1st Semester Exam - Part One

By James McGehee

The Mystery of Redemption

Chapter 1 - The Original State of Man; Original Sin and its Consequences

The Original State of Man

The first humans, Adam and Eve, were created by God and given the unique ability to freely love and share in His divine life. God endowed them with His supernatural grace and virtues that are essential for participating in eternal life with Him in heaven. They had a profound relationship with God and were extremely happy with the world He had given them and were destined to join Him in Heaven. The original humans, prior to the existence of original sin, were granted immunity from suffering, sickness, and death, as well as freedom from disordered appetites and passions. Every facet of their lives was mean to be easy and fulfilling. This state of holiness is known as original justice.

Original Sin and its Consequences

Adam and Eve were put in the Garden of Eden to take care of it, cultivate it, and they had ascendancy over all of creation. God bestowed upon them complete freedom with the exception of one rule: not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Little could divide the bond of love and trust between God and our original parents except for one being, whose only goal is to overturn God's plan for humanity, Satan. Satan approached Eve in the form of a serpent and convinced her to greedily consume the fruit of the Forbidden Tree through temptations and lies, claiming that God did not want them to become like him. Immediately, Eve and Adam, who had also consumed the fruit, lost their state of original justice and were expelled from the holy garden. Through this single action they allowed sin to enter the world, plaguing not only themselves, but all of their descendants for the rest of eternity. This indelible mark on each of our souls changes the nature of the human race from what God originally intended it to be, causing us to be self-centered and inclined to error. The wound that is Original Sin brought about opposition to the four cardinal virtues, creating flaws in the human character. These are Malice, Ignorance, Weakness, and Concupiscence. As a consequence of Original Sin, there will always be a barrier that apprehends us from truly knowing God and having an invulnerable relationship with Him.

Chapter 3 - The Word Became Flesh

The human race, the zenith of God's most holy creation, is so valuable to Him that He was willing to humble himself superlatively to become one of us, truly in the flesh, and save us from sin so that we may be united with Him eternally in Heaven. Though this is not the only reason why God would do such a thing, let's start by discussing His primary goal. Since the scars of Original Sin had hindered humanity from wholly connecting with Him on Earth and in the afterlife, God wanted to remove our fetters of doubt and fear by redeeming the world. Another ambition of Christ was to manifest God's never ending love and to set an example for all of us to follow. The final reason of why God became one of us was to allow us to share in his divine life eternally.

Chapter 4 - The Paschal Mystery

The Paschal Mystery, the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is the manifestation of Jesus' love for us that we participate in at every Mass. In the first stage of Jesus' passion, He had just left the upper room in which the Last Supper had taken place and went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. This was a crucial moment because Jesus had the immense burden of knowing exactly what was going to happen to Him, so He prayed to His father for the courage and fortitude to endure the suffering. At this time, Jesus was again subject to the temptations of Satan. He attempted to dissuade Jesus from accepting the cross, from redeeming all of the world from sin and death, but Jesus remained true to His father. This time of intense prayer is a perfect example for all Christians to live up to when in need. After this time of deep spiritual reflection, Jesus was arrested and brought to Pontius Pilate, who struggled with himself whether to release Him or appease the crowds. Eventually, he decided to invoke a Passover tradition of releasing a prisoner and gave the crowd a choice: to release a condemned murderer, or to release Jesus. To his dismay, the crowd overwhelmingly shouted "Crucify Jesus!". During His Passion, Jesus endured merciless scourging, mocking, and was crowned with sharp thorns. Despite even surviving these horrendous acts, Jesus was not done yet. He was forced to carry a tremendously heavy wooden cross from Pilate all the way to Golgotha, where He would eventually be killed. The apex of Christ's Passion was reached at His crucifixion, the second part of the Paschal Mystery, where Jesus was nailed to the cross and died for the sake of all humanity. As Jesus hung on the cross in incomprehensible amounts of pain and agony, He asked His almighty father to "forgive them; for they know not what they do." and in His last dying breath, he uttered, "It is finished" and died. When Jesus' soul was separated from His body at His death, He descended to the dead and brought all the souls that had been waiting eagerly for Him into Heaven. The Paschal Mystery of Jesus comes to its conclusion at the Resurrection, the ultimate sign of victory over death and sin. Three days after Jesus was crucified and killed, Jesus rose from the dead, body and soul, giving meaning to every facet of His Good News and the Church's teachings. This most important historical event is perhaps the most important of the three, giving meaning also to His Passion and Death on the Cross. Without the Resurrection, the world would not have been restored, gates of Heaven would not have been opened, and the overall redemptive goal of the Paschal Mystery would not have been fulfilled.
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Chapter 6 - The Theological Virtues

