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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Saturday, 26 February 2011

Christ, in Heaven: the Fount of Unity



The monastic order is not an organization nor a campaign nor a sect. There is a unity, a family likeness among monasteries and monks and nuns; but it is not imposed from without nor is it brought about by social contacts among monastics. It is a unity brought about by our search for God in Christ. Indeed, we discover in Christ our unity with the whole Church, with the whole human race, even with the whole of creation; and in making our union with God in Christ our very profession, we begin to display a likeness to all others on the same quest.

St Peter Damian, writing for his own Camaldoli hermits in a treatise on "Dominus Vobiscum", explained why it is appropriate for hermits to say, "Dominus Vobiscum" and to make the reply, "Et cum Spiritu Tuo" when they are alone in their hermitages. He writes,
"Holy Church is one in all her members, and complete in each of them; her many members form a single whole in the unity of faith, and her many parts are united in each member by the bond of
charity and the various gifts of grace, since all of these proceed from one source.....For indeed, although holy Church is divided in the multiplicity of her members, yet she is fused into unity by the fire of the Holy Spirit; and so even if she seems, as far as her situation in the world is concerned, to be scattered, yet the mystery of her inward unity can never be marred in its integrity. 'The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.' 3 This Spirit Is indeed without doubt both one and manifold; one in the essence of His greatness, and manifold in the diverse gifts of His grace, and He gives to holy Church, which He fills, this power: that all her parts shall form a single whole, and that each part shall contain the whole. This mystery of undivided unity was asked for by Truth Himself when He said to His Father concerning His disciples: *I do not pray for these alone, but for them also who shall believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that "the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.'   If, therefore, those who believe in Christ are one, then wherever we find a member according to outward appearances, there, by the mystery of the sacrament, the whole body is present. And so whatever belongs to the whole applies in some measure to the part; so that there is no absurdity in one man saying by himself anything which the body of the Church as a whole may utter, and in the same way many may fittingly give voice to that which is properly said by one person. Hence, when we are all assembled together we can rightly say: "Bow down thine ear O Lord and hear me: for I am poor and needy.   Preserve my soul, for I am holy." 
"Book on the Dominus Vobiscum" by St Peter Damian.)

What St Peter Damian says  about the presence of the whole Church in each hermit because he is in Christ and Christ is abiding in him, and because Christ is never separated from his members, also brings about a fundamental unity between all those who seek God because Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, even if there is no physical or organizational contact between them.   It is possible to see a close likeness between the Catholic Padre Pio and the Orthodox St Seraphim of Sarov, in spite of the differences in spirituality, culture and ecclesial allegiance, because both were filled with the same Spirit and manifested to those around them the same Christ, even if in different styles.   If two saints, who were so far apart in so many ways and were even separated by schism, are fundamentally alike because they manifest the same Christ, it is also true that there is a family likeness between all who adopt the monastic vocation.   It has been often remarked that even though  the Benedictine Order does not form its component monasteries and congregations into a single corporate body, and there is such a great variety of observances and roles, from hermits to parish priests, so  that such a corporate organization would be impossible; nevertheless, there is a family likeness between monks and nuns, between communities great and small; so that a monk or nun can feel at home in another monastery, even if it is very different from his or her own.   The unity of the monastic order does not depend on any organizational links it has, horizontal links between monks and monasteries, but on their vertical relationship, brought about by the Holy Spirit, with Christ who stands before the Father.   Any horizontal relationships depend on this vertical relationship that is maintained and strengthened by ther liturgical life.
Fr Timothy Ratcliffe O.P., when he was Master General of the Dominicans, was invited to give a talk on the monastic life to the Benedictine abbots of the world assembled in Rome.   My favourite paragraph in his talk tells us what monasteries have in common.   The activities of the monks and nuns may differ according to their circumstances and history; but any monastery worthy of the name is a place where they seek God, simply because God is God; and this only happens because God is seeking them.  That is the true monastic drama, true on Mount Athos, true in Monserrat and even true in Pachacamac.  That is what monasteries are for.  He said:
"I wish to claim that your monasteries disclose God not because of what you do or say, but perhaps because the monastic life has, at its centre, a space, a void in which God may show Himself. I wish to suggest that the rule of St Benedict offers a sort of hollow centre to your lives, in which God may live and be glimpsed. The glory of God always shows itself in an empty space. When the Israelites came out of the desert, God came with them seated in the space between the wings of the cherubim, above the seat of mercy. . . . [The cross] is a throne of glory which is also a void, an absence, as a man dies crying out for the God who seems to have deserted him. The ultimate throne of glory is an empty tomb, where there is no body.
.I will suggest three aspects of the monastic life which open [a void, an empty space in your lives,] a space for God. First of all, your lives are for no particular purpose. Secondly, . . . they lead nowhere, and finally . . . they are lives of humility.



If every monastery is a place where its members are seeking God because God is seeking
 them, this manifests itself principally in the monastic liturgy, in whatever monastery, in whatever culture.   It is centred entirely on God who is the object of their search, and manifests his holiness on earth because all the seeking is a sign of his presence.   It is in God, in Christ who is in heaven, that monks find their unity, and it is from the centrality of God in their lives that gives monastic liturgy its particular atmosphere and shape, whatever the rite or liturgical tastes.   Monastic liturgy reflects monastic priorities.  Pope Benedict XVI said to the monks of Heiligenkreuz:
Your primary service to this world must therefore be your prayer and the celebration of the Divine Office. The interior disposition of each priest, and of each consecrated person, must be that of “putting nothing before the Divine Office.” The beauty of this inner attitude will find expression in the beauty of the liturgy, so that wherever we join in singing, praising, exalting and worshipping God, a little bit of heaven will become present on earth. Truly it would not be presumptuous to say that, in a liturgy completely centred on God, we can see, in its rituals and chant, an image of eternity.
In all our efforts on behalf of the liturgy, the determining factor must always be our looking to God. We stand before God – he speaks to us and we speak to him. Whenever in our thinking we are only concerned about making the liturgy attractive, interesting and beautiful, the battle is already lost. Either it is Opus Dei, with God as its specific subject, or it is not. In the light of this, I ask you to celebrate the sacred liturgy with your gaze fixed on God within the communion of saints, the living Church of every time and place, so that it will truly be an expression of the sublime beauty of the God who has called men and women to be his friends.
The soul of prayer, ultimately, is the Holy Spirit. Whenever we pray, it is he who “helps us in our weakness, interceding for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26).
In this way, the monastic liturgy witnesses to the true priorities of any liturgy celebrated anywhere in the Church because monasteries live by the values that all Christians have in common. The horizontal links that bind monks together are rooted in the risen Christ and the vertical relationship they have with the Father through Him.   In fact, this produces a far stronger relationship between monks and nuns than a relationship based on their feelings for each other which can vary from day to day..  What is true of monks and nuns is also more basically true of the relationship between local churches: the source of their unity is the risen Christ whose body they all are, each one and all together through the Eucharist.



The Christian life in general and the monastic life in particular have two interconnected components, distinct but never separated.    The first is the activity of the Holy Spirit and the second is our own compliance and willingness to become instruments of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit and the "Behold the handmaid of the Lord" of Our Lady made the Incarnation possible; and without both components, Mary would never have been Mother of God.   Without the Holy Spirit and our "Yes" of faith, we would never be monks or even Christians.  Both components are needed.   This "Yes" for Benedictines is refined and intensified by living out our vows of Stability, "Conversio morum" and Obedience, as explained in the above video.  It is by obedience and hence our willingness to be changed that we seek God, whether in our prayer, in our work and in our community life; while "stability" gives us the context in which we are called to seek God.   As seeking God implies living the "Behold the handmaid of the Lord" of the Blessed Virgin and the "Not my will but yours be done" of Jesus in Gethsemane, without any personal agenda of our own, this factor is responsible both for the variety of monastic observances according to the concrete circumstances and obedience to Providence of each monastery; and it is the secret behind the family likeness portrayed by monks and nuns of all shapes and sizes; and it is our connection with all other Christians.
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 Looking even wider, at the great variety of spiritualities that all reflect the face of Christ in the universal Church, we recognize that all this too is brought about by the Holy Spirit working through the loving obedience of human beings.   The more we are in tune with the Holy Spirit, the more Christ lives in us, the more the Church is forming in our souls.  We become focal points in God's plan for the salvation of the whole world.   Thus it became possible for St Therese of Lisieux, an enclosed nun who died at the age of 24, to be patron saint of the Church's mission throughout the world, and Mary, Mother of God, while sharing in the sufferings of her Son, to became Mother of all the living.


