The Great Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII/Christ Our Redeemer

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CHRIST OUR REDEEMER. Encyclical Letter Tametsi, November 1, 1900.

The outlook, Venerable Brethren, is not without concern for us; nay, there are many grave reasons for alarm, and the causes of evil in public and private are numerous and of long standing. And yet the end of the century does seem, by the divine mercy, to bring some hope and con- solation.

No one can doubt that the reawakened attention to spiritual things and the revival of piety and faith are helping to avert disaster. That there is a very general growth in these virtues at the present time we have ample assurance. In the midst of the allurements of the world, and in spite of many obstacles in the path of piety, great multitudes, at the mere suggestion of the Pontiff, flock from all sides to the threshold of the holy apostles; coming from far and near to show their devotion to their religion, and, confiding in the proffered indulgences of the Church, to seek with eagerness the means of attaining their eternal salvation. Nor could any one fail to be moved by the extraordinary outburst of piety which has been displayed towards the Saviour of mankind.

The ardor with which so many thousands from all parts of the world have united in confessing the name of Jesus Christ and celebrating His praises is not unworthy of the best ages of the Christian faith. Would that this fire of the faith of our forefathers might leap into a conflagra- tion! Would that the excellent example of so many might arouse the rest of the world! For the age needs



more than anything else the restoration among the nations of the Christian spirit and the virtues of former days. It is a calamity that so many turn a deaf ear and hear not the admonition conveyed by such a reawakening of piety. If they "knew the gift of God," if the)^ considered that nothing more miserable could happen to them than to have revolted against the Liberator of the world and to have abandoned the law and the life of Christianity, they would surely rouse themselves and hasten of their own accord to turn and flee from the destruction most certainly impending over them.

To uphold on earth and to extend the empire of the Son of God and to promote the salvation of men by the dissemination of divine benefits is so greatly and so pecuharly the office of the Church that her authority and power rests mainly on the performance of this task. To this end We trust We have labored to the best of Our abiUty in the difficult and anxious administration of Our Pontificate; while it is your ordinary and, indeed, daily practice. Venerable Brethren, to give especial thought and care in the same work. But both you and We ought, in these times, to make still greater efforts, and in particu- lar on the occasion of the Jubilee, to endeavor to spread more widely the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, by teaching, persuading, and exhorting, if perchance Our voice may be heard, not only by those who are accustomed to hear Christian doctrine attentively, but also by the unhappy remainder, who, while nominally Christian, pass their lives \\athout either faith in Christ or love for Him. For these especially We grieve; and these, in particular. We would fain have consider both what they are doing and whither they are sure to go unless they repent in time.

Never to have known Jesus Christ in any way is the greatest of misfortunes, but it involves no perversity or ingratitude. But, after having known, to reject or forget Him, is such a horrible and mad crime as to be scarcely credible. For He is the origin and source of all good,


and just as mankind could not be freed from slavery but by the sacrifice of Christ, so neither can it be preserved but by His power. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved. ^ What the hfe of men is from which Jesus has been expelled, Jesus "the Power of God and the Wisdom of God," what is its morahty and its end, may be learned from the example of nations which have not the light of Christianity. Any one who recalls for a moment that mental blindness which St. Paul alludes to,^ the depra-vdty of their nature, the abominable character of their vices and superstitions, must feel penetrated with hor- ror, and, at the same time, with pity for them.

What We here speak of is a matter of common knowl- edge, but not usually dwelt upon or thought of. There would not be so many alienated by pride or buried in sloth if they recollected what benefits they had received from God, what Christ has rescued them from and to what He has brought them. Disinherited and exiled, the himaan race for ages was hurrying to destruction, enthralled by those dreadful evils which the sin of our first parents had begotten and by other woes beyond the power of man to remedy, when Christ our Lord came down from heaven and appeared as our Redeemer. In the first dawn of the world's history, God Himself had promised Him to us, as the victor and conqueror of "the serpent"; succeeding ages looked forward to His advent with eager longing; holy prophets had long and plainly foretold that on Him all our hopes depended; nay, the various fortunes of the chosen people, their history, their institu- tions, their laws, their sacrifices and ceremonies, had clearly and distinctly prefigured that the salvation of humanity would be wrought and completed in Him, who it was declared should be at once the High Priest and propitiatory Victim, the Restorer of human liberty, the Prince of peace, the Teacher of all nations, founding a

