled from the earth, He is born under the earth, for the stable was a cave.
- He was the first caveman of recorded history. There he shook the earth to its very foundations and because He is born in a cave all who wish to see him must bend, must stoop, and the stoop is the mark of humility.
- The proud refuse to stoop; therefore, they miss Divinity.
- Those, however, who are willing to bend their egos, go into that cave and find that they are not in a cave at all, but they are in a universe where sits a babe on His mother’s lap, a Babe who made the world.
- Shepherds and wise men came to visit him. Shepherds, they who know they know nothing.
- Wise men, they who know they do not know everything.
- Never the man with one book, never the man who thinks that he knows.
- Time passes and then there come the flight into Egypt, after which Our Blessed Lord is brought back by His mother and foster father to Nazareth. It was to be his hometown where he was to spend his time, until he began his Public Life.
- Seems like a very long preparation. One wonders why it was so long, practically thirty years for three years’ ministry.
- One can only guess, this is our guess, the reason might very well be that He waited until the human nature, which He had assumed, had grown in age to a full perfection, so that he might offer a Perfect Sacrifice to His Heavenly Father.
- Does not the farmer wait until the wheat is ripe before cutting it and subjecting it to the mill?
- So He would wait until his human nature had reached its most perfect proportions and its peak of loveliness before surrendering it to the hammer of the crucifiers and the sickle of those who would cut down the Living Bread of Heaven.
- The newborn Lamb was never offered in Sacrifice by the Jews nor is the first blush of the rose cut to pay tribute to a friend, each thing has its hour of perfection. Since He was the lamb that could set the hour for his own sacrifice, since He was the rose that could choose the moment of its own cutting, He waited patiently, humbly, obediently while He grew in age and grace and wisdom before God and man. Then he would say, “This is your hour.”
- Thus the choicest wheat and reddest wine would become the worthiest Elements of Sacrifice. That perhaps is why he waited.
- We’ve already said something about His temptation, namely the reversal of the temptation of Adam and Eve.
– Satan, you will recall, tried three shortcuts:
– he solicited Our Blessed Lord to forego the Cross,
– give people bread to work some kind of wonders,
– oh, to do anything except treat with human guilt and sin.
- And after the temptation, our Lord begins his Public Life, he goes beyond the Jordan. There John the Baptist is preaching.
Passover: The Lamb
- It was about the season of the Passover.
- Now the Passover, you will recall, takes its name from the fact that when the Jews were in bondage in Egypt, in order to release the Jews, God punished the Egyptians.
- They were to lose their first born, but in order that the destroying angel would not touch the first born of the Jews, the Jews were asked to sacrifice a lamb and to sprinkle the blood of the lamb above the doorpost,
- not on the earth where it could be trampled upon. The destroying angel seeing that blood was a promise and sign of redemption from slavery, would pass over that house – – The sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb became known as The Passover.
- The Jews continued to offer the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb at the season of Passover and in the course of centuries hundreds of thousands of lambs must have been sacrificed.
- Remember that even before Moses, Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac. He loaded his son Isaac with wood and told him to carry the wood, which was preparatory and necessary for the sacrifice up the mountain.
- It was the symbol of God the Father offering His Son, because Isaac was the only son of Abraham. So our Lord, Son of the Heavenly Father.
- When finally, Abraham and Isaac got to the top of the mountain, Isaac asked “Where is the lamb? What are we going to sacrifice?” God provided the substitute for Isaac. That, too, typified the fact that Our Blessed Lord would, in some ways, substitute himself of our sins.
- But the point is that Isaac asked, “Where is the lamb?” Abraham said, “My son, God will see to it that there is a lamb to be sacrificed.” Deus providebit, ( God will provide a lamb.)
- With this memory of the sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac, with the memory of the Passover season and all of the lambs that had been sacrificed, the Jews were now at this Passover season going up to Jerusalem.
- Every family was to have its own Paschal lamb. One can therefore imagine the banks of Jordan almost being white with the fleece of the lambs that were being brought up to the city in order to be sacrificed.
- The Jews understood the meaning, it was a recall and a memory of how they were rescued from political slavery and they were also told by the prophets that it was to be a symbol of being rescued from spiritual slavery.
In fact, their prophet Isaiah had told them that when the true Lamb of God would come that He would be a man.
Isaiah had written, “….And God laid on His shoulders our guilt, the guilt of us all…” A Victim, yes, he himself bows to the stroke, no words come from him.
