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January 13, 2023 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. Is it necessary to bow to the altar when there is nothing on it? When the priest holds the Book of the Gospels up high, just about everyone bows to it. Is this necessary? I know the Gospel is God’s Word, but people rarely bow to the tabernacle. Sad. — P.S., via e-mail.
A. Yes, one should bow when passing the altar, even when it is bare, because it is the sacred table upon which the Lord descends from Heaven during the Consecration of the Mass. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says that “a bow signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them,” and it mentions the bow “made by the Deacon when he asks for a blessing before the proclamation of the Gospel” (n. 275). However, it is not necessary to bow to the Book of the Gospels.
“If the Book of the Gospels in on the altar,” says the GIRM, “the priest then takes it and approaches the ambo, carrying the Book of the Gospels slightly elevated. He is proceeded by the lay ministers, who may carry the thurible and the candles. Those present turn towards the ambo as a sign of special reverence for the Gospel of Christ” (n. 133). When the priest says, “A reading from the holy Gospel,” he makes “the Sign of the Cross with his thumb on the book and on his forehead, mouth, and breast, which everyone else does as well. The people acclaim, Glory to you, O Lord” (n. 134).
The GIRM says that “a genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament….All who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession” (n. 274).

Q. Regarding the words of the Nicene Creed, where it says that Jesus “rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” when did Jesus rise the first time? — T.S., Michigan.
A. Like many words, “again” can be understood in different ways. One common meaning, as the question implies, is that a certain action occurred at least once before and is now happening a second time. But that is not the meaning of “again” when we talk about the Resurrection, for Jesus rose from the dead only once, on the first Easter.
Another meaning of “again,” according to Webster’s New World Dictionary, is “back into a former position or condition [he is well again].” This is the correct understanding of the word as it appears in the Creed: Jesus died but is now alive again after rising from the dead.

Q. One of the conditions for getting a plenary indulgence is that one must have no attachment to sin, even venial sin, as I understand it. Has this always been the case, or has this been a rule only since Vatican II (1962-1965)? – G.P., via e-mail.
A. The condition of no attachment to sin goes back long before Vatican II in Church history. For example, canon 925 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law says that “in order that one be capable of gaining an indulgence for himself, he must be baptized, not excommunicated, in the state of grace at least at the end of the prescribed works. . . .” The Baltimore Catechism No. 2 says that “to gain a plenary indulgence, we must be free from all sin, since an indulgence applies only to the healing of all wounds left by sin, not to the healing of sin itself. We must also be free from any intention to commit sin or to stay in an occasion of sin.”
In his 1967 Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences (Indulgentarium Doctrina), Pope St. Paul VI said:
“To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfill three conditions: sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent. If this disposition is in any way less than complete, or if the prescribed three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be only partial …. (N7).”

Q. Regarding your account of the creation of the world and of the first man and woman, God created Adam and Eve after the seventh day, they were created about 4,000 B.C., God created several races that were not all from Adam, and there is no such thing as evolution. Read the Scriptures. – D.Q., Missouri.
A. (1) The Book of Genesis says that God created the first humans on the sixth day (Genesis 1:27) and then He “rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation” (2:2-3). Notice that after God’s creative work on the first five days, He found everything to be “good,” but He found the creation of the first humans (“male and female he created them”) on the sixth day to be “very good” (1:31).
(2) We don’t have any idea when Creation occurred. The Bible does not tell us about the when and the how of Creation, but about the who (God and us) and the why (to share His love and glory with us).
(3) It is contrary to Church teaching to say that God created other humans who did not take their origin from Adam. This false theory is called polygenism. In his 1950 encyclical Humani Generis, Pope Pius XII stated that Catholics could not “embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.” The Holy Father said that polygenism cannot be reconciled with the Church’s teaching on Original Sin, “which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual, Adam, and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own” (n. 37).
(4) When you say that there is no such thing as evolution, it depends on what you mean. If you mean the Darwinian theory that rules out overwhelming evidence for intelligent design and insists that the complex nature of our universe is the result of an unplanned, unguided, and random series of circumstances and natural selection, then you must reject this atheistic theory of “anything but God.” The foolishness of this opinion was recognized back in the fourth century by St. Basil the Great, who scoffed at those people who are “deceived by the atheism they bear within them” and who “imagine that the universe was deprived of any guidance and order, as though it were at the mercy of fate.”
Recalling Basil’s words, Pope Benedict XVI said that “the Lord, through Sacred Scripture, awakens the reasoning that is asleep within us and tells us: In the beginning was the creative Word. . . . The Word that created everything, that created this intelligent design that is the universe.” But if you are talking about God fashioning the universe through some kind of an evolutionary process, that is possible. The key point is that whether God created the universe directly, or whether He chose to fashion it over a long period of time, you must keep Him in the equation as the Intelligent Designer who brought human beings and the universe to their present state of development. The ultimate answer to the issue will involve no conflict between scientific and religious truth, for God is the Author of both.

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