Art Centeres of MCBS

MCBS Cristone Media, Kottayam

Click here for the Official website

Director: Fr Xavier Kunnumpuram MCBS

Mob. 09447471748

Services:

Music: both vocal and instrumental, Painting, Dance, Drawing, Craft, Audio-visual Making Classes on Regular Basis

Christ has founded the Church to communicate the love of God to all men. The Church is at the service of the Reign of God. She tries to establish the Kingdom of God through various means. Fr. Mathew Alakulam and Fr. Joseph Paredom founded MCBS Congregation to consecrate the entire life of the members to the realization of God’s Kingdom (Mat 6, 10); we have to place the Eucharist at the core of our being. (Constitution n.2). The kernel of our spirituality is to live and proclaim the Eucharistic mystery we celebrate, to gather the children of God around the altar (Constitution n. 8). As a member of MCBS congregation I would like to place on record my intentions of spreading the charism of our congregation.

I would like to begin a new venture called MCBS Cristone Media (Tune to the Tone of Christ). By this I mean a centre of arts, culture and media. The aim of this centre is to work for over all development of society. In order to boast overall development there must be good values in the society. My intension is to establish a media centre to promote good values and to promote Eucharistic culture in society. The centre gives inspiration to communicate good values and to work for the overall development of the persons. For this MCBS Cristone Media works in three levels – training, production and promotion.

MCBS Kalagram, Thiruvananthapuram

Click here for the Official website

MCBS KalaGramam is a socio-cultural development institution started in the year 1997 February 11th by Fr. Mathew Mailady MCBS. It aims at an integrated formation of individuals, from every walk of life. Physical and mental development for a social well-being is taken care of through different classes.

Within a short span of period MCBS KalaGramam has evolved itself as one of the premier centre for art and music education in Kerala. We are committed to quality education and have well experienced instructors as faculty in various subjects. It is our motto to provide the highest level of instruction as well as a supportive environment, and to evolve KalaGramam as one of the learning centers in South Asia in Art and Music.

MCBS KalaGramam is the official examination centre of London College of Music (LCM) University of West London. We are confident that this institution is on its way to be one of the best learning and research centres in music and arts in South India.

Contact Address

TC 3/2061

LIC Lane, Lakshmi Nagar

Pattom P.O

Thiruvananthapuram,

Kerala, India-695004

Phone: 0471-2541177

Mobile: 9037667226

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The Means of Evangelization and of the Formation of Evangelizers – A Youth Response

The Means of Evangelization and of the Formation of Evangelizers –

A Youth Response

Puthiyidathu Mathew MCBS

bijumcbs@gmail.com

 Introduction

The influence of different Christian movements and organizations has made several youngsters come forward with great enthusiasm and commitment to the Church and her mission in the modern world. The increasing number of youngsters gathered at the World Youth Day affirms this fact.  Each WYD produces new enthusiasm in the hearts of millions of youth, the present and the future of the Church.  After the WYD 2005 of Cologne Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the German Bishops on behalf of the youth, “Yes we came to worship him, we met him. Now help us to become his disciples and witnesses”.[1]

            The challenge is to help the young to live their ‘present’ here and now in the Church.  Youngsters are always searching for challenges; they like to move differently. The great Pope, the admirer of youth, John Paul II asked them to become a joyful contradiction in the modern world. 

            At the same time there is a large mass of people who are still far away from the Church, especially in the Asian continent.  The Universal Church is well aware of this situation and says, “It is indeed a mystery why the Saviour of the world, born in Asia, has until now remained largely unknown to the people of the continent”.[2] It must be remembered that “Evangelization and church – planting are a slow and painstaking work.  To reach the desired goal the evangelizer needs to use effective methods.  Thus not paying attention to effectiveness simply means that we are in fact using wrong methods.”[3]

The Importance of New Ways and Means

            Change is fundamental to the human person and to society.  As a social being man tries to adapt himself to his changing circumstances. The Church also is travelling the same way.  She searches and finds new possibilities to continue her mission in the modern world.  There is a wide horizon of possibilities open to us. “Missionary methods reflect the social relationships in the society where the church lives; new situations spawn new methods.  The church acquires a new self awareness, both cause and effect of a new way of existence, new ideas, new ministries, new apostolic movements etc”.[4]

 

Our duty is to benefit from it according to the needs of the time.  The Magisterium of the Church is very much open to new means in evangelization.  “How do we bring the message of Christ to non-Christian young people who represent the future of entire continents? Clearly, the ordinary means of pastoral work are not sufficient: what are needed are associations, institutions, special centers and groups, and cultural and social initiatives for young people.”[5]

            The traditional means of evangelization are not enough to cope with the modern technological world. “Missionary activity, which is carried out in a wide variety of ways, is the task of all the Christian faithful,”[6] The complex life situations invite us to find out more effective and attractive methods which give an impetus to the zeal of youngsters. Church also acknowledges it through her teachings, “This question of ‘how to evangelize’ is permanently relevant, because the methods of evangelizing vary according to the different circumstances of time, place and culture, and because they thereby present a certain challenge to our capacity for discovery and adaptation.”[7]

            One of the positive aspects of the missionary enthusiasm of the new generation is their sharing mentality.  They are ready to share their time, energy, talents, resources, prayer, etc, for the Kingdom of God.  At the same time they are very strict about the concrete results of their sharing.

            It is the duty and privilege of each and every one to find and open new vistas of attractive and effective means of evangelization.  It doesn’t mean that traditional ways are totally outdated.  Perhaps they are the foundation of our new endeavors and we are modifying them according to the needs of the time.  Each and every Christian has the obligation to proclaim the Good News. But each one is different and unique and so the ways and means of participation is also different.  One cannot be higher than the other, but only in the level of commitment of the individual.  At the same time we have to fan the flame in the hearts of many so that they may be more and more committed to their missionary vocation. 

            In this paper I intend to present some possible ways and means which would enable us to bring the Good News to the hearts of many.  This can help us to bring the mission nearer to the people, especially the youth, who are searching for their role in the Church’s missionary mandate. The formation of Laity is a special concern of the Church too. “The shortage of priests makes it imperative for us to givegreater attention to the formation of the laity and their effective participation in the apostolate.”[8] To achieve this goal, suitable ways and means must be evolved by answering to the needs of the situation.

  1. 1.      School of Evangelization

            “And how can they believe in him if they have never heard of him?  And how will they hear of him unless there is a preacher for them?  And how will there be preachers if they are not sent?” (Rom 10:14-15)

            The proclamation of the Good news is the duty of each and every Christian. It cannot be completed by a few priests and religious alone.  So the active participation of the lay people is very important. There are many churches which have been planted and nourished by lay missionaries.  The Church in Antioch in the first century is a decisive example for this.  “It is the task of the Pastors to ensure that the laity are formed as evangelizers to be able to face the challenges of the contemporary world, not just with worldly wisdom and efficiency, but with hearts renewed and strengthened by the truth of Christ.”[9]

            It is a matter of great encouragement and hope that “in many Asian countries, lay people are already serving as true missionaries, reaching out to fellow Asians who might never have contact with clergy and religious.”[10]

            Meanwhile ignorance of the Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church creates serious problems among lay missionaries.  Although well-motivated, their ignorance of essentials often causes more confusion in the mission field.  Systematic and continuous training is necessary for these missionaries.

A serious preparation is needed for all workers for evangelization. Such preparation is all the more necessary for those who devote themselves to the ministry of the Word. Being animated by the conviction, ceaselessly deepened, of the greatness and riches of the Word of God, those who have the mission of transmitting it must give the maximum attention to the dignity, precision and adaptation of their language. Everyone knows that the art of speaking takes on today a very great importance. How would preachers and catechists be able to neglect this?[11]

This training should help to build up a group of good missionaries.  A missionary must be a leader and he/she should train others as leaders.

 

An effective evangelizer needs prayer, leadership qualities and openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  One of the effective methods of evangelization is the formation good leaders.  An effective evangelizer must win over a good number of followers.  Jesus spent more time with his disciples than with the crowd.  He conquered the world through his disciples.  We know that St. Paul also did the same. St. Paul instructs Timothy, “Pass on to reliable people what you have heard from me through many witnesses so that they in turn will be able to teach others.” (2Tim 2:2)

 

We have to find leaders from the community itself in order to preach the Gospel.  Yahweh said to Moses, “Collects me seventy of the elders of Israel, men you know to be the people’s elders and scribes.” (Num 11:16)

 

Training Programme

 

Proper training is an important aspect of the formation of the laity.

While we are spending great sums of money to educate and form our clergy in large houses of formation and with well-organized programs, we cannot allow the formation of laity, as particular groups or as lay ministries, to be neglected. …..  the local churches must be encouraged to appreciate and support lay formation programs. Remuneration of lay persons for their stable services must respect the demands of justice and charity.  Much could be improved in their programs of formation by an exchange of personnel and resources.[12]

            Sometimes the prolonged intellectual formation and training reduces the commitment and effectiveness of the mission.  Scriptural studies and teachings of the Church are the most important things to be learned by an evangelizer.  Long term training with all kinds of intellectual development may not be an effective way of training lay missionaries.  For instance, in a battle each person has his own position and weapon in which he has been trained well.  When somebody tries to master in all kinds of weapons simultaneously he/she becomes the master of none.  So also for an evangelizer the Word of God is the weapon given to him/her and he/she should have been trained well to use that weapon.        

 

Two kinds of training can be arranged: Formal and Informal.

 

a)                  Formal training: This training is focused on the individuals who are ready to spend their life in mission areas as full time missionaries or at least for three years in a particular area.

Course-

  • The training period can last up to three years.
  • The first session is for 6 months and after that they will be sent to the fields for six months.
  • The second session will last for 3/6 months and going back to the fields for 12/15 months.
  • The third session lasts 3/6 months and final commitment.

 

Main Thrusts in the course:

           

v  The Word of God                                                      

v  Prayer                                     

v  Openness to The Holy Spirit  

v  The providence of God

v  Special training for the ‘Kerygma’ (the explicit proclamation of the saving act of Christ).

 

b)     Informal Training:          Informal training is meant for young students as the future leaders and also for the women in the family who are able to become a leaven in the neighborhood.

           

            The Women flockare powerful evangelizers. It is evident especially in the North Eastern region of India. Their tender love and care for the neighborhood and society bring many conversions in the villages.  But I think we do not have an organized programme to tap this powerful resource.  With a little training we can make big differences.  In his General audience on 13th July 1994, Pope John Paul II appreciated the efficacy of women in spreading the Good news. “Woman has a quite special aptitude in passing on the faith, so much so that Jesus himself appealed to it in the work of evangelization. That is what happened to the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at Jacob’s well: he chose her for the first expansion of the new faith in non-Jewish territory”.[13] Their role in evangelization particularly in person-to person cannot be ignored.  Church has given special attention to this mode of Gospel sharing.

For this reason, side by side with the collective proclamation of the Gospel, the other form of transmission, the person-to-person one, remains valid and important……. It must not happen that the pressing need to proclaim the Good News to the multitudes should cause us to forget this form of proclamation whereby an individual’s personal conscience is reached and touched by an entirely unique world that he receives from someone else.[14]

The involvement of women in evangelization activities is to be specially nourished through informal trainings like seminar on evangelization, prayer groups, bible study groups, etc.

