Church Theology (Notes of 2012)
Church Theology Course Outline
1. Origin of the Church
• New Testament roots
2. Mystery of the Church
• Rooted in the Trinity
• Deployment of the Trinity
• Church of Sinners
• Sacrament of Salvation
• Local Church
• Communities, charisms and ministries
• A brief view of mission
• The prayer of the Church
• Mary in the crossroads of the Church
Introduction: Origin of the Church
1. We begin our study of Church—more known as “ecclesiology”—by reviewing a topic that we studied in the past. One is the topic of the message of Jesus. What was this message? It was the message of the “Kingdom”.
2. The early Christians recalled the message of the “Kingdom”. Now, the kingdom was not exactly a very new topic at that time. Remember that during the time of Jesus there was a strong sense of “expectation” for the Messiah. In fact, during the time of Jesus there were individuals who were talking about “kingdom”. Yet something was very unique and original when it came to Jesus. It was not so much the topic as the way of proclaiming it. “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk.1/15). “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk.4/21).
3. Yes, Jesus proclaimed the kingdom. It was a message of fulfillment—God will reign in all. But it was not just a “discussion”. The words and actions of Jesus revealed the message. The kingdom could not be separated from the way Jesus lived. This was unique. Jesus knew the expectation going on in the hearts and minds of the people. He had to show his response in his own way—in a way that was so unexpected. He introduced something very new.
4. There were certain aspects in the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus. One aspect was, as we just said, the very strong link between the message and the person of Jesus. When Jesus called disciples he did not call them to study. He called them to follow him. This was one of the striking features of the authority of Jesus—he had the guts to call persons to follow him, “pick up the cross”.
5. Eventually, discipleship was not limited to a few. We read about Jesus taking time with a Samaritan (Jn.4). We see him appreciate the faith of the Roman centurion, and he says that many will be in the kingdom—not just people of Israel (Mt.8). We read about Jesus mixing with the publicans and sinners. We read about him forgiving sins: “Your sins are forgiven”. We read about him sending his Apostles on mission to all the ends of the earth (Mt. 28/19).
6. Then, of course, Jesus suffered and died—he did not pull back from his mission to proclaim the Reign of God. He showed the truth about the love of God and the desire of God to bring all back to the “banquet”. Jesus was so serious and sincere to his mission that, we read, the Father took him seriously too. The “yes” of Jesus to his mission was met with the “yes” of the Father in raising Jesus from the dead. The resurrection has become the seal indicating the sense of “redemption”. We are really meant to live in happiness with the Father—the Kingdom is real.
7. Now, whenever the early Christians would look at Jesus, they would associate him with his message. But because his personal life and his message were so linked, the early Christians could not separate them. The Kingdom, as they saw it, was incarnated in the person of Christ. The proclamation of Christ became Christ proclaimed! The early Christians realized that they could not proclaim the Kingdom without proclaiming Jesus Christ. Notice what Peter and Paul, for example, expressed (see Act2/22-24; 3/15; 1Col.23; Ph.2/8-11, etc.).
8. In the gospel of John, the water and blood flowing from the side of Jesus (see Jn.19/31-37) is symbolically interpreted as the Church. The Church is that which flows out of Christ. This is a deep notion. In the gospel of John, Jesus raised up on the cross will be the cause of gathering of all people: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (Jn.12/32). The sacrifice of Christ will allow him to bring everyone to the Father. Paul saw it in a different angle. Jesus was obedient even to go to the cross. Thanks to this obedience: “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Ph.2/10-11). The Lord-ship has been granted to Jesus. All will bow and kneel and recognize that Jesus is Lord. He is the King of the Kingdom. He is the actual way of the Kingdom.
9. This sacrifice of Christ has a big role in the birth of the Church. Church theologians, like Ambrose and Augustine, would say that the Church is life—flowing from Jesus as Jesus sacrificed himself. The blood and water from Jesus laid the foundation for the Church. The Church is a result of the sacrifice of Christ.
10. Let us never forget that this sacrifice meant giving life as ransom for many—the go’el. The sacrifice means obedience to the Father even at the cost of dying. (We are far from the idea of “satisfaction” theology, and this is hopefully clear by now). This obedience is, however, guaranteed by rising again from the dead and from darkness and sin. Peter said it well in his speech: “But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it” (Act 2/24). It is impossible to be held by death—this is what the obedience of Jesus had revealed! We can have the guts to be faithful and obedient, knowing that there is life given. The Church is from this belief!
11. Today, with Vatican II, we still see the same idea—that the Church is founded by the sacrifice of Jesus. So Vatican II would say that the inauguration of the Church is “symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of a crucified Jesus, and are foretold in the words of the Lord referring to His death on the Cross: ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself’ (LG#3).
12. Jesus gave his life to show the love of God. The Church is born from the same motif: life giving to show God’s love. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, the disciples are allowed to become Church! Know we know what to do. Now we know what to do. Now we know what we are called for. We are meant to step out of our “enclosure” and open up to the world around us—to give our lives. The saying of Fr. Arrupe, former Jesuit general, said it well: “man/woman for others”.
13. Of course, we might want to ask about specific dates about the birth of the Church. Well, traditionally it is placed in the time of the Pentecost. This was when the Holy Spirit came to the disciples and everyone spoke in “tongues”.
14. There was a Hebrew feast at that time—the harvest feast (see Ex.23/16; 34/22). In Church tradition, the Pentecost was a re-commemoration of the Covenant of Moses in Sinai. There was noise, there was a voice and there were tongues of fire (see Act.2). All the images recall the assembly in Sinai. Christians would give it a new meaning. Peter himself would express it: “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you (both) see and hear” (Act.2/33-34). For Peter, the Pentecost achieved the mysterious mission of Christ. It is now time of fullness—plenty and abundance. Read the section on Pentecost and notice the words like “fulfilled”, “filled”, “united”, and of course “all of them”. All of them we so fulfilled.
15. From now on Christ would “fill up” everyone. It is the time of “filling up”. Now the Holy Spirit has his role here: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Act.1/8). The Holy Spirit will empower the disciples and make them witnesses to the world. The Spirit will help the disciples continue the work of Christ. It is for all nations (see also Mt.28/19). The Apostles would represent the achievement of the covenant of God will everyone (see Mt.19/28); they are to be witnesses of the risen Lord (see Act.1/22). Of course the Apostles themselves have the impulse inside of them, as Peter and John attest: “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” (Act.4/20).
16. Now, this looks just fine and simple—very sublime and theological. But no, it is not that simple. The assembly of the disciples, notably the Apostles, would mean getting organized and structured! Already in the Last Supper we read about Jesus really wanting to have his followers to form a new people of God under a new covenant founded on his blood. He tells his Apostles to “wash each other’s feet, I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn.13/14); he tells them to “love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (13/34). He tells them to “keep my commandments” (Jn.14/15); he tells them to “remain in me, as I remain in you” (Jn.15/4). He tells them to “do this in memory of me” (Lk.22/19). There is a kind of “new birth”—a new group—emerging.
17. Then of course, as a group, the Apostles are to face certain issues. As many people of Palestine reject the message of Jesus, there are also the Gentiles joining the group. It becomes important to accommodate the new comers. Let us not forget that as membership grows, it becomes important to sustain the community. How does one participate?
18. As Christ had given the foundation of the emerging group—the Church—the Apostles and other members need to make clear the organizational and structural features of the new community. We cannot avoid and we cannot deny that from the very start the Church had to be institutional. From the very start the group—the Church—had to be visible already.
19. Paul had difficulties with the community of the Corinthians. The Apostles had to know what to do with the un-circumcised; they needed a council. There were the Greek speaking members who had tensions with the Hebrew members. The early communities faced dramas and conflicts. It would be impossible to address the issues if there were no structures—if there was no institutional order.
20. Sure, we have to struggle with the visible and institutional aspect of the Church. We know the “scandals” that the Church has gone through. But we also need to be honest with history—the Church as institution has also been working on repairing her institutional faults. For example, in the past “just war” was in practice. It was a bitter phase of Church history. But recently Pope John Paul II himself condemned all forms of war: “I reaffirm…the use of violence can never claim a religious justification, nor can it foster the growth of true religious feeling…. War destroys, it does not build up; it weakens the moral foundations of society and creates further divisions and long-lasting tensions” (John Paul II, For the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1999, #5 and 11).
21. We will say more about “Institution” later in the semester. What is helpful for us here is to keep in mind that the issue is not the existence of an institution. The issue is the relationship between institution and the work of the institution. The institution is in the service of the message of Christ for all. This requires that the Church needs to always question herself: are we faithful to our work?
22. The Church makes mistakes. She is filled with nice ideas and with wonderful motivations that are, unfortunately, often timid and fearful. Ok, we know this. Yet she was given the charge of continuing the mission of Christ. In this case, she needs to be institutional too. She has to be visible too. The tension between the Church as coming from Christ and Church as institutional is a real tension. There is a tension between the “hierarchical” aspect and the communal aspects of the Church. We cannot go for aspect against the other. Both are realities we have to recognize.
23. Jesus Christ can be made known to the world through the visible Church. He is made present in the world through the Church. We recognize that the Church is, at the same time, “sign” of the presence of Christ. The visibility of the Church is sign of the mystery of Christ in the world. This idea can help us in our struggle with the institutional side of the Church.
On the issue of visibility and the identity of being “churchy”
1. The issue of visibility seems to be associated with a problem of identity. To show signs of external belonging—like wearing habits or a cross has become something uneasy to do. The identifying with the external signs is not so well accepted in some circles. “I do not want to wear this habit because it will identify me with a social group”. The social group may be, precisely, the Church…or the hierarchy of the Church…or a community-congregation. So there is a “dis-identification” when someone refuses wearing an external sign.
2. There are Catholics, however, who like external signs a lot. They like visibility so much. They would like to show that they belong to a certain social group. Wearing external signs would affirm their identity as belonging to a group. It seems that today more and more young people like this visibility.
3. Ok. There is the tendency to say that a very explicit and visible belonging to the Church and her different groups has become “old fashioned”. We are in modern times and in secular times. There can be different reasons given—one wants to look “cool” by dis-identification externally from the Church. Maybe there is the idea that today, being so “churchy” is being part of a social world that plays with power and wealth. The Church is no longer an agent of social justice and integration. She has become so identified with the elite. So by resisting visibility, one does a dis-identification from the “churchy” identity of elitism. This involves taking a distance from the elitist reputation of the Church. To be visibly part of the Church is to have a disagreeable reputation.
4. So there are people who do not want to be so preoccupied with wearing external signs. The external signs might even be obstacles to true evangelization.
5. Let us admit that the challenge is serious and we need to take it seriously. Maybe we can center on the issue of “identity” and “identifying with the Church”.
Well, one thing is true—and we cannot deny it—societies have external and visible signs that identify them. There is the flag, the money, the traditional wear, the literature and so on. Remove them, we will lose the social identity.
Well, one thing is true—and we cannot deny it—societies have external and visible signs that identify them. There is the flag, the money, the traditional wear, the literature and so on. Remove them, we will lose the social identity.
6. External signs are part, also, of keeping memory. By seeing the flag we remember our identity as a nation that has passed through a line of history. By wearing a country wear, we remind ourselves of the daily life originating from our culture. We identify with the external signs.
7. Now when we see “churchy” signs—like the crucifix and the habits of religious people—we may be awakened to a certain identity and memory. The external signs make us remember something about the Church. Are we at home—and at peace with that memory? When we see the visible sign, are we at home with what it represents? Let us not deny that the things we remember are not always nice. But we also cannot deny that the signs are there! Look at the habits of a religious—the robe or the veil. Can we ever delete them and say that they are not part of the patrimony of religious life? Look back at the pictures of founders and foundresses of religious communities—we see those persons adorned with external wear. They are so visibly part of the Church. Look at pictures of old brothers and sisters from old times, centuries ago. What do we see? We see persons enveloped with external signs showing how they belonged to the Church.
8. So whatever we see in the Church today cannot be absolutely dis-associated from the identification of the Church before.
9. The Church herself is institutional—and she has many—really many—signs of visibility. She is a social reality. But she is also a “mystical” reality—a “holy” reality. No, she is not absolutely holy—she is neither absolutely social. She is a mixture of both.
10. Let us be more “intelligent” in appreciating this. Of course a lot of criticism is thrown at the Church—and the criticisms makes sense. But still, we might need to “live with” this. We need to learn to recognize the truth about the criticisms and yet continue with fidelity to her—and continue being visibly identified with her! Are we ready for this?
11. Our connection with the Church is a matter of faith and not just a matter of social belonging. If, as we said in the classroom, the origin of the Church was motivated by the sacrifice of Christ; the disciples were so impressed by the life, death and resurrection of Christ that they were able to structure themselves as Church—ekklesia. The Church, we also said, is symbolized by what flows out of Christ. The Church is the blood and water from the crucified Jesus. At that moment of the crucifixion, we said, the Jesus on the cross gathered all nations around as the Church flowed out.
12. So there is something about the Church that is not just sociological. The Church, in the service of all nations gathered around, works for what is best in each nation and society. The life of the Church must empower the world.
13. Let us put it in simpler terms. Society, as served by the Church, is empowered to convert away from whatever darkens society. Society, as served by the Church, is empowered to seek holiness!
14. Our distaste regarding certain aspects of the Church can make us forget the sense of Church. Our critique of the Church can risk making our intelligence of the Church disappear. So we do not like the elitism that we see in the Church. We do not like the “too churchy” practices. Fine. Then we dis-identify from the external signs. We take distance from visibility. Fine. But might we missing the sense of Church? Might we be identifying with something else that is not, however, flowing from “the side” of Jesus? Dis-intentifying has its risks too.
What happens is that we might find persons who, after dis-identifying, cut off relationships with the community of faith. A new identity emerges. It is an identity that dis-identifies with certain Church aspects yet which creates something new and different from Church altogether. Maybe what we see are “believers” without “belonging”. There can be Christians who say they are Christians but they have dis-identified from the Church. “We are not churchy”.
What happens is that we might find persons who, after dis-identifying, cut off relationships with the community of faith. A new identity emerges. It is an identity that dis-identifies with certain Church aspects yet which creates something new and different from Church altogether. Maybe what we see are “believers” without “belonging”. There can be Christians who say they are Christians but they have dis-identified from the Church. “We are not churchy”.
15. So what kind of Church do they want? Do they want to have “Christians without Church”? What identity might they want? It will be an identity to identify with. So what is it?
16. Maybe we need to reflect a lot more on the issue. One point we can focus on is this: can we be perceived—and visibly perceived—beyond the clothes we wear, the buildings, convents and houses we live in? Ok, maybe some of us want to be Christians without much attachment to the structures and institutions of the Church. Fine. In this case, what type of Christianity do we expect to appear? For those of us who really want to remain faithful to the Church in all her structures and institutions—in all her visibility—can continue to live Christian life with visibility—yes, with visibility—yet without making the visibility the goal of Christian life? These are some points to think of. After MAPAC life, these will surely be questions you will address again and again…and again.
1. The word we use is “Church”. This is a course in the study of the Church. The word “Church” is interesting. The root word is said to come from the Greek word kyriake (oikia) or the "Lord's (house)". The word kyrios is "ruler, lord". There is a further root word here which is keue, "to swell". When a person is "swollen" that person is "strong, powerful". Strange, is it not, to see Church as “swollen”? Well, we can also think of the times of ancient wars when attacks would come from chariots and footed soldiers. So what would the threatened people do? They would “swell” the earth—raise a mound. They would put soil of many layers to protect them from the attack. People need to have some power against attacks to them. If we put together the different roots we see the Church is the Lord’s house of protection.
2. But this is not the original meaning of Church. The more appropriate word is ekklesia. It is the word used in the Bible. Its original meaning is assembly. When people are gathered together, they are an ekklesia. In the Bible the assembly has a deep meaning.
3. As we know the Hebrew Bible was translated to Greek (the Septuagint) at some point in history when the Greek language was more prevalently used. So the Hebrew word for “assembly” was translated to ekklesia. If we look at the Old Testament, which is basically the Hebrew Bible, we see the word qahal. This word is found mostly in the book of Deuteronomy. We ask: what is the religious dimension of qahal (Hebrew) or ekklesia Greek)? Assembly is not just a gathering of people but an assembly called by God. God called people together—it was God who assembled them. There was, in Deuteronomy, “the day of Assembly” (see Dt.9/10, 10/4, 18/16). At times we read “the Assembly of the Lord” (see Dt.23/2-6).
4. The Assembly at the foot of the mountain Horeb would mean the privileged moment among the people of Israel to encounter God. God has called people and the people recognize his presence. The Law was then promulgated and there was a ritual to conclude the covenant.
5. During the historical stages of Israel, there were also Assemblies. In Joshua 8, an Assembly was made and the Law was read. In 1 King 8, when the Temple was consecrated, again an assembly was held. Etc. Notice then the idea of God calling people together.
6. In the New Testament, an in particular in the Acts, we read about the martyrdom of Stephen. Just before he was stoned to death, he made a speech—a retrospect of the history of Israel. There Stephen spoke of Moses “in the assembly in the desert” (7/38). Stephen was recalling in retrospect the source of the identity of the people of Israel. It was in the assembly that the people were identified.
7. The word ekklesia appears many times in the New Testament, mostly in the writings of St. Paul and in the Acts. Slowly the word has become to mean an assembly of the communities in Judah, Galilee and Samaria (see Act9/31). Slowly the singular became plural—to mean that there were more and more assemblies (see for example Act.15/41; 16/5). What started as a small community of disciples of Jesus grew. Gentiles were accepted.
8. Welcoming Gentiles—non-Jewish people—became a major concern of the early communities. This signified that the ekklesia—the Church—was really the Church of God “acquired with his own blood” (Act20/28). It was not just an ethnic assembly. Each assembly would find its roots in the Paschal mystery of Jesus. Note then how theological it is.
9. Remember what we said about our Christian faith. It is not something that we just invented imaginatively. In Christianity we talk of revelation. The truth of our faith is revealed to us by God. So we see it in the Acts (and in letters of St. Paul) that the source of the Church is really Christ—his passion, death and rising again.
10. St. Paul uses the word ekklesia often to refer to the different communities—and they were the “local” communities mostly in major cities and provinces at that time. At times, however, St. Paul would also refer to a domestic community, or a small group of persons assembled for the Eucharist (see Rom.16/5 and 1Co.11/18-30).
11. What is crucial in St. Paul is the idea that in Christ the people of Israel and the Gentiles are together—united. The “design” of God is that all of us—Jew or gentile—are one and together as “fraternity”. In the early Church history, Christians habitually called themselves as “fraternity” brotherhood and sisterhood together). See Act 1/15; 11/1 ; 12/17; 14/2; 21/17-18; etc. Everyone is called to assemble as one ekklesia (see Ep.1/22-23).
12. Let us reflect a little more on this idea of Church as fraternity. (Sources: ideas of Michel Dujarier and Gilles Routhier). Remember what we said: it is the revelation in Christ that matters most. Very often when we think of groups, we consider the “affinity” of the members. So there is the Karate club in which members are the same in interest—karate. There is the “gardening club”. There is the “Chinese Federation of the City”. Here members are Chinese—they are united according to their ethnic belonging. A tribe is one assembly in which members belong to the same ethnic group.
13. It is a sociological fact—we group together according to where we are similar to each other. We might expect this in history too. The Jews tended to be together—as one ethnic community. In the history of the Church, it took time before the Jewish members of the Christian circles could open up to Gentiles. St. Peter needed a conversion to baptize Cornelius. A council in Jerusalem had to be convoked to discuss the circumcision of non-Jewish members.
