Catechism Cath. Church 469


470 Because "human nature was assumed, not absorbed",(97) in the mysterious union of the Incarnation, the Church was led over the course of centuries to confess the full reality of Christ's human soul, with its operations of intellect and will, and of his human body. In parallel fashion, she had to recall on each occasion that Christ's human nature belongs, as his own, to the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it. Everything that Christ is and does in this nature derives from "one of the Trinity". The Son of God therefore communicates to his humanity his own personal mode of existence in the Trinity. In his soul as in his body, Christ thus expresses humanly the divine ways of the Trinity:(98)

The Son of God. . . worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.(99)

Christ's soul and his human knowledge
471 Apollinarius of Laodicaea asserted that in Christ the divine Word had replaced the soul or spirit. Against this error the Church confessed that the eternal Son also assumed a rational, human soul.(100)

472 This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, "increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man",(101) and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.(102) This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking "the form of a slave".(103)

GS 22# 2.
98 Jn 14,9-10
99 GS 22# 2.
100 Cf. Damasus 1: DS 149
101 Lc 2,52
102 Mc 6,38 Mc 8,27 Jn 11,34 etc.
103 Ph 2,7

473 But at the same time, this truly human knowledge of God's Son expressed the divine life of his person.(104) "The human nature of God's Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God."(105) Such is first of all the case with the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of his Father.(106) The Son in his human knowledge also showed the divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts.(107)

104 Cf. St. Gregory the Great, "Sicut aqua" ad Eulogium, Epist. Lib. 10, 39  PL 77, 1097 Aff.;
DS 475
105 St. Maximus the Confessor, Qu. et dub. 66 PG 90, 840A.
106 Mc 14,36 Mt 11,27 Jn 1,18 Jn 8,55 etc.
107 Mc 2,8 Jn 2 Jn 25 Jn 6,61 etc.

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.(108) What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.(109)

Mc 8,31 Mc 9,31 Mc 10,33-34 Mc 14,18-30.
109 Mc 13,32 Ac 1,7.

Christ's human will

475 Similarly, at the sixth ecumenical council, Constantinople III in 681, the Church confessed that Christ possesses two wills and two natural operations, divine and human. They are not opposed to each other, but co-operate in such a way that the Word made flesh willed humanly in obedience to his Father all that he had decided divinely with the Father and the Holy Spirit for our salvation.(110) Christ's human will "does not resist or oppose but rather submits to his divine and almighty will."(111)

110 Cf. Council of Constantinople III (681):
DS 556-559
111 Council of Constantinople III: DS 556

Christ's true body

476 Since the Word became flesh in assuming a true humanity, Christ's body was finite.(112) Therefore the human face of Jesus can be portrayed; at the seventh ecumenical council (Nicaea II in 787) the Church recognized its representation in holy images to be legitimate.(113)

112 Cf. Council of the Lateran (649):
DS 504
113 Cf. Ga 3,1; cf. Council of Nicaea II (787): DS 600-603

477 At the same time the Church has always acknowledged that in the body of Jesus "we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see."(114) The individual characteristics of Christ's body express the divine person of God's Son. He has made the features of his human body his own, to the point that they can be venerated when portrayed in a holy image, for the believer "who venerates the icon is venerating in it the person of the one depicted".(115)

114 Roman Missal, Preface of Christmas I.
115 Council of Nicaea II:
DS 601

The heart of the Incarnate Word

478 Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony and his Passion, and gave himself up for each one of us: "The Son of God. . . loved me and gave himself for me."(116) He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation,(117) "is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that. . . love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings" without exception.(118)

Ga 2,20.
117 Jn 19,34
118 Pius XII, Enc. Haurietis aquas (1956): DS 3924 cf. DS 3812


479 At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word, that is, the Word and substantial Image of the Father, became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed human nature.

480 Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in the unity of his divine person; for this reason he is the one and only mediator between God and men.

481 Jesus Christ possesses two natures, one divine and the other human, not confused, but united in the one person of God's Son.

482 Christ, being true God and true man, has a human intellect and will, perfectly attuned and subject to his divine intellect and divine will, which he has in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

483 The Incarnation is therefore the mystery of the wonderful union of the divine and human natures in the one person of the Word.

Paragraph 2. "Conceived by the Power of the Holy Spirit and Born of the Virgin Mary"


484 The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates "the fullness of time",(119) the time of the fulfilment of God's promises and preparations. Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the "whole fullness of deity" would dwell "bodily".(120) The divine response to her question, "How can this be, since I know not man?", was given by the power of the Spirit: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you."(121)

485 The mission of the Holy Spirit is always conjoined and ordered to that of the Son.(122) The Holy Spirit, "the Lord, the giver of Life", is sent to sanctify the womb of the Virgin Mary and divinely fecundate it, causing her to conceive the eternal Son of the Father in a humanity drawn from her own.