  1. 2.      Mission Volunteers

            In this programme youngsters are encouraged to stay with missionaries for at least six months after their graduation. They will be trained as missionaries of Christ in different ways. They should have ample opportunities to explore their talents in mission and ministry according to their aptitude and creativity. This programme helps the youngsters to discover their aptitude in mission. It will be a period of experience that enables the youth to commit their whole life for the Kingdom of God where ever they may be. We can also hope for their support to the missions in different ways.       

The enthusiasm of youth to accept challenges is an important factor in this regard.  Our duty is to tap it properly and direct it positively.  We can see a renewed vigor in the hearts of youth all over the world.  The number of youth who are willing to live and share the gospel is increasing steadily. 

The Church asserts her hope about the youth whose participation in evangelization brings new enthusiasm in mission fields. “Circumstances invite us to make special mention of the young…….. young people who are well trained in faith and prayer must become more and more the apostles of youth. The Church counts greatly on their contribution, and we ourselves have often manifested our full confidence in them.”[15] The Church has great hope in their conviction, “To them the Church offers the truth of the Gospel as a joyful and liberating mystery to be known, lived and shared, with conviction and courage.”[16]

            Programme

  • Inviting the youngsters through dioceses, retreat centres, youth movements and other religious organizations
  • Training for 10 to 40 days
  • Priority for village ministry
  • Food and accommodation provided / contribution is highly recommended
  • Preference for  smaller groups

 

  1. 3.      Mission Hostels and Teachers

            The Catholic Church is considered as one of the largest ‘NGOs’ in the country having a wide range of network and numerous institutions.  The government and politicians have accepted this fact openly or secretly.  Nobody will ever question the excellence of our social undertakings. But unfortunately, if we look at all of our activities from a Christian perspective, we cannot but admit that we are very poor in carrying out the Church’s missionary mandate, which is the core of all our activities.  When we realize that only a handful of institutions and activities are earnestly proclaiming the kerigma through their services, we ought to admit that a  large chunk is running out of track.

The Goal of the Programme

            The important goal of this programme is to train a group of youngsters who, enlightened by Christian values, become responsible for their life and community. They should become the light and salt of the community, especially in their schools and colleges. It is our duty help them in this regard.    

The system of Catholic education must become still more clearly directed towards human promotion, providing an environment where students receive not only the formal elements of schooling but, more broadly, an integral human formation based upon the teachings of Christ.Catholic schools should continue to be places where the faith can be freely proposed and received (EA-37). [17]

We achieve our goal in and through Jesus.  Students should have the opportunity to hear and experience the love of God. In short our ultimate aim is to give Jesus to the young hearts so that they may become blessings for the community.  Jesus will colour their lives.  This is the hope and vision.

            Adolescence is an important and crucial period of time where the young search for identity.  If we are able to inculcate Christian values in them and directing them to find their identity in Jesus, it will bear much fruits. 

            Since school is a large arena, giving personal care is very difficult.  So we think of hostels. A hostel with 40 to 100 catholic students both boys and girls where each one will be cared for and nourished properly, is our vision.

             Apostolic schools run by different dioceses are a possibility in this regard.

Working Strategy

  • Identify a group of 40 to 100 catholic students of class 7 and above
  • They will be selected according to different criterion
  • Different types of training programmes for their spiritual, intellectual and social developments
  • Full scholarship is given, though contribution from them is appreciated

Teachers

            Genuinelymotivated and committed teachers can do wonders through their students.  Proper training will help them to live their life more profoundly.

For education in schools to become more effective as a vehicle of transformation in society, a true and proper vision and spirituality among teachers are needed.  This vision requires that the task of teaching be viewed as a call from God to share in the teaching ministry of Jesus who announced and taught about the Kingdom and that teaching is not simply the communication of knowledge but even more importantly the formation in values.  From such a vision flows a spirituality involving sacrifice, other-directedness, concern, love, justice and other Gospel values.  As in catechesis, the more effective is not the one who simply teaches but the one who also witnesses.[18]

ü  Committed mission teachers will take care of the children

ü  Only devout Catholics having mission motivation will be selected as teachers

ü  Teachers will have Good salary package

ü  They should undergo a mission training programme for at least 30 days.

ü  Day time teachers will be entrusted with prayer and village ministry which includes informal schooling and women empowerment programmes

ü  They would assist the children in the evening

ü  A teacher has the responsibility of 15 to 20 students

ü  Life of the teacher should be a witness for the children

Mission teachers working in some of our catholic schools are doing great services to the Church.

  1. 4.       Mission Clinics

            A mission clinic enables aspiring nurses and doctors to serve God’s kingdom by liberating the sick and the needy from their bondage.  This experience of mission will produce much fruit in the long run.

            Motivated by divine love, youngsters voluntarily spend certain months of their important span of life to share this love.  It may be a few months or one to two years.  It may help them to be more generous to the poor in their future life.  Their support even after their period of commitment is expected.  The village youth can possibly be motivated by the service of these volunteers.

Mode of Action

  • Arranging village clinics according to the availability of the doctors and nurses
  •  Possibility of getting medicine free of cost
  • Finding the aspiring nurses and doctors is done through retreat centres and other youth movements
  • Assistance of religious sisters are also recommended
  • Medical camps can be conducted in the villages where the sick and needy receive the message about the divine healer
  • Explicit proclamation also is possible through this group

 

  1. 5.                  Tourism for mission

            We are familiar with terms like eco-tourism, health tourism, etc.  Mission Tourism   aims at giving some idea about mission fields to the people who are really interested in mission but have not been able to be directly engaged in the process of evangelization. We help them to have a foretaste of the mission. The possibility of using tourism as an activity of mission is a concern of The Church too.

International tourism has now become a mass phenomenon. This is a positive development if tourists maintain an attitude of respect and a desire for mutual cultural enrichment, avoiding ostentation and waste, and seeking contact with other people. But Christians are expected above all to be aware of their obligation to bear witness always to their faith and love of Christ. Firsthand knowledge of the missionary life and of new Christian communities also can be an enriching experience and can strengthen one’s faith. Visiting the missions is commendable, especially on the part of young people who go there to serve and to gain an intense experience of the Christian life.[19]               

            Our target groups are the professionals and employees working in and outside the country.

Mode of Action

            Interested people are invited to visit some of the mission centres. They will get opportunities to understand the village life and people.  Those interested can stay in the village for two or three days.  If they wish we will direct them to other tourist places in the region.  All expenses must be met by them.

Expected Results

v  Heard knowledge turns to touch knowledge.

v  They can find out their own possible way to support the community with their professional experiences in different walks of life. For eg: an engineer sees the things and recognizes the possibilities from his perspective.  So as in the case of doctors, business men, educators, social workers etc

v  Can be motivated by the selfless work of the missionaries

v  Can be motivated by the role of the church

v  May help us through their prayer and resources

v  May encourage others

v  Possibility of vocation from the group or from their offspring

v  Moreover, it may help to increase the esteem of missionaries in the hearts of ordinary people

It is true that everything needs a large amount of home work and preparations.

  1. 6.      Business as Mission

Through this programme we try to lead business people to an encounter with Jesus and there by a personal God experience.  There are good number of positive business people also. We motivate them to start some enterprises attune to the specialty of particular area and culture.  The conversion of such people, when it is supported with their time and resources will make great difference in the mission fields. 

 In this context the laity belonging to the world of business hear the call of God to live out their faith according to Gospel values and the needs of the others.  This involves a number of options in their business- from the simple exercise of the values of truth, justice and love to their active participation in transforming the social structure of the whole process towards greater worker participation, more discerning consumer guidance, more responsible interventions by Governments and a more equitable society.[20]

Highly populated modern cities are formed due to the establishment of big industries and multinational companies. They have created a culture which mostly degrades and diminishes the human values and leads to greed, self centeredness and all kinds of luxuries etc.

Business as mission calls the catholic business people who are ready to do something for the poor.  When we support them for such endeavors they are expected to do something for the people according to their growth in the business.  They can support missionary activities in different ways, such as primary school, clinics, training centers, student scholarships etc. In order to support the entrepreneurs practicing and enthusiastic catholic persons should be employed.

  1. 7.            Church in Asia Forum

“The heart of the Church in Asia will be restless until the whole of Asia finds its rest in the peace of Christ, the Risen Lord.” (EA-10)

 

The goal of this forum is to enrich and keep up the missionary zeal in the hearts of seminarians/religious/lay people in order to make them equipped for the Evangelization, with an emphasis on Asia, tuned with the call of the Church especially through the Vatican II, encyclicals and other documents of the Magisterium on mission.  Universal Church hopes a real spring time in Asia.”Just as in the first millennium the Cross was planted on the soil of Europe, and in the second on that of the Americas and Africa, we can pray that in the Third Christian Millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent.” (EA-1)

Since our main focus is seminarians, we are not planning to do some mission works during this formation period but we are trying to be equipped for our future mission through different means.

Some of the aims

  • To make the seminarians say ‘yes’ to mission.
  • A common plat form for deepening the mission interest
  • To help the brothers know more about mission activities.
  • A forum that thinks dreams and prays for mission.
  • Helps to prepare for future mission.

Some of the Means

  • Adoption and Intercession for different countries and Indian states.
  • Short term training programmes.
  • Sharing sessions of active missionaries from different parts of the country.
  • Reading of magazines, leaflets and palm lets which give motivation.
  • Watching of some encouraging movies and documentaries about mission.
  • Study of the official teachings of the Church which speak about mission mandate (Apostolic letters, encyclicals etc..).
  • Modern medias and communication technologies especially Internet.

 

  1. 8.      Cultural Exchange Programme

The youth from younger Christian communities are motivated to visit the places where they can be enriched through the faith life of the people. In order to experience the life of the people they can be put up in different houses.  A better understanding the country and cultures would broaden the mind as well as the spiritual encounter through different programmes would strengthen the faith of the youth. 

  1. 9.      Specific Ministries

There are different organizations and Associations where likeminded people from different profession and carrier coming together for their common cause.  Trade unions, Employment organizations, etc are familiar to us.  In such institutions people come together and think together and move together. 

Evangelization also can be done in such a way that one student invites another students, one teacher preaches to another, one doctor motivates to another..etc. When a person really motivated by the love of God he/she spontaneously shares and invites others to experience that joy.  It is easy for him/her to share it with whom he/she meets every day life.  As a result of such individual initiatives there can be different ministries like campus, teachers, doctors, engineers, nurses, policemen etc.  Conducting retreats, arranging prayer groups…etc are some of the means to achieve this goal.

  1. 10.  Village Outreach

In this programme a group of youngsters after having a short orientation programme reach out to villages where they spent few days according to the need of the village.  They stay in different houses according to the number of the team and involve in different activities.  They visit houses as a group of 3 to 5 members.

Usually in the remote villages people go for their work during the day. So they spend time in prayer and gather the children who are out of the school.  Visiting and praying over the sick and elderly people is another activity during the day. Children may be animated through stories, catechism, songs etc.  In the evening they meet the family members, conduct prayer groups, share the gospel and if possible they show some devotional movies also.  Through such direct interventions they are able to touch the hearts personally.