14. Take a closer look at the Gospel. It has the power to deconstruct groups and societies. In theological terms, we can understand this with respect to critics done to the actual world in the proclamation of another world—the Kingdom. What this world tends to construct, the Gospel deconstructs. When the world tries to build enclosures, the Gospel breaks them and opens them up to something more basic and more profound. Welcoming the Gospel—like in the world of St. Paul—meant engagement and transformation into a new form of social living. This might be what ekklesia is all about.
15. In the idea of Church (as ekklesia) those who were previously divided and unable to live together New testament were together. Jews, for example, could not live with Gentiles. (Remember what we saw in Christology—the social world at the time of Jesus was marked by division between the “pure” and the “impure”). But in Church Jews were with Gentiles, the circumcised were with the uncircumcised, men were with women, the free were with the slaves (see Col 3/ 11; Ga 3/28; 1 Co 12/13 etc.
16. It was a shock and a scandal, actually. But that togetherness was exactly the sense of the “Good News”. It was “news” about reconciliation. It was a reconciliation that disturbed the existing social orders (Jewish, Greek and Roman, for example). In fact, those who were “alienated from the community of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise” became “fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God” (Ep 2/12 and 2/19). The prevailing separation among people was given up.
17. Look at the Roman world. It was suspicious of the “sect of Christians”. The Christians did not follow the sect of divinity of the Roman emperor. More than this, they also had together in their assemblies all sorts of people including slaves. In the Roam world this was a break away from tradition. Romans wanted inequality-slaves had to be set aside. But the Christians did not follow this. Slaves ate with everybody else in the same table.
18. The faith of the Christians created a fraternity in which division was reconciled. St. Paul was strong in this. In the case of Onesimus, a slave, St. Paul would emphasize that Onesimus be “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord” (Philemon 16).
19. At one point St. Paul had a disagreement with St. Peter. St. Paul had to remind St. Peter that they cannot group the communities according to ethnic differences—lie one group will be the Jewish Christians and the other will be the Gentile Christians. No, said St. Paul (see Gal. 2/11-14 and Acts 11 and 15). Doing that would contradict the meal—the Eucharistic meal. It would be an offense to the cross of Christ that has put an end division and enmity (see Ep 2/16).
20. What is the theology behind this? One way of seeing its theology is by recalling St. Paul. For him, there is the “new person” or the “new Adam”, thanks to Christ. The redemption of Christ has renewed us and has brought us back to God—back to the garden, so to speak. We are renewed!
21. The other aspect of the redemption of Jesus is that we are now brothers and sisters to each other with Jesus himself as our “elder brother”. All of us are under one and the same Father. So, we are a “fraternity”.
22. Notice that two alienations—two separations: from God and from others—are overcome by the redemption of the cross. We are all beneficiaries of a new order and we see each other as brothers and sisters to each other. “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God (Ep 2/19).
23. Reconciliation with God changes our status. We have a social fraternal status in communion with God. Redemption, even now, corresponds to a change in social status.
24. Access to God has given us reconciliation marked by peace. St. Paul would put it nicely. Jesus is “our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity…that he might create in himself one new person…establishing peace” (Ep 2/14-15).
25. Redemption—which is reconciliation with God and with others—carries with it also a new identity for us. Yes, our status is fraternal and now we are living with the identity as “being together”—or to use a term of Jean Vanier, “we belong to each other”. We have “belongingness”. This is precisely what fraternity is, right?
26. During the time of the Church Fathers, notably during the first three centuries, the Church was seen in continuity with the intuition of the New Testament. But do not forget that the Church was growing in membership. There is a temptation in numbers—it can give a sense of “ownership” and “property lines”. We are plenty, we are many, we have the power to stay here and be here. So a new emphasis had to be given: pilgrimage. The Church was on pilgrimage.
27. So there were growing communities but the Church Fathers emphasized that the assemblies were “passing by” only. The Greek often used to describe the Church was paroikein. It mean “to stay”…like when you “stay” in MAPAC for two and a half years….you are simply “staying”…passing by for a long while but will not be permanent in it. Paroikein would then mean to be here in passing. It is to be in pilgrimage. It is to live as foreigner. This is in continuity with the New Testament intuition that “here we have no lasting city” (Heb.13/14) and we are “sojourners of the dispersion” (1Pet.1/1).
28. Now, with a growing Church it also became important to emphasize that the Church had to be universal. (There is no such thing as the Church of Marikina…as if in Marikina the Church is exclusive…a club which has features that no other church has). For the Church Fathers the assembly of God is realized in each local community. The Church in its totality is in the local Church too. Both local and the universal are inseparable. So the sense of being together in a place implies that the community is also together with all the other communities of the growing Church. The whole Church is represented in the small community.
The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet
1. To understand this washing, let us try to see what is in the culture of that time of Jesus. It was a time without trains, buses and cars. Oh, is that not too obvious. Yes, but maybe we do not see the important role of walking on two feet to got to place all the time. People in the time of Jesus would have to walk to go to places—even far away places. They wore sandals—and so feet were almost naked. The region was quite dry most of the time, so feet were dusty. What about donkeys? Sure, it was possible to ride them, but they were mostly the animals that carried the “baggages” of people. Were there horses? Yes, but horses were more for the soldiers and chariots. Also rich people were owners of horses—the poor ones did not. (Does this not look like today too—except that we can speak of classy cars, not horses).
2. Today there are still the desert people—the Bedouins—who would walk the deserts with their camels, sheep and goats.
3. So when someone arrives in a place, he host would wash the feet of the traveller. This allowed the traveller to relax and to get rid of the dust from their feet. This can be a very nice feeling for tired feet.
4. The washing of the ffet was a practice of hospitality. In the case of Jesus, we see a story of a woman washing his feet. “Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair….she anointed my feet with ointment” (Lk 7/44 and46). Jesus, at that time, was in the house of Simon, a Pharisee. Jesus was actually telling Simon that the hospitality was done rather by the woman and not Simon. Like any country, there are things that people do requiring politeness and respect. Simon, the Pharisee, did not show it. It was the woman who did. (Actually, even in the more ancient times, washing the feet of guests was a practice in that region: see Gen.18/14; 19/2; 24/32; 43/24, etc.)
5. Now, in many cases, the washing of the feet was done by a servant of the host. It was quite a humble—and humiliating—work. It was a bit of a shame to stoop down and wash the feet of guests. The servant—often slave—was in the lowest ranks of society. We can understand the reaction of Peter: “He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Master, are you going to wash my feet?’” (Jn.13/6). Notice that for Peter Jesus was “master”; yet Jesus played the role of servant. Peter found it difficult to understand Jesus.
6. We can read the story of the washing of the feet in Jn.13/1-20. In John, the episode happens during the Last Supper. So the “birthday” of the Eucharist corresponded with the washing of the feet.
7. Just think of the word “master”. Imagine the connotations behind it—and remember it is used not just for rich people, it is also used for people in high places, like political and military places. Now, the Messiah is “master”, someone who would be victorious over the enemies of Israel. To see the “master” stoop down and wash feet was, for Peter, a shame. “Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet’” (Jn.13/8). Peter was scandalized. He had to stop the act. In other words, he wanted Jesus to keep that status of “master” and “Messiah” against oppressive politics. The place of the “master” is on the side of the powers and not on the side of servants.
8. Jesus understand the fear and shame of Peter. He invites patience among them. “Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later’” (Jn.13/7). Of course, it was not easy for Peter. He did not have the patience. So Jesus makes a stronger stand: “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me” (Jn.13/8). The refusal to enter into the perspective of Jesus creates a separation between Jesus and disciple. Peter sees the risk. He accepts to be washed. He accepts to continue with relating with Jesus.
9. Peter exaggerates a bit. Wash the feet…”not only my feet, but my hands and head as well” (Jn.13/9). He quickly re-takes his friendship with Jesus, although he does not fully understand the gesture of Jesus.
10. Jesus makes a reversal of values. Here he is not hiding his thoughts. Lose life to win it. Make yourself servant to others. To be great, take the last place, go down. Be like a child. Be humble. The disciples may have been hearing these from Jesus over and over again, but have they understood? Now that Jesus stoops to wash their feet, they all the more surprised.
11. Jesus makes it clear. To be understood, his words had to be in his actions too. Witnessing to what one says is the best form of credibility. Here Jesus is proving this. “You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn.13/13-15).
12. Note well that this happens at the same time when the Eucharist is instituted. So together with the Eucharist is the attitude of Jesus. It is the attitude of loving “to the max”—the total gift of self to the other. “As I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn.13/15). The Eucharist is, at the same time, the service we do for each other. It is just as Jesus had done. “Do this in memory of me”. We remember not just the breaking of the bread but also the sacrifice of Jesus.
13. It is possible to do the Eucharistic meal in the absence of service. This is not what Jesus has wanted. To dominate and crush each other is to go against the “memory” that Jesus requires.
14. Jesus bends down—he is “master” but his mastery is service. Now, at the time when the gospel text was written, the communities were shaken by man ideas coming from all sides. The character of a god “going down” in humility was not exactly the image people would have of God. Hence, Paul himself, to the community of Corinth, would emphasize the language of the cross. “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Co 1/23-24,).
15. The “foolishness” of God revealed in Christ is seen in the consistent service of Jesus himself. Again, Paul would make a great text about it in Ph 2/1-11. The going down of Jesus opens up new horizons. If God comes in power, how can he really approach us? God comes to us in extreme fragility with a love offered freely. God comes to us defenceless. He is so weak, he is put on the cross. Yet, up the cross he maintains his connection with us!
16. In the ways of God we see how he prefers the “humble” places. One place is the place of our feet. He comes washing them.
17. This gesture of washing of the feet is a way of describing the expected attitude of the Church—how the Church, together with the Eucharist—is to approach the world. She is to approach the world just like Jesus—fragile and humble. She is to install herself in the feet of the little ones.
18. The path of the Church is in the refusal of power play. She is to teach her members that to seek for Jesus is to seek for him among the little ones—there is Jesus washing the feet of the poor.
Our Link with Judaism
1. Salvation history is a unified history. We do not say that there was salvation for the Jews a long time ago and then salvation for Christians at the time of Jesus. Again, salvation history is a whole unity—it is not cut in two. There is just one plan of God…” a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth” (Eph.1/10).
2. What about Judaism and the Old Covenant? St. Paul would say that it is never revoked. Maybe he gave a sense to “new covenant” by referring to the “old covenant”: “the same veil remains unlifted when they read the old covenant, because through Christ it is taken away” (2Cor.3/14). But this use of “old covenant” is not to say that the old is finished. It is an invitation to deepen the old. We are to see the link between the old and the new—between Judaism and our Christianity. In the old was the new hidden! Slowly, in Christ, the covenant of God became more and more clear. The sense of covenant is a slow unfolding. Technically we cannot say that there were two covenants—one with the Jews before Jesus and then with us, with Jesus. No. Covenant is a unified act of God with everyone. It took time for its accomplishment in Christ. The covenant made with the people of Israel needed a long process—and found its fulfilment in Jesus.
3. Now, who exactly is this Jesus for us? How is he related to Judaism? As we studied in Christology, Jesus was a real Jew. He was a man of Nazareth in the 1st century Palestine. To understand the mystery of Jesus Christ, we need to look back at Judaism—at the “old covenant” (or “Old Testament”, as we like to say it). We know that Jesus was clearly linked with the whole Jewish world from Abraham to David. He was a true child of the people of Israel.
4. The gospels, we said before, may have been faith-texts. But they contain historical weights. The gospel texts really attest that Jesus was from Nazareth—a real Jew. He even went to synagogues. “He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day” (Lk.4/16).His words and deeds were so marked by Judaism. Was he not called Rabbi too?
5. Jesus was “born under the law” (Gal.4/4). He was circumcised, he was presented in the Temple, he wore Jewish clothes, he observed Sabbath, he respected the rituals before meals, etc. Jesus did not condemn these…he just situated them in a different light…in a deeper light. He had to put these traditions, practices and beliefs in a more interior and ethical perspective. For example, as we studied before, Jesus did not say that the Sabbath was worthless. He simply wanted to place it in its correct space: it is meant for people and not the inverse: ““The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk. 2/27).
6. In fact, Jesus seemed to have focused most of his ministry within Israel. Israel had a vocation—it had a universal vocation. It had to show to all nations the love of God. Jesus rooted his message within this people. To open up to the world, Jesus started with the concrete reality of Israel.
7. Notice that the death of Jesus was never viewed as an act of the Jews. Jesus was killed by “authorities”. Those responsible for his death were “the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders” as Mark would recall (see Mk.14/43.53 and 15/1). St. Paul would say that Jesus was killed by “transgressions” or “sins”. St. Paul wrote that Jesus was “handed over for our transgressions” (Rom.2/25). Never do we read about Jews killing Jesus. He was not killed by any ethnic force. It is theologically inaccurate to attribute to the Jews the death of Jesus. Who killed Jesus? We all killed Jesus—and in particular our sins. This is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church views it: “In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that ‘sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.’ Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself, the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone” (#598).
8. The Jesus-event—that is, the presence of Jesus who dwelt among us—invites us to look at salvation history with the Incarnation at the heart of concrete human history. Sure, there was the Jewish culture and there was the tradition of Judaism. God entered human history through these cultural elements. The was something cultural—it was an “in-culturation” of God taking the initiative to participate in human life. The initiative, remember, was from God and not from culture.
9. When Jesus came he deepened what was already in Judaism. The better word is “accomplished”. Jesus “fulfilled” what was in Judaism. So we understand what Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfil” (Mt.5/17).
10. The fulfilment is best understood by the word “salvation”. In the times of the Jews, before Jesus, salvation was understood as liberation from external pressures—like the slavery by the Egyptians. But there was also internal slavery. The people of Israel discovered that they also had an “enemy within” in the form of idolatry (something we studied in our last semester’s class in Pentateuch), injustice (something we studied in Prophets). The people saw their lack of heart—that they had a heart of stone, not of flesh. So salvation meant liberation also from this internal slavery. Salvation meant being uprooted from the forces that prohibit people to fully live.
11. For us Christians, we see this in the light of Christ “who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good” (Tit.2/14). Among the Jews, liberation came from the uprooting from slavery. For the Christians, the blood of Christ liberated. Christ is the “new Moses” (see Heb.3). Christ is the true High Priest who sacrificed “once for all when he offered himself” (Heb.7/27).
12. Let us look at a Church Father: Irenaeus. He wrote about Jesus on the wood of the cross—his hands stretched: “For these were two hands, because there were two peoples scattered to the ends of the earth; but there was one head in the middle, as there is but one God, who is above all, and through all, and in us all” (Against Heresies V 17 4). By extending both arms Jesus saved all—both the Jews and others.
13. The Church is not just a beneficiary of this act of Jesus. She is also a witness—given the vocation of mission. The Church is called to make the liberation of Jesus manifest in the world. Our faith tells us that salvation has definitely come through Christ. We are now “in these last days” (Heb.1/2). These last days are days of vigilance. We tell the world that darkness and sin have been overcome by Jesus and these do not have to be our gods. The Church is an assembly with this mission of proclaiming the salvation brought by Jesus.
14. How do we look at the Jews? They continue to be the Chosen People. God has gifted them will election and, as St. Paul would say, “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom.11/29). The witnessing of Judaism is still addressed to all—to the world, including us, Christians. Sure, the “messianic times” have been inaugurated by Christ—as we believe. But everyone is still on pilgrimage…everyone is still “on the road”. The Church is still “on the road”. The fullness of the Kingdom is still expected. So both Judaism and Christianity are, technically, still “in suspense”. So when we look at the Jews let us not forget that our faith is rooted in a historical reality that originates from the Jewish people. In a sense we owe gratitude to the Jewish people. The presence of those people makes us vigilant about salvation that is taking place in the concrete—within history.
Communion Ecclesiology: the Trinitarian Dimension of the Church
1. We might be thinking that the people in the Church are always concerned about the “institutional”
aspects of the Church. Well, this is not always the case. Sure, the Vatican I council was
so “institutionally concerned”. But if we look at the history of the Church, we will see that many
have tried to reflect on the Church as rooted in Christ.
2. “Christ is everything”: There was a time when theologians saw that “Christ is everything”—Christus
totus. St. Augustine was well into this kind of thinking. For him Christ and the Church are one. The
Church is for all too—united with all. This is what God wants. Thomas Aquinas, also, was quite Christological in his view of the Church and he too had the idea that Christ is everything for the Church.
The satisfaction of Christ, he says, is extended to all the Church. So with this “Christ is everything”,
the idea is that the whole Church is body of Christ. Christ is both head and body. Church is just the
body. “Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ”
(Eph.4/15). Still, we cannot separate Christ from Church.
3. “Capital grace”: This another notion about the Church, also Christological. Christ is the source of
grace. He is the fullness of grace—and so he is the head of the Church. Thomas Aquinas would
say: “it is from Him that this grace is bestowed on others--and this belongs to the nature of head”
(ST IIIa question 8 art. 5, see art.6). How is this possible that we receive graces from Christ? The
human dimension of Christ is helpful for our salvation. The actions and words of Jesus worked for
our salvation, he is head of the Church and can therefore bring us graces: “grace was bestowed
upon Christ, not only as an individual, but inasmuch as He is the Head of the Church” (ST IIIa
question 48 art. 2). Let us not forget the symbol of the Church as flowing from the side of Jesus on
the cross. So we are so connected with Christ who gives us graces.
4. “Mystical body”: This notion became very much widely accepted. It is quite connected with “Christ
is all” and the capital graces from Christ. In fact Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical, Mystici corporis—
mystical body. Since Christ founded the Church, the Church is a manifestation of Christ—the
mystical body of Christ.
5. With a very Christological approach to the Church we will understand why “ecclesiology” can be
a “chapter” of Christology. Fine, this is ok. But more and more theologians felt that this was too
limited. Might we not setting aside the Holy Spirit, for example? During the Vatican II council, this
became a question. Salvation did come to us in Christ, but God passed it all through history. What
history tells us is that God called all to live with him, in communion with his. Jesus Christ realized this
plan by showing us the deep plan of God. Then, the Holy Spirit is sent to help continue this plan (see
Lumen Gentium 2-4). So what we notice is a new emphasis—away from a limited Christological view
to a more Trinitarian view. Christ, from the Father, sent the Holy Spirit. Vatican II would say: “Christ
sent from the Father His Holy Spirit, who was to carry on inwardly His saving work and prompt the
Church to spread out” (Ad Gentes #4). “When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on
earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that He might
continually sanctify the Church, and thus, all those who believe would have access through Christ in
one Spirit to the Father” (Lumen Gentium #4).
6. Today, indeed, more and more are following a Trinitarian line for the Church. Why? Well, one
notion is that the Church is a community—just like the Trinity. So we see the notion of “communion
ecclesiology”. Let us see what this is.
7. No one is an island, so a song goes. Nobody lives apart from others. In the Trinity the Father is
Father because of Son. Son is Son because of Father. The Son, in turn, sends his Spirit. One person
is not apart from the others—each one points to the others. In fact, we might have to look at Christ
not just as individual but as a Person in the Trinity. We see him in link with Father and Spirit. Even a
very Christ-centred ecclesiology needs to recognize the Trinitarian aspects.