In a previous post, we quoted Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) as saying:
I. The Church, the Body of Christ 1 "The Church is awakening within souls". Guardini's expression had been wisely formulated, since it finally recognized and experienced the Church as something within us—not as an institution outside us but something that lives within us. If until that time we had thought of the Church primarily as a structure or organization, now at last we began to realize that we ourselves were the Church. The Church is much more than an organization: it is the organism of the Holy Spirit, something that is alive, that takes hold of our inmost being. This consciousness found verbal expression with the concept of the "Mystical Body of Christ", a phrase describing a new and liberating experience of the Church. At the very end of his life, in the same year the Constitution on the Church was published by the Council, Guardini wrote: the Church "is not an institution devised and built by men ... but a living reality.... It lives still throughout the course of time. Like all living realities it develops, it changes ... and yet in the very depths of its being it remains the same; its inmost nucleus is Christ.... To the extent that we look upon the Church as organization ... like an association ... we have not yet arrived at a proper understanding of it. Instead, it is a living reality and our relationship with it ought to be—life" (La Chiesa del Signore, [English translation: "The Church of the Lord"]; Morcelliana, Brescia 1967, p. 160).
 The Church lives from this: from the fact that Christ is present in our hearts and it is there that Christ forms His Church. That is why the first word of the Church is Christ, and not herself. The Church is healthy to the extent that all her attention is focused on Him. The Second Vatican Council placed this concept masterfully at the pinnacle of its deliberations; the fundamental text on the Church begins with the words: "Lumen gentium cum sit Christus: "since Christ is the Light of the World ... the Church is a mirror of His glory; she reflects His splendour". If we want to understand the Second Vatican Council correctly, we must always go back to this opening statement..
Hence, when at Baptism we enter the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is also true that the Church enters us, because Christ enters us by the power of the same Spirit, and Christ cannot be separated from his Church, even though it "lives throughout the course of time".   This is St Peter Damian's teaching.  In cultivating the interior life, the monk is extending the boundaries of the Church no less than the missionery.

 As the Camaldolese Fathers said, there are three "goods" in the Christian life   There are two constant dimensions where we can meet Christ: (and the Church): a) solitude in our interior, the eucharistic presence of Christ who lives in the very depths of our being, in what is called our "heart"; and b) in the community.  These two poles of the Christian life are interdependent: Christ in the community will not be a reality to us if Christ in our heart goes unheeded; and our consciousness of Christ within us will be shown to be authentic only if it leads us to recognize Christ without.   The third good is not a constant dimension, even though it is a constant possibility.   It is a gift from God working through his Providence: it  is the opportunity to give our "all" to God.   They called it "martyrdom", even though that is only one of the possible options.  The centre of all three "goods" is the Eucharist where we share and participate in Christ's death and resurrection both as a community and in the depths of our own interior being..  Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
 the Eucharist binds all men together, and not just with one another, but with Christ; in this way it makes them "Church". At the same time the formula describes the fundamental constitution of the Church: the Church exists in Eucharistic communities. The Church's Mass is her constitution, because the Church is, in essence, a Mass (sent out: "missa"), a service of God, and therefore a service of man and a service for the transformation of the world. The Mass is the Church's form, that means that through it she develops an entirely original relationship that exists nowhere else, a relationship of multiplicity and of unity. In each celebration of the Eucharist, the Lord is really present. He is risen and dies no more. He can no longer be divided into different parts. He always gives Himself completely and entirely. This is why the Council states: "This Church of Christ is truly present in all legitimate local communities of the faithful which, united with their pastors, are themselves called Churches in the New Testament. For in their locality these are the new People called by God, in the Holy Spirit and with great trust (cf. 1 Thes. 1,5).... In these communities, though frequently small and poor, or living in the diaspora, Christ is present, and in virtue of His power there is brought together one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church" (Lumen Gentium, n. 26). This means that the ecclesiology of local Churches derives from the formulation of the Eucharistic ecclesiology. This is a typical feature of Vatican II that presents the internal and sacramental foundation of the doctrine of collegiality about which we will speak later.
The local church in its fullness, with bishop, clergy and people has its full liturgcal expression at the Chrism Mass on Maundy Thursday, the day when we remember the Church coming into being at the Last Supper.   At every Mass, but especially at this Mass, the local community comes together to be the visible expression on earth of the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church".  .


Every Mass is the visible manifestation of the whole Church and every sacrament is an act of the whole Church,and all liturgical prayer is the prayer of the whole Church, even when prayed by a monk in his hermitage, or by a local church that has been separated for over a thousand years by an ancient schism.   This Church, united in the risen Christ by the Holy Spirit, was beautifully described by  A. Khomiakov:

the Church—The Liturgy

The Church, even upon earth, lives, not an earthly human life, but a life of grace which is divine. Wherefore not only each of her members, but she herself as a whole, solemnly calls herself Holy.Her visible manifestation is contained in the Sacraments, but her inward life in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in faith, hope, and love. Oppressed and persecuted by enemies without, at times agitated and lacerated within by the evil passions of her children, she has been and ever will be preserved without wavering or change wherever the Sacraments and spiritual holiness are preserved. Never is she either disfigured or in need of reformation. She lives not under a law of bondage, but under a law of liberty. She neither acknowledges any authority over her, except her own, nor any tribunal, but the tribunal of faith (for reason does not comprehend her), and she expresses her love, her faith, and her hope in her prayers and rites, suggested to her by the Spirit of truth and by the grace of Christ. Wherefore her rites themselves, even if they are not unchangeable (for they are composed by the spirit of liberty and may be changed according to the judgment of the Church) can never, in any case, contain any, even the smallest, admixture of error or false doctrine. And the rites (of the Church) while they are unchanged are of obligation to the members of the Church; for in their observance is the joy of holy unity
It has been said that there are two classical ecclesiologies, patristic understandings of the Catholic Church.  There is the eucharistic ecclesiology, associated with the name of St Ignatius of Antioch, and universal ecclesiology associated with the name of St Cyprian of Carthage.  In this article we shall talk about eucharistic ecclesiology and leave the second for another post.   Both are dimensions of the same Church; both are essential; but the second has its roots in the first.   Hence, we shall not deal with dogmatic decrees of pope or council; nor shall we talk about jurisdiction.   Both belong to the universal ecclesiology; but any explanation of them cannot go against the fundamentally eucharistic nature of the Church as described here.

Eucharistic Ecclesiology

St Ignatius of Antioch wrote:
Each one individually and all of you togetherare united in one and the same faith in Jesus Christ, Son of Man and Son of God, in obedience to the bishop in harmony, breaking one loaf of bread which is the medicine of immortality, an antidote to death that gives eternal life in Jesus Christ.
St Cyprian of Carthage also had the same doctrine of the Church when he wrote:
The Church is the people in union with their bishop...Thus you must know that the bishop is in the Church and the Church is in the bishop.
Thus the universal ecclesiology of St Cyprian is embedded in the same eucharistic theology as St Ignatius.

 Eucharistic ecclesiology sees each diocese as a manifestation of the universal Church, each is the "body of Christ".   It is made up of the successor of the apostles, the bishop, with his clergy and people. The bishop has the apostolic mandate, and without him there is no church; and it follows that there is no Eucharist. In the words of Vatican II, the bishop makes the church "legitimate".  The Pope explains this above.   The priests have been ordained as his assistants and can celebrate in his name and under his authority.  Every eucharistic celebration is the Church made present.  The fullness of the Catholic Church is present and active in each celebration.  Just as each consecrated host is Christ in his fullness, and all the hosts together are the same Christ, so each church is the body of Christ, and what each church is, so is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church throughout the world.  Therefore the most basic relationship between local churches is one of identity: each church is Christ's body, just as each host is Christ's body..   Each church is what it is because of its relationship with Christ who is in heaven.   Each church is what it is because of the synergy of the Holy Spirit and the Christian community; and this synergy, or harmony of operations in which the Christian community becomes an instrument of the Holy Spirit in manifesting Christ.   It finds its primary expression in the liturgy.   For this reason, the liturgy is "the source of all the Church's powers and the goal of all its activity".  It follows that the Church's teaching authority and its capacity to understand and teach infallibly arises from the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church which is expressed in the liturgy.   It arises in a context where the Church is not intent on itself but on God.   I quote again the words of the Pope:

In all our efforts on behalf of the liturgy, the determining factor must always be our looking to God. We stand before God – he speaks to us and we speak to him. ... Either it is Opus Dei, with God as its specific subject, or it is not. In the light of this, I ask you to celebrate the sacred liturgy with your gaze fixed on God within the communion of saints, the living Church of every time and place, so that it will truly be an expression of the sublime beauty of the God who has called men and women to be his friends.
 In the centuries before there was any general canon law, and, therefore, before any formulated system of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, in the time before general councils were called, and hence before dogmas were decreed, there was always the belief that all local churches should be identical  in faith with one another and in the essential actions of faith , in church order and in the sacraments, and that christian from one church should feel at home in all the rest.   It was also clear from the very beginning that there is such a thing as heresy and that local churches or important and influential members of them can fall away from what is common to all churches, either in faith or morals.   When this happens due to human frailty and sin, how would churches and their members be sure that they were being faithful to the Catholic Church?   St Irenaeus (d. circa 170ad) answered this question.   He  wrote:
Now it is within the power of anyone who cares to find out the truth, to know the tradition of the Apostles, professed throughout the world in every church. We can name those too who were appointed bishops by the Apostles in the churches and their successors down to our own time.... But inasmuch as it would be very tedious in a book like this to rehearse the lines of succession in every church, we will put to confusion all those who, either from waywardness or conceit or blindness or obstinacy combine together against the truth, by pointing to the tradition, derived from the Apostles, of that great and illustrious Church founded and organized at Rome by the two glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, and to the faith declared to mankind and handed down to our own time through its bishops in their succession. For with this Church, because of its more powerful leadership, every church, that is to say, the faithful from everywhere, must needs agree, and in it the tradition that springs from the Apostles has been continuously preserved by men from everywhere.    (Adversus Haereses0
Before we discuss the implications of this text, it is important to realize what it is NOT saying.   It does not intend to support the universal jurisdiction of the pope, because there was no universal system of law as yet in which universal jurisdiction would make sense.   Neither is it about the authority of the pope to proclaim infallibly dogmatic decrees because they had not yet been invented.   The passage certainly has implications for our understanding of Vatican I and its dogmas concerning papal authority, but it is not directly about these dogmas.  This is a passage about the ordinary magisterium, not the extraordinary magisterium.