Visiting Houses: during the visitation one of them hears the parent/family member and shares gospel through his/her personal experiences.  Mean while others pray in heart unceasingly.  If necessary they also interact with children in order to avoid distractions in the conversation. Inviting the family members for the evening prayer meeting also should be done.

Results:  personal interaction will help convincing the people easily.  Hearing the worries and grievances of the people will be a great comfort for them.  In many instances people have come back to the church and the sacraments.  Since the fruit of the programme is very evident for the participants deepens their faith.

 

  1. 11.  Special Thrust on Activities Among Politicians and Celebrities

“Missionary cooperation can also involve leaders in politics, economics, culture and journalism, as well as experts of the various international bodies” (RM-82).

Gospel should be proclaimed in every walk of life. Christian missionaries having the idea of option for the poor, have moved towards rural villages.  But at the same time we fail to evangelize the elite and rich people whose conversion could have resulted a dramatic change in the missionary activities.  The rapid growth of the protestant churches are in a way indebted to such conversions.

Influence of politicians and other people like film actors, sports persons, musicians etc, in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people cannot be ignored.  A single sentence of such persons influence the people like a 10 second advertisement in the Television.  Thousand preachers’ influence can be achieved with a split of second. We witnessed such an incident when the Brazilian player showed the words on his dress which proclaimed ‘we belong to Jesus’ after their victory in the 2002 World Cup foot ball. It was seen by more than one billion people!

In the same way the involvement of laity in the politics is very important. It will help us to influence the policies of the government.

The need of the hour in Asia is for competent and principled lay persons to enter into the realm of party politics and from within, influence the philosophies, programs and activities of political parties and personalities for the common good in the light of the gospel.  We commend the lay persons who already have contributed much to this area of public life.[21]

The assassination of Shabhaz Bhatti, Pakistani minister for Minorities who spoke against blasphemy law made a great impact in the life of the faithful in Pakistan.  His words are really strengthening the persecuted Christians in Pakistan.

Conclusion

We are taken you through these methods which are of course not exhaustive.  Looking into what we have presented, we are aware of their incompleteness and limits.  Each of these methods though effective in their own way besides their limits, has the power to change the lives of people.  We need to place these methods in their cultural contexts to reap maximum fruits.  Or we need to adapt these methods into the culture where it will be planted this could only muster the result we expect.  At this point let me also remind that the church has never been stagnant.  Church will encounter new ways in the future. There is no method that is called the best.  Suitable methods evolve from answering to the needs of the situation.   Still we should not forget that no method is effective unless we follow the biblical method which is seen in Acts 2:43-47. Believers came together for prayer, breaking of the bread, sharing, etc.  The life based on Christian charity and communion attracted many. There by the number of believers were also increased steadily. Sharing the Good News is not a propaganda it should be a life witness motivated by one’s own personal God experience.  This is the challenge which is responded by an evangelizer throughout the life.



[1]Benedict XVI,

[2] John Paul II, Ecclesia In Asia, Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, no. 2.

[3] Paul Vadadkkumpadan, Mission in North East India, Shillong: Vendrame Institute Publications, 2007, p 141.

[4]Felipe Gomes S.J, “Method in Mission: Lessons from the History of the Church,” in Indian Missiological Review, January-1989, Vol.11, No.1, pp 15-53

 

[5] John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, Encyclical, no. 37.

[6] John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, no. 71.

[7] Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Apostolic Exhortation, no. 40.

[8] Indian Missiological Review, January-1989, Vol.11, No.1, pp 54-60, Emerging Priorities and New Perspectives of Evangelization in Asia, ( A summary of the discussions:  All Asian Conference on Evangelization, Suwon, South Korea- 24-31 August 1988)

[9] Propostio no. 29, as sited in John Paul II, Ecclesia In Asia, no. 45.

[10] Propostio no. 29, as sited in John Paul II, Ecclesia In Asia, no. 45.

[11] Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi,no. 73.

[12] FABC, Final Statement of Fourth Plenary Assembly, September 16-25, 1986, Tokyo, Japan, in FABC Papers No.47,  p 43.

 

[13] L’Osarvatore Romano, No.29, July- 20, 1994, p 7.

[14] Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi,no.46.

[15] John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, no. 72.

[16] John Paul II, Ecclesia In Asia, no. 47.

[17] John Paul II, Ecclesia In Asia, no. 37.

[18] FABC, Final Statement of Fourth Plenary Assembly, September 16-25, 1986, Tokyo, Japan, in FABC Papers No.47,            p 33

[19] John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, no. 82.

[20] FABC, Final Statement of Fourth Plenary Assembly, September 16-25, 1986, Tokyo, Japan, in FABC Papers No.47, p 36

 

[21] FABC, Final Statement of Fourth Plenary Assembly, September 16-25, 1986, Tokyo, Japan, in FABC Papers No.47, p 26.

GIRL CHILD DAY – 8th SEPTMEBER 2012

CBCI OFFICE FOR WOMEN

(CATHOLIC BISHOP’S CONFERENCE OF INDIA)

 

CBCI Centre, 1, Ashok Place, Near Goledakkhana, New Delhi-110001, India

Tel: 011-29961058(O),  09868618613(M); Email:  comwomencbci@gmail.com

    Chairman:    Most Rev. Dominic Lumon, Archbishop of Imphal,                     Members: Most Rev. Mathew Anikuzhikattil, Bishop of Idukki

Secretary:    Sr. Helen Saldanha, SSpS                                                 Most Rev. Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom, Bishop of Pathamthitta

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Date: 7th August 2012

Subject: Prayer and Reflection for the commemoration of Girl Child Day -8th September 2012

Your Eminence, Your Grace, Your Excellency, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters

Greetings from CBCI Office for Women!

On the 8th September, as we commemorate the birthday of Mother Mary the Church invites us to celebrate the Girl Child Day. I am happy to forward a ‘Prayer and Reflection’ to you, prepared by CBCI Office For Women, with the hope that it will help us in our celebration of the event.

Every child is a precious gift. In celebrating the Girl Child Day the Church is calling us once again to commit ourselves to the dignity of the Girl children. Though there are differences from place to place and culture to culture we all know that girl children are less welcome in Indian society. It is a challenge for all of us as we face the death-promoting forces in our society that wish to eliminate human lives specially that of girl children.

On this Girl Child Day, let us pray and make plans to change this situation and promote the acceptance of girl children as a gift of God to the family and humanity.

In Christ Jesus,

+Archbishop Dominic Lumon

Archbishop of Imphal

Chairman CBCI office for Women

GIRL CHILD DAY – 8th SEPTMEBER 2012

Prayer and Reflection

THEME:

Introduction                                                                                                                               

Today, the birthday of our Beloved Mother Mary! The Church in India dedicates this day to the Girl Child.  Where would we be without Mother Mary! Where would we be if our mother was not allowed to be born? Every girl is a precious gift. She is born in the image and likeness of God, equal in dignity as much as a boy.  However we live in a culture where sons are preferred over daughters. The elimination, discrimination and atrocities meted out to girl children must be condemned as such crimes disfigure the image and likeness of God in human persons.  Empowering girls recognizing their potentials bring changes in the world. During this prayer, we remember all those millions of missing girls who were murdered before and after their birth. We thank God for every girl child in our family, neighbourhood, parishes, institutions and society.

(Pause)

Prayer for forgiveness:

Jesus, forgive us for our indifference in the face of imbalanced sex ratio caused by brutal murders of girl children

Response: LORD, heal us of our indifference and challenge us to be your messengers of justice

Jesus, forgive us for our insensitivity towards the increasing crimes against children and women that we witness daily.

Response: LORD, heal us of our insensitivity and challenge us to be your messengers of hope.

Jesus, forgive us for our lack of courage to stand for the dignity and rights of children.

Response: LORD, heal us of our fears and challenge us to be your messengers of life.

Readings for reflection: 

Prayers of the Faithful:

Leader: Brothers and Sisters we are called to fill our world with God’s love and justice. Let us pray for our Church and society through the powerful intercession of Mary our Mother.

Our response will be: God of Life, hear our prayer

. 1.   For our Church and its leaders, that they may achieve the desired results envisaged in the Gender Policy of the Catholic Church in India through every parish cells. Let us pray.

2.   For the young girls that they may recognize their innate power to empower themselves and others. Let us pray.

3.   For all the faithful that we help create a country where both girls and boys can live and grow with equal opportunities through education and empowerment. Let us pray.

4.   For the governments that it may take strong steps to put an end to the growing violence and atrocities against the girl child through proper enactments and implementation of laws. Let us pray.

5.   For all the families in this parish that they may be homes of love, sharing, mutual respect and equality. Let us pray.

6. For the children of our world, the sick, disabled or ostracized due to sickness like HIV/AIDS that they may feel your healing touch in the environment they live in. Let us pray.

7.   For the children on the street and those, forced into child labour in houses, institutions and factories that their rights and wellbeing be protected through proper implementation of laws. Let us pray.

8.   For children who are victims of abuse or human trafficking, that they may be helped to rebuild their lives again. Let us pray.

9.   For our parish community that we may have the courage to address the issue of missing girls in various forums and work towards the change of mindset. Let us pray. 

(Pause for personal intentions)

Leader: God of Life and Compassion, hear our prayers and strengthen us your people to celebrate the gift of every child. Help us to bring a healing touch to children who are afraid and take a step forward towards protecting them. We make this prayer through Mary, and her son Jesus, who showed us just how precious a girl child can be, Amen.

Thoughts for shared reflection:

The Olympics is the most watched multi sporting event in the world. What is noteworthy is the rise of Indian women in the field of sports, in particular the rise of Saina Nehwal, a Haryanvi girl, where the sex ratio is the lowest; and Mary Kom from Manipur, one of the 7 States of the Northeast India, that is deprived of the nation’s attention it deserves. Both these women have made India proud winning Bronze medals in Olympics 2012.

Behind the stories of both these women, lies a story of grit, determination and discipline that very few in the country can boast of. It also reflects the struggles they would have encountered fighting despite the system and society at large.  This is what Saina has to say:  “I was really surprised when I was told that my grandmother did not come to see me till a month after my birth. I was born seven years after my only sister and my birth was a big disappointment for her. In it there is a message that I understand very well now about the discrimination against the girl child. My uncles and other relatives are against encouraging girls in every aspect and that includes sports. I hardly interact with them. My parents are more open. They back me all the way.”  (Saina Nehwal in her interview to The Times of India in 2010)

Yes, it is the family support they received that made their success possible. Behind Saina were her parents who supported her to pursue her goal. And in the case of Mary Kom, a mother of two young children, it was her husband who has been the pillar of strength in helping her pursue her dreams. He takes care of the children, the house and is also a supporting partner for the 5-time world champion.