486 The Father's only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is "Christ", that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.(123) Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power."(124)

Ga 4,4 120 Col 2,9
121 Lc 1,34-35 122 Jn 16,14-15
123 Mt 1,20 Mt 2,1-12 Lc 1,35 Lc 2,8-20 Jn 1,3-34 Jn 2,11. 124 Ac 10,38


487 What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.

Mary's predestination

488 "God sent forth his Son", but to prepare a body for him,(125) he wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, "a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary":(126)

The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life.(127)

489 Throughout the Old Covenant the mission of many holy women prepared for that of Mary. At the very beginning there was Eve; despite her disobedience, she receives the promise of a posterity that will be victorious over the evil one, as well as the promise that she will be the mother of all the living.(128) By virtue of this promise, Sarah conceives a son in spite of her old age.(129) Against all human expectation God chooses those who were considered powerless and weak to show forth his faithfulness to his promises: Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah; Ruth; Judith and Esther; and many other women.(130) Mary "stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from him. After a long period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the exalted Daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation is established."(131)

The Immaculate Conception

490 To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role."(132) The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace".(133) In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God,(134) was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.(135)

492 The "splendour of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son".(136) The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love".(137)

493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia), and celebrate her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature".(138) By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.

"Let it be done to me according to your word. . ."
494 At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that "with God nothing will be impossible": "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be (done) to me according to your word."(139) Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God's grace:(140)As St. Irenaeus says, "Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race."(141) Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. . .: "The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith."(142) Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary "the Mother of the living" and frequently claim: "Death through Eve, life through Mary."(143)

Mary's divine motherhood
495 Called in the Gospels "the mother of Jesus", Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as "the mother of my Lord".(144) In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly "Mother of God" (Theotokos).(145)

Mary's virginity

496 From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived "by the Holy Spirit without human seed".(146) The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own. Thus St. Ignatius of Antioch at the beginning of the second century says:

You are firmly convinced about our Lord, who is truly of the race of David according to the flesh, Son of God according to the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin,. . . he was truly nailed to a tree for us in his flesh under Pontius Pilate. . . he truly suffered, as he is also truly risen.(147)

497 The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility:(148) "That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit", said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancee.(149) The Church sees here the fulfilment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son."(150)

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;(151) 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"(152) 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."(153)

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.(154) In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it."(155) And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin".(156)

500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus.(157) The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus", are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary".(158) They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.(159)

501 Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: "The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother's love."(160)

Mary's virginal motherhood in God's plan
502 The eyes of faith can discover in the context of the whole of Revelation the mysterious reasons why God in his saving plan wanted his Son to be born of a virgin. These reasons touch both on the person of Christ and his redemptive mission, and on the welcome Mary gave that mission on behalf of all men.

503 Mary's virginity manifests God's absolute initiative in the Incarnation. Jesus has only God as Father. "He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which he assumed. . . He is naturally Son of the Father as to his divinity and naturally son of his mother as to his humanity, but properly Son of the Father in both natures."(161)

504 Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary's womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: "The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven."(162) From his conception, Christ's humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God "gives him the Spirit without measure."(163) From "his fullness" as the head of redeemed humanity "we have all received, grace upon grace."(164)

505 By his virginal conception, Jesus, the New Adam, ushers in the new birth of children adopted in the Holy Spirit through faith. "How can this be?"(165) Participation in the divine life arises "not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God".(166) The acceptance of this life is virginal because it is entirely the Spirit's gift to man. The spousal character of the human vocation in relation to God(167) is fulfilled perfectly in Mary's virginal motherhood.

506 Mary is a virgin because her virginity is the sign of her faith "unadulterated by any doubt", and of her undivided gift of herself to God's will.(168) It is her faith that enables her to become the mother of the Saviour: "Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ."(169)

507 At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church: "the Church indeed. . . by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse."(170)

