Thursday, November 18, 2010

Makings of A Meditation on the Church

The Church of Christ is the Subject “I” of the Incarnate Logos Who subsists in the historical Catholic Church. Consider: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”(Acts 9, 4).

“Subsist” is the verb indicating that a subject is exercising existence as “His” act. “Is” is the verb indicating the act of existence of an objectified reality. Subsisting is the action of a person exercising existence as “protagonist.” Persons subsist. Things are.

Therefore, Christ subsists in the Catholic Church while there are elements of sanctification of that Church outside the confines of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the space in which Christ subsists. Christ, as this individual who is God-man, is not the Church. He is its Head. The Church as this individual Communion is the Body of Christ. Christ as Head, and the Body as this Communion form the Whole Christ.”

Indeed, Jesus Christ continues his presence and his work of salvation in the Church and by means of the Church (cf. Col 1:24-27), which is his body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-13, 27; Col 1:18). And thus, just as the head and members of a living body, though not identical, are inseparable, so too Christ and the Church can neither be confused nor separated, and constitute a single “whole Christ”.[1]

The Church is the Word of God: Therefore, the Church is the center of reality. As the Word of God is reality, the Church as the Whole Christ is reality.

the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our idea that matter, solid things, things we can touch, are the more solid, the more certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one's life: sand and rock. The one who builds on sand builds only on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will pass away. We can see this now with the fall of large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. The one who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is the one who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is the one who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life.”[2]

2) Address of Benedict XVI on the Theotokos and Christ Building His Body: “In reality, Theotókos is a courageous title. A woman is the Mother of God. One could say: how is this possible? God is eternal, he is the Creator. We are creatures, we are in time: how could a human being be the Mother of God, of the Eternal One, since we are all in time, we are all creatures? Therefore one can understand that there was some strong opposition, in part, to this term. The Nestorians used to say: one can speak about Christotókos, yes, but Theotókos no: Theós, God, is beyond, above the events of history. But the Council decided this, and thus enlightened the adventure of God, the greatness of what he has done for us. God did not remain in Himself: he came out of himself, He united himself so closely, so radically to this man, Jesus, that this man Jesus is God, and if we speak about Him, we can also speak always about God. Not only was a man born who had something to do with God, but in Him was born God on earth. God came from himself. But we could also say the opposite: God drew us to Himself, so that we are no longer outside of God, but we are within the intimate, the intimacy of God Himself.”

And Now, the Building of the Body: “With the Incarnation, with the event of the Theotókos, this radically changed, because God drew us into Himself and God in Himself is the relationship and allows us to participate in His interior relationship. Thus we are in His being Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are within His being in relationship, we are in relationship with Him and He truly created a relationship with us. At that moment, God wished to be born from woman and to remain Himself always: this is the great event. And thus we can understand the depth of the act of Pope John, who entrusted the Council, the Synodal Assembly to the central mystery, to the Mother of God who is drawn by the Lord into Himself, and thus all of us with Her.”

“The Council began with the icon of the Theotókos. Upon its closure, Pope Paul VI recognized Our Lady with the title of Mater Ecclesiae. And these two icons, which begin and end the Council, are intrinsically linked, and are, in the end, a single icon because Christ was not born like any other individual. He was born to create a body for Himself: He was born as John says in Chapter 12 of his Gospel to attract all to Him and in Him. He was born as it says in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians to deliver the whole world. He was born as the firstborn of many brothers. He was born to unite the cosmos in Him, so that He is the Head of a great Body. Where Christ is born, the movement of recapitulation begins, the moment of the calling begins, of construction of his Body, of the Holy Church. The Mother of Theós, the Mother of God, is the Mother of the Church, because she is the Mother of the One who came to unite all in His resurrected Body.”

John 12, 32 is the text that St. Josemaria Escriva heard during the Mass of 8/7/31: “and when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself” and he understood that this would be achieved not by being taken out of the world, but by converting into Christ Himself. That is, as each one is converted into “ipse Christus,” – and since Christ is the Kingdom of God in Person, and since the Mission of the Church is to engender Christ sacramentally and implement it by the historical living out of the Sacrifice of the Mass, and therefore to produce the Kingdom – then the Church must be as universal as the Kingdom, though not identical with it.

3) Is There Salvation Outside the Church? No and Yes.


Israel’s Passover was and is a family celebration. It was celebrated in the home, not in the Temple. In the history of the foundation of the People of Israel, in Exodus (12, 1-14), it is the home which is the locus of salvation and refuge in that night of darkness in which the Angel of Death walked abroad. For Egypt, in contrast, that night spelled the power of death, of destruction, of chaos, things that continually rise up from the deep places of the world and of man, threatening to wreck the good creation and reduce the world to an uninhabitable wilderness. In this situation it is the home, the family, which provides protection; in other words, the world always needs to be defended against chaos, creation always needs shielding and recreating….

“In the time of Jesus, too, Passover was celebrated in the homes and in families, following the slaughter of the lambs in the Temple. A regulation forbade anyone to leave the city of Jerusalem in the night of the Passover. The entire city was felt to be the locus of salvation over against the chaotic night. Its walls the rampart protecting the creation. Israel had to make a pilgrimage, as it were, to the city every year at Passover in order to ret urn to its origins, to be recreated and to experience once again its rescue, liberation and foundation…

“Jesus too celebrated the Passover according to these prescriptions, at home with his family; that is to say, doing so he was observing a current rule which permitted pilgrims who were traveling to Jerusalem to form companies, the so-called habhuroth, who would constitute a family, a Passover unity, for this night. That is how Passover became a Christian feast. We are Christ’s habhura, his family formed of his pilgrim company, of the friends who accompany him along the path of the gospel through the terra in of history. Companions of his pilgrimage, we constitute Christ’s house; thus, the Church is the new family, the new city, and for us she signifies all that Jerusalem was – that living home which banishes the powers of the chaos and makes an area of peace, which upholds both creation and us. The Church is the new city by being the family of Jesus, the living Jerusalem, and her faith is the rampart and wall against the chaotic world. Her ramparts are strengthened by the blood of the true Lamb, Jesus Christ, that is, by love which goes to the very end and which is endless…”[3]


As Jesus Christ subsists in the historical Catholic Church making it the one true Church which alone can save, so also there are “elements” of salvation outside the Catholic Church, such as Scripture, Sacraments (Baptism), preaching, etc. Lumen Gentium #8 reads: “This Church, [of Christ] constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity.”


[1] Cf. St. Augustine, Enarratio in Psalmos, Ps. 90, Sermo 2,1: CCSL 39, 1266; St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Iob, Praefatio, 6, 14: PL 75, 525; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, q. 48, a. 2 ad 1.

[2] Benedict XVI, Address, “Synod on the Word of God,” October 6, 2008.

[3] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 103-105.

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