Connecting Girls and Empowering Futures was the theme of International Women’s Day 2012. To bring out the best in girls one needs to go beyond the cultural bias that is deeply rooted in our society. Discrimination against girls begins in the womb itself and is motivated by socially accepted devaluation of females. The problem of a declining sex ratio is located at the complex interface of the status of women in Indian society, patriarchal social mores and prejudice, spread and misuse of medical technology, the changing aspirations of urban and rural society, the unprecedented rise of a consumer culture, changes in family structure and reproductive decision-making, as well as other factors, and requires a complex but coherent and holistic national response at multiple levels by multiple stakeholders. India’s current responses, consisting in the main of implementation of the Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (prohibition of sex selection) Act, 1994, a range of ad-hoc media messages on the girl child, and conditional cash transfer schemes, fall short of such a holistic vision for action.

A recent study by UN says, ‘India is the worst place for women among G20 countries’. The abnormal sex ratio is alarming and it has led to imbalance in the society. Studies show that women and girls from the northeast are trafficked to northern India as sex slaves. The sex ratio is 940 women for 1000 men according to 2011census of India. Still worse is the falling sex ratio among 0-6 years which dropped from 927 in 2001 to 914 girls for 1000 boys in 2011. United Nations Children’s Fund estimated that up to 50 million girls are missing from India’s population because of sex selection abortions. Female feticide, killing of the female infants for want of a son, dowry related harassments and murders, rape, sexual abuse, witch-hunting, increasing domestic violence, desertion, honour killings, and other forms of violence against women show that India has a sound patriarchal society, strengthened by the pillars of caste and class. India ranks 129 out of 146 countries on Gender Inequality Index. Afghanistan is the only country that is ranked below India in South Asia (UN Report on Gender Inequality Index 2011).

What can we do?

We can take pride that the Catholic community has a favourable sex ratio. The educational status among females is also better. The Catholic Church in India has contributed towards the humanization of the society through its educational, health-care outreach and socio-economic interventions.

As followers of Christ and as citizens of our country, we must spread the message of equality between girls and boys concretely by sensitization and awareness programmes. India’s young population be specifically targeted through tools of mass media, event based advocacy, and reaching out to them through schools, colleges, and similar networks. Holding of competitions and participation in campaigns for promoting the rights and dignity of the girl children, analyzing with the young the personal experiences, events and occurrences reported in the media, and enhancing their ability to stand for their rights with self confidence are some of the ways by which we can make a difference.  In the context of great social change taking place in India, Advocacy strategy would need to identify fault lines where devaluation of women and conformity to traditional roles.

The Gender Policy of the Catholic Church of India 2010 prioritizes the dignity and survival of the girl child as one of the special areas of concern. It clearly shows us the way to address this problem:

Policy

The Church’s love for children stems from Christ’s teachings and example. Children hold the hope for the future and must be nurtured. They form one of the largest vulnerable groups in society and hence the Constitution of India has laid special emphasis on their well being and protection.

 

Among children, the girl child is particularly vulnerable. In recognition of this, international and national communities have special provisions for the development of the girl child and adolescent girls, particularly with regard to their survival, health, nutrition, education, protection and participation in family and society. The Church supports and commits herself to these ideals.

 

Strategies

  • All forms of discrimination and violation of the rights of the girl child needs to be eliminated, within and outside the family.
  • Strictly enforce laws against prenatal sex selection, female foeticide, female infanticide, child marriage, child abuse, child prostitution, child trafficking and child labour.
  • Promote girl child’s right to life, education, nutrition, health and development.
  • Protect the girl child from discriminatory neglect and all forms of abuse including sexual abuse.
  • Project a positive image of the girl child among girls themselves, boys, parents, teachers and society at large
  • Church institution should avoid gender stereotyping in extra-curricular activities, and provide training in skills, use of playgrounds, choice of optional subjects, handling of sexual harassment/abuse issues, gender profile of decision-making bodies including parent-teacher associations.
  • Promote awareness about the government schemes for the girl child through homilies, dispensaries, hospitals, health centers, grass-root social and educational institutions and catechism classes.

Let us be the instruments of change to give each girl the dignity she deserves specially the Right to Live.                         

 

Every Child is Precious!

Lay Catechists in the Syro-Malabar Church

Lay Catechists in the Syro-Malabar Church

Dr Antony Nariculam

The Church or the ecclesial community is the basic agent of catechesis. Besides the Church as a whole, all the members of the Christian community are called to share in this ministry by being witnesses to the faith in a special way. Together with priests, religious and parents, a good number of lay catechists are also rendering valuable whole hearted service in the field of catechesis in the Syro-Malabar Church. The Church considers their service with great respect and recognizes them as special ministers of the community. The vocation of the laity to catechetical ministry springs from the sacrament of baptism, and they are strengthened and sent for the same by the sacrament of confirmation (GDC 231). Through these sacraments, they participate in the prophetic, priestly, and kingly ministries of Christ. According to St. Paul, the Lord has established different ministries in the Church. All the ministries in the Church are for the building up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13). Therefore, by their valuable service lay catechists are actually participating in the building up of the Church. In the early times of the Church, faith was handed down from one generation to the next mainly through community and family centred catechesis and by means of liturgical celebrations, catechetical instructions, and customary practices. Catechetical instruction was given to adults along with the liturgical celebrations, while children were given special instructions either before or after Holy Mass and this was done by the parish priest himself. They were asked to recite and memorize the basic prayers of the Church. Among the liturgical celebrations, the celebration of feasts also played an important role in the transmission of faith. Feasts were celebrated at community and family level. The instruction on the importance of the celebration of the feasts was given by the parents. Therefore the term catechist or lay catechist was not familiar among the St. Thomas Christians at this period. After the arrival of the Western missionaries, the catechetical system of the St. Thomas Christians began to develop into a formal and systematic one. The informal way of handing down the faith was changed to a formal and systematic one, and the liturgy centred catechesis was changed to an instruction oriented one. From then onwards the demands for catechists rose in the Syro-Malabar Church.

Actually it was St. Francis Xavier who introduced the term lay catechist in India for the first time. One of the greatest catechetical contributions of Francis Xavier to the Church in India was the institution of the lay catechist, as a helper of the missionaries. In fact, it was about this time that the qualification “lay” was applied to the “catechist”. The training of the local catechists was one of his main concerns wherever he went. The absence of expected missionary reinforcements, led Francis Xavier to organize an institution of catechists to care for the small, scattered Christian communities. These catechists were an invaluable help. He was very conscious about their training and gave them all the necessary religious instructions. With a view to uniformity in catechetical method, Francis Xavier published the “Instructio pro Catechesis” (1545), in which he described his method of teaching the catechism and gave it as a rule to his helpers. Thus the role of lay catechists was officially inaugurated in the ministry of catechesis in India. We have already seen that St. Francis Xavier had a close contact with the St. Thomas Christians and his missionary activities had an influence on them. Therefore there may also have been lay catechists among the St. Thomas Christians. But unfortunately there is no historical evidence available pointing to the service of the lay catechists adopted in the ministry of catechesis in the Syro-Malabar Church till the beginning of the 20th century. This was a new adaptation in the ministry of catechesis in Syro-Malabar Church. Therefore this may not have had much influence among the St. Thomas Christians. “Syro-Malabar Church can boast of having one of the best catechetical systems in the entire Catholic world. Organized efforts for the catechesis of children are made in all the parishes of the Church.” As we have seen earlier, attached to every parish there is a school to give catechetical formation to the students. This school functions on Sundays.  “Among the St. Thomas Christians the term “Catechist” is understood in its narrow sense-the religion teachers of Sunday school. Therefore they are usually called Sunday School Teachers”. The role of the catechist in the Syro-Malabar Church is to give formation to the students in this school. They are a group of unpaid teachers, with or without formal systematic training. In the KCBC meeting of January 11, 1968 there was a discussion regarding the lay catechists. The main suggestions raised in the discussion were regarding the salary of the catechists and their basic training. This was the first Church level discussion conducted in Kerala regarding the catechists. The suggestion regarding the salary was never materialized, and now catechists render their services voluntarily to the community. From this discussion onwards the Kerala Church began to think about the formation of her catechists.

Formation of Lay Catechists in the Syro-Malabar Church

Catechists in the Syro-Malabar Church are usually selected by the parish priests. They are to be from practicing Catholic families, and must have a good reputation in the parish community. For their selection the common criterion followed is whether they are practicing their faith than their theological studies. Most of the catechists come from good families. So they are people who experience the life of faith in their families. This does not mean that they do not need any formation for their catechetical ministry. In former days they were given sufficient training by the parish priests themselves or experts were arranged to come to the parish church to give the necessary guidance to the selected candidates for the ministry. Later it becomes the shared duty of the diocesan catechetical director and the parish priests. The parish priests would ask the diocesan director to send persons to train the catechists. Later catechetical formation centres and animation teams came into existence in almost all the dioceses. After the establishment of the POC, the training of the catechists has taken on a new shape. Courses are offered to make the catechists competent for their catechetical ministry. Appreciating the progress in Kerala, Fr. D. S. Amalorpavadass, the pioneer of the Indian Catechetical movement, said: “It is no flattery to say that a miracle is happening in Kerala. The Church has started moving resolutely towards a radical renewal of Christian life in the region”. One of the decisions of the All Kerala Catechetical Meeting of 1968 was that “the best scholars available in the dioceses and religious congregations should be secured to staff the POC”. Thus POC offers a one year course in scripture, theology, philosophy, liturgy, catechetics, sociology…etc. Media education programmes and various psychological training programmes are also conducted here. As we have seen earlier the Kerala Church is somewhat unique. Here there are three particular individual Churches. Hence there was criticism that in the training programme of the POC, there was no stress on the heritage, liturgy and spirituality of any of the particular Churches of Kerala. Though the idea of the pioneers was to have a common training institute for all the three Churches in Kerala, some bishops later did not show interest in sending their students to the POC. Gradually the formation of catechists became more of a diocesan affair. At present all the dioceses have well equipped catechetical centres with trained resource teams, under the guidance of a diocesan director. These centres organize two types of training programmes for catechists, basic training programmes and ongoing formation programmes. The ‘Basic Catechetical Teachers Course’ (BCTC) or ‘Catechist Training Programme’ (CTP) is mainly intended for beginners. Ongoing formation is given with the intention of helping the catechists to meet the day to day needs in their catechetical ministry.

It is true that to a certain extent the above said BCTC and CTP programmes help the catechists to get formation in the ministry of catechesis at the diocesan level. But there is no organized system or programme for their formation for the whole Church. The result is that some of these catechists are not so much capable of explaining the catechism and also the faith formation of the growing generation. The recently published catechetical directory of the Syro-Malabar Church, ‘Call and Response’, also points to the importance of the basic formation of catechists in the Church. Though the structure of the synodal commission for catechesis is formed, its functioning is not yet started.

Issues and Challenges Regarding the Formation of Lay Catechists in the Syro-Malabar Church Today

Everybody agrees that it is important to give at least a basic formation to the catechists either before one is appointed as a catechist or in the first year of service. But it is not an easy task to give sufficient training to them. Here, I will try to mention some issues and challenges regarding the formation of the lay catechists in the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala. I have had an opportunity to work as a forane/regional catechetical director for two years. During this period I tried to conduct some kind of training programmes for the catechists. On the basis of that experience and also the contact with various diocesan directors we are drafting the existing challenges in the formation of lay catechists.