Ga 4,4 He 10,5
126 Lc 1,26-27 127 LG 56 cf. LG 61 128 Gn 3,15-20 Gn 3,15,
129 Gn 18,10-14 Gn 21,1-2. 130 1Co 1,17 1S 1
131 LG 55
132 LG 56 133 Lc 1,28
134 Lc 1,28
135 Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854): DS 2803
136 LG 53,56
137 Ep 1,3-4
138 LG 56
139 Lc 1,28-38 Rm 1,5
140 LG 56
141 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.
142 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.
143 Lc 56 St. Epiphanius, Panarion 2, 78, 18: PG 42, 728CD-729AB; St. Jerome, Ep 22,21, PL 22, 408.
144 Lc 1,43 Jn 2,1 Jn 19,25; Mt 13,55 et al.
145 Council of Ephesus (431): DS 251 146 Council of the Lateran (649): DS 503 cf. DS 10-64 147 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Smyrn 1-2: Apostolic Fathers, ed. J. B. Lightfoot (London: Macmillan, 1889), 11/2, 289-293; SCh 10, 154-156; cf. Rm 1,3 Jn 1,13
148 Mt 1 Mt 18-25 Lc 1,26-38
149 Mt 1,20
150 Is 7,14, quoted in Mt 1,23
151 Cf. St. Justin, Dial. 99, 7: PG 6, 708-709; Origen, Contra Celsum 1,  32, 69: PG 11, 720-721; et al.
152 Dei Filius 4: DS 3016
153 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Eph. 19, 1: AF 11/2 76-80: 1Co 2,8
154 DS 291 DS 294 DS 427 DS 442 DS 503 DS 571 DS 1880
155 LG 57
156 LG 52
157 Mc 3,31-35 Mc 6,3 1Co 9,5 Ga 1,19
158 Mt 13,55 Mt 28,1 Mt 27,56
159 Gn 13,8 Gn 14,16 Gn 29,15 etc.
160 LG 63 cf. Jn 19,26-27 Rm 8,29 Ap 12,17
161 Council of Friuli (796): DS 619 cf. Lc 2,48-49
162 1Co 15,45,
163 Jn 3,34 164 Jn 1,16 Col 1,18 165 Lc 1,34 Jn 3,9
166 Jn 1,13 167 2Co 11,2 168 LG 63. 169 St. Augustine, De virg. 3: PL 40, 398. 170 LG 64 cf. 63.


508 From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of his Son. "Full of grace", Mary is "the most excellent fruit of redemption" (SC 103): from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life.

509 Mary is truly "Mother of God" since she is the mother of the eternal Son of God made man, who is God himself.

510 Mary "remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin" (St. Augustine, Serm. 186, 1: PL 38, 999): with her whole being she is "the handmaid of the Lord" (Lc 1,38).

The Virgin Mary "co-operated through free faith and obedience in human salvation" (
LG 56). She uttered her yes "in the name of all human nature" (St. Thomas Aquinas, S Th III, 30, 1). By her obedience she became the new Eve, mother of the living.

Paragraph 3. The Mysteries of Christ's Life

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",(171) is to be seen in the light of the mysteries of Christmas and Easter.

513 According to circumstances catechesis will make use of all the richness of the mysteries of Jesus. Here it is enough merely to indicate some elements common to all the mysteries of Christ's life (I), in order then to sketch the principal mysteries of Jesus' hidden (II) and public (III) life.


514 Many things about Jesus of interest to human curiosity do not figure in the Gospels. Almost nothing is said about his hidden life at Nazareth, and even a great part of his public life is not recounted.(172) What is written in the Gospels was set down there "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name."(173)

515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith(174) and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus' life was a sign of his mystery.(175) His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily."(176) His humanity appeared as "sacrament", that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission

Jn 20,30 173 Jn 20,31 174 Mc 1,1 Jn 21,24 175 Lc 2,7 Mt 27,48 Jn 20,7 176 Col 2,9

Characteristics common to Jesus' mysteries
516 Christ's whole earthly life - his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking - is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father", and the Father can say: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"(177) Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father's will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest "God's love. . . among us".(178)

517 Christ's whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross,(179) 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;(180) - in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;(181) - in his word which purifies its hearers;(182)- in his healings and exorcisms by which "he took our infirmities and bore our diseases";(183) - and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.(184)

518 Christ's whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation:When Christ became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in himself the long history of mankind and procured for us a "short cut" to salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam, that is, being in the image and likeness of God, we might recover in Christ Jesus.(185) For this reason Christ experienced all the stages of life, thereby giving communion with God to all men.(186)

Jn 14,9 Lc 9,35 Mt 17,5 Mc 9,7, "my beloved Son". 178 Jn 4,9
179 Ep 1,7 Col 1,13-14 1P 1,18-19 180 2Co 8,9 181 Lc 2,51
182 Jn 15,3
183 Mt 8,17 Is 53,4 184 Rm 4,25
185 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 18, 1: PG 7/1, 932.
186 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 18, 7: PG 7/1, 937; cf. 2, 22, 4.