For St Irenaeus, each church has what the other churches have.   Each church has Tradition rooted in the public teaching of Jesus Christ and the Apostles and which is passed down from one generation to the next and is expressed in the Church's liturgy.   Each church also has the charismata veritatis by which it understands the apostolic preaching  Elsewhere it is clear that St Irenaeus taught that it is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church that gives it the key to understand the Scriptures.   Without the Holy Spirit, the Bible is just a haphazard collection of texts which, like stones in a mosaic, can be put together to construct any picture you like. Only the Holy Spirit can open the key to the meaning of Scripture and thus make it the Word of God for us The liturgy expresses both the Word of God and the Church's understanding of it from the time of the Apostles to the present day.   In a word the liturgy is Tradition, the primary expression of Apostolic Tradition that a local church has.   Because it is the same Holy Spirit and the same Christ present in each church,.all churches understand the apostolic teaching in the same way; or, at least, they do not contradict one another..   When heresy enters and there is confusion, all can look to the Roman Church which is providentially preserved as a model church for the rest.

Thus, for St Irenaeus, the Church of Rome bears witness to all other churches   They look at the Church of Rome and recognize their own faith in the faith of the Church of Rome   The Pope does not impose on them something that is not part of the Tradition celebrated in their own liturgy.   Truth has its own authority and is recognizable by churches and individuals who share in the same Spirit.   They have to obey the Church of Rome, not in something foreign to them but because it is the faith of their local church as much as it is the faith of Rome. The problem arises when heresy, confusion or doubt clouds their vision.   Obedience to Rome clarifies their understanding of their own faith.   It is a service to them, not a restriction of their liberty; and, for this reason, St Gregory would later call the pope, "servant of the servants of God".  In Christianity, obedience and liberty are dimensions of the same life, ,not at war with one another as in the world.  Thus, St Ireneaus travelled to Rome in a delegation to ask the Pope to do something about the Montanist heresy in distant Phrygia, in modern Turkey, just before he became bishop..

The Church of Rome obtains this charism of bearing witness to the Truth from the celebration of its liturgy, especially in its celebration of the Eucharist. In a very special way, St Peter (and Paul) are members of this Roman local church because they gave witness by their blood in Rome, and the Roman Church always celebrates the Mass with its martyrs (Roman Canon).    Hence, in the words of the Council of Chalcedon, Peter can speak through the mouth of the Pope.  St Hyppolitus of Rome uses the same basic vocabulary as St Irenaeus, and, for him, it is in the.anaphora (eucharistic prayer) that the Church prays for and receives the Holy Spirit.   In the epiclesis of his Eucharistic Prayer he writes:
We ask you to send your Holy Spirit on the oblation of Holy Church, bringing it in unity, and that you will give the fullness of the Holy Spirit to all who receive these gifts, for the confirmation of the faith in truth, so that we can praise you and glorify you through your servant (puer) Jesus Christ, through whom...(doxology)
This is not "truth for truth's sake" but rather "truth for praise's sake" which is why the word "orthodox" can mean either "true teaching" or "true glory".   The Church sustains its true belief in the course of its liturgical prayer, while offering "true glory" to God.   Its infallibility is the fruit of its liturgical life which expresses the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church.    Hence it is the fruit of the vertical relationship with God  It receives  this "orthodoxy" from the Father through the Spirit of Christ who asks for it in the Eucharist.  .   That is the basis of the Church's infallibility..   It is this sharing in the Holy Spirit that gives the Roman Church the ability to give witness to the truth in such a way that others must obey it; and it is the same Holy Spirit, working in the other churches, that enables them to see their own truth in the witness of the Roman Church.   They can do it because each church is identical with the others in that each and all are the body of Christ,..  In the world-wide Church, each of its constituent parts are the same as the whole and identical to each other each is the body of Christ.   Each bishop, as successor of the Apostles, presides over an act of the whole Church when he presides in the Eucharist as vicar of Christ.   Because the Eucharist is one,  the episcopate is one; and  it is entirely according to the nature of the Church that one bishop can speak for all the bishops without imposing himself on them.  From this point of view, it is perfectly alright to say that the Pope is "first among equals".   Just as Peter was often the voice of the Apostles, so the Bishop of Rome is the voice of the bishops; as long as you remember that they and their churches are united together, not primarily by ecclesiastical bonds, but by their relationship to the risen Christ which is continally forged in the Eucharist.




It is clear that, at present, that this system has broken down as far as the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches are concerned.   True, they celebrate the Christian Mystery in liturgies that have their roots in apostolic preaching and share in the Holy Spirit by which they understand this Mystery.  True, each is the body of Christ because they eat the same bread and drink of the same cup.   In this they are identical with the Church of Rome as each consecrated host in a ciborium is identical with every other.   Every sacrament they celebrate is an act of the whole Church.   Each eucharistic community is a manifestation of the one, true, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the fullness of the faith.   In the above video is a parish of the Assyrian Church of the East.   It has, probably, the most ancient liturgy in use, in the Aramaic language, the language of Our Lord.   It has been separated from Rome and Orthodoxy since the Council of Ephesus in the fifth century, yet both theologians from the Vatican and from the Orthodox recognize a family likeness.   They are wholly orthodox on Christ, even though controversy on the Incarnation led to the schism.   This is clear evidence of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit among them.  The Vatican said of them

 "The Catholic Church recognises the Assyrian Church of the East as a true particular Church, built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession."
 It is clear that the Assyrian Church's identity as a "true particular Church built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession" does not depend on its horizontal relationships with other churches, even with the see of Rome, but on the vertical relationship with God in Christ, expressed in the liturgy, which they have celebrated since the time of the Apostles.


However, an important implication of this identity between the churches is that they ought to be able to recognize themselves in each other, and they don't.   Due to historical events outside our control, we have had separate histories which have led to different priorities and even different theological languages; and, since long before the Great Schism, there has been no trust between East and West, no understanding of each other's positions and little love.   Faith is knowledge based on love.   Trust and love must be restored before there will be understanding.   Only then will the Pope be able to bear witness to the Truth as St Irenaeus envisaged, not by imposition but by clarification.


The unity of the Church is of a very special kind because it has its source in the risen Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and is brought about in the Eucharistic assembly.   The ecumenical task must be tackled at several levels, but our eyes must never be taken off this central source of unity which is Christ.   Monks and missionaries have much in common because both extend the boundaries of the Church; the monk by digging deep into his heart, the missionary by visiting foreign shores.   There is also a strong link between monks and ecumenists.   Both are seeking unity, the ecumenist among the followers of Christ, the monk within his heart.   We began with St Peter Damian and the extraordinary links that hermits have with the whole Church.   We will finish with a 20th Century monk, on spiritual ecumenism where the unity and coherence of Christianity is demonstrated in its unity within the soul.   Thomas Merton wrote:
If I can unite in myself the thought and the devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek and the Latin Fathers, the Russians with the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion of divided Christians. From that secret and unspoken unity in myself can eventually come a visible and manifest unity of all Christians. If we want to bring together what is divided, we cannot do so by imposing one division upon the other or absorbing one division into the other. But if we do this, the union is not Christian. It is political, and doomed to further conflict. We must contain all divided worlds in ourselves and transcend them in Christ. 
This passage places our quotation from St Peter Damian firmly into our quest for ecclesial unit within thisy.   In this article we have been talking about eucharistic nature of the Church and the extraordinary unity that the Eucharist brings about.  We have also talked about the ordinary function of the Holy See within this eucharistic unity.   In my next article, perhaps in two or three weeks time, we will look at the world-wide view of the Church and how it functions.   It too is a dimension based on the Eucharist  and cannot be properly understood without referring to what we have written here.  In the light of what we have already written we will look at the dogmas about papal authority.
u.






