Why are the Four Gospels the heart of Christian Faith?
What does the word Gospel mean?
- The word "Gospel" usually means a written record of Christ's words and deeds. It is very likely derived from the Anglo-Saxon god (good) and spell (to tell), and is generally treated as the exact equivalent of the Greek euaggelion and the Latin evangelium, which has passed into French, German, Italian, and other modern languages. The Greek euangelion literally means good tidings, good news about the life and preaching of Jesus Christ, the only Son of God made man.
- "The term 'Gospel', at the time of Jesus, was used by the Roman emperors for their proclamations. Independently of their contents, they were by definition 'good news', that is, announcements of salvation, since the emperor was considered to be the lord of the world and every one of his edicts as a herald of good. To apply this word to the preaching of Jesus thus has a strongly critical sense, as if to say: God, not the emperor, is the Lord of the world, and the true Gospel is that of Jesus Christ" (Benedict xvi, Angelus, 27-1-08).
What and how many are the Gospels? There are 4: The Gospel of Matthew (Mt), Mark (Mk), Luke (Lk) and John (Jn). They are part of Holy Scripture and in particular of the New Testament. Therefore they belong to the Canon of the Scriptures which "is the complete list of the sacred writings which the Church has come to recognise through Apostolic Tradition. The Canon consists of 46 books of the Old Testament and 27 of the New" (Compendium, 20).
When were they written? The 4 Gospels were written between 60 and 100 A.D
Why are there only four?
- They are only 4 in as far as the Apostolic Tradition discerned for the Church that these four and only these four Gospels had to be included in the list of Sacred Books.
- Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons and martyr, affirms, at the end of the second century, in a famous passage that "since the world has four regions and there are four principal winds [
] the Word which is creator of everything [
] revealing itself to men, has given us a fourfold Gospel, but unified by a single Spirit" (Against the Heresies, III 11, 8).
What is Apostolic Tradition? "Apostolic Tradition is the transmission of the message of Christ, brought about from the very beginnings of Christianity by means of preaching, bearing witness, institutions, worship, and inspired writings. The apostles transmitted all they received from Christ and learned from the Holy Spirit to their successors, the bishops, and through them to all generations until the end of the world.
In what ways does Apostolic Tradition occur? Apostolic Tradition occurs in two ways: through the living transmission of the word of God (also simply called Tradition) and through Sacred Scripture which is the same proclamation of salvation in written form.
What is the relationship between tradition and Sacred Scripture? Tradition and Sacred Scripture are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ. They flow out of the same divine well-spring and together make up one sacred deposit of faith from which the Church derives her certainty about revelation.
What is the relationship between Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium? Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium are so closely united with each other that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls" (Compendium, 12-14, 17).
What do we know about the authors of the Four Gospels? According to Tradition, we know the following about the authors of the four Gospels:
- is often identified with "a certain young man, wearing nothing but a linen cloth" who was following Jesus after he had been arrested (Mk 14:51-52). Subsequently he was a disciple of Saint Peter; he also followed Saint Paul in one of his missionary journeys;
- also called Levi, was one of the apostles. He was a publican, that is to say a tax collector: Jesus called him while he was sitting at a tax booth;
- a disciple of Saint Paul, he followed him in some of his journeys. He is also believed to be the author of the Acts of the Apostles. He was a physician, probably coming from Antioch. According to tradition, he also drew a portrait of the Blessed Virgin Mary;
- was one of the apostles who were closer to Jesus. In his Gospel he speaks of himself as "the apostle whom Jesus loved". He is also believed to be the author of Apostolic Letters and the book of Revelation.
What importance have the Gospels for the Christians? "The New Testament, whose central object is Jesus Christ, conveys to us the ultimate truth of divine Revelation. Within the New Testament the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the heart of all the Scriptures because they are the principle witness to the life and teaching of Jesus. As such, they hold a unique place in the Church" (Compendium, 22).
How were the Gospels formed? Three steps could be distinguished in the formation of the Gospels:
- The life and teaching of Jesus: Jesus never left anything written. He preached and taught, he chose for himself and formed the disciples, in particular the Twelve Apostles. These listened to his word for three years. In this regard, it should be born in mind that the habit of preaching and teaching by heart was the order of the day, and it was born from the fact that writing was impractical in normal conditions.
