Why Jesus came when He did

Question: Has it ever occurred to theologians to wonder why Christ waited so long to come into the world? History seems to indicate that the world could have used Christianity thousands of years before Christ’s coming. 

— B. Bandle, Manchester, Mo. 

Answer: All sorts of theological speculations have been put forward as to why Christ came when he did. 

The classic statement of this matter is found in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, in which the author states, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption” (4:4-5). 

What “the fullness of time” means is open to a variety of interpretations. However, in essence, what St. Paul has in mind is that the Son of God came according to the whole plan of God for the salvation of the world. 

One of the most dramatic statements of the plan of salvation and Christ’s place in it is found in the Christmas Proclamation , which may be used at the beginning of midnight Mass. It reads: “Today, the 25th day of December, unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth and then formed man and woman in his own image. Several thousand years after the flood, when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant. Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah; 13 centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt. 1,100 years from the time of Ruth and the Judges; 1,000 years from the anointing of David as king; in the 65th week according to the prophecy of Daniel. In the 194th Olympiad; the 752nd year from the foundation of the city of Rome. The 42nd year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; the whole world being at peace, Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary. Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ translation, 1994). 

The point of this proclamation is to place the birth of Jesus Christ in the context of the whole of history and to state that the time of the coming of Christ was not arbitrary or disconnected from the whole expanse of God’s saving work. God’s work of creation and redemption had been unfolding in the progress of history from the very beginning and received the fullness of its expression in Christ. 

Rosary for the unborn 

Question: Recently I received information on the Rosary for the Unborn. This form is associated with some apparitions of Mary in Ohio. Do you have any information on this matter? 

— Jeanine Aucoin, Henniker, N.H. 

Answer: I have seen rosaries in which all the beads are shaped in the form of an unborn child. The basic idea seems fine. However, I would not want to see the Rosary associated with one intention only. Many Catholics own a number of rosaries. Perhaps the Rosary for the Unborn might be among a number of rosaries someone might own. I can find no information on apparitions associated with this Rosary. The Church always encourages caution about apparitions. 

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to mfmannion@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.