Thursday, 24 February 2011

[Irenikon] The Rublev Trinity: Iconographic Tradition and the Individual Talent


This fellow's blog is well worth taking a look at for those who are interested in the intersections provided in the earthly Christian world by sacred art and architecture.  This fellow is an LCMS Lutheran which tells you something about his catholicism and liturgical practice, but the rest of his perspectives on art, society, religion and theology will be better served up by his own words from his articles on the blog.

http://dansiedell.typepad.com/blog/2010/06/the-rublev-trinity-iconographic-tradition-and-the-individual-talent.html

The Rublev Trinity: Iconographic Tradition and the Individual Talent

Rublev20trinity1  

The fourth of July is the feast day of St. Andrei Rublev in the Russian Orthodox Church. The following is written in honor of this most blessed of painters.
“There exists the icon of the Trinity by St. Andrei Rublev; therefore God exists.”  This remarkable statement by Fr. Pavel Florensky, Russian Orthodox priest, mathematician, art historian and martyr, is not the kind of apologetic strategy that Christians in the West are used to. To say that our tastes run toward the intellectual is an understatement. Whether we prefer the elegant Aristotelian cathedrals of the Scholastics or the sturdy Foundationalist bunkers of the Biola School, Christian apologetics in the West is a rational sport. To our western ears, Florensky's argument sounds woolly, mystical, or patently irrational. This is so not simply because we have inherited a very different tradition of apologetics, we also, perhaps more importantly, have inherited a very different tradition of art.  
  For us in the West art depicts the world around us, expresses our emotions, and teaches moral or ethical truths. In short, it represents, sometimes the visible world of things, sometimes the abstract world of ideas or the inner world of emotions. And therefore it tends to play a subservient--even decorative--role in the production of knowledge or truth. In the context of both the Catholic and Protestant Church the implications are clear. At its best art can only illustrate truth, help us "visualize" it. But at its worst it is an idolatrous distraction. The result is that western viewers and critics tend to consider the religious or secular works of art to be a text, a visual illustration of a philosophical truth or a theological worldview that needs to be "read." As a museum curator for over a decade I can attest to this tendency among audiences, whether young or old, novice or expert. Art must know its place in the western epistemological line.
Yet in the Eastern Church this is not so. Art does something else. The place to begin to unpack this distinctive approach is with Florensky's own example, The Holy Trinity painted by the Russian monk Andrei Rublev (1370-c. 1430). St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press has recently published the first English translation of an insightful, profound, yet comprehensible introduction into the riches of this icon.Originally written in German in 1994 by the Benedictine eremitical monk Gabriel Bunge, The Rublev Trinity has been translated into English by Andrew Louth, a well-known scholar of the Eastern Fathers of the Orthodox Church.
What little is known of Andrei Rublev comes from The Life of St. Nikon of Radonezh, a hagiography of Rublev's spiritual father compiled by a Serbian monk who also wrote the hagiography of St. Sergii of Radonezh (1314-92), the spiritual father of Nikon and considered to be the spiritual father of Russia. Venerated as a saint even during his lifetime, St. Sergii's spiritual life was intimately related to the mystery of the Trinity. Bunge shows how Rublev's spiritual life, through Sergii and Nikon, was shaped by a particular devotion to the Trinity and that the icon of The Holy Trinity emerges from this distinctive spiritual formation. 
The monk’s practice as an icon painter is inseparable from his practice as a Christian. The icon is thus more than theology in paint. It is prayer in paint. This achievement was only possible through the ascetical disciplines. Bunge mentions that Rublev and his friend and “fellow faster” Daniil, himself an accomplished icon painter, would sit for hours simply contemplating an icon of the Holy Trinity in St. Sergii’s Trinity Monastery. Bunge demonstrates that it is this devotion that nourished his soul and prepared Rublev for his greatest aesthetic achievement.  
Needless to say, Rublev was not the first to paint an icon of the Trinity. There is a long and diverse history of images relating to the mysterious scene in Genesis 18, in which three visitors, commonly taken by Christian readers to be the Triune God, announce that Abraham and Sarah would have a son, Isaac, the child of promise. Bunge discerns three different but closely related iconographic traditions and he explores how Rublev assimilated aspects of each while he simultaneously and ingeniously innovated new forms in such a manner that it was “thoroughly traditional and, equally in an unqualified sense, unique” (13). 
Rublev’s challenge was to “give each particular figure an unmistakable countenance” (89). Following the distinctions of Gregory Palamas,Rublev does not paint the Trinity in its essence (which would be idolatrous), but through its energies, to its manifestation in the economy of salvation, “according to the vision of the prophets,” according to what has been revealed for our salvation (20). Therefore, the Father, whom Rublev depicts on the left, is almost “completely veiled,” since we know of Him only through the Son and the Spirit, whom Irenaeus of Lyons calls the Father’s “two hands” (96). And both the Son and Spirit bow toward the upright Father. In addition, Bunge draws attention to the fact that although Christ is in the center of the composition and his right hand blesses the Eucharist, the “Father’s focus is on the Spirit” (102). Rublev offers a subtle yet powerful articulation of the monarchy of the Father, the distinctive Eastern comprehension of the Trinity, which resulted in the stiff and aggressive resistance of the Orthodox Church for a millennium to the so-called “double procession” of the Spirit from both the Father and the Son (filioque). Interestingly, Bunge suggests that given the orientation of the altar, the viewer is actually experiencing the intimate “wordless” conversation between Father, Son, and Spirit, from behind the altar, that is, in communion with this divine mystery. The praying believer is thus given a vision of the Father eternally begetting the Son, the Spirit eternally proceeding from the Father, and both the Son and Spirit glorifying, and thus revealing, the Father. The icon, like the Trinity itself, is not static but dynamic, active, working to enfold us in its embrace. 
There remains so much more to Bunge’s rich meditation on the Rublev Trinity than art history. Not only is the Holy Trinity the result of Rublev’s own spiritual formation, Bunge’s writing is clearly the product of prayer and fasting, through which he, following Pseudo-Dionysius, “plunges into the truly mysterious darkness of unknowing,” of the mysterium Trinitatis. And it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that this text should also be read in the same way.  For in the last analysis, as Bunge observes in a profound meditation at the end of the book, what is experienced when this icon is contemplated is “My being, my salvation, as the subject of conversation between the Father, Son, and Spirit” (111). So in the contemplation of and participation in this icon, the Trinity becomes more than merely a dogma of the Church to which one gives intellectual assent. It is where the Gospel itself, and thus my life, my salvation is found. 
Is it possible that the West has something to learn aesthetically from the Eastern theological understanding of the icon?  Philosopher Jean-Luc Marion thinks so. In Crossing the Visible he suggests that Nicaea II, the ecumenical council that affirmed the role for icons in Christian worship, "formulates above all and—perhaps the only—alternative to the contemporary disaster of the image." The image has its origin in and through Christ, who is the "image" (ikon) of God. This is the dogmatic foundation of the icon. Moreover, the icon is the theological foundation of all painting, secular and religious. It is the artistic practice of the Church. The icon is not something to be "decoded," "read," or a symbol for something more important. It is an event that is to be contemplated, internalized, and experienced. This recognition is not foreign to artists in the West, both religious and secular. Yet many theologians and philosophers often dismiss such experiences as romantic self-indulgence and naïve mysticism. What these artists might have been bumping up against is an aesthetic that is, in fact,Nicene. 
As an art historian, curator of exhibitions, art critic, and educator, I live and work and have my being in modern and contemporary art and theory. I work precisely where the crisis of the image is most obvious. Yet I find glimmers of hope. I find altars to the Unknown God (Acts 17) strewn about the landscape of contemporary art. My responsibility is to name these altars, to declare confidently and creatively that it is in Christ that all things hold together (Col. 1: 17), even in contemporary art. It is to discern the Logos in the logos of the work of art. Protestants and Catholics need to rediscover Nicaea II and the insights of the theology and practice of the icon. We do not need to transform western religious or secular art into something that looks like icons, but to recognize that the very presence of the icon in the Church underwrites all painting. The Incarnation of Christ changed the nature of the painted image, ripping it open to receive the Spirit. The theology of the icon is not merely an exotic quirk of the Eastern Orthodox. It is the way the world of painted images actually works.Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to claim, following Florensky, that Rublev's icon of the Holy Trinity exists, therefore art exists.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

[Irenikon] Arrow Prayers



“Lord, have mercy on me!”

Posted by Macrina Walker
It has perhaps seemed remarkable to many a reader of The Way of a Pilgrim that the traditional formula for the perpetual prayer of the heart goes: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” He may have been surprised that this centrepiece of the hesychastic tradition in the Eastern Church is actually a sort of penitential prayer. Anyone who has read the chapter about the tears of metanoia, though, will not be surprised. Rather, it will seem to him quite consistent that the Fathers finally agreed upon this formula, which we do not hear about in the early period of monasticism. For it reflects perfectly that spirit which from the beginning inspired the Fathers in their endeavours. (113)
In this third section of the third chapter of Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition, Father Gabriel (Bunge) outlines the development of what has come to be known as the Jesus Prayer, which originated in the Desert tradition of using oft-repeated phrases in prayer, and which is rooted in an attitude that calls out to God for help. This practice of short invocations goes back to the origins of monasticism and soon became known outside of Egypt. Evagrius advocated frequent and uninterrupted prayers like “spear thrusts” that were often comprised of scripture verses. While Evagrius did not seem to know of any fixed formula, Saint John Cassian passed on the Egyptian tradition of praying “O God, come to my assistance, O Lord, make haste to help me.” Abba Ammomas advised a monk to recall the prayer of the tax collector – “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” whereas Abba Macarius the Egyptian, when asked “How should we pray?” answered:
It is not necessary to ‘rattle on,’ but one has only to stretch out one’s hands and say, ‘Lord, as you will’ and ‘as you know’, ‘have mercy on me!’ On the other hand, if a battle is impending, pray, ‘Lord, help me!’ He himself knows what is necessary and treats us with mercy. (116)
Whatever the differences in form, these “ejaculatory prayers” are all cries of help to God. This is what Evagrius meant when he recommended “praying, not like the Pharisee, but like the tax collector,” for
The spirit common to all of these ejaculatory prayers is the spirit of metanoia, of remorse, conversion, and repentance. Precisely that spirit, then, which alone is capable of accepting the “glad tidings” of “reconciliation in Christ”.
The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel. [Mk 1:15]
Without “conversion” (μετἀνοια) there is no faith; without faith there is no share in the gospel of reconciliation. For this reason the sermons of the apostles, which Luke has preserved for us in his Acts of the Apostles, almost without exception end with this call for “conversion”. This metanoia, however, is not a single act, but rather a life-long process. The “spirit of repentance”, that is, humility that comes from the heart, is not attained once and for all. A lifetime is not sufficient to “learn” from Christ this essential feature, which, as he himself tells us, is his distinguishing characteristic. The practice of repeating over and over again – audibly or in one’s heart – this “supplication” (which was discussed in the previous chapter), in the spirit of the remorseful tax collector, is one of the best means of vigilantly maintaining an interior desire for genuine metanoia. (117-118)
These prayers were usually directed to Christ, even if, in the case of psalm verses, this was not always explicit.
The formula that later became usual, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”, merely says explicitly what was meant implicitly from the beginning, namely, that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”, except through the Name of Jesus Christ. Therefore it is with good reason that the Fathers later gave particular emphasis to this salutary affirmation of “Jesus the Christ” – to the extent of developing a full-fledged mysticism of the Name of Jesus. For the person who prays with a “supplication” consciously takes his place among the blind and the lame, and so on, who cried out to Jesus for help during his life on earth. They did this in a way that is in fact appropriate only when one is turning to God – and thus they demonstrated more clearly than by any verbal profession their faith in the Divine Sonship of the Redeemer. (119-120)