- Oral tradition: «Indeed, after the Ascension of the Lord the Apostles handed on to their hearers what He had said and done. This they did with that clearer understanding which they enjoyed after they had been instructed by the glorious events of Christ's life and taught by the light of the Spirit of truth» (Vatican Council ii, Dei verbum, 19). The Apostles, therefore, actualised what Jesus had instructed them to do: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19). So, while fulfilling such a command of Christ, they announced loudly the happenings which they witnessed during their life with Jesus, repeating, particularly to those who had not known him, his words and his teachings. In this way then, slowly memories and stories about Jesus, likewise his words and miracles, handed down in a constant and faithful way, assumed a precise literary form. For example, already immediately after the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, around 40 A.D., the Church used to sing the famous hymn found in the letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians "Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited" (Phil. 2:6). From such preaching we can gather that:
- the Christian community does not create the contents of the preaching, but works out the literary form;
- such a content is based on the noteworthy witness of the eyewitnesses;
- and closely checked by the Apostolic community of Jerusalem, which had the duty and the conviction of being faithful to the memory of Jesus.
- The written Gospels: The apostolic teachings about Jesus did not remain as pure oral teachings, but sooner or later, gradually, were written down. This took place between 60 and 100 A.D. «The sacred authors wrote the four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, explaining some things in view of the situation of their churches and preserving the form of proclamation but always in such fashion that they told us the honest truth about Jesus» (Vatican Council ii, Dei verbum, 19). The motive for writing down what they were preaching orally was due to some needs of the first Christian communities:
- the celebration of the liturgy: in order to celebrate there is need for texts to be read;
- catechesis, the formation of the believers: the catechists were in need of reference texts on which their teaching could be based;
- missionary activity of announcing to the non-believers, for which it was necessary to have on hand at least memos containing the teachings and significant words said by Jesus;
- the determination of the practical moral behaviour of the Christians as they met with cultures and different styles of life;
- the defence against accusations, calumnies and misunderstandings, to which the community was subject either from the Jews or the pagans;
- There exists a continuity between the preaching of Jesus, the preaching of the apostles and their editing of the gospel.
- In the narrative of the Gospels there exists a strict link with the events that really happened: «For biblical faith," explains Cardinal RATZINGER, "the reference to real historical events is fundamental. It does not recount history as a collection of symbols of historical truth, but is founded on the history which really happened on the surface of this earth (
) The activity of Jesus is not to be thought of as inserted in a mythical sooner-or-later, which could signify both always and never; it is an historical event precisely dateable with all the seriousness of real human history» (Jesus of Nazareth, 2007).
- Everything happened under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus himself had promised during his earthly life:«I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you» (Jn 14:25-26). «He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you» (Jn 16:14).
How are the Gospels transmitted through the centuries?
- In the first place there is a manuscript transmission (from 60 A.D) in biblical Greek (a type of popular Greek language, common in that time). The oldest manuscripts of the Gospels, like those of the whole New Testament, came to us in Greek. Later on in the second and third centuries, the Gospels were translated into Latin (the vetus latina), and then successively with the invention of print (from 1516) passed from manuscript transmission to the printed one.
- By the latter half of the second century Saint Justin, writing his Apology in 160, affirms that the memoirs of the Apostles had come to be called Gospels. This is the earliest witness to the passage from the Gospel as something preached to the Gospel as a written text.
Are the Gospels of Apostolic origin? The Church affirms as of the deposit of faith that the Gospels come from the Apostles. «The Church has always and everywhere held and continues to hold that the four Gospels are of apostolic origin. For what the Apostles preached in fulfilment of the commission of Christ, afterwards they themselves and apostolic men, under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, handed on to us in writing: the foundation of faith» (Vatican Council ii, Dei verbum, 18).
In what sense are the Gospels historical?
- The Gospels are historical in as far as they faithfully report the works and words of Jesus, in the light of his Death and Resurrection under the influence of the Holy Spirit. «Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven» (Vatican Council ii, Dei verbum, 19).
- Its necessary to bear in mind that the Gospels were written in a historical period (the first century A.D.), in which:
- the Apostles and many people, who had known, heard and lived with Jesus;
- likewise people who had known and lived with the Apostles were still alive, and so were in a position to verify if what was being preached and written corresponded to the truth or not. In that regard then it should not be forgotten that many of these people accepted martyrdom rather than deny their fidelity to Christ (see for example the persecution suffered by many Christians in 64 A.D. inflicted by Nero).
