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By Dr. Jeff Mirus, Catholic Culture, Dec 12, 2019

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

The other day I was reflecting that most of the Church’s teachings concern mysteries which we cannot fully understand all at once. This explains why different aspects of each truth can be emphasized at different times throughout history, and also why the Church herself grows in her ability to articulate the truth over time. With ongoing study and reflection—and with new situations to address—the Church’s understanding both deepens and expands.

The Church, as understood Magisterially, is now able to articulate the details of the Catholic Faith more thoroughly than even the apostles themselves. Her understanding becomes increasingly precise and comprehensive over time, without any internal contradiction. To take one “simple” example, the definition of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD—that Jesus Christ has two natures, human and divine, in one divine person—was both more comprehensive as a single statement and more precise than any previous teaching. It was also a great protection for the faithful when commenting selectively about Our Lord’s humanity and divinity in accordance with various specific spiritual purposes.

The mystery, of course, remains. Each aspect of the Faith, and each teaching of the Church about the content of the Faith, is a facet of a great prism which reveals the light of God. Development in understanding occurs partly because different questions become pressing to people in different controversies and different human cultures over time, so Divine Revelation is continuously being explored with new questions in mind, and from new perspectives. Our perception of the mystery is always partial, weighted, and to some extent obscure. ….

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