God you have made us for yourself - our hearts are restless



http://www.liturgy.co.nz/reflection/632b.html


Let us pray (in silence) [that we may grow in union with the One who fulfills our heart's desire]


pause


Almighty God,
you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless
till they find their rest in you;
so lead us by your Spirit
that in this life we may live to your glory
and in the life to come enjoy you for ever;


through Jesus Christ our Lord
who is alive with with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen.


NZPB p. 632b


We humans are enfleshed yearning. St Augustine said it well at the start of his Confessions, "God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you." We constantly desire more, and better, and different. Cars, gadgets, toys. It is not just that we have a God-shaped hole alongside other differently-shaped holes, as if our television fills and satisfies our television-shaped hole. It appears to me that people try and put their television (replace with your own recent want-it) into their God-shaped hole. But our God-shaped hole, our yearning is infinite. No amount of televisions, no television of whatever quality or value, will ever fill it. Only God.


Some would say that our desire for a god, our desire for transcendence, our inability to satisfy our yearning, this is the source of the human creation of the concept of God. Yeah Right! [As the NZ Tui advertisements would have it]. In a comprehensible reality, which I believe I am part of, thirst points to the existence of water (somewhere - I might not be in the right place to satisfy that thirst). Hunger points to the existence of food somewhere. Sexual desire points to the existence of the possibility of its satisfaction. And so on. Might not our very yearning for transcendence, for a god - rather than argue for atheism argue more strongly for the One in whom my restless, yearning heart will find its rest?


Too quickly some spiritualities denigrate our desires. As if we should ignore them. Flee from them. I suggest that our Creator gave us our desires for a reason. I am not surprised that the subtitle of the monastic book Trappist is "living in the land of desire". I am not suggesting that all our desires, our yearning is satisfied in this limited world of space and time. The very opposite. We are creatures who do not find our ultimate fulfillment in this creation.


We might often during the day in our minds repeat Augustine's phrase "God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you." Augustine's prayer might become our own. Other similar ones might accompany us during the day as we chew them over: "my soul is yearning for you, my God" (Ps 42:1), "O God, you are my God, for you I long" (Ps 63:1), "You have seduced me, O God, and I have let myself be seduced" (Jer 20:7 - this last one was repeated many times in the film Into Great Silence).


Such short prayers, "arrow prayers", "ejaculations" (how close our prayer language can be to other intense human desires - see the Jeremiah quote above), can be a significant spiritual discipline, a Christian equivalent to a mantra, alongside other disciplines to sanctify the day.


*******


This collect is an adaptation of the new collect prepared by the CofE Liturgical Commission based on Augustine's "quia fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te". That ASB collect has been revised again (it retains there its Pentecost 18/Trinity 17 position):



Almighty God,

you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you:
pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself,
and so bring us at last to your heavenly city
where we shall see you face to face;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


The NZ revisers might have been more creative in the address of God, rather than once again returning to the default of "Almighty God", a title, whilst not contrary to Augustine, that was not used by him at this point.     

Saturday, 19 February 2011

HOMILY FOR THE SEVENTH SUNDAY by Abbot Paul




7th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2011 


“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” These are the words spoken by the Lord to Moses as recorded in the 19th chapter of the Book of Leviticus. They lie at the very heart of the Holiness Code found in that book, a magnificent collection of injunctions on how God’s people are to live in obedience to God’s will in their personal behaviour, as a family or in national life, a Code which has the constant refrain, “I am the Lord”. So intimately involved is the God of Israel with his people that their way of life should be the perfect reflection of God’s own being. Sin, as Adam and Eve soon discovered, was nothing more than the turning aside from that relationship to go their own way and do their own thing independent of the God who made them, loved them and had given them everything they could possibly need or want to be happy and fulfilled. By their self-will they usurped God’s authority and distorted the beauty and goodness of life on earth that had been created in the image and likeness of God. 


In every age God raised up patriarchs, prophets and kings to call his people back to that original state of holiness in which they had been created. Yet those same servants often behaved unworthily, just think of Moses or David, and God’s message went unheard. There could be no remedy to this state of affairs, no hope, no salvation, until God himself took the initiative in the person of his Divine Son and took upon himself our human nature becoming Man by the working of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus Christ, as St Paul says, “God was reconciling the world unto himself.” It is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who speaks to us in the Sermon on the Mount. The message he proclaims differs little from the message spoken through Moses, and yet there is a radical, fundamental difference. It is no longer a sinful man who utters the word of God, no longer the blind leading the blind, but the Messiah himself, Jesus Christ, who can give us the grace we need to fulfil what he asks of us, for he alone can fulfil his own word. 


When Jesus says, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you: in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven,” we have to take those words together with what St Paul says to the Corinthians, “the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.” And again, when Jesus says, “You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect,” we have to take that with the words of St Paul, “you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.” We are not called upon to imitate God or to follow the example of the Lord Jesus, but something more radically spiritual than that, something more exciting too. We are not actors on a stage or puppets on a string; we are God’s sons and daughters, created in his image and likeness to be like him in every way, that is, to be holy as he is holy and perfect as he is perfect. This is the big difference between the Old and the New Testament, between the Old and the New Covenant. Jesus does not dispense with the Law, but asks for a deeper observance that comes from the heart and gets to reason for why its demands were formulated, namely that God is the God of love, a love “made visible in Christ Jesus,” for “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”


St Paul also tells the Corinthians, in a beautifully succinct phrase, “We have the mind of Christ.” Not only do we belong to Christ, but we have the mind of Christ and we are the Body of Christ, he is our head. We are also temples of God, filled with the Holy Spirit. If all that is true, and we believe it is, then the Sermon on the Mount is undoubtedly a new Sinai, a new Decalogue, but Jesus is infinitely more than a new Moses. He is the Word of God through whom all things were made and in whom all creation is redeemed. The Sermon is a Christological proclamation of the Church’s faith in Jesus Christ as the incarnate Son of God, our Lord and Saviour, for whom nothing is impossible, neither in himself nor in his members. It is the very essence of the Gospel.


Can you see, then, what an enormous leap forward in faith we are invited to make by our heavenly Father and why he sent his Son among us to teach with authority and power? What Jesus asks of us today isn’t impossible because, as he himself shows us, God doesn’t ask of us more than he is prepared to give us. As he said to St Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”


Now yesterday’s Gospel was St Mark’s version of the Transfiguration, in which we heard that when the vision of heaven was over, the three disciples saw “only Jesus”. Only Jesus! Today’s readings invite us to do the same, to see only Jesus. If we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, if we live in him as he lives in us, then nothing will be impossible. We will most surely love our enemies and pray for those who hate us. And we can begin right now, at this Mass, today





Cardinal Ratzinger Speaks on the Ecclesiology of Vatican II


__________________________ Conference of Cardinal Ratzinger at the opening of the Pastoral Congress of the Diocese of Aversa (Italy) On the afternoon of 15 September 2001, at the invitation of Archbishop Mario Milano, His Eminence, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, opened the Pastoral Congress of the Diocese of Aversa (Italy) dedicated to a re-reading of the documents of the Second Vatican Council. This is a translation of Cardinal Ratzinger's opening lecture in Italian.

Just after the First World War, Romano Guardini coined an expression that quickly became a slogan for German Catholics: "An event of enormous importance is taking place: the Church is awakening within souls". The result of this awakening was ultimately the Second Vatican Council. Through its various documents it expressed and made part of the patrimony of the whole Church something that, during four decades full of ferment and hope (1920 to 1960), had been maturing in knowledge gained through faith. To understand Vatican II one must look back on this period and seek to discern, at least in outline, the currents and tendencies that came together in the Council. I will present the ideas that came to the fore during this period and then describe the fundamental elements of the Council's teaching on the Church.