> Acts iv. 12. 2 Rom. i. 21.


kingdom which should endure forever. By these titles, and under these images and prophetic utterances, various in kind, but agreeing in sense, He was designated as the One who for the exceeding love wherewith He loved us should one day give His hfe for our salvation. Accord- ingly, when the time of the divine counsel was ripe, the only-begotten Son of God, being made man, offered an abundant and complete satisfaction for men to His of- fended Father, and by so great a price redeemed and made the human race His own. You are not redeemed loith corruptible things as gold and silver . . . but vnth the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled. Accordingly, although all men -wathout ex- ception were already subject to His power and sway, because He is the Creator and Preserver of all, He made them His a second time by redeeming them in the truest and most literal sense. You are not your oum, for you are bought with a great price? Hence all things are re-estab- lished in Christ by God. The mystery of His vnll, accord- ing to His good pleasure, which He hath purposed in Him, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, to re-establish all things in Christ.^ So that when Jesus had blotted out the handwriting which was contrary to us, and fastened it to the cross, the wrath of heaven was immediately appeased; the disordered and erring race of man had the bonds of their ancient slavery loosed, the will of God was reconciled to them, grace restored, the way to eternal happiness opened, and the title to possess and the means of attaining it both given back. Then, as though awakened from a long-lingering and deadly lethargy, man beheld the light of truth so long desired, but for generations sought in vain; he recognized, in particular, that he was bom for much higher and more splendid things than the frail and fleeting objects of sense, to which he had for- merly confined his thoughts and pursuits, and that this was

» 1 Peter i. 18, 19. « 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20.

SEph. i. 9, 10.


in fine the constitution and supreme law of human Ufe, and the end to which all must tend, that as we came from God so we should one day return to Him. From this beginning and on this foundation consciousness of human dignity was restored and lived again ; the sense of a common brotherhood took possession of men's hearts; their rights and duties in consequence were perfected or established anew and virtues beyond the imagination or conception of ancient philosophy were revived. So men's purposes, tenor of life, and characters were changed, and the knowl- edge of the Redeemer having spread far and wide, and His power having penetrated into the very life-blood of nations, expelhng their ignorance and their ancient \'ices, a marvellous transformation took place, which, origi- nating in Christian civiUzation, utterly changed the face of the earth.

In recalling these things, Venerable Brethren, there is an infinite sweetness experienced, but at the same time, a serious warning is conveyed — namely to return thanks with our whole heart and soul and to see that others, so far as in us lies, return thanks to our divine Saviour.

We Uve in an age remote from the inception and begin- ning of our redemption; but what matters it, since the power of redemption is perpetual, and the benefits thereof are abiding and everlasting. He who once restored our fallen nature, preserves, and will continue to preserve it. He gave Himself a redemption for all; ^ in Christ all shall be made alive;^ and of His kingdom there shall be no end.^ Thus, according to the eternal counsel of God, the salva- tion of all and each wholly depends on Christ Jesus ; those who forsake Him, in their blind fury, seek by that very act their own personal destruction, and at the same time as far as they can, make society in general fall back into the very abyss of evils and disasters from which the Redeemer out of His love had delivered mankind.

' Tim. ii. 6. » 1 Cor. xv. 22.

â– Luke i. 33.


Men wander very far in aimless error from the goal once they have entered upon devious paths. Likewise, if the pure and unsullied light of truth be rejected, men's minds must needs be buried in darkness and deceived by the depraved fancies that meet them at every step. What hope can there be of health for those who forsake the fountain and source of life? Christ is alone the way, the truth, and the life,^ and if we despise Him, we lose these three indispensable requisites of salvation.