1. Economic problems:

It is not an easy task to raise funds for the training of the catechists. Catechists may not have interest to paying for their training programmesbecause after this training they are to give voluntary service for the community.

2. Non-availability of time:

In the Syro-Malabar Church there are no full-time catechists. They are occupied with their own job and other duties. Therefore it is not an easy task to find time for their formation.

3. Disinterest on the part of some trainees:

In the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala all the catechists are giving voluntary service. Therefore they may not have any interest to participate the training programmes. Moreover, they are not so much conscious of the importance of this formation in their ministry.

4. Disinterest on the part of some Parish priests:

Though not all, there are a few Parish priests consider these training programmes useless. They think that the catechists are teaching the children and they have more knowledge than the children; therefore a special training programme is not so important. Hence, to a certain extent disinterest on the part of the parish priests is also a problem for this training programme.

5. Disinterest of the parish community:

To a certain extent it is true that the parish community is also not fully serious about the catechetical ministry and the training of their Catechists.

6. Diversity within the group of the catechists itself:

Sometimes there is much diversity among the catechists themselves in the same parish, regarding the intellectual abilities, education standards, age level, social status, etc. Because of this diversity some of them are not so interested to participating with others in the training programmes. It is not an easy task to conduct training programmes for the catechists as in the case of secular teachers.

7. Non availability of resource persons:

It is not an easy task to find well educated resource persons to conduct training programmes in every region.

8. Motivation:

All the catechists are not really motivated for this ministry. Some are coming with some prior ambitions.

9. Lack of a systematic approach:

It is true that to a certain extent there are different kinds of training programmes for the lay catechists in almost all the dioceses. But most of them are not well organized. So, after attending these training programmes the participants may not be happy. Therefore the parish priests may not show any interest in sending others to attend these training programmes.

Ecclesiological Models: Vatican II and after

Ecclesiological Models: Vatican II and after

  Dr George Karakunnel

As a systematic reflection on the Church ecclesiology is comparatively a recent branch of theology. For the Fathers the Church was an experienced reality and it deeply entered into their Christian consciousness. Their works include many ecclesiological aspects. But if we look for a treatise on the Church, we do not find it even during the medieval period. The early works on the Church were the creation of canonists, rather than of theologians. The ecclesiological developments that shaped the present-day self-under­standing of the Catholic Church mostly were to come from 19th and 20th century with its crowning point in Vatican II.

 

  1. I.                     The Use of Models in Ecclesiology

The Second Vatican Council has remained as the spring­board for all theological reflections for the four decades. In a sense the council was the conclusion to many points of theological discussion and in another sense it was an introduction to many others. Many of the theolo­gical discussions that went in the preceding period found clarity and official approval in the council. The theme of Church, which has been the central theme of the council, did find clarity with regard to many aspects. But it still left many things open to further discussion and theological elaboration regarding the Church. The council’s way of looking at the Church using various metaphors or paradigms such as “Mystery”, “Sacrament”, “People of God“, “Body of Christ” set the stage for different ecclesiological elabora­tions. The post-conciliar ecclesiology is characterized by various points of emphasis. The different trends in .post-conciliar ecclesiology could be assessed by asking the question “What are the models used?”.1

 

Model here means an idea or a catch-word or phrase taken from tradition or present-day language to explain the reality of the Church. There is the possibility of various models and they need not be opposed to each other. In fact models are mutually complementary. All the models will not be of the same value and nature. Some are very abstract while others are very concrete. Among .the many models, there could be a basic model. In this essay the following models are considered in order to bring out various approaches to the Church: The Church as a Mystery, The Church as the People of God, the Church as the Body of Christ, the Church as Communion, The Church as Servant, the Church as Herald.

 

  1. 2.        The Church as Mystery

For a long time in the past the Church was seen as an institution and as a society. It was clearly defined and mea­sured by standards derived from the social, political or cultural spheres.5 In the work of Robert Bellarmine the Church is a society “as visible and palpable as the community of the Roman People, or the Kingdom of France, or the Republic of Venice”.3 The institutional view of the Church which reached its climax in the 19th century was nicknamed as “hierarchology” by Yves Congar. The Church was here seen as a “machinary of hierarchical mediation, of the powers and primacy of the Roman See, in a word, hierarchology. On the other hand the two terms between which that mediation comes the Holy Spirit on the one side, the faithful people or the religious subject on the other, were as it were kept out of ecclesiological consideration.

 

Institution-centred approach to the Church does not present an ideal model. In fact it distorted the image of the Church. In a deliberate way Vatican II wanted to stress the understand­ing of the Church more according to the Bible and the Fathers using the term “Mystery”.5 Consideration of the Church as mystery in Lumen Gentium is fundamental to the ecclesiology of Vatican II. The invisible, transcendent, super­natural character of the Church is shown by using the term “Mystery”. Because it is a divine reality, it cannot be ex­pressed in human language. The Fathers of the Church used symbols and metaphors to speak about the Church. We cannot objectify the Church and extract scientific knowledge out of it because the Church is a faith-reality. We can have only participative knowledge of the Church.

 

The term “mystery”,which is used to describe the Church, has the advantage of bringing out the divine dimension of the Church. Rather than indicating something hidden, it shows the salvific plan of God fully unveiled and concretized in history through Jesus Christ. The consideration of the Church as “Mystery” can be linked with “Church as Sacrament”. The term “Sacramentum” was originally used as translation of the Greek “Mysterion” which meant God’s plan of salvation and its visible expression in Christ and the Church. Following this very ancient understanding of the Church, Lumen Gentium calls the Church Sacrament. “By her relationship with Christ the Church is a kind of Sacrament of intimate union with God and of the unity of all mankind, that is, she is a sign and an instrument of that union and unity” (LG 1).

 

Twentieth century theological reflections have brought out the idea of Christ as the Sacrament of God and Church as the Sacrament of Christ. Lubac, Congar, Rahner, Schillebeeckx, Chenu, Semmelroth and many others agree on this line of explanation of the Church. In fact they have especially followed the Fathers of the Church, especially, Cyprian and Augustine, in speaking about the Church as Sacrament. The theological meaning of mystery and sacrament, which are, used in modern ecclesiolo­gy points to the divine offer of salvation in and through Christ to human race. The Church in this way is spoken of as the “Sacrament”. It remains on earth as the visible sign and instrument of the reality of salvation offered by God to human beings.

 

The notion of the Church as mystery of salvation or as sacrament of salvation for humanity has the great advantage of pointing to the Trinitarian source of the Church. The Church thus viewed is an extension of God’s history into human history. It is the realization of God’s self-communi­cation to people and the world. This model of the Church has not been without criticisms one which is that, though expressed with the help of the rich theological terms, mystery and sacrament, the idea of the Church here seems to be rather abstract. Another criticism raised  is its lack of pastoral appeal. While it underlines the divine aspect of the Church, it does not give sufficient consideration to the human side of the Church.

 

In connection with the sacrament model we can also mention the Church seen in her relationship with the Holy Spirit. This presents Church as the temple or sacrament of the Holy Spirit. The Church is seen in this way as the continuation of the mission of the Holy Spirit. It is through the Spirit that the Church is born and sustained all thro­ughout history. This view looks at the Church with a strong emphasis on Pneumatology. The approach is biblical and has found support in theological works of the present time. K. Rahner’s Dynamic Element in the Church, Moltmann’s Church in the Power of the Spirit, Congar’s I Believe in the Holy Spirit (3 Vols) are works that consider pneumatology as the main constituent element of ecclesiology. Although giving a very important insight about the Church, some ex­pressions of this understanding of the Church, seen as the temple or sacrament of the Holy Spirit have received criticisms for its excessive spiritualistic view of the Church and not sufficiently stressing the temporal and social aspects of the Church.

 

  1. 3.         The Church as the People of God

The Fathers of the Church in Vatican II created a Copernican revolution in the theological thinking about the Church. Instead of a hierarchy-centred perspective they gave a people-centered perspective. Although Vatican II contains other models its typical ecclesiological model is pointed out as the people of God model which forms the subject of the second chapter of LG. Coming from the Bible as found in both OT and NT, this is the oldest name for the Church. But since the people of God idea regarding the Church was forgotten for a long time and was revived only in the twentieth century this has the claim to be the newest name for the Church.

 

In the beginning of the fourth decade of the present century an understanding of the Church as the people of God was put forward by the German theologian, M. D. Koster in his work Ekklesiologie im Werden (1940). In the pre-conciliar era this approach was not officially acceptable to the Church. Even Vatican II accepted this model only with hesitation. In the first drafts of LG we do not find this model. When it was finally brought it revolutionized the whole ecclesiological approach of the Council. Put forward as a foundational theme in the Church’s self-understanding, the people of God idea determines the whole outlook of the Dogmatic Con­stitution. In presenting the people of God concept as an all-comprehensive one, so as to include all categories of members of the Church, before they are differentiated into hierarchy and laity, LGhas resorted to Old and New Test­aments. The most celebrated text of 1 Pet. 2:9-10 is quoted at the centre of the first article of the chapter dealing with people of God: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people…You who in times past were not a people but are now the people of God”.

 

The dignity and functions of all the members of the people of God quite in an unprecedented way are placed in clear light by the Council (LG 10-12). Through baptism all believers are called to a fellowship and are dedicated to the love and service of Christ. Vatican II wanted to correct a long-standing misconception that not all people are important in the Church. The vast majority of the people in contrast to members of the hierarchy were just peripheral members having no dignity and function of their own. There is a passage in Karl Rahner’s authobiographical interview published as I Remember. The interviewer Meinold Krauss asked Rahner, “Is the Pope the highest representative of Christi­anity?” With his characteristic depth and insight Rahner replied: I believe that you have to make a few distinctions. The Pope is the highest representative of the church, and if you like, with respect to certain juridical, ecclesial structures. But I maintain that the most humble, the most loving (to put in this old fashioned way), the most holy, the most ap­parently obscure person in the Church and not the Pope, is at the top of the hierarchy, the real hierarchy for which the Church is only a means”.11 The vision that lies behind the words of Rahner characterise the LG. In the context of the people of God frame, the Church is a community of brothers. Those in hierarchy are also brothers ordained to serve the community. Thus a new understanding of office is given by people of God ecclesiology.

 

The people of God concept has several strong points. It expresses the historical and dynamic character of the Church. It emphasizes growth and development of the Church in time and history. The people, as understood here, is a pilgrim people journeying to see the eschatological fulfilment. In fact, this people lives in the time that is between the incarnation and parousia. Through this people, the whole history is assumed to eschatology. The people of God is a messianic people which has received salvation. Being inserted into the large community of the human family, this people has a great task to fulfil. This means that the people of God is a community charged with a mission. The basis of reflection about the Church’s mission in the modern world, as GS has shown, lies in the understanding that the Church is the people of God living in the midst of human race united with it, and fulfilling a ministry of salvation in view of the whole humanity.

 

The model of ecclesiology based on the people of God expresses the participation and coresponsibility of all the believers. The Church is seen here “from below” rather than from “above”. LG says that the Church is a fellow­ship of life, charity and truth”. Perhaps this suggests too much people-centered ecclesiology for some. The post-conciliar reflection has shown that the reception of the people of God idea was complete neither in the leaders nor in the other members of the Church. It is also felt that much needs to be done in bringing the concept to practicality. The people-centred approach calls for a new form of Church ministry, government and leadership. It can be suggested that the synodal principle made operative in the Church would be quite in accordance with the people of God model.