- Now as John the Baptist was preaching; he sees all of these lambs before him but he also sees Our Blessed Lord in the crowd and looking over all of these lambs that were only types and symbols of the Lamb that was to come.
The Lamb that God would provide, the Lamb who would take away the guilt of us all, John the Baptist let his voice ring out and pointing to Our Blessed Lord he said “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”
- All through the centuries those words of that inquiry of Isaac have been repeated “Where is the Lamb, where is the Lamb, where is the Lamb?” John the Baptist gives the answer. “Behold the Lamb of God.” The Lamb of The Sacrifice, Christ will be the Sacrifice.
- Notice John the Baptist called Him the Lamb of God. He was not the people’s Lamb nor the Lamb of the Jews, nor the Lamb of any human owner.
- But the “Lamb of God”. And when the time came for that Lamb to be sacrificed, He would not be a victim of those who were stronger than himself, but rather He would be fulfilling His own willing duty of love for sinners.
- It was not man who offered this sacrifice, although it was man who slew the Victim, it would be God Himself.
- Thus, at the very beginning of the Public Life of our Lord, we have foretelling of the Sacrifice.
- The Cross is no afterthought in the life of our Lord. John the evangelist in the apocalypse speaks of the “…Lamb slain in sacrifice ever since the world was made, or even before the world was made….”
- This means that the Lamb was slain as it were by divine decree from all eternity, though the temporal fulfillment of that Sacrifice would only be on the hill of Calvary.
- If we had time to go into every single detail of the life of Our Blessed Lord, we would see how the Cross was dominant in everything that He said and did, and yet the Cross is not found, our Lord never once spoke of the Cross without speaking also of the Resurrection.
Conversation Our Blessed Lord had one night with Nicodemus
Taking one other incident, a very long conversation Our Blessed Lord had one night with Nicodemus.
- Our Lord told him that he did not know as much about the Mosaic Law as he thought.
- Then telling Nicodemus that He was not only the Son of Man but the Son of God, He said “What will you make of it if you see the Son of Man ascending to the place where he was before?”
- In other words, in Heaven.
- He came down from Heaven to this world. Our Blessed Lord then used a figure, it was very well known to Nicodemus and to the Jews. What our Lord said that night to Nicodemus was this:
“…And this Son of Man must be lifted up in the wilderness so that those who believe in him may not perish but have everlasting life, as the serpent was lifted up by Moses…”
- What did our Lord mean by that, the serpent lifted up by Moses? If you go back to the Book of Numbers, you will see there that when the people rebelled against God in the desert they were punished with a plague of fiery serpents.
- Many of them lost their lives. Moses was then told by God to make a brazen serpent. That is to say a serpent of brass and set it up in the crotch of a tree. Then God told Moses that everyone who had looked at that serpent of brass in the crotch of that tree would be healed of the bite of the poisonous serpent.
- Now certainly there was nothing in a poisonous serpent, or rather in a serpent of brass, that could cure any of those that were suffering from the bite of serpent. No intrinsic relationship between the two, and yet everyone who looked upon it was healed and those who refused to look upon that serpent of brass were not healed.
- Now after hundreds of years had passed, Our Blessed Lord comes to this earth, goes back to that symbol and gives it real meaning. Our Lord now said He is the Serpent of Brass and just as Moses lifted up that serpent of brass on a tree, so He, Our Blessed Lord, will be lifted up on the Tree of the Cross and all who look upon him will be saved.
- The connection is this: that brass serpent in the desert looked exactly like the fiery serpents that had stung the Jews, but it did not have venom inside of it. It looked as if it were poisonous, but it was not poisonous.
- Our Blessed Lord now implied, that He, too, would be lifted up on a tree.
- He would look as if he were a sinner, he would look as if he were full of the venom of guilt, (would not judges condemn him?), and if He were condemned would it not seem as if He were a sinner Himself? And yet, He would be without sin, and all who would look upon him would be healed.
- That was the symbol to which our Lord now appealed.
- Once more our Lord was saying that he was not just a teacher but a redeemer.
- He was coming to redeem man in the likeness of human flesh.
- Teachers change men by their lives, Our Blessed Lord would change men by his death and that poison of hate and sensuality and envy which is in the hearts of men could not be healed simply by wild exaltations of social reform.
- The wages of sin is death and therefore it was to be by death that sin would be atoned for.
- It was in the ancient sacrifices The Fire symbolically burned up the imputed sin along with the victim, so on the Cross the world’s sin would be put away in Christ’s suffering,
where He would be upright as a Priest and prostrate as a Victim.