There is no need to dilate upon what experience con- tinually teaches, and in his heart every one feels, even when abounding in earthly goods that only in God can the heart of man find absolute and complete repose. In very truth, the end of man is God ; and the time we spend on earth is more truly likened and compared to a pilgrim- age. Christ, then, is for us the way, because from this mortal journeying of ours, which is so especially toilsome and so beset with danger, we can only attain to God, our chief and final good, with Christ to guide and direct us. No man cometh to the Father bvt by Me? But by Me — that is to say, first and chiefly, by His grace. Yet, if His precepts and laws are despised, His grace is void. As it behooved him to do, when He had wrought our salva- tion, Jesus Christ left us His law, as the custodian and director of the human race, so that under its guidance men might turn from evil ways and safely attain to God. Go teach ye all nations . . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you ; ^ keep My com- mandments.* By this we ought to understand that it is the chief and absolutely essential thing for those who confess Christ to be docile to the precepts of Jesus Christ, and to hold our will submissive and devoted to Him as Our Lord and supreme Ruler. A great undertaking and frequently entailing a hard struggle and demanding much labor and steadiness of purpose. For, albeit human

» John xiv. 6. ^ Matt, xxviii. 19, 20.

' Ibid. * John xiv. 15.


nature has been restored by the sacrifice of Our Redeemer, yet there remains in every one a certain debility, weakness and corruption.

Various appetites drag a man hither and thither, and the allurements of external things impel the soul to follow its own pleasure in place of Christ's command. But yet we must struggle and fight against our desires "unto the obedience of Christ"; and, unless they are subservient to reason, they become our masters, and separating us from Christ make us body and soul their slaves. "Men cor- rupt in mind, reprobate concerning the Faith, do not deliver themselves from slavery ... for they are slaves to three sorts of desire, that of pleasure, or pride of place, or display of worldly pomp.". * In this contest every one ought to be so disposed as to feel bound to take upon himself trouble and inconvenience for the sake of Christ. It is difficult to refuse things which so strongly attract and charm ; it is hard to despise qualities of body and earthly possessions, in submission to the will and command of Christ our Lord, but a Christian must be always brave and strong to endure, if he would pass his time of life like a Christian. Have we forgotten what is the body of which we are members, and who is our Head? He having joy set before Him endured the cross, and He has given us His precept to deny ourselves. The very dignity of human nature depends on this disposition of mind of which we speak. For, as even the ancient philosophy often perceived, it is not at all meanness of spirit to n,ile oneself and to make the lower part of nature obey the higher, but it is rather a noble kind of virtue and is mar- vellously consistent with reason and human dignity.

Besides, to suffer and to bear is the lot of humanity. Man can no more construct for himself a life free from pain and replete with every happiness than he can annul the counsels of his divine Creator, who has willed that the consequences of our fault should remain in perpetuity.

1 St. Aug. De Vera nl. 37.


It is proper, therefore, not to look for an end of pain upon the earthy but to strengthen our inind to bear pain, which, in fact, educates us to the attainment of the greatest of all good things for which we hope. For it is not to wealth and luxur}^, nor to worldly honors and powers that Christ has promised eternal happiness in heaven, but to patient suffering and tears, to the desire of justice and to cleanness of heart.

Hence it is easy to see what ought ultimately to be expected from the error and pride of those who, despising the supremacy of the Redeemer, give man the highest place, and hold that human nature should bear rule every- where and in every case ; although they can neither attain such control, nor even define its nature The kingdom of Jesus Christ obtains its form and virtue from divine charity; holy and pure affection is its foundation and completion. The punctual observance of our duties necessarily follows, viz., not to wrong our neighbor, to esteem the earthly less than the heavenly, to set the love of God before all else. But the reign of man, either openly rejecting Christ or neglecting Him, consists entirely in the love of self ; charity there is none, and self-immolation is ignored. Rule, indeed, man may but in Jesus Christ, and only on the condition that first of all he serves God, and religiously finds in His law the rule and discipline of life.

By the law of Christ we mean not merely the natural precepts of morality, or what supernatural knowledge the ancient world acquired, all which Jesus Christ perfected and raised to the highest plane by His explanation, inter- pretation, and ratification; but we mean, besides, all the doctrine and in particular the institutions He has left us. Of these the Church is the chief. Indeed, what institu- tion of Christ is there that she does not fully embrace and include? By the ministry of the Church, so gloriously founded by Him, He willed to perpetuate the office assigned to Him by His Father, and having on the one hand con-


ferred upon her all effectual aids for human salvation, He ordained with the utmost emphasis on the other that men should be subject to her as to Himself, and zealously follow her guidance in every department of life: He that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me} So the law of Christ is always to be sought from the Church, and therefore as Christ is for man the way, so hkewise the Church is the way. He in Himself and by His proper nature, she by His commission and by a share in His power. On this account those who would strive for salvation apart from the Church, wander from the way and are struggling in vain.