Our communion in the mysteries of Jesus
519 All Christ's riches "are for every individual and are everybody's property."(187) Christ did not live his life for himself but for us, from his Incarnation "for us men and for our salvation" to his death "for our sins" and Resurrection "for our justification".(188) He is still "our advocate with the Father", who "always lives to make intercession" for us.(189) He remains ever "in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing before him all that he lived and suffered for us."(190)

520 In all of his life Jesus presents himself as our model. He is "the perfect man",(191) who invites us to become his disciples and follow him. In humbling himself, he has given us an example to imitate, through his prayer he draws us to pray, and by his poverty he calls us to accept freely the privation and persecutions that may come our way.(192)

521 Christ enables us to live in him all that he himself lived, and he lives it in us. "By his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man."(193) We are called only to become one with him, for he enables us as the members of his Body to share in what he lived for us in his flesh as our model:

We must continue to accomplish in ourselves the stages of Jesus' life and his mysteries and often to beg him to perfect and realize them in us and in his whole Church. . . For it is the plan of the Son of God to make us and the whole Church partake in his mysteries and to extend them to and continue them in us and in his whole Church. This is his plan for fulfilling his mysteries in us.(194)

 187 John Paul II, RH II.
1Co 15,3 Rm 4,25 189 1Jn 2,1 He 7,25. 190 He 9,24
191 GS 38 cf. Rm 15,5 Ph 2,5
192 Jn 13,15 Lc 11,1 Mt 5,11-12 193 GS 22# 2.
194 St. John Eudes: LH, week 33, Friday, OR.


The preparations

522 The coming of God's Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over centuries. He makes everything converge on Christ: all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the "First Covenant".(195) He announces him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel. Moreover, he awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming.

He 9,15

523 St. John the Baptist is the Lord's immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way.(196) "Prophet of the Most High", John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last.(197) He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother's womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being "the friend of the bridegroom", whom he points out as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world".(198) Going before Jesus "in the spirit and power of Elijah", John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.(199)

Ac 13,24 Mt 3,3 197 Lc 1,76 Lc 7,26 Mt 11,13 198 Jn 1,29 Ac 1,22 Lc 1,41 Lc 16,16 Jn 3,29
199 Lc 1,17 Mc 6,17-29

524 When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.(200) By celebrating the precursor's birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: "He must increase, but I must decrease."(201)

Ap 22,17
201 Jn 3,30

The Christmas mystery

525 Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family.(202) Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven's glory was made manifest.(203) The Church never tires of singing the glory of this night:

The Virgin today brings into the world the Eternal And the earth offers a cave to the Inaccessible. The angels and shepherds praise him And the magi advance with the star, For you are born for us, Little Child, God eternal!(204)

Lc 2,61
203 Lc 2,8-20
204 Kontakion of Romanos the Melodist.

526 To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom.(205) For this, we must humble ourselves and become little. Even more: to become "children of God" we must be "born from above" (Jn 3,7) or "born of God" (206). Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us.(207) Christmas is the mystery of this "marvellous exchange":
O marvellous exchange! Man's Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.(208)

205 cf. Mt 18,3-4
206 cf. Mt 23,12 Jn 1,13 Jn 1,12
207 cf. Ga 4,19 208 LH, 1 January, Antiphon I of Evening Prayer.

The mysteries of Jesus' infancy

527 Jesus' circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth,(209) is the sign of his incorporation into Abraham's descendants, into the people of the covenant. It is the sign of his submission to the Law(210) and his deputation to Israel's worship, in which he will participate throughout his life. This sign prefigures that "circumcision of Christ" which is Baptism.(211)

528 The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Saviour of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.(212) In the magi, representatives of the neighbouring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi's coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.(213) Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Saviour of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.(214) The Epiphany shows that "the full number of the nations" now takes its "place in the family of the patriarchs", and acquires Israelitica dignitas(215) (is made "worthy of the heritage of Israel").

529 The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows him to be the firstborn Son who belongs to the Lord.(216) 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".

530 The flight into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents(217) make manifest the opposition of darkness to the light: "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not."(218) Christ's whole life was lived under the sign of persecution. His own share it with him.(219) Jesus' departure from Egypt recalls the exodus and presents him as the definitive liberator of God's people.(220) 209 Lc 2,21 210 Ga 4,4
211 Col 2,11-13
212 Mt 2,1 cf. LH, Epiphany, Evening Prayer II, Antiphon at the Canticle of Mary.
213 Mt 2,2 Nb 24,17-19 Ap 22,16 214 Jn 4 Jn 22 Mt 2,4-6 215 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 3 in epiphania Domini 1-3, 5: PL 54, 242; LH, Epiphany, OR; Roman Missal, Easter Vigil 26, Prayer after the third reading.
216 Lc 2,22-39 Ex 13,2,
217 Mt 2,13-18
218 Jn 1,11
219 Jn 15,20
220 Mt 2,15 Os 11,1

Catechism Cath. Church 469