- If there is anything that every good teacher wants it is a long life which will make his teaching known.
- Death is always a great tragedy to a teacher. When Socrates was given, the hemlock juice his message was cut off once and for all.
- Death was a stumbling block to Buddha, it stood in the way of all of the teachings of the eastern mystics.
- But here Our Blessed Lord was always proclaiming His death which He takes upon Himself the sins of the world, which He would appear Himself as if He were a sinner.
- And Our Blessed Lord now this night that He talks with Nicodemus proclaimed Himself the Light of the World.
- The most astounding part of it was that He said no one would understand his teaching until after His Death and Resurrection.
- No other teacher in the world ever said that it would take a violent death to clarify his teaching.
- Here was a Teacher who made His Teachings so secondary that He could say that the only way that He would ever draw men to himself would be not by His doctrine, not by what he said, but by His Crucifixion.
- As Our Blessed Lord put it “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, you will recognize that it is Myself you look for.”
- He did not say that it would even be by His Teaching that they would understand but rather be by His personality that they would grasp the meaning of His coming.
- Only then would they know, after they had put Him to death, that He spoke the truth.
- His death then, instead of being the last of a series of failures, would be a Glorious success and the climax of His Mission on earth.
- And that is the great difference in the statues of the pictures of Buddha and Christ as we mentioned.
- Buddha is always seated eyes closed, hands folded across his fat, sleek body, intently looking inwards.
- Christ is not seated on this earth, He is lifted up, He’s enthroned, His person and His death are the heart and soul of His teaching. The Cross and all that it implies is the very center of His life.
Now it remains only to tell you about His Cross, His Death, and His Burial.
God love you.
1. In today’s lesson on the Life of Christ – what stood out the most to you?
2. Why do you think Bishop Sheen gave the title “The Lengthening Shadow of Cross Bars” to this lesson?
3. How would you explain why the Lord chose such a lowly place to be born?
4. Now that you have learned more about The Cross – its role in your Salvation – what changes do you think this will have in your daily life?
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
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.”[Heb 1:6 .] Their song of praise at the BIRTH of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church’s praise: ‘Glory to God in the highest!’[Lk 2:14 .] 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.[Cf. Mt 1:20 ; Mt 2:13,19 ; Mt 4:11 ; Mt 26:53 ; Mk 1:13 ; Lk 22:43 ; 2 Macc 10:29-30 ; 2 Macc 11:8 .] Again, it is the angels who ‘evangelize’ by proclaiming the Good News of CHRIST’S Incarnation and Resurrection.[Cf. Lk 2:8-14 ; Mk 16:5-7 .] They will be present at CHRIST’S return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgment.[Cf. Acts 1:10-11 ; Mt 13:41 ; Mt 24:31 ; Lk 12:8-9 . The angels in the life of the Church.]“
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498. “People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark’s Gospel and the New Testament Epistles about Jesus’ virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were merely dealing with legends or theological constructs not claiming to be history. To this we must respond: Faith in the virginal conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition, mockery or incomprehension of non-believers, Jews and pagans alike;[Cf. St. Justin, Dial. 99, 7: PG 6, 708-709; Origen, Contra Celsum 1, 32, 69: PG 11, 720-721; et al.] so it could hardly have been motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation to the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible only to faith, which understands in it the ‘connection of these mysteries with one another’[Dei Filius 4: DS 3016.] in the totality of CHRIST’S mysteries, from his Incarnation to his Passover. St. Ignatius of Antioch already bears witness to this connection: ‘Mary’s virginity and giving BIRTH, and even the Lord’s death escaped the notice of the prince of this world: these three mysteries worthy of proclamation were accomplished in God’s silence.’[St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Eph. 19, 1: AF 11/2 76-80: cf. 1 Cor 2:8 .]“
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499. “The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving BIRTH to the Son of God made man.[Cf. DS 291; 294; 427; 442; 503; 571; 1880.] In fact, CHRIST’S BIRTH ‘did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.’[LG 57.] And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the ‘Ever-virgin’.[Cf. LG 52.]“
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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’,[Acts 1:1-2 .] is to be seen in the light of the mysteries of Christmas and Easter.”