8. The Holy Spirit makes the Church the Body of Christ. Eucharistic prayer # 2 makes it clear: “Humbly
we pray that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy
Spirit”. It is the Holy Spirit who assembles us in one body—the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit
incorporates us in Christ. Of course we take this from St. Paul: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized
into one body” (1Cor.12/13). By the work of the Holy Spirit we become a family—a “fraternity”.
We form a “communion” or a “community” with each other. The whole ekklesia—assembly—is in
communion, we are one family with Jesus as “elder” brother—the “kuya”—and with God as our
Father. The Holy Spirit works this out for us.
9. The Church, therefore, is not just a structure and a cold abstract institution. It is a community
of persons—real persons.Our being together is not just a matter of ethnic belonging; it is not
just “apostolic” activities; it is not just “efficient work”. We are fraternity—family, community.
Remember what we said before about the “deconstructive” work of the Gospel. The Gospel
deconstructs what is purely ethnic and technical.
10. We are together because we are persons together. Where did we get the inspiration from? Well,
our God is Trinitarian—a communion of Persons. We are together because our God is together.
Communion imposes itself on us because our source is a communion too. To be in communion is
to be Church. This is the life of the Church. Vatican II has seen this: “the Church is in Christ like a
sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity
of the whole human race” (LG#1). Being in Christ, in unity with Christ, we are in union with all that
is God and with all humanity. Communion is with God—Father, Son and Spirit—and it is among us
and with all humanity. We are in communion with each other in communion too with God. Our
communion is not just theological (with God), it is also fraternal (with others).
11. The communion in the Trinity is the basis for our communion in the Church. As St. Paul would say: ”
so that God may be all in all” (1Cor.15/28).
12. This path of communion passes through a process. What is this process? It is called “reconciliation”.
We reconcile with God, with each other, with others, within ourselves (and we add today, with the
environment). Is this not itself the history of salvation—the history of reconciliation. Might we not
even say that our greatest battle in life is reconciliation? Just think of reconciliation with those who
hurt us deeply! Adam has hurt God—yet God wants reconciliation. It is a healing process.
13. There are consequences to this type of ecclesiology—this “communion ecclesiology”. Try seeing
it for yourself how communion can help in social life, in justice, peace, law. How can communion
deepen ou identity?
14. One point we might want to add. Some of us may have grudges against the Church. “Look at
what the Church has been doing!” we might say. “What kind of a Church is this behaving like
this and that”, we might add. Fine, let us not deny the dark sides. But let us give the Church a
chance—a change to be fraternal and on pilgrimage. The Church is also on process—on the road of
reconciliation with so many people and so many factors. The Church is “on the road” to becoming
Trinitarian. Community is not something we achieve in one click.
15. The danger with a critical view of the Church without restraint is that we might start thinking: “I shall
live Church-Christian life in my way”. So we isolate from the community because we are not happy
with its behaviour and history. In isolation, however, we step out of communion. By stepping out of
communion we step out of the process of on-going reconciliation.
16. The Church is communion. Even if we are not so happy with all we see in her, we are still bound to
her in communion. We have our part in working for reconciliation.
A Reflection on Reconciliation:
1. When John the Baptist learned that Herod, governor of Galilee, was “living” with the wife of his brother, he went to tell Herod straight in the face what was wrong. It was not just about Herod and his family. All Israel was affected. It was the adultery of the governor. Both Herod and his “concubine”, Herodias, were married people. Let us not forget that it was also an act of incest. Herodias was daughter-in-law of Herod the Great (Herod’s father), twice: once by marriage to his son, Herod II, and again by marriage to another son, Herod Antipas. To put it simply—because tracing the blood line is bit complex—Herodias was the sister in law and niece of Herod Antipas. John the Baptist took the risk—and got killed. He had the guts to correct the governor.
2. Jesus himself understood the act of his cousin, John. His cousin John was doing a “fraternal correction” towards the governor. Jesus explained the notion of correction in Matt. 18. Remember your synoptic class—that chapter is situated in the Church-community section of Matthew’s gospel account. Fraternal correction is part of Church life. It is integral to living together as a community of believers (and you can apply it to your life as religious).
3. A model is given. It is about securing a lost brother/sister. The idea of the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep is a nice model given by Jesus (see Matt.18/12-14). Jesus tells us how to be pastors to each other. He discourages tolerance. Tolerance is a form of laziness. (It is a form of “co-dependency” too, if we look closely). The pastor-shepherd goes in search for the lost sheep—even if it means going through the bushes, the caves and rocky places. The shepherd uses energy. The disciple is meant to do the same with perseverance.
4. It may not be easy for us who like to be “private” with many things we do. Different strategies may have to be done.
5. There is a reward in re-gaining someone lost. You gain your brother/sister. How? If he/she listens. To listen, in the biblical sense, is “to obey”. Just imagine the reward—gaining a lost brother/sister. In a way it is “re-possessing” that person and making him/her part of the community again.
6. Reconciliation—and correction—is an affair of the whole community. This is why jesus would also add that if someone—the lost sheep—does not listen, take two or three others. If this does not work, bring the community. For Christians, the presence of Jesus—risen from the dead—is also central: where two or three are gathered in his name, he too is with them.
7. Note that the correction is without stop…one step leads to another until gaining is won. It means patience.
8. Remember Augustine and his mother Monica. It was not easy for the mother to bring her child back to God. This is maybe one example we can look at. The idea is that the Church recognizes the patience to be faithful and vigilant to each other. It is a Church of reconciliation.
9. In some cases, it may mean risking—just like John the Baptist. And we know the risk. We have seen it in many examples—like Bishop Romero. It is part of church life.
Here is an article from Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister. He says that although it is true that the Church is like a family, we need to be careful with this idea of family.
“Our church is just like a family.” This is a common claim in many congregations, perhaps especially in smaller ones. Some go further, “This church is my family.”
Sounds good, don’t you think?
Not long ago, I worked with a congregation that had used the services of a national firm to do a “ministry audit” prior to our work together. The firm’s very first recommendation, in bold print, read, “The most important thing (Name of Church) will ever do is end whatever amount of ongoing conflict exists as well as quit thinking like a family.” This grabbed people’s attention. Church leaders seemed both miffed and mystified. They worried that release of the report to the congregation would offend church members.
What did the consulting firm mean by its blunt directive? Didn’t Jesus speak of “all those who do the will of God” as his kin? (Matthew 12:50). The consulting firm elaborated: “The purpose of the church is to transform both society and individuals to be more Christ-like. This concept goes way beyond family.”
This may be stiff but necessary medicine for many stuck or declining congregations. The purpose of the church is to change lives. That’s the “business” we are in. While some families certainly do that, forming and sustaining faithful and courageous people, the use of the “family” concept in congregations often seems to mean something else.
Many of the congregations that claim “We’re a family,” lose sight of larger transformative purposes and settle, instead, for the comfort and satisfaction of their members. The core purpose of a congregation — growing people of faith and helping people and communities move from despair to hope — gives way to lesser and even contrary purposes like keeping people happy. While it may not be a necessary outcome of the use of the family image, many congregations that gravitate towards it seem to make member comfort and satisfaction their de facto purpose.
That may be because “family” suggests to people something like, “We’re all loving and nice here.” That in turn often means no hard questions are asked and no honest challenges are allowed. It wouldn’t be nice.
I can think of other reasons to be cautious about “family” as our image for church. Families sometimes keep secrets that shouldn’t be kept in order to keep from bringing shame on the family name. And families aren’t typically that easy to join. Two of our sons were married in recent years. Turns out that putting families together is a fairly complex dance.
One last issue. The use of the term “family,” may communicate to people who are not married or to the married without children that they don’t quite fit. “Our church is a family,” morphs into “our church is for families.”
Keeping the family members happy, having everyone know everyone else and get along like “a happy family,” isn’t really the point for Christian congregations. Their goal and purpose is both different and higher.
Perhaps other biblical images like “People of God,” “Creation of the Holy Spirit,” or “Body of Christ” are better ecclesiological images? It’s not that these images don’t also have potential pitfalls. It is the case, however, that unlike “family” they are uncommon enough that people seldom have their own set ideas about what they mean. In some congregations, I hear leaders address the congregation simply as “church.” That too seems promising, reminding the gathered community that they are the Church of Jesus Christ (and the building is not).
If we must use “family,” we should be aware of the way that Jesus, while using “family,” also subverts conventional understandings of family and challenges their usual boundaries with a thoroughly new vision of “family.”
The Trinity and the Church
1. The idea of Trinity and Church is so deep, we will need a whole semester just to discuss this. Well, we do not have all the time. What we can do is try to see briefly the link between us—Church—and the “communion ity” of Jesus, His Father and the Holy Spirit.
2. This idea of Trinity and Church has been expounded by the Italian theologian, Bruno Forte. He asked: from where does the Church come? How is the Church established? Where is the Church going? B. Forte reflected and said that the Church is ikona of the Trinity. She is “icon” of the Trinity. As “icon” the Church represents the Trinity and is the expression of the Trinity.
3. We said that the Church is ekklesia—an assembly called by God. She is assembled by God through the work of Jesus and the Spirit. The Church is not just a meeting of interests. She is not just a mixing of very nice interests of people. As ekklesia, the Church is from God. The origin of the Church is from God. She is within history and within society on mission.
4. The Church is the Church of the Father who had a plan for all of humanity. The Father sent Jesus, the Son. The Church is the Church of the Son Jesus Christ whose incarnation and Paschal life inaugurated the Kingdom. Jesus Christ then established the Church. The Church is Church of the Spirit who lives and dwells in our hearts—the Spirit animates us, leads us to fullness of life and unifies us. (See Lumen Gentium 2-4).
5. The Church comes from the Father through the Son in the Spirit. The Church is the assembly in which heaven and earth meet. In the Church the economy of the Trinity is made visible and incarnated within history and society.
6. The work of The Trinity is realized concretely in history. Vatican II really wanted to present the Church this way. The council really wanted to show that the Church is a “gift” to receive welcomingly. The Church is a on mission—continuing the work of Jesus in the Spirit for the accomplishment of the plan of the Father.
How the Church is established:
7. See how she is in the image of the Trinity. The Church is one—a unity in diversity. The Church has so many aspects—charisms, ministries, apostolates, etc. There is like a “circulation of life” in the Church and this life is reflective of the communion of Persons in God. Look closely at the relationship within the Trinity, we notice that there is unity and there is distinction. So too is the Church.
8. Part of this unity and distinction is the place of the Church “between” heaven and earth. She maintains an infinite distance from heaven—the Church is nonetheless composed of “earthly” humans. Yet, the Church is also communicating with heaven. It is a communion established by Revelation thanks to the mission of Jesus and the Spirit.
9. In the Church we see the variety of services and charisms. We see local churches of each diocese and region. Yet all form a unity and form a convergence of communion. Yes, it is convergence but not of strict uniformity.
Where is the Church going:
10. The Trinity is the “end point” of the Church. The goal is there to be in communion with the Trinity. We return to the Father, Son and Spirit. That God—the Trinitarian God—will “be all in all” (1 Cor 15/28). As we said the other day, the Church is a community of reconciliation—we are all on pilgrimage of healing and of servicing each other. We are on the move to reconciliation. We are always “on reform”. So we would aim to be a communion—a community in the Trinity. Our final destination is in the glory of the Trinity. Yes, we are still on pilgrimage but we live in the hope of the fulfillment. This, in a sense, makes us see why the Church is also a necessity. We need an unceasing renewal and purification—and we need the Church for this. We need to live in ecclesial community until our definite fulfillment.
11. We need a healthy autocritique, from time to time. This is to show that we do not relativize our faith. We are vigilant about our being in communion. We need that vigilance to the fidelity to the Trinitarian dimension of our communion. If, at certain moments, we are deviating from our being “con of the Trinity”, we need to correct ourselves. In the course of time, the Church will move—with her cross, of course, but always enriched by the hope sealed in Jesus. The Church is lucky to have people like you—serious religious people studying hard to deepen your service. The Church is lucky to have people like you—learning insights about how to help the Church herself.
Curiosity and Chastity and Church
1. Curiosity is not really an extraordinary quality. We are all curious. We are creatures of curiosity. The word “curiosity”—or “curious”—has a root meaning, which is “care”. We care. One philosopher, Heidegger, would say that practically all that we do is based on “care”. As soon as we awaken in the morning we start “caring”. I care for my teeth, my wearing of clothes, my going to work or school…etc. Each time we turn to something and attend to it—be it a simple making of the coffee or a complex web surf—we “care”. We are curious. Just look at the different directions we have taken in our lives. They have been marked by a certain “care”.
2. Now, when we say that someone is a curious person we think of a good quality of that person. Curiosity, we say, makes that person search, ask questions, discover things. It is a great advantage to be curious. Remember that science and technology have been motivated a lot by curiosity. So there is such a thing as “scientific” curiosity.
3. But there can be unhealthy curiosity. For example, someone is curious about how to cheat. So that person researches on strategy to cheat. Take another example, the curiosity in gossiping. When someone gossips, there is a lot of information that is private but made public. There is also information that is false. Curiosity in gossip is so unhealthy because gossip is based on false truths. There is curiosity to engage in things that are not necessary, things deviate us from the path of authentic life.
4. So when is curiosity healthy? How do we make it healthy curiosity? Well, believe it or not, but it here is one word that can help us answer the question: chastity. Let us put this in the broader perspective—and not just in terms of sexuality. Let us look at a wider view of chastity. Of course there is “chastity” in consecrated life. But all of Christian life is also meant to be “chaste”. Consecrated life has a specific form of living out that chastity. Lay and married people are called to be “chaste” in their own ways. So, there is a wider understanding of this word.
5. The word chastity has its Latin roots: castus "pure, cut off, separated." Castus is related to castration! When chaste we are “castrated”—we are “cut off”. But why use this word “castration”? It sounds morbid.
6. Wait…it is not as morbid as we might fear. In chastity we cut off from knowing everything about the lives of others. It is to cut off from the private space of others and we set a space of discretion and space of admitted ignorance. By doing this we allow the other person to have his or her own space. A philosopher, Levinas, would say that the face of the other person opens up to a sense of something infinite—something beyond me. The other person has his or her “owness” that can never be under my scope of knowledge and action. In chastity we cut off from that tendency to infiltrate into the sphere—the sacred sphere—of the other person.
7. This is actually related with what we have been saying in our previous classes in previous semesters. Remember our discussions of Genesis chapter 1 and Genesis 2/16-17 and 18.
8. Genesis 1 says we can have mastery over everything—but it is a mastery in the likeness of God. There is the “Sabbath distance”—the “mastery over mastery”. Just like God we do not impose absolutely our domination and mastery over others.
9. Genesis 2/16-18 tells us that “you may…but”. So we can let our desires go freely as much as we want; eat from all the fruit trees. But we recognize the limit; do not take from that one particular tree—the “prohibited tree”. Genesis 2 tells us that our desires must be responsible desires. We need to structure our freedom and give it its proper and respectful dynamism. If we do not do this we “die”. Relationships fall apart. We harm and destroy each other, like Cain killing Abel.
10. So this is chastity! It is a “castration”—a cutting—of exalted mastery and desire. It is a “trimming” off of the many things we add to our needs and desires and actions. Chastity is the cutting away of the “tralalas”—that word we use to refer to the “non-essentials”. In our modern society we are exposed to so many things—and many of those things are not exactly necessary. There is a kind of “exhibitionism” going on in our societies—the “exhibition” of many things that we do not need. Yet we consume. Social scientists have noted how modern societies are “consumerist”.
11. Playing the game of exhibitionism and consumerism can be quite “un-chaste”. Our societies are divided with the alienation of other social members and the alienation Nature. Remember what we said in our class in socio-anthro. Prestige in modern societies is characterized by “how much a person can buy”. Those who buy more have “more prestige”. Given the intensification of economic production we put so much pressure on the environment, damaging the “carrying capacity” of Nature. Mastery (of Genesis 1) and desire (of Genesis 2) run wild!
12. So let us connect this with curiosity. When is curiosity healthy? It is healthy when it is chaste. We are curious of the essentials…we “castrate” away from the non-essential “tralalas”. We give direction to our life adventure. We search for depths, meaning, and true happiness.
13. A good example of what we are saying here is Saint Agustin. He led a rather “wild” youth filled with curiosity. He was so curious, for example, about the way to steal fruits from an orchard. He used curiosity to steal. But later, in the story of his conversion, his curiosity turned to God. it became a “chaste curiosity”. Remember his famous prayer: “You have made us for you Oh Lord, and our heart is without rest until it finds rest in you”. Notice how chaste this curiosity is after his conversion. The essential is to reach out to God—to seek ways to find rest in God. Before his conversion, says St. Agustin, he led a life of “dispersion”. It was scattered and disturbed. Yes, it was marked by curiosity, but it needed to have a direction.
14. How does this connect with ecclesiology? The Holy Spirit, we said, is a dynamic person of the Trinity who animates the Church away from institutional “nesting” (a “castration”) and towards a dynamic introducing of the Kingdom in the world. The Church, yes as institution, is called to dynamically serve the promotion of the Kingdom of God. Basic to the pneumatological aspect of the Church is this curiosity to find ways to promote the Kingdom. The Holy Spirit “triggers” the Church to move on and respond to the “signs of the times”…never to “nest” in blocked institutionalism.
15. At a certain point “institutionalism” (note the –ism) becomes non-essential and it is un-chaste to promote it; it is un-chaste to seek ways of sustaining it. The Holy Spirit cuts in during decisive moments (and your Church history has events showing this, such as the story of Saint Catherine of Sienna) to keep the Church awake again in her call and mission.
16. By way of conclusion, we can ask ourselves how curiosity, chastity and the Church apply to modernity. We can ask what is it that people say is the “meaning of life” today—in our different countries and societies? People pursue what they think is “meaningful”—and so they are curious. They exercise their curiosity. Can chastity, in the way we describe it here, have a part in the curiosity of modern people? The Church is called to “move” and be dynamic. Where do you think is the Holy Spirit guiding the Church? How is the Holy Spirit guiding people like you—religious and consecrated—in the world today? How is your chaste curiosity moving?
The Dynamism of the Church: Trinitarian Perspective
1. The plan of God happens in a Trinitarian way. God as Father has his plan, as seen in Creation and in the history of Israel, and this plan is realized by the Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Theologians call this the “economy” of God. In simple terms, it means that there are effects in what God does. We see the effects in the work of God. Revelation makes this clear through the Scriptures and Church. Notice the dynamics of this economy: from above going down and from below going up. Jesus revealed this himself. In him we see the whole dynamics of salvation: “For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father” (Jn16/28). “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (Jn.20/17).
2. In principle, it is God the Father to whom we all go. Our destiny is to have a communion of life with him. Everything started with him, and everything will go to him—he is our end point. The Church is the assembly of those who call God the Father “Abba”.
3. The Son, Jesus Christ instituted the Church. He was the one who assembled the twelve apostles, he instituted the “Apostolic Tradition”, he instituted the Eucharist, he instituted the preaching of the good news to the ends of the world, he instituted the Baptism in the Spirit. The Church is a result of the action of Christ. Vatican II has made this clear: “Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation through which He communicated truth and grace to all” (LG 8). The council adds: “Christ…sent His life-giving Spirit upon His disciples and through Him has established His Body which is the Church….” (LG 48).
4. There is no denying that the Church is Christological because it is Christ who founded it. The Church sees herself as under the action of Christ, the Head. “He is the head of the body, the church” (Col 1/18).
5. What about the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit a. makes the Church continually holy b. makes the Church one and unified always and c. leads the Church to the fulfillment of all time—the eschatology.