The case of governments is much the same as that of the individual ; they also must run into fatal issues, if they depart from the way. The Creator and Redeemer of human nature, the Son of God, is King and Lord of the world, and holds absolute sovereignty over men, both as individuals and as members of society. He hath given to Him power and honor and dominion, and all peoples, tribes, and languages shall serve Him.^ Yet am I established King by Him. . . . I will give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Thy possession.^ Therefore, the law of Christ ought to hold sway in human society, and in communities so far as to be the teacher and guide of pubhc no less than private life. This being divinely appointed and provided, no one may resist with impunity, and it fares ill with any commonwealth in which Christian institutions are not allowed their proper place. Let Jesus be excluded, and human reason is left without its greatest protection and illumination; the very notion is easily lost of the end for which God created human society, to wit: that by help of their civil union the citizens should attain their natural good, but neverthe- less in a way not to conflict with that highest and most perfect and enduring good which is above nature. Their

^ Luke X. 16. ^ Dan. vii. 14.

^Ps. ii. 6, 8.


minds busy with a hundred confused projects, rulers and subjects ahke travel a devious road; bereft, as they are, of safe guidance and fixed principle.

Just as it is pitiable and calamitous to wander out of the way, so it is to desert the truth. But the first abso- lute and essential truth is Christ, the Word of God, con- substantial and co-eternal with the Father, who with the Father is one. / am the Way and the Truth. Accord- ingly, if truth is sought, let human reason first of all obey Jesus Christ and rest secure in His authoritative teaching, because by Christ's voice the truth itself speaks.

Human intelligence has a wide field of its own in which to employ itself freely with investigation and experiment. Nature not only allows this, but evidently requires it. But it is a wicked thing and against nature for the mind to refuse to be confined within its ovn\ Hmitations, to have no proper modesty, and to scorn the authority of Christ's teaching. The doctrine, on w^hich our salvation altogether depends, regards God and divine things. That was not created by any man's -wisdom, but the Son of God received it in its entirety from His Father. The words which Thou gavest Me, I have given them} Accord- ingly, it necessarilj includes much that, without being contrary to reason, for that cannot possibly be, is still beyond the reach of our mind as much as is the compre- hension of God in His essential being. But if there are 6o many things in nature itself which are mysterious and obscure, and which no human intelligence can explain, and yet which no one in his senses would presume to doubt, it will be a perverse freedom of thought not to allow for things existing outside the domain of nature altogether, which are above nature, and beyond our minds to fathom. To refuse to accept dogmas evidently means to do away with the whole Christian religion. The mind must be subjected humbly and submissively to the obedience of

  • John xvii. 8.


Christ, so as to be held, as it were, captive to His will and sovereignty. Bringing into captivity every under" standing unto the obedience of Christ} Such is the obedience which Christ wills, and rightfully, to have offered to Him, inasmuch as He is God, and has therefore supreme sov- ereignty over the understanding as well as over the will of man. There is nothing servile in serving Christ our Lord with the understanding, but it is especially con- sonant to reason and to our personal dignity.

For a man does not thus submit his will to the sov- ereignty of any fellow man, but to that of God the Creator and First Cause of all, to whom he is made subject by the law of nature ; nor docs a man allow himself to be coerced by the imagination of any human teacher, but by the eternal and immutable truth. He attains at once the natural good of the mind and mental freedom. For truth as proceeding from the authoritative teaching of Christ, sets in a clear light the intrinsic character and relative importance of things, whatever they may be, and thus instructed and obedient to the truth which he sees, he will not subject himself to creatures, but creatures to himself, he will not let passion rule reason, but will make reason rule passion; casting off the pernicious slavery of sin and error, he will be made free with the best kind of freedom — You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free? It is plain, therefore, that those whose minds refuse to acknowledge Christ, are obstinately striving against God. Having escaped from the divine subjection, they will not thereby gain greater freedom; but will come under some human authority; they will choose, indeed, as men do, some one to listen to, to obey, and to follow as their master. Besides this, debarring themselves from theological studies and confining the exercise of their minds within a more circumscribed sphere, they will come less efficiently trained to the consideration