I. The Church, the Body of Christ 1. The Image of the Mystical Body "The Church is awakening within souls". Guardini's expression had been wisely formulated, since it finally recognized and experienced the Church as something within us—not as an institution outside us but something that lives within us. If until that time we had thought of the Church primarily as a structure or organization, now at last we began to realize that we ourselves were the Church. The Church is much more than an organization: it is the organism of the Holy Spirit, something that is alive, that takes hold of our inmost being. This consciousness found verbal expression with the concept of the "Mystical Body of Christ", a phrase describing a new and liberating experience of the Church. At the very end of his life, in the same year the Constitution on the Church was published by the Council, Guardini wrote: the Church "is not an institution devised and built by men ... but a living reality.... It lives still throughout the course of time. Like all living realities it develops, it changes ... and yet in the very depths of its being it remains the same; its inmost nucleus is Christ.... To the extent that we look upon the Church as organization ... like an association ... we have not yet arrived at a proper understanding of it. Instead, it is a living reality and our relationship with it ought to be—life" (La Chiesa del Signore, [English translation: "The Church of the Lord"]; Morcelliana, Brescia 1967, p. 160).

Today, it is difficult to communicate the enthusiasm and joy this realization generated at the time. In the era of liberalism that preceded the First World War, the Catholic Church was looked upon as a fossilized organization, stubbornly opposed to all modern achievements. Theology had so concentrated on the question of the primacy as to make the Church appear to be essentially a centralized organization that one defended staunchly but which somehow one related to from the outside. Once again it became clear that the Church was more than this—she is something we all bring forward in faith in a living way, just as the Church brings us forward. It became clear that the Church has experienced organic growth over the centuries, and continues to grow even today. Through the Church the mystery of the Incarnation is alive today: Christ continues to move through time. If we were to ask ourselves what element present from the very beginning could still be found in Vatican II, our answer would be: the Christological definition of the Church. J.A. MöhIer, a leader in the revival of Catholic theology after the devastation of the Enlightenment, once said: a certain erroneous theology could be caricatured with the short phrase: "In the beginning Christ created the hierarchy and had thus taken adequate care of the Church until the end of time". Opposed to this concept is the fact that the Church is the Mystical Body; Christ and His act of founding are never over but always new. In the Church Christ never belongs just to the past, He is always and above all the present and the future. The Church is the presence of Christ: He is contemporary with us and we are His contemporaries. The Church lives from this: from the fact that Christ is present in our hearts and it is there that Christ forms His Church. That is why the first word of the Church is Christ, and not herself. The Church is healthy to the extent that all her attention is focused on Him. The Second Vatican Council placed this concept masterfully at the pinnacle of its deliberations; the fundamental text on the Church begins with the words: Lumen gentium cum sit Christus: "since Christ is the Light of the World ... the Church is a mirror of His glory; she reflects His splendour". If we want to understand the Second Vatican Council correctly, we must always go back to this opening statement..

.. Next, with this point of departure, we must establish both the feature of her interiority and of her communitarian nature. The Church grows from within and moves outwards, not vice-versa. Above all, she is the sign of the most intimate communion with Christ. She is formed primarily in a life of prayer, the sacraments and the fundamental attitudes of faith, hope and love. Thus if someone should ask what must I do to become Church and to grow like the Church, the reply must be: you must become a person who lives faith, hope, and charity. What builds the Church is prayer and the communion of the sacraments; in them the prayer of the Church comes to meet us. Last summer I met a parish priest who told me that for many years there hadn't been a single vocation to the priesthood from his parish. What ought he do? We cannot manufacture vocations, it is the Lord who raises them up. Should we therefore stand by helpless? The priest decided to make a pilgrimage every year, a long and difficult pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine of Altötting to pray for vocations, and invited those who shared in this intention to join him in the pilgrimage and common prayer. Year after year the number of participants in this pilgrimage grew until finally, this year, the whole village with great joy, celebrated the first Mass in living memory said by a priest from the parish..

.. The Church grows from within: this is the meaning of the expression "Body of Christ". The phrase implies something more: Christ has formed a body for himself. If I want to find Him and make Him mine, I am directly called to become a humble and complete and full member of His Body, and, by becoming one of His members, becoming an organ of his Body in this world, I will be so for eternity. The idea of liberal theology that whereas Jesus on his own would be interesting, the Church would be a wretched reality, contradicts this understanding completely. Christ gives Himself only in His body, and never as a pure ideal. This means that He gives Himself, and the others, in the uninterrupted communion that endures through time and is His Body. It means that the Church is not an idea, it is a Body. The scandal of becoming flesh that Jesus' incarnation caused so many of His contemporaries, is repeated in the "scandalous character" of the Church. Jesus' statement is valid in this instance: "Blessed is he who is not scandalized in me". The communitarian nature of the Church necessarily entails its character as "we". The Church is not somewhere apart from us, it is we who constitute the Church. No one person can say "I am the Church", but each one of us can and ought to say, "we are the Church". This "we" does not represent an isolated group, but rather a group that exists within the entire community of all Christ's members, living and dead. This is how a group can genuinely say: "we are the Church". Here is the Church, in this open "we" that breaches social and political boundaries, and the boundary between heaven and earth as well. We are the Church. This gives rise to a co-responsibility and also the possibility of collaborating personally. From this understanding there derives the right to criticize but our criticism must be above all self-criticism.

Let us repeat: the Church is not "somewhere else"; nor is she "someone else". We ourselves build the Church. These ideas matured and led directly to the Council. Everything said about the common responsibility of the laity, and the legal forms that were established to facilitate the intelligent exercise of responsibility, are the result of this current of thought. Finally, the concept of the development and therefore of the historical dynamic of the Church belongs to this theme. A body remains identical to itself over the course of its life due to the fact that in the life process it constantly renews itself. For the great English Cardinal, Newman, the idea of development was the true and proper bridge to his conversion to Catholicism. I believe that the idea of development belongs to those numerous fundamental concepts of Catholicism that are far from being adequately explored. Once again it is Vatican II to which we owe the first solemn formulation of this idea in a Magisterial document. Whoever wants to attach himself solely to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures or to the forms of the Church of the Fathers imprisons Christ in "yesterday". The result is either a wholly sterile faith that has nothing to say to our times, or the arrogant assumption of the right to skip over 2,000 years of history, consign them to the dustbin of mistakes, and try to figure out what a Christianity would look like either according to Scripture or according to Jesus. The only possible result will be an artificial creation that we ourselves have made, devoid of any consistency. Genuine identity with the beginning in Christ can only exist where there is a living continuity that has developed the beginning and preserved the beginning precisely through this development.

  II Eucharistic Ecclesiology: Let us go back and look at developments in the pre-Conciliar era. Reflection on the Mystical Body of Christ marked the first phase of the Church's interior re-discovery; it began with St Paul and led to placing in the foreground the presence of Christ and the dynamics of what is alive (in Him and us). Further research led to a fresh awareness. Above all, more than anyone else, the great French theologian Henri de Lubac in his magnificent and learned studies made it clear that in the beginning the term "corpus mysticum" referred to the Eucharist. For St Paul and the Fathers of the Church the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ was inseparably connected with the concept of the Eucharist in which the Lord is bodily present and which He gives us His Body as food. This is how a Eucharistic ecclesiology came into existence. What do we mean today by "Eucharistic ecclesiology"? I will attempt to answer this question with a brief mention of some fundamental points. The first point is that Jesus' Last Supper could be defined as the event that founded the Church. Jesus gave His followers this Liturgy of Death and Resurrection and at the same time He gave them the Feast of Life. In the Last Supper he repeats the covenant of Sinai—or rather what at Sinai was a simple sign or prototype, that becomes now a complete reality: the communion in blood and life between God and man. Clearly the Last Supper anticipates the Cross and the Resurrection and presupposes them, otherwise it would be an empty gesture. This is why the Fathers of the Church could use a beautiful image and say that the Church was born from the pierced side of the Lord, from which flowed blood and water. When I state that the Last Supper is the beginning of the Church, I am actually saying the same thing, from another point of view. This formula means that the Eucharist binds all men together, and not just with one another, but with Christ; in this way it makes them "Church". At the same time the formula describes the fundamental constitution of the Church: the Church exists in Eucharistic communities. The Church's Mass is her constitution, because the Church is, in essence, a Mass (sent out: "missa"), a service of God, and therefore a service of man and a service for the transformation of the world. The Mass is the Church's form, that means that through it she develops an entirely original relationship that exists nowhere else, a relationship of multiplicity and of unity. In each celebration of the Eucharist, the Lord is really present. He is risen and dies no more. He can no longer be divided into different parts. He always gives Himself completely and entirely. This is why the Council states: "This Church of Christ is truly present in all legitimate local communities of the faithful which, united with their pastors, are themselves called Churches in the New Testament. For in their locality these are the new People called by God, in the Holy Spirit and with great trust (cf. 1 Thes. 1,5).... In these communities, though frequently small and poor, or living in the diaspora, Christ is present, and in virtue of His power there is brought together one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church" (Lumen Gentium, n. 26). This means that the ecclesiology of local Churches derives from the formulation of the Eucharistic ecclesiology. This is a typical feature of Vatican II that presents the internal and sacramental foundation of the doctrine of collegiality about which we will speak later.