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1010. “Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning: ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’[Phil 1:21 .] ‘The saying is sure: if we have died with him, we will also live with him.[2 Tim 2:11 .] What is essentially new about Christian death is this: through Baptism, the Christian has already ‘died with Christ’ sacra mentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in CHRIST’S grace, physical death completes this ‘dying with Christ’ and so completes our incorporation into him in his redeeming act:
It is better for me to die in (eis) Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. Him it is I seek – who died for us. Him it is I desire – who rose for us. I am on the point of giving BIRTH …. Let me receive pure light; when I shall have arrived there, then shall I be a man.[St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom., 6, 1-2: Apostolic Fathers, II/2, 217-220.]“
160. “To be human, ‘man’s response to God by faith must be free, and… therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.’[DH 10; cf. CIC, can. 748 # 2.] ‘God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced. . . This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus.’[DH 11.] Indeed, Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them. ‘For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it. His kingdom… grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the CROSS, draws men to himself.’[DH 11; cf. Jn 18:37 ; Jn 12:32 .]“
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440. “Jesus accepted Peter’s profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man.[Cf. Mt 16:16-23 .] He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man ‘who came down from heaven’, and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant: ‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’[Jn 3:13 ; Mt 20:28 ; cf. Jn 6:62 ; Dan 7:13 ; Is 53:10-12 .] Hence the true meaning of his kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the CROSS.[Cf. Jn 19:19-22 ; Lk 23:39-43 .] Only after his Resurrection will Peter be able to proclaim Jesus’ messianic kingship to the People of God: ‘Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’[Acts 2:36 .]“
To view the context, please visit http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/creed1.html#CHRIST
461. “Taking up St. John’s expression, ‘The Word became flesh’,[Jn 1:14 .] the Church calls ‘Incarnation’ the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. In a hymn cited by St. Paul, the Church sings the mystery of the Incarnation:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a CROSS.[Phil 2:5-8 ; cf. LH, Saturday, Canticle at Evening Prayer.]“
To view the context, please visit http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/creed2.html#INCARNATION
517. “Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his CROSS,[Cf. Eph 1:7 ; Col 1:13-14 ; 1 Pet 1:18-19 .] but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life: -already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;[Cf. 2 Cor 8:9 .] – in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;[Cf. Lk 2:51 .] – in his word which purifies its hearers;[Cf. Jn 15:3 .]– in his healings and exorcisms by which ‘he took our infirmities and bore our diseases’;[Mt 8:17 ; cf. Is 53:4 .] – and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.[Cf. Rom 4:25 .]“
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529. “The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows him to be the firstborn Son who belongs to the Lord.[Cf. Lk 2:22-39 ; EX 13:2, 12-13.] With Simeon and Anna, all Israel awaits its encounter with the Saviour-the name given to this event in the Byzantine tradition. Jesus is recognized as the long-expected Messiah, the ‘light to the nations’ and the ‘glory of Israel’, but also ‘a sign that is spoken against’. The sword of sorrow predicted for Mary announces Christ’s perfect and unique oblation on the CROSS that will impart the salvation God had ‘prepared in the presence of all peoples’.”
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542. “Christ stands at the heart of this gathering of men into the ‘family of God’. By his word, through signs that manifest the reign of God, and by sending out his disciples, Jesus calls all people to come together around him. But above all in the great Paschal mystery – his death on the CROSS and his Resurrection – he would accomplish the coming of his kingdom. ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.’ Into this union with Christ all men are called.[Jn 12:32 ; cf. LG 3.]“
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544. “The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to ‘preach good news to the poor’;[Lk 4:18 ; cf. Lk 7:22 .] he declares them blessed, for ‘theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’[Mt 5:3 .] To them – the ‘little ones’ the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.[Cf. Mt 11:25 .] Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the CROSS; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation.[Cf. Mt 21:18 ; Mk 2:23-26 ; Jn 4:6 1 ; Jn 19:28 ; Lk 9:58 .] Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.[Cf. Mt 25:31-46 .]“
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561. “‘The whole of Christ’s life was a continual teaching: his silences, his miracles, his gestures, his prayer, his love for people, his special affection for the little and the poor, his acceptance of the total sacrifice on the CROSS for the redemption of the world, and his Resurrection are the actualization of his word and the fulfillment of Revelation’ John Paul II, CT 9).”
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571. “The Paschal mystery of Christ’s CROSS and Resurrection stands at the centre of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world. God’s saving plan was accomplished ‘once for all’[Heb 9:26 .] by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ.”
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598. “In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that ‘sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.’[Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. Heb 12:3 .] Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself,[Cf. Mt 25:45 ; Acts 9:4-5 .] the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone:
We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the CROSS, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the Apostle, ‘None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.’ We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him.[Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. Heb 6:6 ; 1 Cor 2:8 .]
Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.[St. Francis of Assisi, Admonitio 5, 3.]“
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