A virtue is a habit showing high moral standards. Most of these virtues are recognized as Natural virtues, or earthly habits such as the virtue of temperance, which is what we use to control ourselves from doing what we know is wrong. Supernatural virtues, on the other hand, are imparted on the soul by God during Baptism. These are the virtues that allow us to be capable of being His children and sharing eternal life with Him. The most highly regarded of these virtues are known as the theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. The object of these sacred virtues is the essence of God Himself, so we strive to flourish in these areas through prayer and spiritual contact to enrich our lives so that we may live like Jesus and be with God eternally. Faith, imparted to the soul at Baptism, is the holy virtue of accepting and adhering to the teachings of Christ taught through the Church. Faith helps us achieve a deeper understand of God and allows us to live up to the example set by Christ. We can develop faith through prayer, but, if not accepted and practiced regularly, our faith can diminish and we can lose sight of God. Some ways that people sin against faith are voluntary doubt, schism, and atheism. Faith is imperative for the salvation of our souls. Hope is the virtue of confident expectation that God will endow us will the the capacity to faithfully respond to His call and to live a holy life.

Finally, Charity is the virtue to love God above all things and live in His essence of eternal love forever.

Chapter 7 - Prayer: How We Communicate With God

Prayer, practiced in my forms and traditions, is one of the best and most common ways to connect with God. The more time we spend with God, the smaller the barrier of separation caused by Original Sin is. Prayer is how we adore God, thank Him, let Him know what we really need, and so on. We can do this quite simply by saying the prayer that God himself gave us that is the model for all Christian prayer, the Lord's Prayer. The Lord's Prayer sums up all of the teaching of the Gospels and contains the most fundamental petitions for holiness. Amen, the word that should be used in every prayer, expresses faith in God and expresses approval of what has been said. Jesus clearly exhibits the importance of prayer in one's life by saying Amen so much when talking to His disciples and by demonstrating that one should reach out to God through prayer when troubled, like He did in the Garden of Gethsemane before He was crucified. Some forms of prayer are, Meditative prayer, Vocal prayer, and Contemplative prayer, but, regardless of how one prefers to speak to God, he/she should know that He always answers our prayers, whether we realize it or not. One very spiritual source of prayer is Scripture; in fact, many common prayers we know and hear in Mass come directly from Scripture, including the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Angelus. Practicing lectio divina, or meditative reading from Scripture, is also encouraged by the Church. This helps people hear and reflect on what God is trying to say to them, further deepening their relationship and understanding of God. Prayer is essential for maintaining a lasting relationship with God, but in many cases, it is hard for people to pray especially with the countless distractions we have in our modern world.
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The Church

Chapter 5 - The Four Marks of the Church

Established in the Church's earliest centuries, the four marks or the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, distinguish Christ's Church from any other that claim to be the true Church. Given through the power of God, these marks are the very essence of the Church and make it unique.

The Church is One:

When we profess our belief in the marks of the Church every Mass by reciting the Nicene Creed, we are accepting that the Church is One, so, what does it really mean when we say that? Firstly, we are professing the individuality of the Church and that it is thoroughly unique. We are also declaring our firm belief in only one God and that Jesus put His authority into just one Church. Furthermore, this mark states that the Church's unity comes from one God in three persons.

The Church is Holy:

The second mark, received by the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit, recognizes that God fills His Church with grace so that it itself becomes sanctifying and hallowed. The Church is holy because it receives its origin in Christ and its goal is the glory of God.

The Church is Catholic:

The Church is considered catholic because it is totally whole and complete. Jesus united himself eternally with His body, the Church. The Church is also Catholic because it is universal and spread throughout the world, not being limited to one nation or area.

The Church is Apostolic:

The Church is Apostolic primarily because of the fact that Jesus hand-picked the Twelve Apostles to be the foundation and the leaders of the Church. The Church is also Apostolic because of what is known as Apostolic succession: that the Pope and the college of bishops are successors of St. Peter the apostle.

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Chapter 7 - The Last Things/ Parousia

When a person passes from this life and his soul is separated from his body, it is immediately judged by God in the Particular Judgement. The soul can be directly sent to Heaven, Purgatory, or Hell at death, when the human life is ended and eternal spiritual life is begun. Purgatory is the state where one's soul is cleansed so that it can achieve the purity necessary for eternal life with the Lord in Heaven. The Second Coming of the Lord, or the Parousia, is when Christ will reveal Himself in all of His glory and all souls, living and dead will be judged at the Last Judgement. All souls will be reunited with their immortal bodies and Jesus will take them either to be united with Him in Heaven or to be condemned to Hell with eternal separation from God.
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