For a correct understanding of the Council's teaching, we must first look more closely at what exactly it said. Vatican II was aware of the concerns of both Orthodox and Protestant theology and integrated them into a more ample Catholic understanding. In Orthodox theology the idea of Eucharistic ecclesiology was first expressed by exiled Russian theologians in opposition to the pretensions of Roman centralism. They affirmed that insofar as it possesses Christ entirely, every Eucharistic community is already, in se, the Church. Consequently, external unity with other communities is not a constitutive element of the Church. Therefore, they concluded that unity with Rome is not a constitutive element of the Church. Such a unity would be a beautiful thing since it would represent the fullness of Christ to the external world, but it is not essential since nothing would be added to the totality of Christ. The Protestant understanding of the Church was moving in the same direction. Luther could no longer recognize the Spirit of Christ in the universal Church; he directly took that Church to be an instrument of the anti-Christ. Nor could he see the Protestant State Churches of the Reformation as Churches in the proper sense of the word. They were only social, political entities necessary for specific purposes and dependent on political powers—nothing more. According to Luther the Church existed in the community. Only the assembly that listens to the Word of God in a specific place is the Church. He replaced the word "Church" with "community" (Gemeinde). Church became a negative concept.
If we go back now to the Council text certain nuances become evident. The text does not simply say, "The Church is entirely present in each community that celebrates the Eucharist", rather it states: "This Church of Christ is truly present in all legitimate local communities of the faithful which, united with their pastors, are themselves called Churches". Two elements here are of great importance: to be a Church the community must be "legitimate"; they are legitimate when they are "united with their pastors". What does this mean? In the first place, no one can make a Church by himself. A group cannot simply get together, read the New Testament and declare: "At present we are the Church because the Lord is present wherever two or three are gathered in His name". The element of "receiving" belongs essentially to the Church, just as faith comes from "hearing" and is not the result of one's decision or reflection. Faith is a converging with something I could neither imagine nor produce on my own; faith has to come to meet me. We call the structure of this encounter, a "Sacrament". It is part of the fundamental form of a sacrament that it be received and not self-administered. No one can baptize himself. No one can ordain himself. No one can forgive his own sins. Perfect repentance cannot remain something interior—of its essence it demands the form of encounter of the Sacrament. This too is a result of a sacrament's fundamental structure as an encounter [with Christ]. For this reason communion with oneself is not just an infraction of the external provisions of Canon Law, but it is an attack on the innermost nature of a sacrament. That a priest can administer this unique sacrament, and only this sacrament, to himself is part of the mysterium tremendum in which the Eucharist involves him. In the Eucharist, the priest acts "in persona Christi", in the person of Christ [the Head]; at the same time he represents Christ while remaining a sinner who lives completely by accepting Christ's Gift. One cannot make the Church but only receive her; one receives her from where she already is, where she is really present: the sacramental community of Christ's Body moving through history. It will help us to understand this difficult concept if we add something: "legitimate communities". Christ is everywhere whole. This is the first important formulation of the Council in union with our Orthodox brothers. At the same time Christ is everywhere only one, so I can possess the one Lord only in the unity that He is, in the unity of all those who are also His Body and who through the Eucharist must evermore become it. Therefore, the reciprocal unity of all those communities who celebrate the Eucharist is not something external added to Eucharistic ecclesiology, but rather its internal condition: in unity here is the One. This is why the Council recalls the proper responsibility of communities, but excludes any self-sufficiency. 

The Council develops an ecclesiology in which being Catholic, namely being in communion with believers in all places and in all times, is not simply an external element of an organizational form, it represents grace coming from within and is at the same time a visible sign of the grace of the Lord who alone can create unity by breaching countless boundaries.

III. The Church, as the People of God After the initial enthusiasm that greeted the discovery of the idea of the Body of Christ, scholars analyzed and gradually began to refine the concept and make corrections in two directions. We have already referred to the first of these corrections in the work of Henri de Lubac. He made concrete the idea of the Body of Christ by working out a Eucharistic ecclesiology and opened it in this way to concrete questions about the juridical ordering of the Church and the reciprocal relations between local Churches and the universal Church. The other form of correction began in Germany in the 1930's, where some theologians were critical of the fact that with the idea of the Mystical Body certain relationships were not clear between the visible and the invisible, law and grace, order and life. They therefore proposed the concept of "People of God", found above all in the Old Testament, as a broader description of the Church to which one could more easily apply sociological and juridical categories. While the Mystical Body of Christ would certainly remain an important "image", by itself it could not meet the request of theology to express things using "concepts". Initially this criticism of the idea of the Body of Christ was somewhat superficial. Further study of the Body of Christ uncovered its positive content; the concept of "People of God", along with the concept of the Body of Christ, entered the ecclesiology of the Council. One wondered if the image of the Mystical Body might be too narrow a starting point to define the many forms of belonging to the Church now found in the tangle of human history. If we use the image of a body to describe "belonging" we are limited only to the form of representation as "member". Either one is or one is not a member, there are no other possibilities. One can then ask if the image of the body was too restrictive, since there manifestly existed in reality intermediate degrees of belonging. The Constitution on the Church found it helpful for this purpose to use the concept of "the People of God". It could describe the relationship of non-Catholic Christians to the Church as being "in communion" and that of non-Christians as being "ordered" to the Church where in both cases one relies on the idea of the People of God (Lumen Gentium, nn. 15, 16). In one respect one can say that the Council introduced the concept of "the People of God" above all as an ecumenical bridge. It applies to another perspective as well: the rediscovery of the Church after the First World War that initially was a phenomenon common to both Catholics and Protestants. Certainly the liturgical movement was by no means limited to the Catholic Church. This shared character gave rise to reciprocal criticism. The idea of the Body of Christ was developed within the Catholic Church, when the Church was designated as "Christ who continues to live on earth" and so the Church was described as the incarnation of the Son that continues to the end of time. This idea provoked opposition among Protestants who saw in the teaching an intolerable identifying of the Church herself with Christ. According to Protestants the Church was in a way adoring herself and making herself infallible. Gradually, the idea struck Catholic thinkers who, even though they did not go that far, found that this understanding of the Church made her every declaration and ministerial act so definitive that it made any criticism appear to be an attack on Christ himself and simply forgot the human, at times far too human, element of the Church. The Christological distinction had to be clearly emphasized: the Church is not identical with Christ, but she stands before Him. She is a Church of sinners, ever in need of purification and renewal, ever needing to become Church. The idea of reform became a decisive element of the concept of the People of God, while it would be difficult to develop the idea of reform within the framework of the Body of Christ. There is a third factor that favoured the idea of the "People of God". In 1939 the Evangelical exegete, Ernst Käsemann gave his monograph on the Letter to the Hebrews the title, The Pilgrim People of God. In the framework of Council discussions, this title became right away a slogan because it made something become more clearly understood in the debates on the Constitution on the Church: the Church has not yet reached her goal. Her true and proper hope still lies ahead of her. The "eschatological" import of the concept of Church became clear. The phrase conveys the unity of salvation history which comprises both Israel and the Church in her pilgrim journey. The phrase expresses the historical nature of the pilgrim Church that will not be wholly herself until the paths of time have been traversed and have blossomed in the hands of God. It describes the unity of the People of God amid the variety, as in all peoples, of different ministries and services; yet above and beyond all distinctions, all are pilgrims in the one community of the pilgrim People of God. In broad outline, if one wants to sum up what elements relating to the concept "People of God" were important for the Council, one could say that the phrase "People of God" conveyed the historical nature of the Church, described the unity of God's history with man, the internal unity of God's people that also goes beyond the frontiers of sacramental states of life. It conveys the eschatological dynamic, the provisional and fragmentary nature of the Church ever in need of renewal; and finally, it expresses the ecumenical dimension, that is the variety of ways in which communion and ordering to the Church can and do exist, even beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church. However, commentators very soon completely handed the term "people" in the concept "People of God" to a general political interpretation. Among the proponents of liberation theology it was taken to mean "people" in the Marxist sense, in opposition to the ruling classes, or more generally, it was taken to refer to popular sovereignty at long last being applied to the Church. This led to large-scale debates on Church structures. On occasion the expression was understood in a peculiarly Western sense as "democratization" or more in the sense of the so-called Eastern "People's Republics". Gradually this "verbal fireworks" (N. Lohfink) died down either because the power games ended in exhaustion and gave way to the ordinary work of parish councils, or because solid theological research had irrefutably demonstrated the impossibility of politicizing a concept that had arisen in an entirely different context. Bochum Werner Berg provides an example of the meticulous exegesis that characterized this theological research when he affirmed: "in spite of the small number of passages that mention the 'People of God' (it is a rare expression in the Bible) one common element is immediately apparent: the expression 'People of God' describes the relationship with God, the connection with God, the link between God and those designated as the People of God, it is therefore a 'vertical relationship'. The expression does not lend itself easily to a description of the hierarchical structure of this community, especially if 'People of God' is used in "contrast" to the ministers…" If we begin with the biblical meaning of this expression it can no longer be easily understood as a cry of protest against the ministers: "We are the People of God".

