One cold winter's day in Bethlehem, just after he had been born, Jesus was lying asleep in the manger. Awaking from his nap, he opened his eyes, saw the ox and the ass standing beside him, and thought to himself, "So this is the Company of Jesus!"
The “Company of Jesus” is, of course, the formal name of the Jesuit religious order. It is an order that was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in order to preach the Gospel to a Europe that was in turmoil, in a time and place when so many were turning away from God and the Church. After being horribly wounded during a battle, for he was a soldier, Inigo Loyola had a conversion experience during his time of recovery. Painfully, slowly, he turned more and more to Christ and to the Blessed Virgin, and he developed what would become a lifelong passion: a deep devotion to the Blessed Trinity, to Christ and to the Eucharist. His motto, and the motto of the Jesuit order is “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,” or “For the Greater Glory of God.”
We are following the patron of St. Ignatius parish, whose greatest influence for conversion was the Patroness of St. Mary’s parish, the Blessed Virgin under the title of Our Lady of Montserrat, into the contemplation of the next article of faith in the Nicene Creed.
I believe…in “The Only Begotten Son of God.”
Jesus Christ is the central message and experience of Christianity. He is the center of all things. As Pope St. John Paull II wrote so compellingly in his first encyclical letter:
“The Redeemer of Man, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe and of history.’ (Redemptor Hominis, The Redeemer of Man, 1979)
The profound truth of our faith is centered on the redemption accomplished by Jesus, whose Name means “God saves,” and who accomplished the salvation and renewal of the human person and of the universe through His own willing self-sacrifice.
How is it, though, that this Person, Jesus the Messiah, could accomplish such a task, one that could not be accomplished by any person before Him or after Him?
The key to beginning to understand this revealed mystery comes in the article of faith we are now meditating on. What does it mean that Jesus is the “only begotten Son of God”? Pope St. John Paul II, in the above quote, provides us the clue for such understanding. Here he is echoing the Book of Revelation in which Jesus tells us:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13)
God the Son echoes the words of God the Father in the first chapter of the same book:
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty." (Revelation 1:8)
Jesus is thus identified as BOTH God and the Son of God. For the words of the Book of Revelation are in their turn echoes of the revelation given to the Great and Holy Prophet Isaiah:
“Who has performed these deeds? He who has called forth the generations since the beginning. I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last I will also be.” (Isaiah 41:4)
“Thus says the LORD, Israel's King and redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; there is no God but me.” (Isaiah 44:6)
Jesus, the First and the Last, in these passages, encompasses all of time, all of history, all of creation from it’s very beginning to the end of time. We are told by Saint Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians:
“In (Jesus) we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.” (Ephesians 1:7-10)
Our next meditation will lead us more deeply into the meaning of Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son.