- In order to guarantee the historicity of the facts as such, there are also various complementary criteria in force (like the criterion of multiple attestation certification, of non-contradiction, of continuity and discontinuity, of conformity, etc.), which can furnish a moral certainty of historicity for the major part of the facts narrated in the Gospels.
What are the criteria for the authenticity of the Gospels?
- Fundamental criterion: The recognition of the Church divinely assisted by the Holy Spirit. Such a recognition was primarily given by the first ecclesial Community in the first century A.D., and has always been confirmed by the Church in the subsequent centuries up to this day.
- Objective criteria:
- their apostolic origin;
- the absolute fidelity to what Jesus had said and done;
- the testimony of those who were eye witnesses;
In what sense are the Gospels inspired books? "Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see Jn 20:31; 2 Tm. 3:16); holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself. In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted" (Vatican Council ii, Dei verbum, 11).
Why do the Gospels teach the truth? The Gospels teach the truth because God himself is the author. Hence they teach that truth which is necessary for our salvation without error. "Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation. Therefore, all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (Vatican Council ii, Dei verbum, 11).
What are some characteristics of each Gospel?
- The Gospel according to Mark: is considered the oldest of the four Gospels: it goes back to the year 64 AD, 34 years after the probable date of the death of Jesus. It has a more narrative tone: rich in particulars, describes efficiently the Palestine of the time of Jesus. The addressees of the work were Christians, most probably those of Rome and not the Hebrews. The author is Mark who was known by Peter and later on accompanied Paul and Barnabas. The Gospel of Mark is marked by the "way": the journey of Jesus towards Jerusalem, towards the carrying out of the paschal mystery.
- The Gospel according to Matthew: It was destined to a public of Hebrew origin. This is deduced from the frequency with which Old Testament quotations are used. According to Christian tradition, the author could be one of the twelve apostles who is called Matthew (the tax collector) in some passages, in others Levi. This Gospel, rich with parables and with five great discourses of Jesus, among which there is the celebrated sermon on the mount (5:1-7,29), is generally considered as a text which is very rich with moral values and that for centuries has inspired people of every culture and religion.
- The Gospel according to Luke: it is one with the Acts of the Apostles. Written by the same author, they present the same style and have the same destination, a certain Theophilus, of whom there isn't more information (the name, in Greek, means Friend of God). According to tradition, the author is Luke who accompanied Paul in some of his journeys. The heart of the work is the activity of Jesus at Jerusalem, the preaching of the beginning of a new era, liberation of people and love for the poor.
- The Gospel according to John: compared to the others, it is very different even in style. There are less parables, less miracles, no hint to the institution of the Eucharist, to the Our Father and the beatitudes. Instead new expressions about Jesus appear (for example, Word of God). According to tradition, the author is John the Apostle the one who was favoured by Jesus and also the author of the book of Revelation. Origen, a great Christian writer of the third century, described the fourth Gospel in the following words: «the cream of all the Sacred Scripture is the Gospel and the cream of all the Gospel is that which is transmitted to us by John, whose profound sense and secret no one can fully grasp».
What characteristics do the Gospels present as a whole?
- As for the Sources, it is important to note:
- the accurate research of historical facts. In this way Luke expresses himself at the beginning of his Gospel: " Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received" (1:1-4).
- the eyewitness and the new surprising experience of some people who lived with Jesus.
- As for the Content:
- The Gospels complete one another, each one emphasizing a certain aspect of Jesus' teaching and work. The differences that exist between one Gospel and another do not impact on the substantial historicity of the person of Jesus in so far as what he said and did.
- They do not only contain the Word of God, but they themselves are the Word of God: Word of God in human words. In as far as it is a human work, the Gospels are studied with scientific criteria ( of literal and historical criticism), but in as far it is the Word of God, they are also read especially with the criteria of faith.
- Jesus Christ is the central content, the permanent and primordial data, the stable centre that unites, gives solidity to the Gospels which are the faithful echo of what Jesus had said and done. The Gospels are a single book and this unique book is Christ. He is the definitive revelation of the Father with his own being, with words and works, with miracles, with his Death and Resurrection, with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- The Christian faith is not «a religion of the book», but of the Word of God, which is not «A written word and mute, but the incarnated and live Word» (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux).
