Narratives and Myths
Creation of the World
One of the mythic narratives in Catholicism is the creation of the universe by God. As detailed in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, the universe was created over a period of six days. In chronological order, the creation narrative begins with the creation of light, distinct from darkness (day 1). This was followed by the creation of sky (day 2), land and vegetation (day 3), the celestial lights of the sun, moon and stars (day 4), aquatic animals and birds (day 5), and, lastly, land animals and humans (day 6). The seventh day God deemed as a holy day of rest (Sabbath). In Catholicism, the Sabbath is dedicated as a day of rest and reflection held on each Sunday.
The primary narrative that explores humanity’s tendency to transgress from divine law (also known as sin) is found in Genesis 3-9. In this narrative, the first human beings, Adam and Eve, are convinced by a serpent to eat a forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. The two humans are banished from paradise (known as the Garden of Eden) as punishment. This narrative seeks to explain why humans are selfish by nature and also provides the basis for the theory of ‘original sin’.
Jesus of Nazareth
The life story of Jesus of Nazareth (later referred to as ‘Jesus Christ’) is one of the core narratives in Christianity and it is found in the Gospels. Understood as the Son of God, Jesus was both divine and human in nature. The stories of Jesus’ life have inspired various Catholic events, practices, symbolisms and beliefs. For instance, the miraculous birth of Jesus by his virgin mother (Mary) is described in books Luke and Matthew. Catholics commemorate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day. Other major influential narratives include the Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17), his teachings (such as the Sermon on the Mount) and the various miraculous actions performed throughout his adult life.
Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection
Perhaps the most foundational narrative in Catholicism is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. As described in all four Gospels, Jesus was arrested, tried and condemned to execution. He was then crucified (nailed on a cross). Following his death, his body was removed from the cross and buried in a rock tomb. After three days, Jesus rose again from the dead (referred to as his resurrection). It is due to his crucifixion and resurrection that he is referred to as ‘Jesus Christ’, to mean ‘Jesus the Anointed One’.
Many Catholics interpret these events as Jesus willingly sacrificing himself on the cross to atone for humanity’s sinful nature, thus redeeming the broken relationship between humanity and God. Many practices and symbols in Catholicism flow on from this narrative. For instance, Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is commemorated every Sunday during Mass, but also annually during the Easter weekend. A crucifix is also displayed in nearly all Catholic churches to serve as a reminder of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice.
The Last Supper
The story of the Last Supper recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke details the final meal shared by Jesus and his disciples prior to his crucifixion. According to the narrative, Jesus blessed the bread and wine. He broke the blessed bread and stated, “Take and eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26). Jesus then took the wine and declared, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin” (Matthew 26:27-28). This narrative is believed to mark the institution of communion.
Life Narratives of Saints
The Catholic tradition also contains many biographies of various saints. These stories (known as hagiographies) detail the ways in which particular people followed the example of Jesus Christ by living in faith, overcoming adversities and, for some saints, performing miraculous acts or dying for one’s faith (martyrdom). Emphasis on particular saints and their stories differ from country to country. There are some saints who are highly regarded throughout the world such as the Virgin Mary (the mother of Jesus). Mary and the canonised saints are not considered objects of worship but rather as role models for Catholics to find inspiration.
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