» 2 Cor. X, 5. « John viiL 33.


of subjects with which reason properly deals. There are many things in nature on the investigation or explanation of which theology sheds considerable light. And often, to pimish men's pride, God suffers them to miss the truth, so as to chastise them in the very thing in which they have sinned. For one or other of these reasons very many men who seem endowed with great intellectual capacity, and of profound erudition, have nevertheless in their investigations of nature fallen into the most absurd and egregious mistakes.

It is certain, therefore, that in Christianity the under- standing should be wholly and unreserv^edly resigned to the di\'ine authority. If when reason thus submits, our spiritual pride, which is so strong in us, suffers repression, and feels pain, that proves all the more that in a Christian there ought to be patient endurance not merely of the will, but of the mind as well. And this we wish especially to note for those who dream of, and openly prefer, some discipline of thought and action in Christianity, wdth precepts less rigor- ous and more indulgent to human nature, that would demand of us to put up with little or nothing. They have no notion of the spirit of faith and of Christian institutions, they do not see that the cross meets us every- where as the standard of Hfe and the baimer under which we must always fight if we would follow Christ, not in name only, but in deed and in truth.

God alone is Life. All other beings partake of, but are not, life. Moreover from all eternity, and by His proper nature Christ is the Life equally as He is the Truth, being God of God. From Him, as from its ultimate and most august beginning, all Hfe has flowed down upon the world and will forever flow ; all that is, has its being from Him; all that lives, Hves by Him, for by the Word "all things were made, and without Him was nothing made that was made."

So much for the natural life. But above we alluded to a much better and much more desirable life, won for us


by the sacrifice of Christ, viz., the hfe of grace, the most blessed end of which is the life of glory, to which all our thoughts and actions should be referred. The whole meaning of Christian doctrine and precepts is that we being dead to sin, should live to justice ^ that is to say, to virtue and holiness, in which the moral life of the soul consists with the well-founded hope of everlasting happi- ness.

But justice in its true and proper sense, the justice which attains to salvation, is fed by Christian faith, and by that alone. The just man liveth by faithf loithout faith it is impossible to please God? It follows that Jesus Christ, who is the author and parent and upholder of faith, maintains and supports our moral life chiefly by the ministry of the Church. To her administration, in keeping with His benign and most provident purpose. He has committed the appropriate means of generating and preserving the virtue of which We speak, and of reviving it when dead. The force, then, which generates and conserves the virtues necessary to salvation disappears when morality is divorced from divine faith; and, truly, those who would have morals directed in the path of virtue by the sole authority of reason, rob man of his highest dignity, and most perniciously deprive him of his supernatural life and throw him back on the merely natural. Not that man is unable to recognize and observe many natural precepts by the light of reason, but even if he recognize and observe them all without stumbling for the whole of his life, which without the grace of Our Re- deemer helping him, he could not do, yet vain would be his confidence of obtaining eternal salvation if destitute of faith. // any one abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth.* He that believeth

' 1 Peter ii. 24. » Heb. xi. 6.

»Gal. iii. 11. *John xv. 6.


not shall he condemned} How little that kind of virtue which despises faith avails in the end, and what sort of fruit it brings forth, we see only too plainly.

Why is it that with so much zeal displayed for estab- lishing and augmenting the commonwealth, nations still have to labor and yet in so many and such important matters fare worse and worse every day? They say indeed that ci\al society is self-dependent, that it can go on happily ^jvithout the protection of Christian institutions, that by its own unaided energies it can reach its goal. Hence they prefer to have public affairs conducted on a secular basis, so that in civil discipline and public life there are always fewer and fewer traces discernible of the old religious spirit. They do not see what they are doing. Take away the supremacy of God, who judges right and wrong; and law necessarily loses its paramount authority, while at the same time justice is undermined, these two being the strongest and most essential bonds of social union. In the same way, when the hope and expectation of immortality are gone, it is only human to seek greedily after perishable things, and every one will try, in proportion to his power, to clutch a larger share of them. Hence spring, jealousies, envies, hatreds; the most iniquitous plots to overthrow all power and mad schemes of universal ruin are formed. There is no peace abroad, nor security at home, and social life is made hideous by crime.

