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Congregation for the Clergy
General Directory for Catechesis

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  • PART TWO THE GOSPEL MESSAGE
    • CHAPTER I Norms and criteria for presenting the Gospel message in catechesis
        • The historical character of the mystery of salvation
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The historical character of the mystery of salvation

107. The confession of faith of the disciples of Jesus Christ springs from a pilgrim Church which has been sent on mission. It is not yet that of the glorious proclamation of the journey's end; rather, it is one which corresponds to the "times of the Church". (356) The "economy of Salvation" has thus an historical character as it is realized in time: "...in time past it began, made progress, and in Christ reached its highest point; in the present time it displays its force and awaits its consummation in the future. (357) For this reason, the Church, in transmitting today the Christian message, begins with the living awareness which she carries of it, has a constant "memory" of the saving events of the past and makes them known. In the light of these, she interprets the present events of human history, where the Spirit of God is continually renewing the face of the earth, and she awaits with faith for the Lord's coming. In Patristic catechesis, the narration (narratio) of the wonderful deeds of God and the awaiting (expectatio) of Christ's return always accompanied the exposition of the mysteries of faith. (358)

108. The historical character of the Christian message requires that catechesis attend to the following points:

presentation of salvation history by means of Biblical catechesis so as to make known the "deeds and the words" with which God has revealed himself to man: the great stages of the Old Testament by which he prepared the journey of the Gospel; (359) the life of Jesus, Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary who by his actions and teaching brought Revelation to completion; (360) the history of the Church which transmits Revelation: this history, read within the perspective of faith, is a fundamental part of the content of catechesis;

– in explaining the Creed and the content of Christian morality by means of doctrinal catechesis, the Gospel message should illuminate the 'today' of the history of salvation; indeed, "...in this way the ministry of the Word not only recalls the revelation of God's wonders which was made in time...but at the same time, in the light of this revelation, interprets human life in our age, the signs of the times, and the things of this world, for the plan of God works in these for the salvation of men"; (361)

– it should situate the sacraments within the history of salvation by means of a mystagogy which "...re-lives the great events of salvation history in the 'today' of her liturgy"; (362) reference to the historico-salvific 'today' is essential to such catechesis, and thus helps catechumens and those to be catechized "to open themselves to this 'spiritual' understanding of the economy of Salvation..."; (363)

– the "deeds and words" of Revelation point to the "mystery contained in them"; (364) catechesis helps to make the passage from sign to mystery; it leads to the discovery of the mystery of the Son of God behind his humanity; behind the history of the Church, it uncovers the mystery of her being the "sacrament of salvation;" behind the "signs of the times", it encounters the traces of God's presence and plan: catechesis, thus, shall exhibit that knowledge which is typical of faith, which "is knowledge through signs". (365)




356) CCC 1076.



357) DCG (1971) 44.



358) The Fathers basing the content of catechesis on the narration of the events of salvation, wish to root Christianity in time by showing that it was a salvation history and not a mere religious philosophy. They also wished to emphasize that Christ was the centre of this history.



359) CCC 54-64. At this point the catechism deals with the most important phases of revelation and in them the idea of Covenant is a key concept. These texts are a fundamental reference for biblical catechesis. Cf. CCC 1081 and 1093.



360) Cf. DV 4.



361) DCG (1971) 11.



362) CCC 1095. Cf. CCC 1075; CCC 1116; cf. CCC 129-130 and 1093-1094.



363) CCC 1095. CCC 1075 indicates the inductive nature of this "mystagogical catechesis" since it proceeds "from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to the thing signified, from the 'sacraments' to the 'mysteries'".



364) DV 2.



365) DCG (1971) 72; cf. CCC 39-43.






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