- There is a common content in the presentation of the principal facts of the life of Jesus: Jesus is presented in his principal features, in the constancy of his teaching and behaviour, in the fundamental moments of his public life, in his absolute newness and originality: "The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14).
- As for the Interpretation of the events: it is done in the light of the Resurrection of Jesus and put at the service of the life of the believers and the Church. The Gospels were written in the certainty that Jesus died on the cross and rose, therefore he is always alive and present in the Church. Now, in order to know the Risen, there is need to turn to the life and teaching passed about Jesus, but not simply as passed, but in order to illuminate with this past Christ who is actually alive.
- As for the Finality, the Gospels:
- are not meant to give us a biography of Jesus. The sacred authors, as was already the tradition before them, are not interested in knowing in details the description of the events of the life of Jesus. The details present in the text do not serve as a chronological description of the facts.
- neither do they offer answers to problems of history or science: the truth that Jesus communicates is for our salvation. The Gospels report facts and sayings of Jesus, believed to be important because of their salvific significance.
- they instead propose to express and arouse faith in the Lord Jesus. Having been written by believers in order to arouse faith, the evangelical tradition draws attention to the significance which these events have for faith. So, the truth of a story is not found in the exact report of a fact, but in the grasping of the sense, the value, the lesson contained in the fact.
What is the unity that exists between the Old and the New Testaments? "Scripture is one insofar as the Word of God is one. God's plan of salvation is one, and the divine inspiration of both Testaments is one. The Old Testament prepares for the New and the New Testament fulfils the Old; the two shed light on each other.
What role does Sacred Scripture play in the life of the Church? Sacred Scripture gives support and vigor to the life of the Church. For the children of the Church, it is a confirmation of the faith, food for the soul and the fount of the spiritual life. Sacred Scripture is the soul of theology and of pastoral preaching. The Psalmist says that it is «a lamp to my feet and a light to my path» (Psalm 119:105). The Church, therefore, exhorts all to read Sacred Scripture frequently because «ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ» (Saint Jerome) (Compendium, 23-24).
What are the Apocryphal Gospels?
- From the second century onwards (thus at some distance of time from the events narrated) other gospels were born, which are called apocryphal (such as the Gospel of Thomas, of Phillip, of Peter; the Protoevangelium of James
- were born (for example, the gnostic gospels) in a context of theological currents judged heretical by the Church of the time
- a few contain some truths, but others present fantastic expansions with respect to the canonical Gospels and a taste for the theatrical which belongs to a popular Christianity
- in many cases, they tend to fill in the silent gaps of the four Gospels on some periods of the life of Jesus (particularly his first thirty years), giving a large space to imagination and invention
- they show a particular interest in extraordinary aspects of miracles, for the infancy of Jesus, for the affairs of the Apostles not mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles
- some of them absolutely avoid speaking about Death and Resurrection of Christ.
- For these reasons, in contrast to the four canonical Gospels, they were not recognised by the Church as inspired, so that as soon as they were written, she refused them judging them unreliable and harmful.
- Despite this, they had a certain influence in the tradition and iconography: for example, the presence of the oxen and the donkey in the Nativity and the name of the parents of Mary (Joachim and Anna) come from the proto-gospel of James, which is the most famous. Some apocryphal texts have come to light recently, like the gospel of Didymo Jude Thomas
- It is necessary to remember that the four authentic Gospels came before the apocryphal gospels. The Gospel of John, which was the last of the four, was composed around 90-95, many decades before some authors wrote the apocryphal gospels.
Are there any extra-biblical witnesses that corroborate the contents of the Gospels? There are several:
- The first is that of Pliny the Younger, who was proconsul of Bythinia in the years 111-113 AD, and who in one his letters sent to the emperor Trajan wrote tha the Christians were "accustomed to gather before dawn and to sing in choir a hymn to Christ as if he were a god". Thus, he affirms that they were convinced of the divinity of Christ.
- Suetonius, instead, in his work "Lives of the Twelve Caesars", referring to an event which occurred in 50 AD, affirms that Claudius "expelled the Jews from Rome, who by instigation of Chrestus were continually causing disturbances" (Vita Claudii XXIII, 4). Suetonius wrote "Chrestus" in place of "Christus", not understanding the differences between Jews and Christians, and because of the similarity between Chrestos, which was a very common Greek name, and Christos which means "anointed", the "Messiah". Thus there existed in Rome Jewish Christians and - I would say - unconverted Hebrews who argued about Christ among themselves and who appeared in the eyes of the Roman authorities to be a cause of public disorder.