In such strife of passions, in such impending perils, we must either look for utter ruin, or some effective remedy must be found -without delay. To restrain e^dl-doers, to soften the manners of our populations, to deter them from committing crimes by legislative intervention, is right and necessary; but that is by no means all. The healing of the nations goes deeper; a mightier influence must be invoked than hmnan endeavor, one that may touch the conscience and reawaken the sense of duty,

1 Mark xvi. 16.


the same influence that has once already delivered from destruction a world overwhelmed with far greater evils.

Do away with the obstacles to the spirit of Christianity ; revive and make it strong in the State, and the State will be recreated. The strife between high and low will at once be appeased, and each will observe with mutual respect the rights of the other. If they listen to Christ, the prosperous and the unfortunate will both alike remem- ber their duty; the one will feel that they must keep justice and charity, if they would be saved, the other that they must show temperance and moderation. Do- mestic society will have been solidly established under a salutary fear of the divine commands and prohibitions; and so hkewise in society at large, the precepts of the natural law will prevail, which tells us that it is right to respect lawful authority, and to obey the laws, to do no seditious act, nor contrive anything by unlawful associa- tion. Thus when Christian law exerts its power without being thwarted in any way, naturally and without effort the order of society is maintained as constituted by divine Providence, and prosperity and public safety are secured. The security of the State demands that we should be brought back to Him from whom we ought never to have departed to Him who is the way, the truth, and the life, not as individuals merely, but as human society through all its extent. Christ our Lord must be reinstated as the Ruler of human society. It belongs to Him, as do all its members. All the elements of the commonwealth; legal commands and prohibitions, popular institutions, schools, marriage, home-life, the workshop, and the palace, all must be made to come to that fountain and imbibe the life that comes from Him, No one should fail to see that on this largely depends the civilization of nations, which is so eagerly sought, but which is nourished and augmented not so much by bodily comforts and conveniences, as by what belongs to the soul, viz., commendable lives and the cultivation of virtue.


Many are estranged from Jesus Chrst rather through ignorance than perversity; many study man and the universe around him with all earnestness, but very few study the Son of God. Let it be the first endeavor, then, to dispel ignorance by knowledge, so that He may not be despised or rejected as unknown. We call upon Chris- tians everywhere to labor dihgently to the utmost of their power to know their Redeemer. Any one who regards Him vnth a sincere and candid mind, will clearly perceive that nothing can be more salutary than His law, or more divine than His doctrine. In this, your authority and co-operation. Venerable Brethren, will marvellously assist, as will also the zeal and assiduity of the clergy at large. Think it the chief part of your duty to engrave in the hearts of your people the true knowledge, and. We might almost say the image, of Jesus Christ, and to illustrate in your letters, your dis- courses, your schools and colleges, your pubhc assemblies, whenever occasion serves, His charity, His benefits and institutions. About the "rights of man," as they are called, the multitude has heard enough; it is time they should hear of the rights of God. That the present is a suitable time, is shown by the good impulses of many which have already, as We have said, been awakened, and in particular by the many evidences which have been given of piety towards the Redeemer, a piety which, if it please God, we shall hand down to the next centurj'- with the promise of a better age. But as the matter in hand is one in which success can only be looked for through divine grace, let us with a common impulse and with earnest prayers invoke the mercy of Ahnighty God, that He would not suffer those to perish whom He has freed by shedding His blood that He would graciously regard this age, which has, indeed, been grievously remiss, but has suffered much and bitterly, too, in expiation of its sins ; and that He would, benignantly embracing all peoples and classes of men, remember the word which He spoke:


If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to Myself}

In promise of divine gifts, and in witness of Our paternal benevolence, Venerable Brethren, We impart to your clergy and people most lovingly in the Lord Our Apostolic Bene- diction.

> John xii. 32.