 

Placed within the context of the people of God, the role of bishops and priests could be better understood. The essence of the hierarchical office, from the point of view of the people of God concept is ministry. The advantage of the people of God model is that, in a very positive way, it helps us not to forget the basic realty in the Church, namely, the people. It can also help us to under­stand a mode of functioning as far as leadership of the Church is concerned. Does the people of God idea suggest a democracy for the Church? Ratzinger points out that although Church may not be a democracy, it is also not a monarchy, or a modern centralized state.12 This suggests practically a people-centred pastoral leadership which does what is good for the people not only from the pastor’s point of view, but also from the community’s point of view. Having the people involved in making decisions and in executing those decisions, are important. This would imply a method of operation “from below”.

The BEC (Basic Ecclesial Communities) or BCC (Basic Christian Communities) model of the Church could be considered in this context. BEC are centred on the people. They attempt to form Christians into communities of faith, worship and love. Their appearance has been hailed as the resurgence of the ideal form of Christian living in the apostolic period. In the BEC the Gospel is accepted seriously. Listening to the Word and reflection on the Word with a view to living and acting feature the BEC. In these communities there is no sharp contrast between “ecclesia docens” and “ecclesia discens”. All are active members of the community. The Spirit of the BEC basically derives from an ecclesial vision which sees every person as important and essential to the formation of a dynamic Christian community.

 

  1. 4.        The Church as the Body of Christ

The typical theology of the Church in the pre-conciliar period was (Mystical) Body of Christ ecclesiology.   This concept of the Church is known from the time of St. Paul.13 Following St.  Paul   the Fathers spoke of the Church as the Body of Christ.    It was in the middle ages that the adjective “mystical” was added to the Pauline use of Body of Christ. There was clear relationship maintained by the Fathers bet­ween the Eucharist and the idea of the Church.    The Church was   nourished, sustained   and constituted by the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the   body   of Christ. The ecclesiology of the Fathers was, in this way Eucharist-centred.    But this insight was lost sight of in the medieval period. The   Eucharist was called by medieval theologians “Corpus Christi Verum” and Church was named “Corpus Mysticum”.    Medieval theology later spoke about “Corpus ecclesiae mysticum” and the re­ference to Christ’s   Eucharistic   body   became   altogether absent.

 

The development of ecclesiology in the 19th century is connected with the revival of mystical body idea of the Church under the initiative of J. A. Moehler. The idea of the Church as mystical body was proposed by Moehler as a way out of the institutional view of the Church. For Moehler the term “mystical” pointed to a deep spiritual reality. Mystical body as applied to the Church indicated a super­natural organism vivified by the Holy Spirit. The under­standing of the Church as Mystical Body gained wide accept­ance in the Catholic Church with the publication of the encyclical “Mystici Corporis” by Pope Pius XII in 1943.

 

In the mystical body theology developed by Moehler and his followers there was no clarification for the visible aspects of the Church. The encyclical clarified these aspects. The mystical body concept was harmonized with the institutional reality of the Church. It was clearly stated that the Catholic Church is the mystical body of Christ. The encyclical pointed to the Pope and bishops as “joints and ligaments of the body” and asserted, “those who exercise sacred power in the Body are its first and chief members”. The lay people were considered helpers to ecclesiastical hierarchy in spreading the Kingdom of the Redeemer.

 

Much of the theology of the Church found in Mystici Corporis has been changed by LG. First of all it does not say that Mystical Body of Christ is coterminus with the Catholic Church. Secondly, although LG shows the distinction between Church as the hierarchical society and as body of Christ, the two are very closely related to each other, in a way comparable to the divine and human natures of Christ. The structure of the Church is seen as serving the Spirit who through his active presence builds up the body of Christ.

 

The people of God theme and the body of Christ theme can be seen as complementary themes in ecclesiology. In fact most of the modern theologians ask for a combination of the two themes. Schmaus, Philips, Ratzinger, Congar and Kueng agree in this regard. The people of God theme very well expresses the human elements that go into the making of the Church. But under what form does the people of God exist? To answer this question the body of Christ will show the way.

 

The specific character of the Christian Church is brought out by the name “Body of Christ”. It establishes strong links between the Church and Christ. It is appreciated by Schnackenburg saying  that in the theology of the Body of Christ what is new, specific and unique in the Christian idea of the Church clearly emerges.14[ R.Schnackenburg, The Church in the New Testament p.176] The name “people of God is a common denominator to both OT and NT community of salvation. The NT community is the people of God that forms the body of Christ and exists as the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Some critics of the theme, body of Christ, see it as showing a static image of the Church. But it actually is used in Pauline epistles to point out the active role of every one in the Church. The criticism that it looks looks unreal and vague seems to be also unfounded. It is true that in history one finds sometimes overemphasis of differences in the body of Christ.

 

The body of Christ ecclesiology has many practical in­sights. It unequivocably asserts that the identity of the Church, of the Christian, is the identity of Christ. The idea of discipleship and ministry of each Christian comes in here. Realization of the fact that the members of the Church are organs of the body of Christ can inspire people to lend their service to the cause of Christ. The moving lines by Annie Johnson Flint tell us such an inspiration:

 

Christ has no hands but our hands

To do his work today;

He has no feet but our feet

To lead men his way;

He has no tongue but our tongues

To tell men how he died;

He has no help but our help

To lead men to his side.

We are the only Bible

The careless world will read;

We are the sinner’s gospel,

We are the scoffer’s creed;

We are the Lord’s last message

Given in deed and word—

What if the line is crooked?

What if the type is blurred?

What if our hands are busy

With other work than his?

What if our feet are walking

Where sin’s allurement is?

What if our tongues are speaking

Of things his lips would spurn?

How can we hope to help him

Unless from him we learn?

 

  1. 5.         The Church as Communion

In the post-conci!iar era together with “the people of God” model, communion (koinonia) model stands as another imposing model for a theology of the Church. According to some theologians, if people of God is the basic ecclesiological idea of the Council, according to some others, “communion” forms the basic ecclesiological idea. Since Vatican II has juxtaposed many models, it is difficult to say which one is more important than the other.15 It is significant that the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985, although not over­looking the idea of the people of God, showed its preference for the communion model. The reason was not because the idea of “people of God” was wrong but its reception was not in the way that was expected. It seemed to present a one-sided sociological description of the Church undermining the inner reality. The shift from “people of God” to “communio” was intended to effect a return to an integral understanding. For this purpose, “mystery” seemed to be too spiritualistic. Hence it was not used.

 

What is the meaning of communion as applied to the Church? The Church is basically a gathering of the people who participate in the life of God who is trinitarian. The participation effects a relationship between participants, and this is expressed as communion.16 All relationships and all activities among persons imply Communion. In the Trinity the missions of the Son and the Spirit are expressions of communion. LG, when speaking the Church points to “union with God and unity of the entire human family”. The idea here is communion. Communion ecclesiology is strongly rooted in the Bible and tradition of the Church. Keeping the limits of our enquiry, it is not possible to go into its Biblical sources. The idea of communion is closely related to the Eucharist where the salvific event is represented and re­membered in celebration. Ekklesia is most real in Eucharistic fellowship. It is from the Eucharistic fellowship that the Church began to draw the basic elements of its ecclesiology. Each Eucharistic community formed a full-fledged Church according to the NT. We read in Acts about Church in Jerusalem, Church in Antioch and later Churches in Judea, Samaria, spoken of in the plural. Patristic tradition clearly gave expression to this when he said: “The Church consists of communio of the whole world”.17 This would imply that communion includes diversity. But there are common ele­ments that bind together the different Churches. They are: 1. Confession of the same apostolic faith, 2, Participation in the same sacraments; 3. Common Christian life-style, life in the service of the kingdom of God; 4. Mutual recog­nition of pastoral leadership.

 

The Synod of Bishops, taking up a communion model ecclesiology showed that salvation begins from Trinitarian unity and it goes on to create the same unity in human sphere through Baptism and Eucharist. There is unity and pluriformity in the Church as in the Trinity. The monarchical and pyramidal structure of the Church is not acceptable because the source of the Church which is the Trinity is “communion” or “fellowship”. Only an unqualified monism or strict monotheism can lend support for a monarchical structure, which does not allow freedom for individual churches. The Synod of Bishops affirmed that the unique catholic Church exists in and through the particular Churches.”

 

The principle of communion has different levels of appli­cation: at the parish level, at the diocesan level, at the regional level and on a global level. It also finds expression in the collegiality of the bishops, body of presbyterate and in the people of God as a whole.

 

Communion reaches out to most real situations of life. It is no mere spiritualistic idea. The responsibility of order­ing the economic and cultural life of the society is part of constructing stronger communion. To be a credible sacrament and true expression of communion there should be concern even for all the material aspects of human life. Serving the brethren who suffer from poverty, hunger, sickness or other reasons form indispensable aspects of full communion. The source of all communion, it should be pointed out is the Eucharist, which should not be understood narrowing down the concept to a liturgy alone. Vatican II cautioned such a danger when it said in SC: “The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church”. The Church is Eucharistic communion not only because it stands around the altar for liturgical celebration but also because it loves and serves, once it is dispersed. Eucharist is a privileged moment of communion. But the Church requires a communion under a third species also—that is, not merely in the transformed body and blood of Jesus but also in the species of those things that satisfy the physical and material needs of man.

 

The Episcopal Council of Latin America in 1979 already long before the Synod of Bishops, took up “communion” as a basic ecclesiological category and from Trinitarian and Eucharistic communion, they came down to concrete, socio-economic programme. Authentic communion should include the personal, social and institutional levels of human living, When Eucharistic communion does not reach up to these levels it falls short of its true dignity and worth. It should be also pointed out that communion expressed merely as interpersonal relationship of human beings and help to satisfy physical and material needs does not make true ecclesial communion. What is needed is integral communion.

 

“Pluriformity” is a new word found in the final report of Synod of Bishops held in  1985. The word is intended to con­vey the idea of legitimate differences among Christian com­munities. This notion has significant bearing in the Indian context. India is a land of diversity. Today and tomorrow, the Christian presence in this country has to be pluriform in nature. There are differences in customs and traditions of our various groups of people, various regions of our country and that will enter into the ecclesial identity also. In this context the plea for communion should find strong expression. The communion understood in all its aspects– Trinitarian, Christological, Pneumatological, Eucharistic, socio-cuJtural aspects– form a right model for ecclesiology. It can serve to highlight both the divine and human aspects of the Church. It shows that the Church is both in the level of its vertical relationship and in the level of horizontal rela­tionship It can bring out the meaning of tradition and tradi­tions, Church and Churches. Communion idea of the Church also can remain open to the world with the characteristic spirit of Vatican II, expressed in Gaudium et Spes.