6. The Holy Spirit Makes the Church Holy. The Holiness of the Church is from the Holy Spirit. The life of the Spirit is in the Church. As Vatican II would put it: “When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that He might continually sanctify the Church” (LG 4).
7. The Holy Spirit makes us one and united. We are always linked with Christ, for “you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3/28). “Giving the body unity through Himself and through His power and inner joining of the members, this same Spirit produces and urges love among the believers. From all this it follows that if one member endures anything, all the members co-endure it, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice” (LG 7).
8. The Holy Spirit leads the Church to eschatological fulfillment. We are made to be on the move. The Church is animated to be dynamic. St. Paul expressed it, saying that in Christ we were chosen in accord with the purpose of the Father …sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph1/11). The promised Spirit continues our heritage. During each moment of time the Holy Spirit guides us to the final fulfillment. In the heart of actual realities is the seed of what is to come. The Holy Spirit leads us to that. “‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh” (Act. 2/17).
9. It is helpful to reflect on what we have just said, above. A major observation we can see is that the Christological basis of the Church is in its being institutionalized. So the institutional aspect of the Church is a fact we cannot delete—it is Christologically based. But Christ sent his Spirit. So there is also Pneumatology in the Church. The Spirit—pneuma—makes the Church on the move. The Holy Spirit makes us dynamic so that we do not fall into the “nest” of institutionalism (note the –ism). We do not have to be fixated with institution…we must also be curious enough to move and explore and adventure. This is where we are helped by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not suppress institution, rather he makes the institution instituting. The institutional reality of the Church is at the same time meant to be dynamic, “on pilgrimage”, on mission.
10. Notice how the Spirit does not suppress institution. The Holy Spirit makes us open up to the gospel truth and to the Scriptures. The preaching-teaching we do in the Church is also supported by the Spirit. During Mass the Holy Spirit descends on the bread and wine to transform it to the Body and Blood of Christ. So the institution owes its efficiency to the Spirit. The Holy Spirit stabilizes the institution so that the institution can serve better in its mission.
The Structure of the Church based on the Trinity
1. Given our Trinitarian perspective, we can look at the way the Church is structured. We see three points: In line with God the Father, the Church is “People of God”. In line with the Son, the Church is “Body of Christ”. In line with the Holy Spirit, the Church is “Temple of the Spirit”. Let us discuss these.
2. The Church is People of God. We said that the Church is an assembly—an ekklesia. It is assembled by God. Note then that before distinguishing members the whole Church is the assembly. It is the assembly of believers. The Church is already People of God before it is hierarchized. All are equal in the Church (and do not forget what we have been saying before about the “deconstructing” tendency of the gospel). All members of the Church have equal dignity and activity. Vatican II makes this clear: “Therefore, the chosen People of God is one: ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism’; sharing a common dignity as members from their regeneration in Christ, having the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection; possessing in common one salvation, one hope and one undivided charity. There is, therefore, in Christ and in the Church no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex, because "there is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all 'one' in Christ Jesus” (LG 32).
3. So we say “we” in the Church—we are together. No group is apart. We are one assembly. We are all called by God—so our being together is rooted in the same call for all of us. We all have one basic calling to be with God. All of us announce the marvels of Christ. We are all prophetic in this sense. All of us act to let the gospel penetrate the world. We serve one another and we serve the Kingdom, preaching it to all the nations. We are all “royal” and “kingly” in this sense. All of us offer sacrifices to Christ. All of us remember the sacrifice of Christ. So in this sense we are all priests. We all participate in the priesthood of Christ. We are all in this together. All members of the Church participate in the prophetic, kingly and priestly functions of Christ.
4. The Church is Body of Christ. Christ is the Head, we say. He is our “eldest brother” and we are all “brothers and sisters” to each other. It is worth noting this notion of “brother”-“sister”. The Sonship of Jesus to the Father has made us fraternal to each other. Through Christ we have been restored in the fraternity with the Father. So we are all children of God—we are brothers and sisters to one another.
5. St. Paul declared this. We are called to “be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers [and sisters]” (Rom. 8/29). When we are together we do not feel shame to be together—we are fraternity. “He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them ‘brothers’-‘sisters’” (Heb 2/11).
6. In a general sense when we say “brother” or “sister” it means that I-am-a-brother/sister-to-you. I oblige myself to be fraternal.
7. This notion of Body of Christ also means that we have our places in the Church. Each place is as dignified as any other place. We are different in our places but all differences complement each other in the service of the gospel. It is “for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4/12). St. Peter has this to say: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1Pet.4/10).
8. We say “no” to distinctions of who is doing better work. There is no “superior” and no “inferior”. There is no monopoly of power and there is no passivity. “Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary” (1Cor.12/22). Let it be clear: “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it” (1Cor12/27).
9. Excursus: what about the “ordained priest”? Right, good question. The ordination signifies that the Church is rooted in the Apostolic tradition—and finally in the historical Christ. The ordained ministry is inserted in the apostolic mission starting with Christ. “Christ, whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world, has through His apostles, made their successors, the bishops, partakers of His consecration and His mission….” (LG 28. It is worth reading the whole #28). “The same Lord, however, has established ministers among his faithful to unite them together in one body in which, ‘not all the members have the same function’ (Rom 12:4)” (PO 2).
10. So the ordained minister has a specific ministry. It is historically established. This does not remove the fact that all members of the Church are responsible for the apostolic tradition. The whole Church is responsible. It is in this global responsibility that specific ministers arise. The role of the ordained priest is to discern and guarantee the fidelity of all members of the Church. The ordained priest is present to “remind” us that we should stay holy. We are told to be holy. We remind the “fathers” to be apostolic.
11. The Church is Temple of the Holy Spirit. We have seen the specific tasks of the Spirit. We are grateful to the Holy Spirit. We are united by the Spirit. During mass we hear the priest say: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2Cor.13/13). Note that we are thankful for the fellowship made real by the Spirit. It is the Church “which the Spirit guides in way of all truth and which He unified in communion and in works of ministry” (LG 4).
12. As Temple the Church recognizes the gifts bestowed by the Spirit. Gifts have been brought in the Temple, so to speak. “But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes” (1Cor.12/11). The Church sees herself as responsible for the good use of the gifts.
The Holiness of the Church
1. Holiness is always understood as something related to God. If we say that the ekklesia (assembly) is holy, it is because it is linked with God. In the mass we pray, “I believe in the holy … Church”. We say that it is the Church herself that we call holy. We do not say “I believe in the Church of holy people”. No, the point is not that members are all holy but that the assembly itself is holy.
2. What exactly do we mean by “holy”? Let us look at the Bible. In the Old Testament the sense of holiness means separation…it is a setting apart. There is a separation in the service of God. Something is set aside so that it will be directly related with God.
3. In the Old Testament, God is, himself, holy. “Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty” (Is.6/3). God is the holy one of Israel, so anything linked with God is then holy too. Israel is a holy nation. It has been elected—chosen—by God to be “his people”.
4. In the New Testament we see something similar. Jesus is himself holy. Born as human—having a human body and being a human body by the Holy Spirit—Jesus is to be considered saint (see Lk.1/35). He belongs exclusively to God. He is the saint of God (see Mk.1/24). God consecrates to him a mission.
5. In St. Paul, the Holy Spirit makes the community of disciples holy (see Rom.15/16). Why? The answer is interesting: by vocation. St. Paul writes, “to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy” (Rom.1/7). The group of disciples are a “holy people”, a “holy priesthood” etc. (See Eph. 2/21; 1Pet.2/5.9; etc.).
6. Let us apply this to the Church. Read the letter to the Ephesians. It is a strong letter indicating the holiness of the community. “Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph.5/25b-27). Christ wants his Church to be “holy and without blemish”.
7. In terms of ecclesiology this implies that holiness is applied not to this or that individual member of the Church. The word “saint” is applied to the whole Church assembly.
8. Again we see this in St. Paul: “to the church of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy” (1Co.1/2).
9. Holiness is not a moral perfection of a particular person. We do not say that Brother X is so holy “because he is doing good things”. Holiness is associated with being called. Holiness is a call. When we read “the saints” or “the holy ones” in the letters of St. Paul, for example, we read it as the community called by God, assembled by God. It is not about what people do. The community is holy because it is in Christ: “Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and ministers” (Ph.1/1).
10. Look at what St. Peter himself says when he addresses the community: “But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1Pet.2/9).
11. When we recognize that the Church is holy, then it implicates us—members. St. Paul states it this way: “Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Ph.2/14-16). The consequence is that we feel the call to witness. We are in the midst of society and there inside we are called to shine out. The holiness of the Church obliges the members to be holy too, to shine out by living the truth of the gospel. Holiness is not to flee from society and the world. It is a matter of being in the heart of the world and there shining out the truth.
12. Let us try looking at the modern period and see what is said about the holiness of the Church. Vatican II has this to say: “the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that He might continually sanctify the Church” (LG4). The idea here is that the Holy Spirit was sent to make sure that the Church herself is continually holy—saint. “The Church, whose mystery is being set forth by this Sacred Synod, is believed to be indefectibly holy. Indeed Christ…who…is praised as ‘uniquely holy,’ loved the Church as His bride, delivering Himself up for her. He did this that He might sanctify her…. Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness… This holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful… in a very special way this (holiness) appears in the practice of the counsels, customarily called ‘evangelical’. This practice of the counsels, under the impulsion of the Holy Spirit, undertaken by many Christians, either privately or in a Church-approved condition or state of life, gives and must give in the world an outstanding witness and example of this same holiness” (LG39).
13. Focus on the holiness of the Church and not in the Church. But then, the challenge is extended to us who are also in the Church.
14. We have a role in the holiness of the Church. We confess that we are sinners and we have confidence in the love of God in spite of our sins. In a way this confession and confidence makes our participation holy too. Vatican II recognizes that, indeed, there are many wrong doings in the Church. The Church is “…at the same time holy and always in need of being purified” (LG8). We cannot be like the ones saying, “I am not like others” (see Lk.18/11). No, just like others, we are sinners. If the Church is holy, it does not mean that she is a Church of the pure and “perfect”. The Church is not where no sin exists. Rather, the Church is where sin is recognized, admitted, confessed with full confidence in the love and reconciliation of God. The Church is the place where sin is confessed and forgiven.
15. The danger with a perspective of a community composed of “pure” and “impure” is to repeat what has been the issue during the time of Jesus. Remember that during 1st century Palestine the Jewish society was divided among those “ritually pure” and the “impure”. Jesus himself “deconstructed” this.
16. The challenge for us is to make the holiness of the Church credible. Of course the doctrines of the Church—including the faith deposited by Scriptures and Tradition—are clear evidences of holiness. But the Church also needs concrete faces to show to the world that, indeed, holiness is a reality.
17. Vatican II states that the holiness of the Church “is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others; in a very special way this (holiness) appears in the practice of the counsels, customarily called ‘evangelical’. This practice of the counsels, under the impulsion of the Holy Spirit, undertaken by many Christians, either privately or in a Church-approved condition or state of life, gives and must give in the world an outstanding witness and example of this same holiness” (LG39). Note then that Christians—privately or consecrated (like you) must give a credible witness to the world. When others meet you, for example, they will say, “Oh, a person of God”. Therefore it implies holiness.
1. The Holiness of the Church and taking her as "Hostage"
1. The site Etymology On line tells us that the word “hostage” comes from the late 13th century, from Old French. A hostage is a "person given as security or hostage". It can come either from hoste "guest" via the notion of "a lodger held by a landlord as security," or from Late Latin obsidanus which is the "condition of being held as security." The Latin obsidanus is from obsess, that is, ob- "before" + base of sedere "to sit". So a hostage is someone who “sits before someone else”.
2. What happens when I take someone as “hostage”? It means that I hold you in, lock you in, make you sit in front of me so I can watch you...so I can secure myself. I hostage you for me and my security. I refuse your movement for my security. I hold you as my security.
3. Look at the consequence. The movement—the mobility—and the freedom of the other is stopped. It is not given its opportunity. Why? Because I am using you for my security. I secure through you.
4. This can happen in an inter-personal relationship. Mr. X hostages Mr. Y. Mr. X stops the growth, the movement of Mr. Y for the security of Mr. X. “Do not make new friends…I am your exclusive friend”. “Do not do anything different…do what I am doing”. Etc.
5. This can happen in a community or a group. A member, for example, hostages the community and keeps the community from moving and growing and maturing. “My plan and my project should be the project of everyone else”. “I refuse to share…”
6. Yes, of course this can be seen in terrorism today…but we are not interested in this area here in this essay.
7. What does all this have to do with the Church? The Church can be held as hostage by an attitude and even by a particular way of behaving. Think about the “holiness” of the Church. She is “holy” by virtue of the fact that she is called by Christ—called to assemble with Christ. The Church has a vocation to be on mission with Christ; she is to continue the work of Christ in promoting the love of God in the world.
8. The Church is holy even if there are so many members of the Church who show crazy and “unholy” behavior. During mass this is confessed: “I believe in the holy…Church”. I believe that the Church is holy. Note that we do not say “I believe in the holy members of the Church”. We do not say “I believe in the Church of holy members”. No. Rather, we pray, “I believe in the holy…Church”.
9. “Un-holiness” can possibly put the holiness of the Church to hostage. The holiness of the Church is kept—it is made to “sit before” the “hostage taker”. The holiness of the Church is refused its visible manifestation. Through my behaving I can hostage the Church and make her look so unholy and so perverted. This way I refuse to recognize the place of the Holy Spirit in the Church. It becomes “the Church that I want” and not the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
10. Of course the Church remains holy--even with many crazy things going on in her. She continues to be People of God, Body of Christ and Temple of the Holy Spirit. it is the task of members of this holy assembly to reveal the credibility of that holiness to "all the nations". So there is the major task of "witnessing" to the holiness of God. We can never place the Church on absolute hostage. The Holy Spirit will find the way to keep her dynamic, true and moving in the light of the gospel. Yet, this does not stop Church members from a certain vigilance in credible building.
11. During the recent RH-bill debates, could it be possible that the Church was kept hostage—by persons from both sides? Could it be possible that some held the Church on hostage for their own security, agenda and interests?
The Church as SACRAMENT OF SALVATION
1. This is a central concept about the Church that is now accepted as part of our patrimony. Vatican II has underlined this so often, we recognize today that the Church is, indeed, “sacrament of salvation”. In your study of the seven sacraments you may have learned that “sacrament” implies “sign” or “manifestation”. Let us take a closer look at this word.
2. Here is a bit of trivia. During the Roman-empire era, the word (Latin) sacramentum was used to designate the oath a Roman soldier would make for the empire. In the oath there was a declaration of fidelity to the empire and to the emperor. The soldier accepted to be fully engaged in the army and to be fully faithful even if it meant risking his life. So sacramentum was an oath and it was marked by engagement and fidelity.
3. As we come to the Christian tradition, we note that sacramentum was associated with mysterium. Sacrament and mystery were related. Mysterium or mystery did not mean something unknown and hidden and impenetrable. No. Mystery meant the plan of God for all humanity. It was the design of love of God. Mystery meant the plan of God to have us share in his life—and so God created us. Mystery also meant the plan of to make us his people and to bring us back to him in communion (because we have gone astray—as symbolized by Adam and Eve). So God had a plan to share with us his life. What is fascinating here is that the plan has been revealed. The mystery of God’s plan did not remain hidden. It was revealed in concrete human history.
4. If we read the Letters of St. Paul—see for example Eph.1/9, 3/9 and Col.1/9—we will notice that for St. Paul mystery is also sacrament. Mysterium is also sacramentum. Mystery is revealed. It is communicated. It is shown. So the same mystery of God’s plan is itself a manifestation—a revelation—a sacrament!
5. This is obvious because the definite revelation of God is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the definite realization of the plan of God. Christ is the true mystery of God. The mystery is none other than Jesus himself (see Col.2/2, 4/3 and Tim.3/16).
6. Much later, during the times of the Church Fathers, we see similar reflections. For the Church Fathers, Christ is the mystery of God. Mystery has revealed—it has become sacrament. The definite plan of God (mystery) is revealed (sacrament) in Christ.
7. During the time of the Church Fathers and a little after, the notion of sacrament evolved to include things related to Christ—so it included the Scriptures and the rituals of Christian initiation, like Baptism, confirmation, etc. The 7 sacraments, as we know today, have been incorporated in the whole idea of sacrament because they are, of course, related with Christ. The Council of Trent will make a more official stamp to this.
8. Interestingly, the notion of sacrament would further evolve—to include the whole Church this time. By the 19th century this would become a more-and-more accepted notion. The Church herself would be considered sacrament. Why? The visible aspects of the Church have, underneath them, Christ. Being founded by Christ and inspired by the Holy Spirit the Church would clearly be a sacrament. It was during the 1940’s and 1950’s when this was so widely accepted. The idea was that Christ is the sacrament of the Father…and the Church is the sacrament of Christ. This, for example, was propounded by the theologian Henri de Lubac. Look at the years—1940’s-1950’s. These were the years leading to Vatican II.
9. So by the time of Vatican II, the Church as sacrament of Christ would be easily adapted. Vatican II would say that the Church is in Christ. The Church, because she is in Christ, is the sign and means of intimate union with the Father. For all humanity the Church serves as unity with God. (See LG1 and GS 42/3. See many passages that speak of the Church as sacrament of Christ: LG48, 59; SC5/26; GS45; AG1, 5, etc.).
10. This is very Christological in approach. The Church is in Christ and Christ is the light of the nations—the lumen gentium. Christ is the author of salvation; he is the principle of unity and peace. The Father assembled the Church in Christ to be the visible sign of unity and peace. So clearly, the Church is sign of Christ—the sacrament of Christ. Look at LG 8-9.
11. If this is very Christological, keep in mind that there is still a distinction between Christ and Church. Jesus Christ is the source of salvation and the Church is sign—sacrament—of that salvation. Without Christ the Church can do nothing to save. The Church is sacrament; it is an identity received from Christ. The Church does not designate herself as sacrament. She discerned it from Christ. As sacrament the Church is in the service of communicating the salvation offered by Christ.
12. Do you see the implications here? Please think well about this. The Church is a sacrament of salvation because she manifests the mystery of God’s love for all (see GS45). It is Christ who saves. The Church is sign and sacrament of this. Think well…this is very crucial.
13. Well, the idea of sacrament here widens too. We often get stuck with thinking of the “seven-sacraments”. So Church life is marked by these seven. But if the Church is, herself- sacrament, then we go beyond just the practice of the seven sacraments. We see Christian life as Church-life and not just “seven-sacrament-life”. Sometimes we notice how the emphasis some people make on things like, “Hey, did you go to mass last Sunday”? But we need to worry about what is beyond simply going to the Sunday mass. The deeper question is: how is your Christian life, is it sacramental, does it reveal your faith, does it bear witness to the faith? In concrete it will be something like this: “Hey, even if you go to Sunday mass, are you really living in justice and truth and peace?” Going to mass and fulfilling the seven sacraments can be important, but Christian life is wider than these. One must “cry the gospel with your life” (Charles de Foucauld).
This Next section of ecclesiology is an “excursus” on witnessing.
If Church is sacrament of salvation,
If she is sacrament of the Saviour Jesus Christ, then one of her main activities
is “to witness”
1. Again we ask: Is it possible to say that in a historical event or act what is so unjustifiable is overcome? Can we say it is overcome here and now? Is the Absolute found in the contingent? Can we invest a moment of history with an absolute character?
2. To answer this means we must “interpret” a testimony or witnessing. So how do we interpret testimony?
3. Witnessing is an act of two parts. It is an act of “self-awareness” and an act of understanding based on the signs that God has revealed. God’s revelation are at the same time signs in which the witness is self aware. What we find here is the convergence of these two paths.
4. We looked at bit at the Bible to help us. In witnessing God declares himself here and now. This revelation functions as “starting point”. The witness begins here. If there is no such starting point, all will be just “talking” and “interpreting”. In other words, God must have revealed…if not then we will just keep on saying things “creatively”. We need to start from a “real” and “actual” starting point.
5. God’s self-manifestation here and now indicates the end of just talking and talking. God shows himself. It is a kind of “shortcut”. The presence of God is an experience of the absolute here and now. It is about this that the witness testifies.
6. But witnessing also can be interpreted and talked about. It must be talked about. Why? The witness not just narrates, the witness also “confesses”. The person who hears what the witness says or does must take up again what the witness expresses. The person who receives the testimony must interpret and understand…hence, must talk about what the witness has shown.
7. For the witness, there is an immediate encounter with God’s presence so that the story is both narrated and confessed. The early Christians narrated the story of Jesus and confessed he was Christ. They did not separate the narration (history) from the confession (faith). They did not separate Jesus from Christ. So they spoke of that man from Nazareth as Jesus-Christ.
8. The fact of speaking about Jesus was very important. The big question was what to speak of—or what to write, in the case of the gospel authors. How were they to explain that the Jesus was the Christ? So it was a problem of making that link, or more precisely of interpretation.
9. The early Christians took from their traditions, and of course from the Hebrew tradition. They looked back at the scriptures. The early Christians took help from names and titles coming from the tradition of Judaism. The early Christians tried to interpret the link between the narration of encountering Jesus and the confession that he was Christ.
10. What is helpful for us, here, in discussing witnessing is the fact that when the early Christians took from their tradition, what they were doing was basic to their witnessing. Relying on tradition and scriptures was not outside witnessing. To witness was, at the same time, to take from tradition.
11. But let us not forget that the task of the early Christians was not something in school…like they were just trying to write a paper about Jesus. No. Remember that they were also in a critical situation: trial. When the early Christians expressed their faith using tradition, they were also declaring. The early Christians had to declare about what they have seen and heard and touched and experienced. Hence they were witnessing to an experience in front of a “trial”.
12. The witnessing had to face the “judgment” of people. People had to make up their mind about what the early Christians were saying. There was a trial which had to decide between Jesus Christ and others. Your study of the history of the Church might have shown you the attempts of the early Church to really clarify who Jesus Christ was in front of other views and opinions about him.
13. Remember also the importance of the credibility of the witness. For Jesus, we saw, his works and his life bore witness to him, as shown in John’s gospel. In fact, Jesus was willing to suffer and die for what he was sent. There was a link between his ministry and his willingness to suffer. We can say the same about many of the early Christians who, like Jesus, were willing to die for what they believed.
14. But how is it possible that the witness—the Christian witness, for example—is ready for this? One way of answering this is by looking at what happens “inside” the witness. What happens “inside” is seen “outside”. In other words, the witness “dethrones” himself/herself. Here is where we see the beauty of what it means to “grow smaller” as God “grows bigger”. Jesus, according to St. Paul, “emptied himself”. So too the Christian witness.
15. By doing this the witness seals a covenant. The witness is but a small human being—a small person who, through his/her witnessing God is affirmed. In other words, God, so great and so absolute, is expressed by the witness, so small and finite. The witness makes use of limited expressions from tradition—from Scriptures—in order to say something about God!
16. There is a kind of “adherence” of the witness to God. This “adherence” is the claim of the witness that he/she is not just making up a story about God. The early Christians face the task of telling people about who was Jesus Christ…they were “on trial”. They were willing to go through the whole pain, even to the point of death. They “adhered” to Jesus—and this was their best “proof” of what they were saying.
17. What can be see in the witnessing of the early Christians—and should we add, in our witnessing today? This time, consider the side of those receiving the witnessing—let us place ourselves in the “shoes” of those facing the Christians. What can be admitted in a witnessing is that it expresses liberation. When someone looks at the Christian, can he/she see that in the action of the Christian absolute liberation is professed? Within the limited scope of situations and history, is there a sign that totals liberation is offered?
18. This is the extreme point of witnessing—that the witness, by “self-emptying”, is able to show to others that true liberation is possible.
Church as Sacrament of the Kingdom
1. The Church received the mission to announce the Kingdom. In a way the Church is “”budding forth”
of the Kingdom on earth. This is how Vatican II would see the Church. “From this source the Church,
equipped with the gifts of its Founder and faithfully guarding His precepts of charity, humility and
self-sacrifice, receives the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoples the Kingdom of
Christ and of God and to be, on earth, the initial budding forth of that kingdom” (LG5). The Kingdom
is growing with the Church as seed, as bud, as the slow flowering.
2. “Your Kingdom come”, we say in mass. This is a way of accepting the fact that the Church is aspiring
for the Kingdom. May the Kingdom be full. But bear in mind that the Kingdom goes beyond the
Church. The Kingdom overflows. The Kingdom is not limited to the Church. Yes, the Church is the
“budding forth” of the Kingdom but we cannot strictly say that Church and Kingdom are one and the
same. The Church promotes the Kingdom and the Kingdom is wider than the Church.
3. In the Old Testament we already see the aspiration of the Hebrews for the Kingdom. In fact the
Hebrews saw themselves as within the history of salvation. They saw their history as a movement of
salvation. They saw God in their presence; they saw God working in their history.
4. The Psalms can show this aspiration for salvation in history. (See, for example, Ps 27/1; 35/3; 37/39;
62/7, etc.) Even in trials, the Hebrew people knew they will not be abandoned by the Lord God. The
God of Israel was the source of life and peace. God assembled his nation and made the people his
5. The same is with the Church. The early Christians felt that they were people of God on the move to
the final fulfilment of the Kingdom. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to
come” (Heb.13/14). The early Christians saw themselves moving towards the eschatology. They saw
themselves as the “eschatological people of God”. The Church connected with the people of Israel in
the same hope for salvation and fulfilment.
6. We can say that the history of the Church is a deployment of the history of salvation. Of course this
does not mean that we, in the Church, are “the best”. This idea of Church history should not make
us triumphalist. We owe it to God that we are his people, that we are encountering him in history.
God never gives up on us; he continues to have confidence in us. He entrusts in us the mission of
spreading the news of the Kingdom of salvation for the whole world. This is more of a “humbling”
7. As we announce the Kingdom, we can do two or three things. What are these? 1.witnessing
2.celebrating and 3.announcing. Let us look at the three:
9. During mass we pray, “I confess”. By this we mean that our lives are characterized by citizenship
of the Kingdom. We can note many Christians who witness to the faith in the salvation of Christ—
even if it means risking their lives. Bearing witness is to confess the Kingdom—that the Kingdom is a
kingdom of justice, peace and love. We make the effort of liberation even in the very ordinary affairs
of daily life. We show that in concrete life we opt for the light, not darkness. (See our discussion on
witnessing inspired by Paul Ricoeur).
10. In concrete life we do not participate in whatever destroys fraternity and community. We do not
participate in practices of injustice and denial of human dignity. We are not part of activities that
violate human dignity.
11. When we bear witness, we reverse the situation of the Tower of Babel. We drop separation…we
deconstruct walls that separate us and keep us away from fraternity. Vatican II states this well:
“on the day of Pentecost, He (the Holy Spirit) came down upon the disciples to remain with them
forever (cf. John 14:16). The Church was publicly displayed to the multitude, the Gospel began to
spread among the nations by means of preaching, and there was presaged that union of all peoples
in the catholicity of the faith by means of the Church of the New Covenant, a Church which speaks
all tongues, understands and accepts all tongues in her love, and so supersedes the divisiveness of
12. The tower of Babel symbolizes separation and confusion. The Pentecost recuperates the lost
communion. It recuperates reciprocity. There is now communion among differences. The Church, at
the time of the Pentecost, was designated a sign of unity.
13. This is challenging, as we know. Fraternity, community, reciprocity—these are not easy to attain. But
the Church is called to work on these.
15. In the Church we have the Scriptures and the Seven Sacraments. We have liturgies. Look at the
Eucharist. The Eucharist celebrates the fact of the sacrifice of Jesus—the sacrifice of salvation.
16. Check out the seven sacraments. They are not just empty rituals. They tell us about the nature of
the Church and Christian living. Each sacrament has a deep meaning. The mass, for example, is not
just a Sunday ritual. It is also a celebration of the fact that we are brothers and sisters to each other.
The celebration is proof of how we are fraternal—community. We are united in Christ—we break
bread together, we share. At the end of the mass we are sent back to our daily lives—go in peace.
We extend the celebration into the concrete day to day living. We continue to share. Celebration is a
sign of our being a people united—fraternally. Our celebration is a manifestation of the Kingdom.
18. The Church is in the service of the Gospel. We work so that people are constantly connected with
the Gospel. The Church is like St. John the Baptist preparing the way for the Lord. We discern the
works of God. We go against forces that destroy human dignity and we applaud whenever we see
human dignity respected. The Church encourages reciprocity and community.
19. Again Vatican II makes this clear. “…the Church is compelled by the Holy Spirit to do her part that
God's plan may be fully realized, whereby He has constituted Christ as the source of salvation for the
whole world. By the proclamation of the Gospel she prepares her hearers to receive and profess the
Conclude the discussion on the “Church as Sacrament”
1. To say that the Church is “sacrament of Christ” is to say that Christ is the original sacrament. The sacramentality of the Church is received from Christ. The Church is sign to the world for Christ—she is in service. So the Church is constructed—assembled—in dependency to Christ. This is important. The Church does not self-construct. She owes her life in Christ. But, let us grant her also the fact that her fidelity is part of her origin. Thanks to her fidelity to Christ—in spite of the many crazy things going on—the Church is rooted in her origins.
2. The Church is an “opaque” icon of the Trnity. We saw this at the start of our semester. She is sign, sacrament, icon to society. When society looks at the Church, will society see the “picture of God”? For the Church to be consistently sacrament and sign and icon, she needs regular conversion. This we all know.
3. Let us not forget the objective of the Church. She is Christ’s “messenger” to society. She is n servicing society. In principle, if we look closely at what Church is, all baptized have this role. All baptized have the role of servicing society and showing society the Kingdom—the message of Christ.
4. Can we do it? We move to our next discussion.
What is the future of the Church? Some Random Thoughts
1. This is a hot question. The Church is faced with many challenges. Today the challenges can be quite tough touching on issues like the drop in religious practices, drop in “vocations” to consecrated life, the doubt about the credibility of Church people, etc. Might there be a “break” between gospel and culture? Might there be a “gap” between the Church called to make the gospel known and society?
2. There is, indeed, a feeling that there is a gap between the message of the Church and the reception of that message. There are, today, many options for deepening life—and the message of the Church has become “just one of them”.
3. Some theologians would speak of “crisis of transmission”. This is a crisis in which the message of the Church is not well transmitted in society. Many people do not lend their ears to the Church. In fact, to be Christian, we say, is to make a personal decision: I believe. This is wonderful. But does it have space for receiving transmitted message from the Church? Does “being Christian” imply participating in the whole heritage and patrimony of the Church?
4. We might also have to admit that “lack of knowledge” about the faith and about the Church is very strong. We are today fed with so many information—we cannot even be sure of the solidity of the web sites we open. So given this flood of information, how do we situate knowing the faith? Pluralism is an active instrument of relativism. Each one takes care of his/her development of knowing. The Church seems to lose her status as matrix of knowledge in society. People are not so keen on making the Church as a source for deepening life and spirituality, for example.
5. In the heart of this is the problem of revelation. Revelation, we say, is from God. If this is set aside, if this is not taken seriously, then the whole notion of faith and salvation weakens—and so too the need to really belong and listen to the Church. Faith and salvation, for example, are not just strange, they have become strangers. The Church is not just strange, she has become quite a stranger. Each one live with a chosen reference—and the Church is not necessarily the central avenue.
6. So what is the sense of words like “salvation”, “grace”, “Kingdom”, even “mass” and “baptism”? How do these find echo in the heart of people’s lives?
7. Ok, so we might say that we need to improve on communication—like speak and write in a more “popular” way, using “popular” language—the language that many people can understand. But really, let’s think about this. There is a point when even this strategy dries up. With the world of information and media technologies, with the world of economic liberalism and consumerism, even with a more “down to earth” Church-language, the problem remains: will the Church still be interesting and relevant?
8. Language is not just grammar and vocabulary. It has other dimensions. Take one word: “truth”. When we say truth today, it seems to imply more of experience than of transmitted lesson. Right? The truth is what I see, feel, experience…and not what other tell me to believe in. For something to be true, I must verify it myself in my experiences. It is not enough that a priest or a religious tell me what it is. So when the priest during mass tells the mass-going people, “believe in the truth of God”, most would say that they have to experience that truth and not just accept what the priest says.
9. Take another example: “faithfulness”. To be faithful means to be personally engaged. Today this engagement is first of all to myself. Be faithful to my own needs….my own development. I can only be faithful to you if I first take care of myself. So if the priest during homily says, “Be faithful to your husband/wife”, many will say, “Ok, but what about me? What about my needs? Do I have to live in painful fidelity and give up my needs?” The idea of “lose yourself in me (Christ)” is something that is not readily accepted.
10. The crisis takes on a dimension of crisis of faith. And who is in crisis? The Church. Does she have the capacity to bring people to the gospel? What is put to question, together with the credibility of the Church is the content of faith that the Church carries.
11. Ok, but there is no magical solution. We might need to ask again: how do we speak of God today? How do we speak of the Kingdom today? How can we still be sacrament of Christ and sacramanet of the Kingdom?
12. One area of reflection is to ask: what God and what Kingdom are we talking about? Are we clear about these? It is not just an intellectual question. It is a question of how personally linked are we with God and his message? Do we still pray and talk to God?
13. Since we are in ecclesiology, let us focus on the institutional issue. Society today is on the move. People move a lot. People have access to many information. People go to places. People meet many other people. The “web” of relationships is a big “network” today.
14. In this mobility of people, what stability of the Church do we have? Is there place for “parish”, for example (not to mention “diocese”? Is there a reference locality for Christians?
15. The early Church was very community based. She was “synod” in many relationships. The issue many people have is that the priest need not be the sole agent of liturgy and Eucharist. The priest need not be the sole agent of reconciliation. “I can do these things on my own”. So “I can be Eucharistic” and “I confess directly to God”. This way, there is less and less space for community based Church—and less need for “parish”-“diocese”.
16. Deeper that this is the issue of authority. Modern technology now allows people to take authority from different areas of life—and not necessarily from what the Church offers. Laso, many people are now sensitive to authority. They question more and more authority. So we hear words like “dialogue” and “participative management”. Authority is decentralized.
17. This should not surprise us. This is modernity. A major feature of religiosity today is that religion—of any sort—has become more and more centralized on the individual. “My spirituality”. “My faith”. “My way of living as Christian”, “My relationship with God”. Etc.
18. The individual weaves his or her own life story without need to re-link with big movements like institutions. The individual “tinkers” with what information he or she gets…tinkers with whatever he or she is interested in. So this whole dimension of “institutional authority” is less a support that what “tinkering” one can do.
19. Let us not be too quick in criticizing this. It may even be an indication of a path for authentic faith. The weight is now more and more on the personal engagement rather than just conformity to “official truths”.
The sensus fidei
20. The question of authority is held by what the Church traditionally calls as sensus fidei—which is the “sense of the faith”. This involves the capacity to discern the gospel in life. This notion is old, but it has been forgotten for a long time. Vatican II re-takes it. Pope John Paul II also elevates again its importance. Let us quote one long passage of the pope:
The discernment effected by the Church becomes the offering of an orientation in order that the entire truth and the full dignity of marriage and the family may be preserved and realized.
This discernment is accomplished through the sense of faith, which is a gift that the Spirit gives to all the faithful, and is therefore the work of the whole Church according to the diversity of the various gifts and charisms that, together with and according to the responsibility proper to each one, work together for a more profound understanding and activation of the word of God. The Church, therefore, does not accomplish this discernment only through the Pastors, who teach in the name and with the power of Christ but also through the laity: Christ "made them His witnesses and gave them understanding of the faith and the grace of speech (cf. Acts 2:17-18; Rv. 19:10), so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life." The laity, moreover, by reason of their particular vocation have the specific role of interpreting the history of the world in the light of Christ, in as much as they are called to illuminate and organize temporal realities according to the plan of God, Creator and Redeemer.
The "supernatural sense of faith" however does not consist solely or necessarily in the consensus of the faithful. Following Christ, the Church seeks the truth, which is not always the same as the majority opinion. She listens to conscience and not to power, and in this way she defends the poor and the downtrodden. The Church values sociological and statistical research, when it proves helpful in understanding the historical context in which pastoral action has to be developed and when it leads to a better understanding of the truth. Such research alone, however, is not to be considered in itself an expression of the sense of faith.
Because it is the task of the apostolic ministry to ensure that the Church remains in the truth of Christ and to lead her ever more deeply into that truth, the Pastors must promote the sense of the faith in all the faithful, examine and authoritatively judge the genuineness of its expressions, and educate the faithful in an ever more mature evangelical discernment.
Christian spouses and parents can and should offer their unique and irreplaceable contribution to the elaboration of an authentic evangelical discernment in the various situations and cultures in which men and women live their marriage and their family life. They are qualified for this role by their charism or specific gift, the gift of the sacrament of matrimony.” (Familiaris consortio #4).
21. Look at the passages we put in bold. Note that sensus fidei is a gift to everyone—including the laity. The Church assumes that the laity is also competent in matters of faith. Of course this sensus fidei is not just consensus and popular opinion. This is why there is still need for “pastors”—the hierarchy—to form and educate the laity. In the rock bottom is the assurance that the laity has faith.
22. From an institutional point of view this will imply more laity participation in the Church. Possibly this is an area of improving credibility of the Church. Do not reduce the laity into the status simply of “consultants”. They have the sensus fidei and they can apply this “sense” to marriage, family, economics, politics, etc.
23. Technically—in principle—the Church also has references outside of society. In other words, the basic assumption of the Church is that she owes her existence and her faith to God—and not to human work. This is basic revelation. Yet, it is a reality of the Church to be part of society and history. She is situated in both—the extra and the intra. (Maybe the notion of “inculturation” can be discussed—somewhere else, of course.) Vatican II recognizes this, and says that the Church also needs society to express her faith: “Since the Church has a visible and social structure as a sign of her unity in Christ, she can and ought to be enriched by the development of human social life, not that there is any lack in the constitution given her by Christ, but that she can understand it more penetratingly, express it better, and adjust it more successfully to our times” (Gaudium et spes 44).
24. The Church therefore is not outside time. She is “taken in” by history too. She is part of the life of society. As sacrament, she must be in the world. She is sign of the presence of God in the world. The objective of the Church is not to “look pretty”. She is not assembled so that she will center her life internally and exclusively. Remember that the Lumen Gentium is not the Church but Christ.
25. In the actual situation today—with the “crisis”—the Church may have to enter into a “Paschal experience”. We might need to move from “Church of power” to “weak Church”. We might need to move from “competitive Church” to “partner Church”. We might need to move from “intervening Church” to “Church of encounter”. We might need to move from “Church of number of members to “Church as sacrament”.
26. “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matt.5/13). Notice that for Jesus what is important is the saltiness of the salt and not the quantity of salt. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden” (Matt.5/14). For Jesus it is not a matter of how big the city is. What is important is that it is set on a mountain and can be seen.
27. The crucial question is not about the number of people. It is more about the dynamis of the Gospel. Is the Church a witness to that dynamism? Is the Church “sacrament” of Christ?
28. Still we might want concrete steps.
29. Remember that the Church is an assembly. It is a “community”—a “fraternity”. The “fraternal” must be set on a mountain and cannot be hidden. It must be salt of the earth.
30. Vatican II tells us:
“By divine institution Holy Church is ordered and governed with a wonderful diversity. ‘For just as in one body we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another’. Therefore, the chosen People of God is one: ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism’; sharing a common dignity as members from their regeneration in Christ, having the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection; possessing in common one salvation, one hope and one undivided charity. There is, therefore, in Christ and in the Church no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex, because ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all 'one' in Christ Jesus’ (Lumen Gentium 32). Note that passages in bold letters. Notice the “one-ness” in diversity…and that we are all in Christ.
31. This touches on Church life. We may ask about the dynamism of the Church. Ok, so we might ask about “parish life”. We might ask about the place of the diocese. We ask these because deeper than just locality and communication is the question of community living. In the heart of the different questions we have is the concern for the nearness of the Church to society. Society today may have so many references. Society today may have so many access to information and allows individuals to care for themselves in matters of faith and religion. But what society might need is the reference of community, fraternity, “belonginess” (taking inspiration from Jean Vanier).
32. Yes, the parish is important. The diocese is important. But they have to be signs of community and fraternity. Do we see this?
33. Yes, perhaps. Check these out:
There are new initiatives for a more vibrant liturgy—vibrant yet personal. So there is more “gospel sharing”. More “Taize” experiences. More biblical study. More “spiritual accompaniment”.
There is the emergence of small communities—fraternities. We can think of L’Arche, Faith and Light, Bread of Life, Taize, Heart’s Home, etc.
There is more place for Christian lay formation. It can be spiritual, theological, pastoral. That the laity is not isolated from the Church—this is crucial. Part of this is the association of the laity with the religious communities. More and more religious communities accept this. Before religious people were enclosed in their own activities and communities. Now many of them “enlarge” the scope of their “membership”. This not only helps the laity, it also awakens the religious to their own vocation.
Of course there is a renewal in scientific-theological study of the faith.
There is also reflection going on about communication. How can we communicate the faith to society? This is the work of teachers, catechists, media, etc. We are in a new form of cultural life—with internet, facebook, twitter, etc. How do we communicate through these? The Pope already has a twitter account.
34. Of course, we do our work…the Holy Spirit we see how to conclude it. The future depends on us. But in all humility and honesty, we recognize the mysterious movements of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows the crisis…
What is a diocese?
1. The word “diocese” is from the Greek that signifies “house administration” (Gr. dioikesis). Before, a long time ago during the Roman empire times, diocese meant the administration areas of the empire. So, originally it was not just a matter of religion and of the Church. In fact, “diocese” was a secular affair, to begin with.
2. Vatican II defined diocese as “particular Church”. We remember what we said early in this semester. The Church is “People of God”, “Body of Christ” and “Temple of the Holy Spirit”. The diocese is a
3. portion of the People of God. Yes, it may look like a territory with structures and hierarchy. But it is not just this. It is first of all a people. It is a people who are baptized. These are people who are disciples of Jesus and they live in a certain place. So, do not separate place from people.
4. Remember what we said about the Church as “sacrament”—she is sacrament of salvation and of the Kingdom. The diocese is an assembly that visibly manifests its faith. The baptized of a certain locality are gathered here.
5. Now, we need to look at the “universal Church”. The diocese is the “particular” Church while the whole Church is the universal Church.
6. Here in the universal Church we see the notion of our “Catholicity”. Let us look at what Vatican II says about this. Let us quote a long passage (from LG 13).
“All men are called to belong to the new people of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages, so that the decree of God's will may be fulfilled. In the beginning God made human nature one and decreed that all His children, scattered as they were, would finally be gathered together as one. It was for this purpose that God sent His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, that be might be teacher, king and priest of all, the head of the new and universal people of the sons of God. For this too God sent the Spirit of His Son as Lord and Life-giver. He it is who brings together the whole Church and each and every one of those who believe, and who is the well-spring of their unity in the teaching of the apostles and in fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers.
It follows that though there are many nations there is but one people of God, which takes its citizens from every race, making them citizens of a kingdom which is of a heavenly rather than of an earthly nature. All the faithful, scattered though they be throughout the world, are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit, and so, he who dwells in Rome knows that the people of India are his members". Since the kingdom of Christ is not of this world the Church or people of God in establishing that kingdom takes nothing away from the temporal welfare of any people. On the contrary it fosters and takes to itself, insofar as they are good, the ability, riches and customs in which the genius of each people expresses itself. Taking them to itself it purifies, strengthens, elevates and ennobles them. The Church in this is mindful that she must bring together the nations for that king to whom they were given as an inheritance, and to whose city they bring gifts and offerings. This characteristic of universality which adorns the people of God is a gift from the Lord Himself. By reason of it, the Catholic Church strives constantly and with due effect to bring all humanity and all its possessions back to its source In Christ, with Him as its head and united in His Spirit”.
7. Note what the document is saying. There is “the whole Church”. All humanity is, in principle, part of the whole Church. Everyone is called to be together under Christ. But then also, there is the Church of the baptized…the Church of believers. This assembly is called to bring all humanity together under Christ.
8. This more focused group—the Church of people assembled and baptized—make efforts to promote the Kingdom and the Church so all humanity be one.
9. The “universal Church” is, in a large sense, all humanity. But in a more focused sense it is the whole Church of the baptized members. She is called to announce redemption and the Kingdom to all humanity. So we have an idea of “Catholicity”. We are Catholic because we are oriented to the total whole. This also presupposes that, in a way, we are capable of bring all humanity to Christ. This too is one major meaning of “Catholic”. Look at the time of the Pentecost. The crowd we speaking in different languages but they were all one in understanding Peter and the Apostles. The Church, in her original time, was understood by all languages—as Pentecost showed.
10. The local—particular—Church, which is the diocese, is “Catholic” too. It is universal already in its particularity. So diocese is not just “the Church in a certain place”. It is the place of welcome—the place of opening up to the world within a certain locality of the world. People in a certain locality with their culture, language, politics, etc., are welcome into the universal Church thanks to the presence of this particular Church present here. Humanity is able to “meet God”, so to speak, in locality. The baptized recognize themselves as chosen by God, as visible presence of Christ and the Kingdom. The recognize themselves as those who open the doors of salvation and the Kingdom to all.
11. So the diocese is a particular Church with a cultural face. It is evidence that the Church is not separated from concrete humanity. The diocese—particular Church—is sensible to the joys and hopes and fears and anxieties of concrete people in concrete culture and tradition.
12. If the Church is implanted in the local culture, the Church is already fully present there. Let us read from Vatican II, from Ad Gentes 19.
13. “The work of planting the Church in a given human community reaches a certain goal when the congregation of the faithful already rooted in social life and somewhat conformed to the local culture, enjoys a certain firmness and stability. That is to say, it is already equipped with its own supple (perhaps still insufficient) of local priests, Religious, and lay men, and is endowed with these institutions and ministries which are necessary for leading and expanding the life of the people of God under the guidance of their own bishop”.
14. Notice what the document is saying. Where there are enough people and resources, under a bishop, then there is Church. This is the diocese. Here too is the sense of inculturation. The diocese is a clear example of inculturation.
15. The Church—in the diocese—is rooted in the particular human world. It is the human rootedness of the Church. Sure, there are ministries. There are personnel. Maybe the diocese is vibrant with many activities. Maybe the Bishop is fantastic and has a pleasant personality. Fine. But the specific mark of the diocese is the fact that the Church is relating to the human world in the concrete. The diocese shows how the Church is implanted there in the social, political, economic etc. conditions of people.
16. Basic in the diocese is the assembly of people of a locality/culture/ etc. and mission. The diocese is the doorway for humanity—people of this locality—to get to know Christ. So the diocese is on mission here in this locality. It is the whole Church on mission in this locality.
17. The Church is present here. Notice then that the particular is, itself, already universal. We say that a diocese “is a Church”. She received from Christ all that is necessary to be Church. She has received the fundamental elements that make a Church. She is, herself, a full Church. She is not a “part” of the whole universal Church. In the particular is already the universal. The diocese is not a cut piece of the whole Church. All the essential elements of the universal Church are already in the particular.
18. If we read St. Paul already we notice how he presents the particular. He would write: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth” (1Cor.1/1-2). The assembly in the locality is already the Church of God. Each diocese is full assembly of God’s people. The diocese incarnates the whole Church within this locality.
19. So the diocese is a full Church in communion with the whole universal Church.
20. How do we see the Church fullness of the diocese? In the diocese, says Vatican II, “…the faithful are gathered together by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the mystery of the Lord's Supper is celebrated, that by the food and blood of the Lord's body the whole brotherhood may be joined together.” (LG 26). Let us look at these three elements: the gospel is preached, the mass is celebrated and service to others is done. These are the three basic ecclesial structures. In more technical language they are “Gospel”, “Eucharist” and “Episcopal”. Each diocese is in communion with all other dioceses as each and everyone has these three. The universal Church is, in a sense, the communion of all the dioceses. (Of course we do not forget the Holy Spirit at work in the whole Church and in the diocese The Holy Spirit is the main agent of the Church).
21. The particular Church converges around the Gospel—she converges around the Word of God. The Word is now accomplished—he is present as Christ.
22. The Eucharist is the sacrament “par excellence” of the local Church. It is the memorial of what Christ has done. It is the breaking of the bread and the sharing of this living bread.
23. Then there is the “Episcopate”. There is the pastor of the diocese—the “bishop” who is partor in the name of Jesus. He is aides by the presbyterium or the group of ordained priests who share the ministry of caring for the sheep. Maybe there are the different councils—like the pastoral council, economic council, council for catechism, etc. These are diocesan services that coordinate, stimulate, animate the different dimensions of the diocese.
24. Let us mention longer the bishop—a man often, unfortunately, criticized. He is in-charge of the diocese. He is the main pastor. He has to see to it that the local Church is in unity and is fulfilling her mission. He is responsible for overseeing the internal communion of all the local Church. He must assure the celebration of the Eucharist and the preaching of the Gospel. Part of his work is to assure the “linkages”—the communion with—the other dioceses and, of course, with the Church of Rome. The Bishop participates in the “college” of Bishops presided by the Pope. In this “college”, each Bishop represents his diocese.
25. The Bishop is the main person in charge of the mission of the Church inside the locality. The gospel must be preached here—Christ must be made known. Well, as we insist, the Church is called to open the doors to all humanity. So the diocese has, as a central activity, the mission to do this. Announce the gospel to all people in this culture and place.
26. This is another sense of inculturation. Here is where we make clear the notion of territory. The diocese is in a territory of humanity. In this territory the Church—through the diocese—is on mission.
A Note on History: Church was not originally Papal centered
1. It may be interesting to note that during the very early times, a little bit during and after the apostolic times, the Church was still vigilant about the role of Bishops and the local Churches. The mentality and attitude of the very early Church—starting with the 1st century—were marked by differentiating the Apostles from the Bishops. Some apostles were alive but….slowly they were departing from this world. Soon they were not long dead. Memories were still fresh. The bishops were the more settled leaders of the Church. Christians gathered around their bishops for their Eucharistic lives. The apostles, on the other hand, were those who were travelling, preaching and establishing the different Churches.
2. In the very early times of Church history, there was a strong insistence on the local Churches which were becoming more and more stable. Eucharistic life locally manifested was so important. Bishops existed for the local Church, within the local Church. It was so necessary to have a bishop and priests responsible for Eucharistic life.
3. So really, the sense of centralized governance under the Pope as we see it today was not yet the main focus of the Church. We grew up with the idea of Church as having such a solid structure with a “headquarters” in Rome and everything revolves around Rome. No, this was not how it all started. Already, just read the Letters of Paul, we will notice how “local communities” were highly respected and central. Paul would always say, “to the Church of Christ in….”
4. Of course there was still the move to make the Church grow. Notice—if you remember your Church history—how the different smaller communities were re-grouping around “mother” communities. Today we might think of “prelatures” linked with a diocese….
5. Towards later period, especially when the Church became more linked with the Roman empire, things changed. Let us go to the 400’s AD. Although the Church was so linked with the empire, the empire was going down. The Church was experiencing challenges to her expansion and dogmatic controversies were rising. The Church was so challenged, many were attracted to the views of “heretics”. So there was Pope Leo the Great. He had to sustain the unity of the Church. He had to fight the heresies which seriously threatened church unity. There came a point when attacks were made also against Italy and Rome from “Barbars”—like Attila the Hun. In 455 the city was captured by the Vandals under Genseric. Pope Leo had to intercede, obtaining a promise that the city should not be destroyed and the people there will not be harmed. This induced high respect and authority on the pope and it would influence Church thinking in the future.
6. So if we read Pope Leo’s ideas, we see the sense of power and authority. Regarding rome, for example, he would say, “…the Divinely-planned work particularly required that many kingdoms should be leagued together under one empire, so that the preaching of the world might quickly reach to all people, when they were held beneath the rule of one state” (Sermon 82/II). What about the Pope, or Peter? The “most blessed Peter, chief of the Apostolic band, was appointed to the citadel of the Roman empire….” (82/III).
7. Later there was Pope Gregory the Great. He looked upon Church and Empire (which, at that time, was centered in Constantinople) as co-operating to form a unity. The Church was, for him, ecclesiastical and the Empire was secular. The pope and the emperor, each had his own “domain”. They had to be independent—but notice the status given to the Church. In terms of ecclesial domains, the Pope was the direct vicar of Peter, a “supreme Pontiff” a “King and Magistrate”. (Check your Church history…)
8. Let us take a look at another Pope, Pope Innocent III, this time of the 1100’s. This was the time when Islam was so influential. Jerusalem was captured by Muslims—and it meant, for the Pope, a weak moral leadership of the Church. This Pope organized lots of crusade. Then there were the princes of Europe who were interfering in the leadership of the Church. This Pope wanted to protect interests of the Church from outside influences. So he refused involvement of the princes. The Pope had, again, to be centralizing—all had to revolve around him. It was then important for him to assert that the Pope was a direct vicar of Christ.
9. Understand why we are, today, so “papal” in our Church practices. It is a result of history—and the inter-actions of the Church with the world around her. But keep in mind that the original life of the Church was more “inculturated”. It was more rooted in the local cultures of different territories. In other words, Church life was more on the “local”—diocesan—level.
The UNIVERSAL Church: Communion of PARTICULAR (LOCAL) Churches
1. Vatican II has really emphasized that the entire Church is really a body of particular-local Churches. A local Church is image of the whole Church. Here is what Vatican II says: “…particular churches, fashioned after the model of the universal Church, in and from which churches comes into being the one and only Catholic Church” (Lumen Gentium 23). Take not of the phrase “in and from”. The whole universal Church comes from the local churches while local churches are in the whole Church. If the Church is purely local, we lose the universality. If Church is purely universal, we become pyramidal and the Church becomes like a “super-organisation”. Local Churches are not satellites of Vatican. Better say that the Church is communion of all local Churches.
2. There is communion in faith and in the Eucharist. Each local Church is fully ecclesial and is in communion with other fully ecclesial Churches. Each local Church believes in the same Christ, each local Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, each local Church celebrates the same Eucharist, each local Church has the service of its Bishop who is in link with other Bishops.
3. Notice the importance of the Eucharist. Not only does it build a local Church it also makes it in-communion with other Churches. Thanks to the Eucharist we see the universal inside the local-particular.
4. Each local Church recognizes in other local Churches the assembly of God, the people of God. The local Church of Antipolo cannot say that the local Church of Saint Vila is not an assembly of God’s people. The local Church of Cubao cannot say that it is the only assembly of God’s people. When you go, from Marikina to Cubao and decide to hear mass in Cubao, you will not say that the mass in Cubao is “less official” or “less true” than the mass in MAPAC. Again, we repeat: each local Church has the same faith, same Eucharist, same mission, same Holy Spirit, same Gospel, same service. No local Church is Church in isolation.
5. Vatican II would say that each local Church represents the whole universal Church. “Since the particular church is bound to represent the universal Church as perfectly as possible, let it realize that it has been sent to those also who are living in the same territory with it, and who do not yet believe in Christ. By the life witness of each one of the faithful and of the whole community, let the particular church be a sign which points out Christ to others” (Ad Gentes 20). Each local Church must be aware of its universality. This is already present even in the New Testament. St. Paul would say “the Church of God in….”. The universal is in….
6. Now we need to ask: what happens to the Pope? What happens to his primacy? Pope Paul VI saw the issue. So he had to clarify the place of obedience. Ok, so there is communion among Churches but this “does not mean that the virtue of obedience is no longer operative. The right to command and the duty to obey must be present in any properly constituted society, especially in the Church which is structured on a sacred hierarchy. Its authority was established by Christ. It is His representative, the authoritative organ of His Word, the expression of His great pastoral love. Hence obedience has faith as its starting point. It is exercised in the school of evangelical humility. It is a participation in the wisdom, unity, idealism, and charity which are ruling factors in the corporate life of the Church. It confers upon him who commands and upon him who obeys the merit of being like Christ who ‘was made obedient even unto death’” (Ecclesiam suam 114).
7. Vatican II would also keep this in mind. The function of the Pope is still important. So Bishops are quite important, they are heads of the dioceses. But the power of the Bishop “is ultimately regulated by the supreme authority of the Church” (Lumen Gentium 27).This does not mean that the Bishop is a vicar of the Pope. No! But it also means that there is still a primacy given to the Pope.
8. To appreciate the primacy of the Pope, let us first be clear with communion. The Primacy of the Pope is situated within the communion of local Churches.
9. First, communion means co-responsibility. All members of the Church are incorporated in Christ. We said this before, the Church is “body of Christ”. So everyone is in Christ. This is not exclusive of the hierarchy. We are not absolutely dependent on the hierarchy. So even lay people are in Christ. The lay are also co-responsible for the mission of the Church. The lay have a role in servicing the Church. We see today that more and more lay people are engaged in Church responsibilities. Lay people are in the parishes and even in the higher diocesan levels. The are even like “pastors”, although not-ordained.
10. If lay are co-responsible, it implies the vocation of baptism. Any one of us baptised is, by virtue of being baptised, participant in the mission of Christ and the Church. Baptism makes us servicing. This is the sense of the “common priesthood” (see Lumen Gentium 10). Each baptised participates in the priesthood of Christ.
11. How then do we fit in the Pope? Well, the Pope continues to have authority, but it is a transformed authority. Place is given to the others—including the lay. With regards to co-responsibility, the role of the Pope is to stimulate this—stimulate the creative activities of the whole Church. Already this is appreciated by Vatican II. Each diocesan level is given the chance to have its creativity (See Lumen Gentium 23).
12. Second, communion means collegiality. Bishops for a “college”. The word college (from the Latin collegium) means a community or an organized society engaged in something common. The Bishops are organized as a “college”. They consult each other, they help each other. One example of Bishops getting together is the Synod. Vatican II would explain it. “Bishops chosen from various parts of the world, in ways and manners established or to be established by the Roman pontiff, render more effective assistance to the supreme pastor of the Church in a deliberative body which will be called by the proper name of Synod of Bishops. Since it shall be acting in the name of the entire Catholic episcopate, it will at the same time show that all the bishops in hierarchical communion partake of the solicitude for the universal Church” (Christus dominus 5) [See also Lumen Gentium 22]. Another example is the Conference of Bishops. Surely you have them in your countries.
13. Notice that the College is designed to help the Pope. The Pope is the head of the College. He functions in accordance with the College. Now, the Pope continues to have an independent authority. Here is what Vatican II says: “But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power” (Lumen Gentium 22).
14. This is open to many questions, of course. But we merit the Vatican II for giving place to the college. The whole Church is a collegiate communion with the Pope as “facilitator” and “animator”.
The Primacy of the Pope
(taking cue from J.M.R. Tillard, O.P.)
Memories from his lectures in class
1. What is principal for the Universal Church is not the personal primacy of the Pope. What is primary is the Church of Rome of which the Pope is the Bishop. The importance given to Rome is based on the fact that Peter and Paul sealed their faith there as martyrs. From the very early times of Church history, Rome has been recognized as the center of unity and the guardian of the authenticity of the faith transmitted by the Apostles—notably Peter and Paul. The function of watching over the faith has been what the Church of Rome, with its bishop, doing. It has been the main responsibility of the Church of Rome.
2. The Pope within Rome plays the same role as any bishop in the local Church. He is the Bishop of the diocese of Rome, so he is to be continually present to the Church of Rome. He is to be leader of that local Church.
3. Now, with respect to the universal Church—which is the communion of all dioceses, local Churches—the Church of Rome is the “watcher” of the memory of the Apostolic faith. The Church of Rome does this in service of all the other bishops. This is the service of the Church of Rome. The Church of Rome keeps memory of the Apostolic faith, reminding other bishops and dioceses the revelation and salvation of Christ as witnessed by the Apostles.
4. Each of us is in communion with the whole Church through our diocese and bishop. The diocese to which each of us belongs, and the bishop in it, are in communion with the whole Church. So, in principle, we are all in communion too with the Church of Rome, with the Pope as its bishop.
5. Ok, now our idea of the Pope and Rome seems to tell us that the primacy of the Pope is juridical and with the objective of keeping the unity of the whole universal Church. We forget the sense of “keeping the memory of the faith” and “communion”. We get stuck with the idea that the primacy is that of “juridical authority”. So the “ecclesiology” we are habitually keeping is a centralizing type of ecclesiology—as if we have to centralize all Church in Rome. The more we see the centralizing tendency, the less we get a sense of communion. The Church gets a less “evangelical” presentation. It looks as if the different local Churches are simply absorbed—and satellites—of Rome.
6. Communion recognizes differences and diversity. An excessive centralization tends to neglect this diversity. Unfortunately, this is how we may have been formed—we were formed to think of the Church as Roman-centralized Church. This discourages many elements of the local Churches…and it discourages ecumenism.
7. We need to re-view our ecclesiology. Keep in mind that the Church of Rome has her function. She watches over the deposit of Apostolic faith. This is beautiful and this is, in a way, a good sense of primacy. This needs to be emphasized more than the centralizing juridical sense of primacy.
8. Vatican II, with all its limitations, struggles to “decongest” the Church and re-focus again on the local-diocesan levels. Of course we can still ask ourselves if, so far, Vatican II has been effectively applied. Check your own experiences of your local Churches. What do you think?
Please review your Church history—especially the history of Pope Gregory the Great and Innocent III, among others. They have strongly centralized the Church of Rome and the Pope.
The Papacy and the Primacy of Peter
by Pedro Rodriguez
The Church's teaching about the authority and ministry of the Pope within the Church places, also by the express will of Christ, that authority and ministry at the very center of her hierarchical structure. The universal authority of the Roman Pontiff, witnessed to throughout the history of Christianity and proposed as a dogma of faith by the Council of Florence in 1439, was given a detailed dogmatic explanation by Vatican Council I in 1870 in its dogmatic constitution on the Church of Christ (Pastor aeternus). This document, in turn, was taken up and confirmed by Vatican Council II in 1964.
It is interesting to note that, before describing the content of this power and authority, Vatican I wished to underline its purpose and meaning in the Church according to the will of Christ. This authority exists so that 'the episcopate might be one and undivided and that the whole multitude of believers might be preserved in unity of faith and communion by means of a well-organized priesthood.' 'In order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided he (Christ) put Peter at the head of the other apostles, and in him set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and communion.'
Within this basic framework the Church has given her teaching on the primatial authority of the Roman Pontiff in three well defined points: 1. the institution of the primacy in the person of Peter the apostle, 2. the perpetuity of the primacy through the principle of succession, 3. the nature of this primatial power.
We will now study each of these three points in turn.
1. Institution of the primacy in the person of the apostle Peter
It is a matter of faith that the blessed apostle Peter 'was constituted by Christ the Lord as the prince of all the apostles and the visible head of the whole Church militant' and 'that he received immediately and directly from Jesus Christ our Lord not only a primacy of honor but a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction.' The Church affirms that this is witnessed to by 'the testimony of the gospel' and is the 'very clear teaching of the Holy Scriptures.'
The scriptural texts brought forward by the Council are the two following very well-known passages: a) this first is known as the 'text of the promise': Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah, because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father who is in heaven. And now I say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven_ (Matthew 16:16-18); b) the second is known as the 'fulfillment text': Feed my lambs, feed my sheep (John 21:15ff).
An analysis of other numerous texts of the New Testament would show what precisely was the will of Christ regarding the humble fisherman from Galilee, how Peter afterwards exercised his primacy, and how conscious the other apostles and the first Christians were that Simon was at the head of the mission which Christ had entrusted to them all.
For MAPAC focus:
a. Note that the Pope has the function of making sure there is unity in faith and communion.
b. This is something that comes from Christ. New Testament texts are supporting this view.
2. The successor of Peter: perpetuity of the primacy in the bishop of Rome.
As regards this point the dogmatic teaching of the Church runs as follows: 'It is according to the institution of Christ our Lord himself, that is, by divine law, that St. Peter has perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole Church' and that 'the Roman Pontiff is the successor of St. Peter in that primacy.'
What we saw earlier for the hierarchy if the Church in general we see again but this time applied to the Pope, namely, on the one hand the principle of succession as a truth of faith, and, on the other, the fact of the succession as it is found in the bishop of Rome. When speaking of the primacy of peter, Vatican I appealed to the texts of Holy Scripture which established it. Now, when speaking of the succession, the Council, and in this it will be followed almost a century later by Vatican II, proceeds not directly from Sacred Scripture but from the principle of indefectibility and perpetuity in the Church. Since by the will of Christ the Church has to last until the end of time so too must the principle and foundation of unity given by Christ last.
And so theology finds the succession in the primacy of Peter affirmed implicitly in the word of Christ to Simon (Matthew 16:16-18 & John 21:15ff).
Tradition gives the all important argument, namely the consciousness that the Church has always held that the primacy was preserved in the person of the bishop of Rome. As an example of this Tradition these words spoken by the Pope's legate at the Council of Ephesus in 431 will suffice: 'No one doubts; in fact, it is obvious to all ages that the holy and most blessed Peter, head and prince of the apostles, the pillar of faith, and the foundation of the Catholic Church received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the savior and redeemer of the human race. Nor does anyone doubt that the power of forgiving and retaining sins was also given to this same Peter who, in his successors, lives and exercises judgement even to this time and forever.'
As far back as the second century St. Irenaeus of Lyons, when studying the criteria for sound teaching had recourse to the apostolic succession and in particular 'to the great church, the oldest and best known of all, founded and established in Rome by the glorious apostles Peter and Paul ... All other churches ought to be in agreement with this church because of her more powerful authority ... for in her is preserved the tradition which comes from the apostles.'
For MAPAC focus:
a. Note that the function of the Pope must continue. This one main reason for “succession”.
b. This is something that comes from Christ.
c. The Church must be present till the end of time. She needs the central office of the Bishop of Rome.
3. The nature of the papal primacy
Chapter 3 of the dogmatic constitution on the Church of Vatican Council I (Pastor aeternus) is the principal document of the Magisterium about the content and nature of the primatial power of the Roman Pontiff. Chapter 4 is a development and defining of one particular characteristic of this primatial power, namely the Pope's supreme teaching authority, i.e. when the Pope speaks ex cathedra he teaches the doctrine of the faith infallibly. The Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff is one of the chief elements of his primatial authority.
A. Primacy of jurisdiction
The primacy spoken about by Vatican I is a primacy of jurisdiction. The word jurisdiction underlines the binding power of the authority which Christ has conferred on the Pope in the Church. It demands obedience of all the faithful. It is in opposition to a primacy of honor (Primus inter pares) and to a primacy of direction which might be endowed with the power of advising and guiding, but not with the power of commanding. The word, as is obvious, has its roots in judicial language. But what is defined by the Council transcends judicial categories and can be understood more fully in the light of the properties which the Council assigns to the primatial power of the Pope.
The Pope's power is
i) universal: it extends to the whole Church, i.e. to all the members of the Church (pastors and faithful) as to all the various matters which can arise;
ii) ordinary: it is not extraordinary, which would mean that it can be used only in exceptional circumstances; nor is it delegated, that is, it belongs inherently to the office of Pope and is not delegated to him by someone else;
iii) supreme: meaning that it is not subordinated to any other authority;
iv) full: it takes in all questions which might arise in the life of the Church, and does so from every point of view;
v) immediate: it need not be exercised through intermediaries and where necessary can have the most practical applications.
B. Bishop of the Catholic Church
The authority of the Pope is truly episcopal. This feature is very important because it connects the juridical terminology in which the aforementioned properties are expressed, with the sacramental and ministerial meaning which the term episcop‚ has in the New Testament. The Pope is indeed a bishop, and his power has an episcopal character and a pastoral purpose. It is not concerned with human or political matters but is rather a power for fulfilling the threefold mission of teaching, sanctifying and leading to God the flock of Christ. For this reason Pope Paul VI delighted in calling himself Bishop of the Catholic Church and under this title he signed the various documents of Vatican II. Undoubtedly he is bishop of Rome, and not of Dublin or Cologne, but as bishop of Rome he is also Pope, successor to Peter, and has, over all the Church (over all diocese and all members of the Church), the office which is proper to a bishop.
A study of this truly episcopal power is the simplest way of understanding more deeply the nature of papal authority. The apostle Peter, he who was charged by Christ with looking after the flock, is he who has the most vivid awareness that his ministry is to be a mere instrument in the hands of Christ, head of the Church. 'The primacy of Peter in leading and serving the Christian people was going to be a pastoral primacy, a primacy of love. The nature and efficacy of the pastoral function of the apostolic primacy would be based on the undying love of Peter for Jesus.' Accordingly it is Peter who encourages the shepherds of the Church to exercise their ministry with their eyes fixed on Christ, so that when the chief shepherd appears you will be given the crown of unfading glory (1 Peter 5:4). The work of bishops consists in making it easy for the faithful, and for all men, to turn, not to the shepherds of the Church, but to the shepherd and guardian of your souls (Christ) (1 Peter 2:25).
Christ is the Shepherd; Christ is the Bishop. This is Peter's message because when Jesus promised him the primacy Peter heard him speak of my Church, not your Church. All bishops, with Peter at their head, are vicars, that is, they take the place of Christ on earth. To enable them to fulfill their mission of service he conferred on them the necessary power.
C. Power and service of Peter
Frequently nowadays, and rightly so, because it is based on Scripture and Tradition, we speak of the mission of the Pope and the bishops as a ministry, as a service. Indeed, they are there to serve. 'The office which the Lord has committed to the pastors of his people is, in the strict sense of the term, a service, which is called very expressively in Sacred Scripture, a diakonia or ministry.' One of the titles proper to the Pope himself is 'servant of the servants of God.' The term service cannot be understood as a divesting themselves of the authority which is theirs by right, opposing service to power. That would be a most unbiblical and untraditional way of understanding the word ministry. The Pope and the bishops can only render to the Church the service God wants from them in they exercise their power, which is of divine origin and only they have. If they were not to use their power, they would be unable to serve; they would be of no use. Now all of us Christians ought to serve one another as Christ loved us and served us. But bishops, besides being counted among the faithful themselves, are pastors and must serve their brethren and children through the use of their pastoral power. Such service demands humility (The greatest among you must be your servant, Matt. 31:11) and fortitude (The Holy Spirit has made you overseers to feed the Church of God, Acts 20:28). St. Leo the Great, paraphrasing the words of Jesus, put it like this: 'You are a Rock, Simon. Rather, I am the unshakeable Rock, I am the Cornerstone which unites what was separated. I am the Foundation and no one can lay any other. And yet, you Simon, you also are a Rock because I am going to give you my strength, in such a way that by this sharing, the power which is only mine will be common to you and to me.'
D. Unity: reason for primacy
Vatican Council I affirmed that the authority of the Pope, and the resulting obligation to obey him, took in 'not only matters that pertain to the faith and morals, but also matters that pertain to discipline and government of the Church throughout the whole world.' It is what we call universal power (applicable, it is clearly understood, to ecclesiastical matters only). The power which the Pope receives from Christ has its own internal statutes and lays upon the successor of St. Peter a very grave moral obligation.
Earlier on I referred to this service on behalf of the unity of the Church. The Pope has a very wide power in order to be able to serve in a supreme way the unity of the Church. He must use his authority whenever it is required and in the way it is required so as to serve the unity of faith and communion in the Church. Not to use it could constitute a serious fault; and to hinder its exercise is to hinder the supreme way which Christ has instituted for keeping his Church one. On the other hand, if the Pope were to intervene with his supreme authority where it was not needed he would be making use of the power conferred on him by Christ in a way contrary to the meaning of that power which, in the whole Church, is for building up, not pulling down (2 Cor. 10:8) and is 'for us men and for our salvation.' In the ministry of the Pope to build up and save is to care for the unity of faith and of communion among pastors and faithful.
E. The Pope, Vicar of Christ
The primacy of the Pope is a mystery in the economy of salvation. And to this mystery belong those internal statutes just previously spoken about.
'In his chief ministry the Pope is obliged by the objective rules of faithfulness which derive from the revealed word of God, from the fundamental constitution of the Church and by Tradition.' He has the necessary divine assistance to carry out his office. But this does not relieve him of a very grave responsibility before Christ whom God has appointed to judge everyone, alive or dead (Acts 10:42). It demands of the holder of the office of bishop of the Catholic Church humility, prudence and holiness and of the faithful continual prayer to God for the head of the Church on earth.
However, and this is important, on earth there is no external tribunal, neither in the Church nor in civil society to which one can appeal against his decisions. The Pope must look for advice, take the steps which prudence demands in the delicate function of governing the Church, listen to the opinion of his brother bishops, etc., but 'the judgement of the apostolic See, whose authority is unsurpassed, is not subject to review by anyone, nor is anyone allowed to pass judgement on his decisions. Therefore, those who say that it is permitted to appeal to an ecumenical council from the decisions of the Roman Pontiff (as to an authority superior to the Roman Pontiff) are far from the straight path of truth.'
We reach here, perhaps, the nerve center of all teaching about the primacy. It is what most brings out the fact that we are faced with a 'mystery of faith' and not with 'an organizational factor' in the Church ascertainable by the natural light of human reason. But it also brings us to take our stance on what is the ultimate basis of the whole mystery, a basis which is centered on Christ himself. The basis of the primacy is, on the one hand, its historical institution by Christ, but on the other it is the actual presence today of Christ in the primatial acts of the Pope. 'The relation of the primacy to Christ is not only historical-causal, but also actual-causal, for in the activity of the Pope Christ himself is audible and visible. Of the Pope it can truly be said: he acts in the person of Christ.' With theological wisdom St. Catherine of Siena called the Pope the 'gentle Christ on earth' but at the same time, conscious of the moral responsibility of the Pope, she urged him to exercise with fortitude his 'service of unity' in the Church, that is to say, to be faithful to his most important mission.
From the time when St. Clement of Rome intervened in the affairs of the church of Corinth to re-establish peace in that troubled community down to our own days with its contemporary methods for governing the universal Church, the Roman Pontiffs have been the instruments willed by Christ for maintaining unity among the bishops and for keeping the multitude of the faithful, that is to say, the Church, in a unity of faith and communion. The ways of exercising the primacy have varied with time, but its substance does not change for it is immutable. Accordingly the primacy cannot be watered down in the wake of 'episcopalian' or 'democratic' ideals.
'When the Pope acts in virtue of his office he represents at one and the same time the whole Church and the entire body of bishops. But one cannot deduce from this that he receives his power from the community of believers or from the bishops. On the contrary, he receives it from Christ.' 'The Pope,' writes Cardinal Ratzinger, 'is not just someone who speaks in the name of the bishops, a kind of mouthpiece they give themselves and which is there to do their bidding. The Pope is where he is, with a direct responsibility before God, to take the place of the Lord, and to ensure the unity of the word and work of Christ, in the same way as Christ gave Peter that same function within the community of the Twelve.'
F. Unity of Christians around the Pope
On one occasion Pope Paul VI said that he viewed 'the charism of the primacy in the Church, given by Christ himself to Peter, whose humble successor I am, more as an office to be exercised than as a right.' This way of seeing things coincides with the attitude which Christians ought to have and which was expressed by Msgr. Escriv de Balaguer: Christians must 'work, not as subject to an authority, but with the piety of children, with the love of those who feel themselves to be and are members of the Body of Christ.' Behind this spirituality of love for the Pope lies the deep conviction that his authority cannot be done away with. 'Do not tire of preaching love and full obedience to the Holy Father. Even if his office had not been instituted by Jesus Christ my head tells me that a strong central authority -- that of the Holy See -- would be needed to induce those who are in disagreement with the Church and who blunder about to act reasonably. But over and beyond these logical reasons there is the will of God who has wanted to have a Vicar on earth and to assist him infallibly with his Holy Spirit.'
In the words of Pope Paul VI to the Council Fathers: 'If our apostolic office obliges us to put up signposts, to define terms, to lay down guidelines and modes for the exercise of episcopal power it is -- you know well -- for the good of the entire Church and for the unity of the Church. The need for guidelines and direction is all the more necessary as the catholic unity spreads, as she faces graver danger, as the needs of the Christian people become more pressing in different historical circumstances and, we could add, as the means of communication become more sophisticated.'
Behind the theology of the successor of Peter there is always the communion, the unity of the Church in the midst of her variety. According to divine revelation this is the formal meaning of the primacy of Peter: to be the perpetual and visible center and foundation of the community of Churches which is vivified by the Spirit of Christ. This is what, in a turbulent crisis of faith and unity, is felt by many who are outside the boat of Peter. Those of us who through the grace of God sail in Christ's boat have the grave responsibility not to defraud that hope.
For MAPAC focus:
a. There is the juridical role of the Pope. We cannot remove this—but we should not make it too central as “obsession”. Here is from where Tillard would raise his own questions.
b. The power of the Pope is episcopal. He is really Bishop—and Bishop of Rome. But, as Pope Paul VI would add, he becomes Bishop of the whole Church.
c. The episcopal role of the Pope is precisely to make sure there is unity of communion and faith.
d. This unity is, of course, centered on Christ. The Pope is said to be acting “in the person of Christ”. Again this can lead to many questions. Bishops too are vicars of Christ. We can be critical—in a healthy way—regarding this centrality of the Pope.
e. We should agree that the most basic—fundamental—role of the Pope is the visibility of the centrality of the Church. The Church is a community given life by the Holy Spirit. The Church needs a visible center—in the office of the Pope.