Josef Meyer zu Schlochtern, the Professor of Fundamental Theology at Paderborn, concludes his discussion of the concept "People of God" with an observation on Vatican II's Constitution on the Church. The document concludes by "depicting the Trinitarian structure as the foundation of the final determination of the Church…". The discussion is brought back to the essential point: the Church does not exist for herself; rather, she is God's instrument to gather mankind in Himself and to prepare for that time when "God will be all in all" (I Cor 15,28). The very concept of God was left out of all the "fireworks" surrounding this expression, thus depriving the expression of its meaning. A Church which existed only for herself would be useless. People would realize this immediately. The crisis of the Church reflected in the expression "People of God" is a "crisis of God". It derives from our abandoning the essential. All that remains is a struggle for power. This sort of thing is already abundantly present in the world—there is no need for the Church to enter this arena.
IV. The Ecclesiology of Communion Around the time of the extraordinary Synod of 1985 which attempted to make an assessment of the 20 years since the Council there was a renewed effort to synthesize the Council's ecclesiology. The synthesis involved one basic concept: the ecclesiology of communion. I was very much pleased with this new focus in ecclesiology and I endeavoured, to the extent I was able, to help work it out. First of all one must admit that the word ''communio" did not occupy a central place in the Council. All the same if properly understood it can serve as a synthesis of the essential elements of the Council's ecclesiology. All the essential elements of the Christian concept of "communio" can be found in the famous passage from the First Letter of Saint John (1,3); it is a frame of reference for the correct Christian understanding of "communio". "That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship (communio) with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete". The point of departure of communio is clearly evident in this passage: the union with the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who comes to mankind through the proclamation of the Church. Fellowship (communio) among men is born here and merges into fellowship (communio) with the One and Triune God. One gains access to communion with God through the realization of God's communion with man—it is Christ in person. To meet Christ creates communion with Him and therefore with the Father in the Holy Spirit. This unites men with one another. The goal of all this is the fullness of joy: the Church carries in her bosom an eschatological dynamic. This expression "fullness of joy" recalls the farewell address of Jesus, His Paschal mystery and the Lord's return in the Easter apparitions which prefigure His definitive return in the new world. "You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy ... I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice ... ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full (Jn 16, 20.22.24). If this verse is compared to the invitation to prayer in St Luke (Lk 11,13) it is apparent that "joy" and the "Holy Spirit" are equivalent. Although John does not explicitly mention the Holy Spirit in his first Epistle (1,3) he is hidden within the word "joy". In this biblical context the word "communio" has a theological, Christological, soteriological and ecclesiological characteristic. It enjoys a sacramental dimension that is absolutely explicit in St Paul: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body ... " (I Cor 10,16ff.). The ecclesiology of communion at its very foundation is a Eucharistic ecclesiology. It is very close to that Eucharistic ecclesiology that Orthodox theologians so convincingly developed during the past century. In it—as we have already seen—ecclesiology becomes more concrete while remaining totally spiritual, transcendent and eschatological. In the Eucharist, Christ, present in the bread and wine and giving Himself anew, builds the Church as His Body and through His Risen Body He unites us to the one and triune God and to each other. The Eucharist celebrated in different places is universal at the same time, because there is only one Christ and only a single body of Christ. The Eucharist comprehends the priestly service of "repraesentatio Christi" as well as that network of service, the synthesis of unity and multiplicity which is expressed in the term "communio". Without any possible doubt one could say that this concept conveys a synthesis of ecclesiology which combines the discourse of the Church with the discourse of God, and to life through God and with God. This synthesis assembles all the essential intentions of Vatican II ecclesiology and connects them with one another in an appropriate fashion. For these reasons I was both grateful and happy when the 1985 Synod placed "communio" at the centre of their study. The following years demonstrated the fact that no word is safe from misunderstanding, not even the best and most profound word. To the extent that "communio" became an easy slogan, it was devalued and distorted. As happened to the concept 'People of God', one must point to a growing horizontal understanding that abandoned the concept of God. The ecclesiology of communion was reduced to a consideration of relations between the local Church and the universal Church; this in turn was reduced to the problem of determining the area of competence of each. Naturally the egalitarian thesis once more gained ground: only full equality was possible in "communio". Here again was the exact same argument that had exercised the disciples about who was the greatest amongst them. Obviously this was something that would not be resolved within a single generation. Mark's description of the incident is the most forceful. On the road from Jerusalem Jesus spoke to His Disciples about His coming Passion for the third time. When they arrived at Capernaum He asked them what they had been talking about on the road. "They were silent" because they had been discussing who among them would be the greatest—a sort of discussion about the primacy (Mk 9, 33-37). Isn't it just the same today? The Lord is going towards His Passion, while the Church, and in her Christ, is suffering and, we on the other hand are entangled in our favorite discussion: who comes first with the power. If He were to come among us and ask what we were talking about we would blush and be silent. This does not mean that there should be no discussion of good government and the division of responsibility in the Church. It is certainly true that there are imbalances that need correcting. We should watch for and root out an excessive Roman centralization that is always a danger. But questions of this sort ought not to distract us from the true mission of the Church: the Church should not be proclaiming herself but God. It is only to assure that this is done in the purest possible way, that there is criticism within the Church. Criticism should insure a correlation between discourse on God and common service. To sum it up, it is no accident that Jesus' words "the first shall be last and the last first" occur more than once in the Gospel tradition. They are like a mirror constantly focused on us all. Faced with the post-1985 reduction of the concept of "communio", the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith thought it appropriate to prepare a "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion". The Letter was issued on 28 May, 1992. Today, any theologian concerned about his reputation feels obliged to criticize all documents from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Our Letter met with a storm of criticism—very few parts of the text met with approval. The phrase that provoked the most controversy was this statement: "The universal Church in her essential mystery is a reality that ontologically and temporally is prior to every particular Church" (cf. n. 9). There was a brief reference to this statement being based on the Patristic notion that the one, unique Church precedes the creation of particular Churches and gives birth to them. The Fathers were reviving a rabbinical concept that the Torah and Israel were pre-existent. Creation was conceived as providing space for the Will of God. This Will needed a people who would live for the Will of God and would make it the Light of the world. Since the Fathers were convinced of the final identity of the Church and Israel, they could not envision the Church as something accidental, only recently created; in this gathering of people under the Will of God the Fathers recognized the internal theology of creation. Beginning with Christology this image was amplified and deepened: they explained history—under the influence of the Old Testament—as a story of love between God and man. God finds and prepares a Bride for His Son—the unique Bride who is the unique Church. In the light of Genesis 2,24, where man and woman become "two in one flesh" the image of the Bride merges with the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ—an analogy derived from the Eucharistic liturgy. The unique Body of Christ is prepared; Christ and the Church will be "two in one flesh", one body and in this way "God will be everything to everyone". The ontological priority of the universal Church—the unique Church, the unique Body, the unique Bride—vis-à-vis the empirical, concrete manifestations of various, particular Churches is so obvious to me that I find it difficult to understand the objections raised against it. These objections only seem possible if one will not or cannot recognize the great Church conceived by God—possibly out of despair at her earthly shortcomings. These objections look like theological ravings. All that would remain is the empirical image of mutually related Churches and their conflicts. This would mean that the Church as a theological theme is cancelled. If one can only see the Church as a human institution, all that remains is desolation. In this case one has abandoned not only the ecclesiology of the Fathers, but the ecclesiology of the New Testament and the understanding of Israel in the Old Testament as well. It is not just the later deutero-Pauline letters and the Apocalypse that affirm the ontological priority of the universal Church to the particular Churches (reaffirmed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith). This concept can be found in the great Pauline letters: in the Letter to the Galatians, the Apostle speaks about the heavenly Jerusalem not as something great and eschatological, but as something which precedes us: "This Jerusalem is our mother" (Gal 4,26). H. Schlier comments that for St Paul, inspired by Jewish tradition, the Jerusalem above is the new aeon. For St Paul this new aeon already exists "in the Christian Church. For him the Church is the heavenly Jerusalem in her children". Let me conclude. To understand the ecclesiology of Vatican II one cannot ignore chapters 4 to 7 of the Constitution Lumen Gentium. These chapters discuss the laity, the universal call to holiness, the religious and the eschatological orientation of the Church. In these chapters the inner goal of the Church, the most essential part of its being, comes once again to the fore: holiness, conformity to God. There must exist in the world space for God, where he can dwell freely so that the world becomes His "Kingdom". Holiness is something greater than a moral quality. It is the presence of God with men, of men with God; it is God's "tent" pitched amongst men in our midst (cf. Jn 1,14). It is a new birth—not from flesh and blood but from God (Jn 1,13). Orientation towards holiness is one and the same as eschatological orientation. Beginning with Jesus' message it is fundamental for the Church. The Church exists to become God's dwelling place in the world, to become "holiness". This is the only reason there should be any struggle in the Church—and not for precedence or for the first place.

All of this is repeated and synthesized in the last chapter of the Constitution on the Church that is dedicated to the Mother of the Lord. As everyone knows, the question of dedicating a specific document to Mary was widely debated. In any event I believe it was appropriate to insert the Marian element directly into the doctrine on the Church. In this way the point of departure for our consideration is once more apparent: the Church is not an apparatus, nor a social institution, nor one social institution among many others. It is a person. It is a woman. It is a Mother. It is alive. A Marian understanding of the Church is totally opposed to the concept of the Church as a bureaucracy or a simple organization. We cannot make the Church, we must be the Church. We are the Church, the Church is in us only to the extent that our faith more than action forges our being. Only by being Marian, can we become the Church. At its very beginning the Church was not made, but given birth. She existed in the soul of Mary from the moment she uttered her fiat. This is the most profound will of the Council: the Church should be awakened in our souls. Mary shows us the way.

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