 

  1. 6.        The Church as the Servant

Concern for the world was one of the important features of Vat. II. The reflection on the Church was to take place, according to John XXIII on two levels: First, as a reflection on the ”Church ad intra”. Secondly, as a reflection on the “Church ad extra”. If LG was the realization of the first, GS was the realization of the second. The ad extra reflection takes its origin from the openness of the Church to the world. For a long time in the history of the Church official attitude to the world was negative. This is very well pointed out with the example of syllabus of errors” issued by Pope Pius IX in 1864.

 

“The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” conceives the role of the Church as service to the world. Here is a positive approach, which is not found very much in the history of the Church. The Pastoral Constitution says: “The Christians cannot yearn for anything more ardently than to serve the men of the modern world even more gener­ously and effectively” (GS 93). Concluding the theological part of GS, Vatican II spoke about the ways the Church renders service to the world, to person, to community, and to human activity. As Christ was the man for others the Church should exist as community for others. This is the spirituality of the servant model Church assumes her humble position as “servant”. As a sign of that the word Church even becomes written with a small “c”.

 

The present model carries particular application in the context of a Church living in the midst of poverty, misery and injustice. The statement of Bonhoeffer is worth consider­ing in this context: “The Church is the Church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations or possibly engage in some secular calling. The Church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving”.19

 

The service   of the Church is fully conceived only if it takes into   consideration all the aspects of the Church’s mission which may be spelled out as: 1.    Ministry of the word, 2.    Ministry of worship, 3.    Ministry of leadership, 4.    Ministry of social apostolate, especially   to the  most   needy.    GS has pointed out assistance   to   people in their fundamental questions re­garding life, suffering, death, belief as pertaining to the role of the Church (GS 10).    Church is shown in GS: as related to   various    subjects   Church   and   Human   Rights, Church and Culture    Church and   Politics, Church and Liberation, Church and Socio-economic life.    In all these related areas, as   GS   has   pointed out, Church should render her service. Being in (a theology of the proposition “in”) the world me­ans   that   all   these   things   are   important   concerns of the Church.

 

The servant model   cannot   overlook   the   tension   that exists   between Church   and the world.    Therefore Congar would   say that the Church is in the world, but it is not of the world.    Involvement in the world does not take away the duty   of evangelization.    Church’s   service to the   world is ultimately a service to the Kingdom of God.   The Church is the   servant because it does not ecclesiastify the world, but rather lead the world to the Kingdom.    Being in the world the Church has to operate within the structures of the world. The Church in the world should not build up many parallel structures.    That   means   Church should not involve herself excessively in institution building. As Congar says   “Christo-finalizing” should happen the world through normal channels of life would be the ideal.20

 

The “Servant” idea is biblically based. The OT tradition sees Israel as servant of Yahweh. Jesus in the NT is one who serves. But servant idea is placed in the Bible both in the OT and NT in relation to God primarily. In the NT service to the brethren occupies an important place. But this has to be understood in the context of the kingdom of God, rather than taking it in its own category. The Kingdom idea has received strong emphasis in all modern ecclesiolo-gies.21 When the Church is understood as the servant of the Kingdom, the servant-model acquires fuller significance. The servant model of the Church carries with it a spirituality of involvement, which should be accompanied by Christian virtues of humility, simplicity and sacrifice. It would make radical demands on individual Christians as well as on the Church as a whole.

 

  1. 7.        The Church as the Herald

Earlier we considered the model of the Church as the sacrament. In the place of the “Sacrament” the “Word” occupies a central place of importance in the present-model. God’s Word gathers and forms Ekklesia. The Church is called to proclaim the Word which it has heard and lived. There­fore the herald model could be called the “Kerygmatic model” which arises from an evangelical perspective. McBrien has summarily featured this ecclesiology of proclamation: “This mission of the Church is one of proclamation of the word of God to the whole world. The Church cannot hold itself responsible for the failure of men to accept it as God’s word; it has only to proclaim it with integrity and persistence. All else is secondary. The Church is essentially a Kerygmatic community which holds aloft, through the preached Word, the wonderful deeds of God in past history, particularly his mighty acts in Jesus Christ. The community itself happens wherever the Spirit breathes, wherever the word is pro­claimed and accepted in faith. The Church is event, a point of encounter with God”.22

 

Historically, the herald model has come to be associated with Barth and Protestant tradition. Among all the modern theologians it is Barth who has given the greatest emphasis to the relation between Word and the Church. The Protestant Christianity has accused Catholic Christianity of giving undue insistence on the Church of glory. It makes a strong plea to see the Church under the sign of the cross in its present state, requiring, repentance and renewal. The Church cannot glory in herself because it still needs to listen to the word-The Church’s role is to proclaim as John the Baptist while acknowledging its own unworthiness.

 

The Church which is the “herald of the good news” is also understood here as one who is called by a herald. Therefore ekklesia here means both the process of congregating and the congregated community’ The herald model also places the Church on earth in clear distinction from the kingdom of God. Though nourished by the Word the Church is never a perfect Word-community. It is a community that is always in the process of becoming. It is faith, in response to the Word that makes this community. According to Barth the role of the Church is primarily religious He did not entertain an unqualified optimism regarding the world and man’s involvement in it. But Barth certainly moved to a positive and down-to-earth approach in his later years. He showed an evangelical spirit which made him say “No” to the “Nazis.2

 

The herald model of the Church carries a missionary thrust, which is to be appreciated. The model also fits into the prophetic tradition of OT and the missionary concern of the NT. This model can show very well the power of the Word as a corrective force to the Church. Not only that, if “Church as the herald” (of the good news) is understood in its broadest sense it can serve as a very practical concept. That means herald idea has to include in it not only announ­cing the good news, but also living the good news and fashioning a world of justice and peace in accordance with the demands of the Gospel. The social emphasis in the pro­clamation of the word is relatively new in the official teaching of the Church. Announcement of the Word of God is pointed out as the important duty in the documents of Vatican II. In fact the proclamation of the Word and listening to the Word certainly should become the most important aspect of ecclesial life. SC puts it very clearly: “Christ is present in His Word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church” (SC 7). DV speaks about “hearing the Word of God with reverence and proclaiming it confidently” (DV 1). This involves the fulfilment of a duty which will give birth to social order founded on truth built on Justice, and animated by love” (GS 26)

  1. 8.        Beyond Models

The models that we have brought above help us to explore the meaning of the Church. Certainly all models of the Church are not of equal value. Each of them enlightens us more on one or other aspect of the Church. The question that could be further asked is: “What is the basic model of the Church? Can there be basic model? In the post-conciliar theology two dominant models stand out: the people of God model and communion model. This is not to ignore the other models especially the Sacrament model or Body of Christ model, which are also of importance and are given in LG.

 

The people of God model has the power to inspire the Church to see its most important human constituents, namely, the people themselves. No one is insignificant in the light of this. Every one in the Church has his dignity and function in the Church. The role of the laity is easily brought to light in “the People of God”. Seen in the right perspective, the role of the hierarchy also is placed in clear understanding. Here hierarchy is seen as an organ of serving rather than domineering. “Hierarchy” exists for the people and not that “people exist for hierarchy”. It has been feared that “People of God” concept might cause the “Socialization” of the Church. If the second part of the appellation “People of God” is kept in sight, it can show that this people are a worshipping community, fundamentally related to God. Thus a proper understanding of people of God can forestall any “socialization” of the Church with the detriment to interiority.

 

The Church seen as “communion” also can serve to comprehend the values that are mentioned above in relation to the people of God.. Participation and fellowship of all the members form essential aspects of communion model. The communion model brings at once the “theological” and “anthroplogical” nature of the Ekklesia. Fellowship of human beings is rooted in the fellowship of the Trinity. The “communion model” has applicability to different levels of the Church. In that way it is also a very flexible and adaptable concept, which can bring diversity and pluriformity into one communion.

 

Models should come down to concrete pastoral situations. Otherwise they will be mere abstract models. Both the “People of God model” and ‘Communion” model call for changes and renewal in the organizational and structural aspects of the Church. The role of the parish yogam, parish councils, pastoral councils, etc. gains new meaning in the light of these models. Often pastors are not trained to work in the community, with the vision provided by the new models. Models once accepted should be made operative. Often on the ground that democracy is not the form of government in the Church, priests follow an authoritarian model which people know is not the right one, bypassing even the given structure which are there to guarantee an ecclesial style of life that gives participation to people. This way of acting alienates the members of the Church. Instead of playing their active in the Church people indifferent. Sometimes priests meet with violent reactions from parishio­ners because they have a very authoritarian behaviour or approach in their pastoral ministry. It is true that many conflicts today in parishes also arise from unecclesial values mainly coming from politics, The pastor has to guard the community from such dangerous influences which destroy communion and fellowship.

 

To conclude, models are important in ecclesiology. Once a basic model is chosen the contents and implications of other models should not be overlooked. A true pastoral approach should try to discover the insights and values given by each model, while at the same time holding on to a basic model which can serve as the guiding light to other models.

 

NOTES

1    See A. Dulles, Models of the Church (New York 1974); B. Mondin, Le Nuove ecclesiologie (Rome 1980); R. Kress, The Church: Communion Sacrament, Communication (New York 1985); Rikhof, The Concept of the Chwch; R. Michiels “The Self-Understanding of the Church after Vatican II” Louvain Studies 14 (1989), pp. 83-107.

2    K. McNamara, Vatican II: The Constitution on the Church, (London 1968), p. 76.

3    De Controversiis, 2, lib, 3. cap, 3, vol. 2, (Naples 1857), p. 75.

4    Y. Congar, Lay People in the Church (Westminster 1964), p. 45.

5    A. Grillmeier, “The Mystery of the Church Commentary on the Documents on Vatican II ed by H. Vorgrimler (London 1967), p. 138.

6   H. Rikhof considers it difficult to define the Church because of this particular nature of the Church. See H. Rikhof, The Concept of the Church (London 1981), p. 206.

7. R. Michiels, “The Self-understanding of the Church after Vatican II” Lonvian Studies 14 (1989), p. 89.

8.Cf. Joel 2:28; Ezek 36:27; i Cor 3: 16-17; 1 Cor 12:2-4.

9    K.   E.   Untener,   The Church-World Relationship according to the Writings of Yves Congar  (Rome 1976), p 10.

10    A. Dulles, Models of the Church, p. 48.

11. K. Rahner S. J.,   / Remember.    An Autobiographical Inter­view with Meinold Kraus (New York 19S5), p. 96.

12.  J. Ratzinger Das Neues Volk Gottes (Diisseldorf 1970), p. 209.

13. Cf.  1Cor. 6:15-17; 10:17; 12:12-30, 31; Rom 12:4-8; Gal 3:26-28; Col. 1:18,24; 2:19; 3:15; Eph 1:22,23; 2:16; 4:12,16; 5:23; 5:30.

14.    R. Kress,  The Church: Communion,.., p. *9

15.   H. Rikhof, The Concept of the Church, see Chapt. 1.

16. K. Me Donnell, “Vatican II… Koinonia/ Communion as an Integral Ecclesiology” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 25:3 (1988) p. 401 ff. Cf. Ibid., p. 406. Cf. also for an evaluation of commu­nion ecclesiology of “Synod of Bishops 1985”, Concilium (Dec. 1986). Final Report of the Synod.

