The Catechism's Sturdy Pillars and Golden Threads
In 1992 the Catholic Church received the best gift from St. Pope John Paul II, the Great. The Catechism of the Catholic Church commonly referred to as the CCC is a universal catechism. It has been translated into and published in more than twenty languages worldwide. Pope John Paul II wanted to give the Church a universal catechism for four reasons…
1. As Reference for the development of local catechisms and textbooks.
2. To assist catechists and teachers responsible for instruction in the Catholic Faith.
3. For lay people to use as a comprehensive guide on Church doctrine.
4. To eliminate post-council confusion and reassert orthodoxy.
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.” —John Paul II
When we look at the way the CCC was built, we can see a very well thought out and skillfully engineered design. It was made to be a solid exposition of the Deposit of Faith, the body of revealed truth in the scriptures and sacred tradition proposed by the Roman Catholic Church for the belief of the faithful. The pillars and threads identified in the CCC act as a comprensive scaffold that holds up the whole Catholic thing. Before studying the CCC or using it as a teacher, we should be aware of how it is laid out. We should know the pillars and threads.
Four Sturdy Pillars
This catechism aims at presenting an organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine. It is divided into four major sections called pillars. A pillar image calls to mind the solid and stable guidance of the Holy Spirit that we find in Catholic doctrine. These four pillars unfold in outline form and hold up the treasure box full of the doctrinal gems and jewels that Christ gave to the Church in words and deeds, the Deposit of Faith.
1. The first pillar is the Nicene Creed. This part follows the creed through each word and phrase. With the first two words, ‘I believe’, the CCC gives us three whole chapters of commentary which includes references to scripture, Saint quotes and citations from church documents.
2. The second pillar is Liturgy and Sacraments. After we profess our faith, we celebrate it in liturgy. We are brought into the mystery that we examined in pillar one. This shows that our Catholic Faith is about both doctrinal propositions and a relationship with God. It’s about a new kind of life that we begin in baptism, a life of grace, the participation in the divine life. After a section on the meaning of Liturgy as a whole, the CCC covers each of the seven sacraments one by one.
3. The third pillar is the Moral Code that those who have life in Christ follow. As we participate in divine life, we are called to live on a higher moral plane. Instead of just living by the golden rule or even the Ten Commandments, we are called to happiness by following the Beatitudes and Law of Love. Section two covers each of the Ten commandments.
4. The fourth pillar is prayer. It begins with a section on prayer in the Christian life covering various forms of praying. It then concludes with a detailed examination of each line of the Our Father, The Lord's Prayer.
The Four Golden Threads
The threads are woven in and out of the four pillars. They hold up and magnify the hierarchy of truths within the Deposit of Faith. Everything that we believe in some way relates back to this hierarchy. Those who wrote and organized the Catechism had these threads at the forefront of their minds. The threads keep the Catechism from wandering off into minutia of lesser important things. They also act as threads in that they hold the whole thing together giving it a rhythmic cadence as well as a logical pattern.
1. The first thread in the Trinitarian. Each doctrine presented in the Catechism is covered in a way that shows how it relates to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each divine Person has something to do with every aspect of truth.The relationship between the three divine Persons is also revealed in how they relate to the doctrine.
2. The second thread is Christological. Jesus is at the center of the message since he is the fullest expression of divine revelation. He came to give witness to the Father and to pour out the Holy Spirit. The CCC shows catechists how to always start with Christ and end with Christ when echoing the Deposit of Faith.
3. The third thread is Paschal Mystery. The Paschal Mystery is the major salvation event for Christians. The suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus is also the culmination of divine revelation and it is the apex moment in the timeline of history. Everything that came before it prepares for it. Everything that came after points back to it. In this way, it transcends time.
4. The fourth thread is the value and dignity of the human person.As we receive the truth, we discover that we are made for the truth. Created by God as the crown of creation and made in his image and likeness, human beings are called to share in the divine life, to know, love and serve God in this life and the next. The CCC always connects the truth about individual doctrines to the truth about the human person.
The Deposit of Faith is indeed a treasure box held up by pillars and held together by threads. Pastors, ministers, catechists and teachers of the Catholic Faith, by using the Catechism, you may confidently hold up each doctrinal gem and jewel with care and with reverence for the edification of the church. Individual lay people should study the CCC and become illuminated in the light of the truths that Christ came to reveal.