- In addition there is the witness of the Roman historian Tacitus who in his Annals tells of the outbreak of fire in Rome in 64 AD, for which the emperor Nero was accused and who, "in order to quash the rumour, fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace." Tacitus goes on to affirm that, "Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular."
What are the criteria for reading the Gospels?
- Most of all to interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words. In order to discover the sacred authors' intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. "For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression" (CCC, 109-110).
- The Gospels being inspired, there is another principle of right interpretation, no less important than the preceding one, without which Scripture would be "dead letter": "Holy Scripture must be read and interpreted in the sacred spirit in which it was written" (Vatican Council ii, Dei verbum, 12). Vatican Council II gives three criteria for the interpretation of Sacred Scripture in conformity with the Spirit that inspired it: 1) attention to the content and unity of the whole Scripture; 2) reading of Scripture in the living Tradition of the Church; respect of the analogy of faith, that is the cohesion of the truth among them.
- The Gospels should be interpreted under the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church, to which the task of authentically interpreting the deposit of the faith is given. "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the deposit of faith has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone, that is, to the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, and to the bishops in communion with him. To this Magisterium, which in the service of the Word of God enjoys the certain charism of truth, belongs also the task of defining dogmas which are formulations of the truths contained in divine Revelation. This authority of the Magisterium also extends to those truths necessarily connected with Revelation" (Compendium, 16).
- The Gospels should be read bearing in mind the global unity of the divine plan, which actuates in history and which God has revealed in a full definitive way in His Only Son Jesus Christ.
In what way should the Gospels be read?
- Above all a gospel quotation is read like this:
Mt 3:1-4 means : the book of Matthew, chapter 3, from verse 1 to verse 4;
- Reading of the Gospels can be done by one or more people, one or more passages, one or more pages. Such a reading is done with attention, without skipping that which seems secondary, interpreting correctly the sense of the biblical text. It develops, thanks to the help of the Spirit, in meditation, contemplation and prayer.
- Meditation (Meditatio): that which has been read is compared to the parallel biblical passages and applied to personal life, taking a concrete commitment
- Contemplation (Comtemplatio): it is a moment of reflection, of silence and adoration up to feeling the lively presence of God
- Prayer (Oratio):it is a moment of praise and intercession, the disciple shares with others his faith and prays according to how the meeting with God in that Scripture passage has prompted him. All this can happen even in a context of sober community celebration. "Prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together" (Vatican Council ii, Dei verbum, 25).
- It necessary to bear in mind some needs in order to read well the Gospels:
- knowledge of the gospel language and attention to the literal sense, the subject and the disposition of the text. For such an end there is need to have recourse to instruments of a correct exegesis, to avoid falling into arbitrary interpretation;
- incessant reading and re-reading of the gospel passage in order to acquire a certain familiarity with its complex horizon. To such an end it is useful to compare a passage with other texts of the Bible. The unity of Sacred Scripture, which represents the unity of the plan of salvation, demands that a single passage be read in the context of the others, compared with others; that the Old Testament be read in the light of the New Testament, but also the New be read in the light of the Old in order to know the "pedagogy of God," in as far as it may not be understood out of a strict relation with the Old Testament and with Hebrew tradition which it was transmitting;
- actualising reading: it is necessary to actualise the biblical text in our time. Through the reading of the past, the Spirit helps us to discern the sense which he himself gives to the problems and happenings our time, allowing us to read the Bible with our life and our life with the Bible;
- attention to the senses of Sacred Scripture, and therefore of the Gospels.
What are the senses of Sacred Scripture? "According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.
- The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: «Omnes [Sacrae Scripturae] sensus fundentur super unum, scilicet litteralem-All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal».
- The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God's plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.
- The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ's victory and also of Christian Baptism.
- The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written «for our instruction».
- The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, "leading"). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.
- A medieval couplet summarizes the significance of the four senses: The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith; The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny (Littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria. Moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia)"(CCC, 115-118).
of the Basilica of Saints Ambrose and Charles Borromeo
Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli