The Church As Communion And Mission

After presenting the teaching on the Church's nature and mission that Vatican I and II expounded, we want to conclude this chapter by drawing

211 See also in Ch. 1 above how Jan van Eyck (and other artists) understood Mary, even at the Annunciation, to be the archetype of the whole Church.

on the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. The former expresses belief in 'the communion of saints' and the latter calls the Church 'one, holy, catholic, and apostolic'—the four traditional marks of the Church of which the Apostles' Creed mentions only two (holy and catholic).

We noted in Ch. 6 what the communion of saints entails: a fellowship in Christian life with all the baptized, both still living and already dead, and with God. Such fellowship, created by union in the risen Christ and through the Holy Spirit with God the Father, extends to all the members of the Church, who by their baptism share in Christ's 'office' as priest, prophet, and king.

This communion makes the Church to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic: one and holy in itself, catholic and apostolic in its missionary outreach. The basis of such unity is the Trinity, as the Letter to the Ephesians makes clear when it speaks of 'one body and one Spirit', 'one Lord [Jesus Christ], one faith, one baptism, [and] one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all' (4: 4—6). Two centuries later St Cyprian of Carthage eloquently witnessed to the oneness of the Church by using the images of rays from the sun, branches from a tree, streams from a fountain, and children born from a mother:

Separate a ray of the sun from the body of light, its unity does not allow a division of light; break a branch from a tree, and when broken, it will not be able to bud; cut off the stream from its fountain, and that which is cut off dries up. Thus also the Church, illuminated with the light of the Lord, sheds her rays over the whole world, yet it is one light which is diffused everywhere.Her fruitful abundance spreads her branches over the whole world. She broadly expands her rivers, which flow liberally, yet her head is one, her source one. She is one Mother, plentiful in the results of fruitfulness: from her womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, by her Spirit we are animated. (De Catholicae Ecclesiae Unitate, 5)

The fruitful holiness cherished by Cyprian brings us to the second mark of the Church.

Through their baptism believers receive from Christ and the Holy Spirit a radical holiness (e.g. 1 Cor. 6: 11), which will be nourished, above all through the Eucharist. Hence St Paul addressed his communities, despite their blatant sins, as 'holy ones' or those 'called to be holy ones' (e.g. 1 Cor. 1: 2; 2 Cor. 1:1). They are called to the fullness of life and true wholeness or the complete fulfilment of the purpose for their existence. The Spirit of God aims to make the entire Church community one holy temple of God, with its members sharing the divine life through grace and the sacraments (Chs. 6 and 7 above, respectively). Divinization means taking part in the holiness of God, the absolutely Holy One (Isa. 6: 3, 5). Bishop John Zizioulas (b. 1931) clarifies attractively that free collaboration in what the Holy Spirit does for our full sanctification:

In a christological perspective alone we can speak of the Church as instituted (by Christ), but in a pneumatological perspective we have to speak of it as constituted (by the Spirit). Christ institutes and the Spirit constitutes... The 'institution' is something presented to us as a fact, more or less a fait accompli. As such it is a provocation to our freedom. The 'con-stitution' is something that involves us in its very being, something we accept freely, because we take part in its emergence.212

The 'instituting' Christ and the 'constituting' Spirit have a universal mission; that moves us to the third mark of the Church.

The very first paragraph of this book quoted St Augustine's words about 'the unity of all peoples' in the worldwide Catholic Church. 'Catholicity' or 'universality' points to the all-embracing character of the Church which, through her missionary proclamation, has gathered into one People of God those of different races, languages, and cultures (Lumen Gentium, 13). At services held in great cathedrals we can sometimes see this all-embracing character of the Church right before our eyes. Catholics have come from different continents to share in the same Eucharist. On Easter Sunday in Rome television cameras let the same mark of the Church come through: when they move from one face to another in a vast crowd gathered in St Peter's Square, they show the worldwide nature of Catholicism.

Catholicity indicates the all-embracing character of the Church around the world, a characteristic in space to be matched in the passage of time by the fourth and final mark, apostolicity. This points to the essential identity between the faith and practice lived and proclaimed by the present Church and by the Church founded by Christ and his apostles. Apostolicity claims an unbroken continuity in life and mission between the Church today and that of the first century. The First Eucharistic Prayer or Roman Canon cites this mark when it speaks of 'the faith that comes to us from the apostles'. Often enough apostolicity is presented in terms of the continuity between the ministry of Catholic bishops today and that of

212 Being and Communion. Studies in Personhood and the Church (New York: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1985), 140.

the apostolic leaders at the birth of Christianity. Certainly the college of bishops constitutes a visible sign of succession in apostolic faith and life. But the apostolicity of the Church should not be reduced to episcopal succession or the unbroken transmission through time of ordained ministers who visibly embody the Church's fidelity to its origins. All the baptized share in the role of maintaining apostolic succession or fundamental continuity in faith, practice, and mission with previous generations of Catholics and, especially, with the normative Church of the first century founded by Christ and his apostles.213

Such then is our concluding account of communion and mission in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Once again let us add that many of the themes enunciated in this chapter, while distinctively Catholic, are not alleged to be uniquely so. We wished to make that point by citing John Zizioulas, a Greek Orthodox bishop. The following three chapters will fill out our vision of the life and characteristics of the Catholic Church.

213 On the marks of the Church and related themes see W. Henn, Church (London: Continuum, forthcoming); P. C. Phan (ed.), The Gift of the Church: A Textbook on Ecclesiology in Honor of Patrick Granifield, O.S.B. (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2000); F. A. Sullivan, The Church We Believe In: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic (New York: Paulist Press, 1988); id., Magisterium: Teaching Authority in the Catholic Church (New York: Paulist Press, 1983).

9 Catholic Moral Life and Teaching

Special attention needs to be given to the perfecting of moral theology. Its scientific exposition should be more thoroughly nourished by the teaching of Holy Scripture (Vatican II, Optatam Totius (on priestly formation))

I have been an optimist all my life, trusting in reason, man's natural intelligence, and his conscience. (Julian Huxley, Memories II)

In Germany they came first for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me—and by that time no one was left to speak up. (Martin Niemöller, John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations)

Previous chapters have highlighted the dignity of all human beings, created in the divine image and likeness (Ch. 5), enabled by Christ's grace and the power of the Spirit to share in the life of God, and called to eternal glory beyond death (Ch. 6). Catholics (and other Christians) are consecrated and nourished by the sacraments (Ch. 7) and by their communion in the Church's life and worship (Ch. 8). How then should Catholics (and other Christians) behave? What principles should guide their moral life and decision-making? How should the holiness with which they have been blessed express itself in their daily existence?

We wish to recall first the development of moral teaching in the Catholic Church, paying particular attention to three seismic shifts that have taken place in teaching and practice about usury, torture, and slavery. Against that background, we will dedicate the central part of the chapter to some distinctive Catholic moral convictions: about respect for life, the sexual order, truth, justice, care for the needy, human dignity, and human rights.

0 0

Post a comment