GDC 114-115: “A comprehensive and hierarchical message”

Catechists often refer to the hierarchy of truths. This is less a comparative treatment of Christianity, or a guideline for an activity in the “lesser of two evils,” and more a matter of derivation. Which aspects of the Gospel are primary? Which are derived from the essentials?

114. This message transmitted by catechetics has a “comprehensive hierarchical character”, (Catechesi Tradendae 31 which expounds the integrity and organization of the message; cf. General Catechetical Directory 39 and 43) which constitutes a coherent and vital synthesis of the faith. This is organized around the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, in a christocentric perspective, because this is “the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them”. (Catechism 234) Starting with this point, the harmony of the overall message requires a “hierarchy of truths”, (Unitatis Redintegratio 11) in so far as the connection between each one of these and the foundation of the faith differs. Nevertheless, this hierarchy “does not mean that some truths pertain to Faith itself less than others, but rather that some truths are based on others as of a higher priority and are illumined by them”. (General Catechetical Directory 43)

115. All aspects and dimensions of the Christian message participate in this hierarchical system.

– The history of salvation, recounting the “marvels of God” (mirabilia Dei), what He has done, continues to do and will do in the future for us, is organized in reference to Jesus Christ, the “centre of salvation history”. (General Catechetical Directory 41) The preparation for the Gospel in the Old Testament, the fullness of Revelation in Jesus Christ, and the time of the Church, provide the structure of all salvation history of which creation and eschatology are its beginning and its end.

– The Apostles’ Creed demonstrates how the Church has always desired to present the Christian mystery in a vital synthesis. This Creed is a synthesis of and a key to reading all of the Church’s doctrine, which is hierarchically ordered around it. (393)

– The sacraments, which, like regenerating forces, spring from the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, are also a whole. They form “an organic whole in which each particular sacrament has its own vital place”. (Catechism 1211) In this whole, the Holy Eucharist occupies a unique place to which all of the other sacraments are ordained. The Eucharist is to be presented as the “sacrament of sacraments”. (Catechism 1211)

– The double commandment of love of God and neighbour is—in the moral message—a hierarchy of values which Jesus himself established: “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 22,40). The love of God and neighbour, which sum up the Decalogue, are lived in the spirit of the Beatitudes and constitute the magna carta of the Christian life proclaimed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. (396)

– The Our Father gathers up the essence of the Gospel. It synthesizes and hierarchically structures the immense riches of prayer contained in Sacred Scripture and in all of the Church’s life. This prayer, given by Jesus to his disciples, makes clear the childlike trust and the deepest desires with which one can turn to God. (397)

The lengthier notes left intact:

(393) St Cyril of Jerusalem affirms with regard to the Creed: “This synthesis of faith was not made to accord with human opinions but rather what was of the greatest importance was gathered from all the Scriptures, to present the one teaching of the faith in its entirety. And just as a mustard seed contains a great number of branches in a tiny grain, so too the summary of faith encompassed in a few words the whole knowledge of the true religion contained in the Old and New Testaments”.

(396) St Augustine presents the Sermon on the Mount as “the perfect charter of the Christian life and contains all the appropriate precepts necessary to guide it” (De Sermone Domini in Monte I, 1; PL 34, 1229-1231); cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 8.

(397) The Our Father is, in truth, the summing up of the entire Gospel (Tertullian, De oratione, 1, 6). “Go through all the prayers in the Scriptures and I do not believe that it is possible to find anyone, anywhere, that is not included in the Lord’s Prayer. (St Augustine, Epistolas, 130, 12; PL, 33, 502); cf. Catechism 2761.

There was a reason why the catechism was ordered as it was. These sections explain and present the basics of the Christian message: Trinity and Christ, salvation history, creed, the paschal mystery in the sacraments, morality, and prayer. It’s all there, as GDC 115 suggests we can encapsulate it.

Anybody see anything of note here? You’ve been mostly silent on the GDC lately. Is this the equivalent of the eyes-glazing-over period of the afternoon? Personally, I know it well.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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