 Dz. 1307 (694)
 Dz. 3051 (1921)
 _Decree on the Church_, no.18
 Dz. 3055 (1823)
 Dz. 3053 (1822)
 Dz. 3054 (1822)
 Cf. for example L. Bouyer, _L'Eglise de Dieu, Corps de Christ, et Temple de l'Espirit_, Paris, 1970, pp. 460-468. 'The evangelists were convinced that the function of Peter in the early Church was in no way the result of an outstanding personality, but of a formal disposition of Christ and therefore, of a charism corresponding to a particular situation' (p.462)
 Dz. 3058 (1825)
 Cf. reference no.12
 D 112 and Dz. 3056 (1824)
 St. Irenaeus, _Adversus haereses_, III, 3, 2
 Dz. 3064 (1831)
 Dz. 3064 (1831)
 Vatican Council I, the theologians tell us, made this affirmation in a positive, not an exclusive way, for the episcopal college, with the Pope at its head, also has full and supreme power in the Church (cf. _Decree on the Church_, no.22) and in this sense has a power equal to the Pope's power
 Dz. 3060 (1827)
 The power of the Pope is not to be thought of as standing in the way of the power of the bishops, each in his own diocese; cf. Dz. 3061 (1827)
 Paul VI, _Address_ March 29. 1967
 _Decree on the Church_, no.24
 St. Leo the Great, _Sermon III on the Nativity_
 DZ. 3060 (1827)
 For this reason Vatican I affirmed the right of the Pope to communicate freely with the bishops and faithful of the whole Church, cf. Dz. 3062 (1829)
 Cardinal Seper, _Introductory address to the synod of bishops, 1969
 Dz. 3063 (1830)
 M. Schmaus, _Teologia Dogmatica, VI. La Iglesia_. Madrid, 1960, p.462
 G. Philips, "L'Eglise et son mystere au IIe Concile du Vatican_, Paris, 1967, 297
 J. Ratzinger, _Das neue Volk Gottes_, Dsseldorf 1969, p.169
 Paul VI, _Address_, Oct. 27, 1969, A.A.S. 61 (1969), p.728
 J. Escriv de Balaguer, 1965
 _Idem_, 1943
 Paul VI, _o.c._
Taken from THE PRIMACY OF THE POPE IN THE CHURCH
The Priest…and You, the Religious
1. Let us begin with the priest. Now we have said before that we are all priest. By virtue of baptism we participate in the priesthood of Christ. We all have a role in making the Church holy. But this time, when we say “priest” we specify the ordained priest.
2. The (ordained) priest—or “priest” for short—is minister. For many centuries this was understood to mean that someone went between God and the community. He was a person of “mediation” between God and people. The ordination was understood as a transmission of powers. The priest ministered to the Church by being apart from the community. The priest held a distant position in front of the community. The priest would be “outside” the community. He had “power” and “authority” granted by Christ.
3. The focus was on the person of the priest. What was important was the priest himself. He was very close to Christ—being given powers by Christ to minister to the community. So the “sacrament” of Holy Orders was quite a status. It was seen as a position—a status—and less as a “service”. Maybe a long time ago this was ok. The idea of the Church was very “Christo-centric”. It was not Trinitarian in perspective.
4. So priesthood was more “Christo-monistic”. “Monistic” would mean the Christ alone would be important—Christ and not the Trinity. It was a pyramid style of Church life. Power came from above—from Christ and the priest would minister given that power. So from above the priest would look down to the community. It was important for the priest to accomplish his power of ministry. Now, let us not be too quick in judging this negatively. It was just the way of thinking those days. The priesthood had so much importance—it was important in itself. It was not so much about the service to the community but simply by the fact of being a priest.
5. The priest held a vertical position—between God and people. He was “mediating”. Well, it was confusing actually. If the priest would “mediate” then it can imply the loss of God’s status. God would lose his “otherness” because now there is a priest who mediates. The priest would be like a “quasi-divine”.
6. The community also was put in a lower degree. The priest had power and authority—he was so central to the community. The “community initiative” would not have as much weight as the decisions of the priest.
7. This is why, for many centuries, the lay did not see itself as having a co-responsibility in the management of the Church. The lay would be defined as “non-priest”. Always, the importance was given to the priest.
8. But then, at the coming of Vatican II new and fresh reflections arose. We saw that for Vatican II the Church is sacrament of salvation and of the Kingdom. As sacrament the Church in her entirety has the role of showing to the world the message of Christ and his liberation for all. Notice: the whole Church.
9. We also saw that for Vatican II the church is “communion”. Communion, we said, implies co-responsibility and collegiality. This moves us out of the focus on institutional life and structures and move more into service. The whole Church is in service of the Gospel and the Kingdom. So why focus on “who is the boss” when everyone is co-responsible. Notice: less on structures and more on service. At the start of the semester we said that the “pneumatological” aspect of the Trinity has a place in the mystery of the Church. The dynamism of the Holy Spirit makes the Church move—and not get caught in simply institutionalizing. Now we have a better glimpse of this.
10. Because Church is communion with co-responsibility of all members, the Church will have to be organized with different services. One service is that of the ministry of the priest. All have a common mission in society—and the priest has his role. All are “People of God”…”Body of Christ”…”Temple of the Holy Spirit”.
11. Vatican II relied on New Testament revelation. Let us check it out: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one” (1Cor.12/4-6). We all have gifts given to us. We have roles to play—using the gifts given to us. Remember the Pentecost when the group were in hiding in the room. Then we saw Peter step forward to talk to the crowd after the “fires”. It was the role of Peter to do that. In Acts we read about choosing seven men for a function. We read: “Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty” (Act6/3). Note: appoint to this duty.
12. Sure, we are “Body of Christ”. Even this Christological ecclesiology allows for each part having its role. Vatican II sees this. The Church is the whole assembly together with the minister priests. There are “some” among the “all”. If there is Peter, there is also the whole assembly. Vatican II would state it: “Whence the duty that lies on the Church of spreading the faith and the salvation of Christ, not only in virtue of the express command which was inherited from the Apostles by the order of bishops, assisted by the priests, together with the successor of Peter and supreme shepherd of the Church, but also in virtue of that life which flows from Christ into His members” (Ad gentes 5). Christ is the center and life flows from him to all members…not just to ministers.
13. Review your Church history. Notice that it was common practice in the old times that the Bishop was ordained only after consulting the whole diocese. (Of course the “diocese” was quite small then.) “Some” became ministers—like priests and bishops—but they were from “all” and with all. There was no monopoly of powers. Everyone had a role to play.
14. Now, when do you come in—the religious? There is a word we can look at: charism. The Church is given gifts by the Holy Spirit. So in principle everyone has a “gift”—a “charism”—to exercise in the Church. Before we even talk of “ministerial” service, remember that the Church is already charismatic. Vatican II has this to say: “It is not only through the sacraments and the ministries of the Church that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues, but, "allotting his gifts to everyone according as He wills, He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts He makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and offices which contribute toward the renewal and building up of the Church, according to the words of the Apostle: "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit” (Lumen gentium 12).
15. Note what the document states. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to every member of every rank. Thanks to the gifts each and every single member can contribute to the life of the Church. This is not new for you. You say the office every morning, and you start the office with the prayer to the Holy Spirit: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus”…” Veni, Creator Spiritus”. We pray that the Holy Spirit fills us up!
16. It is always for the good of the person and the Church that the Holy Spirit offers gifts (see 1 Cor.12/7). We have the gifts and we express them for the good of the community together with the ministers. Vatican II has this to say: “From the acceptance of these charisms, including those which are more elementary, there arise for each believer the right and duty to use them in the Church and in the world for the good of men and the building up of the Church, in the freedom of the Holy Spirit who "breathes where He wills" (John 3:8). This should be done by the laity in communion with their brothers in Christ, especially with their pastors who must make a judgment about the true nature and proper use of these gifts not to extinguish the Spirit but to test all things and hold for what is good (cf. 1 Thess. 5:12,19,21)” (Apostololicam actuositatem 5).
17. Each and every member of the Church is “charismatic”. St. Paul himself asserts this: “But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1Cor.7/7). St. Peter himself had this to say: “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace” (1Pet4/10). Again: each has a gift. Each is gifted!
18. Gifts are many. “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues” (1Cor.12/28). No one has the monopoly of charisms—no has it all! “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?” (1Cor.12/29). [What is your personal charism?]
19. Remember: charism is always related to the Church. It is in view of the good of the Church (see 1Cor.12/7; 1Cor.14/12; Eph4/12). The Holy Spirit distributes gifts for the different services of the Church (see Lumen gentium 7). The “charism of all charisms” is of course love. St. Paul said this in 1Cor13. Let us be careful. This does not mean that love is enough. What it means is that without love no charism will make sense.
20. Let us not forget too that charism is “grace”—that is, it is from God. This is something we may need to deepen. We cannot say, “It is my gift….I made it, I developed it”. No. Theologically charism is from God. So God—or more specifically the Holy Spirit—gives gifts to all. The ordained ministry should not be an obstacle to this. (Is it not true that many say that “the priesthood” is “better”? So many young men choose to become ordained ministers even if they have gifts for other services!).
21. Now we talk of religious life—or “consecrated life” in general. Consecrated life is charismatic. It is not situated in ministerial-ecclesial responsibility. It is a personal choice of the person to be in an institute and to participate in the charism of that institute. Consecrated life is a “state of life” and not a “ministerial function”.
22. Vatican II says it: “Indeed through Baptism a person dies to sin and is consecrated to God. However, in order that he may be capable of deriving more abundant fruit from this baptismal grace, he intends, by the profession of the evangelical counsels in the Church, to free himself from those obstacles, which might draw him away from the fervor of charity and the perfection of divine worship. By his profession of the evangelical counsels, then, he is more intimately consecrated to divine service. This consecration will be the more perfect, in as much as the indissoluble bond of the union of Christ and His bride, the Church, is represented by firm and more stable bonds” (Lumen gentium 44). Note that all baptized are consecrated to God. But you are more “intense” and more “consecrated”. Unlike the other baptized, you do your best to free yourself. You make yourself more available to charity and service to God.
23. The religious—like you, surely—take discipleship seriously. You follow Christ all the way through your vows. Your founder/foundress has had an experience of the Holy Spirit giving him/her gifts. These gifts are then put in a more stable manner—through “congregation”.
24. Religious life—consecrated life—does not concern the structures of the Church—not for the maintenance of the structures. This does not mean you, religious, are separated from the Church and her structures. It is not just your “job”. Reliigous life is not necessary for the structures of the through your state of life. Through your way of life you show the world that there is hope in the midst of all struggles and difficulties. As Timothy Radcliff would say, you are “citizens of the Kingdom”. When people see you they see what it means to live the Kingdom.
25. Ordained ministers might be very “external” in their work—they function as ministers. They need to deepen their bonds with Christ and be more engaged as disciples…not just as “functionaries”. Your state of life bears witness to them—the priests—how to live a disciple of Christ.
26. One final point must be said. We are not separating charismatic from ministerial. Ministry is itself a gift—a charism. The Holy Spirit guides the Church also through the ordained ministry. “He both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with His fruits” (Lumen gentium 4). It is just that the ordained ministry is focused on servicing the structures of the Church—making sure that the Church stays holy and “toes the Apostolic line”.
27. This is where we can appreciate the notion of “ordination”. It is a sacrament that tells the priest he is “in-charge” of a specific work. During ordination the Holy Spirit is called while hands are laid on the ordinand. Of course we cannot read the whole Vatican document of Presbyterorum ordinis, but check out #2 and #12. This charge given to the ordained priest is serious—he is to keep the Apostolic teaching intact within the Church.
28. So do you see why the priesthood is not “Christo-monist” but pneumatological? Do you see also where to situate your consecration in the Church? Surely you can say more than what we discuss here—given your years of formation. Share!
Let us continue with “priest”
1. We said that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to all members of the Church. So you religious people are “more charismatic”…and “less ministerial”. But ministry is also a gift of the Holy Spirit. Among the many gifts, ministry is one of them. Priests are working more for the structures of the Church. You religious people focus on other things.
2. If we talk of members of the Church, we can talk of the whole Church. The Church has the mission of showing the world what the love of God is—the “Kingdom”. So the whole Church has a ministry to the world. St. Paul would say: “And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry…” (Eph.4/11-12). So the whole Church must be helped and formed for the ministry of every one to the world.
3. Responsibility is co-responsibility, we said. This is part of the Church as “communion”. We are all co-responsible for our ministering to the world. All baptized are implicated in the mission. Vatican II itself emphasizes this: the Church may have many ministries but she has one mission. Let us look at two passages:
4. “The Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God the Father, to enable all men to share in His saving redemption, and that through them the whole world might enter into a relationship with Christ. All activity of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of this goal is called the apostolate, which the Church carries on in various ways through all her members. … In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a oneness of mission. Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But the laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God in the Church and in the world” (Apostolicum actuositatem 2). “Now, in order to plant the Church and to make the Christian community grow, various ministries are needed, which are raised up by divine calling from the midst of the faithful congregation, and are to be carefully fostered and tended to by all. Among these are the offices of priests, of deacons, and of catechists, and Catholic action. Religious men and women likewise, by their prayers and by their active work, play an indispensable role in rooting and strengthening the Kingdom of Christ in souls, and in causing it to be spread” (Ad gentes 15).
5. Priests and religious and the laity revolve around the Church who is on mission in the world. The Church revolves around Christ. We all turn around Christ. We may need to emphasize this AGAIN AND AGAIN—just so as to correct some practices. We revolve around Christ and not around the priest. In a way this liberates everyone—there is no need, for example, for the priest to be in the anguish of sitting on a throne. He is not the only one nearest to Christ. We are all nearest to Christ.
6. In the New Testament there was only one word to refer to service and ministry: diakonia. But in the course of time the word “ministry” became a part of our vocabulary. This word had fluctuating meanings. But today, if we try to define it well, it implicates the function of the priest within the Church and the function of the whole Church to the world. Priests are ordained. So their ministry is ordained ministry. The laity, by birtue of baptism, is minister to the world. So technically all of us are ministers not from the command of the priest but from the sacrament of baptism. This has heavy implications. The laity can—and must—assume a role even if not yet told by the priest. The whole Church herself needs to review this. She is challenged to open up more to the diversification of ministries and services. She needs to “empower”, especially the laity. Luckily, we see this happening here and there.
7. Now we can try to clarify more the place of the (ordained) priest. For Vatican II, the ordained priest is “representative” of Christ. Let us look at some passages.
8. “…priests are called to prolong the presence of Christ, the one high priest, embodying his way of life and making him visible in the midst of the flock entrusted to their care. … In the Church and on behalf of the Church, priests are a sacramental representation of Jesus Christ - the head and shepherd…. The priest's fundamental relationship is to Jesus Christ, head and shepherd. Indeed, the priest participates in a specific and authoritative way in the ‘consecration/anointing’ and in the ‘mission’ of Christ (cf. Lk. 4:18-19). But intimately linked to this relationship is the priest's relationship with the Church. … The priest's relation to the Church is inscribed in the very relation which the priest has to Christ, such that the ‘sacramental representation’ to Christ serves as the basis and inspiration for the relation of the priest to the Church” (Pastores dabo vobis [by JPII] 15 and 16).
9. Notice that the priest has a sacramental work—to make Christ visible. This is not just a link he has with Christ but is a service to the Church. He represents Christ in the community. In the older times, the priest was “another Christ”. Now, he is “representative”—or “sacramental representation”. To be “another Christ” (alter Christus) is to identify the priest with Christ. They are almost one and the same. To say he is “representative” means that he is “sacrament”—a sign and servant—of the initiative of Christ. He represents the ministry of Christ. How does he do it?
10. One, by servicing the faith. The priest makes sure that the members of the Church continue to “toe the line” of the faith. That the members of the community do not go to all directions. The priest sustains the apostolic faith within the community. (So we see why they have to have a long formation in theology in seminaries).
11. Two, by servicing with the sacraments. This is clear. Among all members of the Church, the priest is the one who is given the ministry of the sacraments—notably the Eucharist. This is the servie of the priest and it helps sustain the holiness of the members of the Church.
12. Three, by servicing to the communion of the community. The priest is “pastor”. He is pastor of the parish and the diocese. This is the pastoral ministry of the priest. He is focused on sustaining the communion aspect of the members of the Church. It is his work.
13. We need to keep in mind that the emphasis is on the ministry and not the person of the priest. Priest has a role in the Church. He accentuates the visibility of Christ. When we approach a priest we do not approach a very special person with some kind of “aura” demanding our bowing down and kissing whatever ring. If ever we do this, it is not because this man in front of us has become “someone-else- special-unlike-us”. We give due respect by virtue of the fact that he has a job—a ministry, a service—to the community. If we like to kiss the ring, we do not kiss the ring of the man but the ring of his ministry (…this is just a personal opinion of your teacher). This liberates all of us. We can re-focus on our roles in the Church.
Thesis sheet for Church Social Doctrine: for Oral Exam
1. The rule of law means that there are certain principles higher than the usual laws of the country. The oath of the president is one proof of higher principles.
2. The Church can engage in politics. But not everyone in the Church can engage in political activities, like having roles in elections. Political engagement is a task belong to some members of the Church, the laity.
3. In the economic world today, the Market is free. But the Church also says that government should have an important role. The government can enter into economic activities.
4. Business is focused on making money, on making profit, on “maximizing returns of investments”. Yet, for the Church, business is also about “persons”. So it is ok to make profit, but profit has a limit.
5. In the Social Doctrine of the Church, there are some basic principles. We mention the following: a. Common good, b. Universal Destination of goods, c. Solidarity and d. Subsidiarity.
6. The ecological problem can be attributed to human failure to deal with the environment. For the Church, the human “dominates” nature not abusively but according to the plan of God.
7. The secular world says it is impossible to control sexual impulses. This opens the door to contraception. The contraceptive mentality opens doors to married life of not sharing. It can also promote abortion. The Church believes in controlling the sexual impulse and therefore she promotes natural family planning.
Thesis sheet for Theology of the Church (Ecclesiology): for Oral Exam
1. The Church is an assembly. The life passion death and resurrection of Christ motivated the founding of the Church. The disciples were called by Christ to discipleship. They were impressed by Christ they were willing to continue his mission.
2. The Church is Trinitarian. She is assembled by the Father. She is instituted by the Son. She is made Holy and dynamic by the Holy Spirit. Structurally the Church is “People of God”. She is “Body of Christ”. She is “Temple of the Holy Spirit”.
3. The Pneumatological aspect of the Church complements the Christological aspect. Thanks to the Pneumatological aspect, the Church is not stuck with structures and institutions. She is dynamic and on the move.
4. The Church is Holy even if it is not an assembly of holy people. It is the work of members of the Church—like the religious—to give credibility to this holiness.
5. The Church is Sacrament. She is sacrament of salvation. She is sacrament of the Kingdom.
6. The diocese, or local Church, is given a clearer role in the Church. This is because the Church is “in communion”. The universal Church is composed on local Churches.
7. We revolve around the Church and the Church revolves around Christ. This is different from the usual idea that we revolve around the ordained priest. The priest is a “sacramental representative” of Christ. Each member of the Church has a role. Taking care of the Church is not monopolized by the ordained priest.
8. The Pope keeps his Primacy. It is a collegial primacy.
9. The religious life and consecrated life are more “charismatic” than “institutional”. The priest has the charism of institutional ministry.