19    D. Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (New York 1967), pp. 203-204.

20   K.   E.   Untener, The Church-World Relationship, pp. 18ff.

21    Cf. H. Kueng, “The Coming Reign of God”, in Church (New York 1976) pp. 69ff; also J. Moltmann, “Church of the Kingdom of God” (Part 4 of Church in the Power of the Spirit. (London 1977). also L. Boff, Church, Charism and Power (London 1982); A. Dulles, A Church to Believe in (New York 1985), pp. 8-10.

22   R. P. McBrien, The Continuing Quest (New York 1970), p. 11.

23    H. Kueng, The Church  p. 114

24   Cf. Roger L. Shinn, Man: the New Humanism, (New Directions in Theology Series VI), (London 1968), pp. 36-37.

 

 

 

VATICAN II AND ECCLESIOLOGY

 VATICAN II AND ECCLESIOLOGY

 Dr George Karakunnel

             To understand the theology of the Church in Vatican II one needs to see both the background from which it has come and the various stages of its own development.

Historical Background

            In early centuries the Church was vividly experienced and believed in, but her nature was not analysed.  Even in the great age of scholasticism there was no treatise “De Ecclesia”: none will be found in St.Thomas’ “Summa Theologica”.  Such a treatise first appeared at the end of the Middle ages, but chiefly as a creation of Canon Law. Then came the reformation and the need to oppose the Protestant concept of the Invisible Church and to prove that the Roman Church was the only true one.  To do this the idea of the Church as a “perfect society” was much developed, and a fully visible society – “as visible as the Kingdom of France” said St.Robert Bellarmine, the leading counter-reformation controversialist.  Moreover, in discussing the nature of this society little was considered beyond its governmental aspect, and that was seen again in secular terms: those of monarchical government.  Thus a sort of typical ecclesiology for the period from the 16th to 19th century grew up.

            To sum it up:

–         It was apologetic in approach.

–         It defined the church as a “perfect society” understood in terms similar to those of a secular state.

–         It was mostly concerned with the visible aspect of the Church.

–         It spoke chiefly of the governmental side of the society.

–         It explained that government in terms of monarchy.

The best way to show this ecclesiology from which the Second Vatican Council has now finally delivered us is to give an example. So, here is a brief summary of the “De Ecclesia Christi” of Cardinal Billot, 4th edition, 1921. Billot was probably the most distinguished and influential Catholic theologian of the first quarter of this century. His treaties has 870 pages, divided into three parts. Namely;

–         The first part (267 pages) is straightforward apologetics. It proves that the Roman Catholic Church is true and all sects separated from her false.

–         The second part is the most important; its 450 pages are devoted to the Church’s internal constitution. The first chapter is on the members of the Church (all the baptized except those cut off by heresy or schism.)

All the other nine chapters are on ecclesiastical authority: first in general, then the powers of order, of teaching, of jurisdiction. There follow 200 pages on the monarchical character of the Church and on the Roman Pontiff. Finally there are 13 pages divided between bishops and councils.

The third part considers the relationship of the Church with civil society, the two ‘powers’. Its first chapter deals with the error of Liberalism, the second proves that the State is (indirectly) subordinate to the Church, the third and the last speaks of the Church’s immunity.

Why go into all this? Because it shows us so clearly what is new in the “New Ecclesiology”. The old ecclesiology – the teaching of most manuals up till a few years ago – had a terribly juridical and rather secular view of what the Church is.  One finds in Billot’s work no account of the people of God or even of the body of Christ; no reference to the sacraments other than the initiation of baptism; not concern with the laity or even with the priests except as ‘subjects’ for authority; no treatment of the Church’s mission, etc. The old ecclesiology appeared as principally concerned with power in the Church and then chiefly with that of the Pope. Bishops and councils between them got a bare 13 pages. The central thesis of the whole thing was undoubtedly ‘the Church’s monarchy as instituted in St. Peter’ even though Billot – unlike many theologians of his time did temper this by recognizing the existence of a true ‘college of bishops’. The old ecclesiology was not wrong in its chief affirmations;  we cannot reject the visible hierarchical and papal aspects of the Church – but it was very one-sided.

Twentieth Century Developments

            In the forty years following 1921 ecclesiology has been in a constant state of change as the influences of Scripture, the Fathers and Liturgy have been growing, in place of those of canon Law, apologetics and comparisons with civil government. In particular we may note the following developments:

–         The theology of the “Mystical Body” coming back especially in the years after 1925.

–         The Lay Apostolate Movement, greatly encouraged by Pope Pius XI and Pius XII

–         The theology of the People of God, coming in chiefly after 1940.

–         A closer linking up of the Church with sacramental theology.

–         The beginning of ecumenical contacts with non-Catholics.

The manuals of theology written or revised in those years often tried to bring in some of these new ideas (especially, of course, that of the mystical body after the encyclical of 1943), but on the whole they stuck to the old framework and you get some odd results as when the mystical body is mentioned indeed but in a ‘corollarium’!

VATICAN II

The first text of the “De Ecclesia” to appear at the Council, that produced after much discussion by the Preparatory Commission and debated during the last week of the first session, did much of this.

Many new ideas appeared here and there but the general impression was still strongly of the old point of view in its order, its stresses and its terminology. The bishops strongly criticized it as too heavily institutional and juridical. Although not specifically rejected by the Fathers it was clear that this draft was not acceptable, and it was almost entirely rewritten by the Doctrinal Commission between the first and second sessions.

This new draft  (B) was an enormous improvement. It was very carefully discussed in the second session and a great many further amendments and additions many of them of the first importance, were proposed. It was also decided to add two further chapters, one eschatological, the other Marian. This resulted in a further extremely careful writing or rewriting of the various parts; these were prepared in a number of sub-commissions which included many of the most distinguished international theologians. The new draft (now eight chapters) was sent out to the Fathers in July, 1964. Further small but significant amendments had still to be made to it during the third session and in that form it was finally voted on and approved.

Let us compare the order of the three chief drafts by chapter divisions.

PRINCIPAL DRAFTS OF DE ECCLESIA

          A                                                  B                                                      C

Presented in Session I                Presented in Session II               Presented in Session III

  1. Nature of the militant Church
  2. Members of the militant Church
  3. Episcopate and Priesthood
  4. Residential Bishops
  5. The states of perfection
  6. Lay people
  7. Teaching authority
  8. Authority and obedience in the Church
  9. Relations of Church and State
  10. Necessity of Universal Evangelization
  11. Ecumenism
  1. The mystery of the Church
  2. The hierarchy
  3. The people of God and the laity
  4. The vocation of all to holiness; religious
  1. The mystery of the Church
  2. The People of God
  3. The hierarchy
  4. The Laity
  5. Call of the whole Church to holiness
  6. Religious
  7. Eschatological nature of the pilgrim Church and her union with the heavenly Church

8.  The role of Mary in the  mystery of Christ and the Church

IT MAY BE NOTED THAT:

–         The original text clearly what we may call ‘Billot’s general order and approach’ while inserting some new sections in what seems a rather arbitrary way.

–         However, text A did already include many ideas of the ‘New Ecclesiology’, e.g. the terms ‘people of God’ and ‘body of Christ’ appear at once in c. l. ; lay people were given a separate chapter which speaks of the universal priesthood.

–         Yet the ‘old approach’ was still too clear: four different chapters were devoted to the organs of clerical authority, while the tone of the actual text was in many places very juridical.

–         The later texts have put everything that was to be said about the ‘hierarchical ministry’ into a single chapter (a long one).

–         The final text develops the idea of ‘God’s people’ before speaking of the hierarchy.

–         The Church’s spiritual and invisible purpose, ‘holiness’, appears clearly in the later texts.

–         ‘The Laity’ were treated after religious in the first text before them in the second and third.

–         The traditional chapter on the two ‘potestates’ (powers) ‘Church and State’- is simply left out in the later texts; other matters such as the Church’s missionary character, which appears in the first text as a sort of ‘corollarium’ are integrated into the general treatment; on the other hand quite new themes (especially concerning invisible aspects of the Church) make their appearance.

–         The term ‘militant’ falls out; the term ‘pilgrim’ comes in.

–         Already this brief analysis of Chapter headings shows us quite a lot about the way thinking on the Church developed during the Council. But to understand that development properly what we must examine is the text itself of the final constitution, for, the whole ‘new theology’ of Christian life in the church is really to be found within its chapters.

*****


DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH

A Brief  Commentary

Chapters 1 and 2

                       I.     Ecclesia                        a.1.      Introduction: the Council intends to set

                  de Trinitate                               forth the nature of the Church

                  a. 1-4.                          a.2.      the Father’s work.

                                                      a.3.      the Son’s.

                                                      a.4.      the Holy Spirit’s.

1.The mystery

   of God’s gift

                                                                        a.5.      Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom.

                                                      a.6.      Images of the Church:

                                                                  sheepfold, flock, olive tree, vineyard;

                                                                  building, temple of God, holy city;

                                                                  bride of Christ.

      II.         Aspects of the mystery

                  a.5-8                            a.7.      the body of Christ.

                                                      a.8.      a visible, hierarchial society; but one of

                                                                  service not of power.

III.       Nature of the people

                  a. 9-12                         a.9.      constituted by the new covenant with

Christ as head.

                                                      a.10-11.priestly character.

                                                                        a.12.    prophetic character, including charisms.

2.The People

   of God.

                        IV.       Relationship                  a.13.    universality of the people.

                                    with the human race.     a.14.    fullness of incorporation.

                                    a.13-17.                       a.15.    separated Christians.

                                                                        a.16.    non-Christians.

                                                                        a.17.    the mission of universal

                                                                                    evangelization.

The Title:

The conciliar documents, like papal encyclicals, are to be known by the first words of their latin text, and so special care was presumably taken to make these significant.  The words LUMEN GENTIUM which open the constitution on the Church appeared with the 1963 text.  That of 1962 began AETERNUS UNIGENITI PATER, rather reminiscent of Vatican I’s PASTOR AETERNUS.  The words LUMEN GENTIUM look outwards and stress the universal mission of both Christ and the Church.  They are an implicit quotation from Isa. 42:6, but ‘gentes’ here of course no longer means the gentiles in opposition to Israel but simply all the peoples of the world.  We may be especially glad that this phrase entitles the Council’s greatest document not only because of its missionary significance but also because it was a phrase very dear to Pope John, and was used as the key words of his radio message to the world on 11 September, 1962, just before the Council opened.  It is Christ who is the light of the nations, but his light shines through the Church.

Common theme of these two chapters:

 

The first two chapters of the constitution stand together, providing a rich basic  theology of the Church.  In draft B of the document the order followed was: c.1, Mystery of the Church; c.2, the Hierarchy; c.3, the People of God and the Laity.  But it was pointed out in the second session that the term ‘People of God’ includes the whole Church, the hierarchy as well.  Laity and hierarchy are divisions within God’s people, and therefore a study of the People of God must come before one of the hierarchy.  PEOPLE OF GOD, in fact, is an important name for the Church, while the hierarchy is a ministry within the Church (or rather, those performing that ministry).  We have to see the Church as a whole before we speak of a ministry within her.  Hence a chapter on the People of God was placed before that on the hierarchy.

The matter of c.2 might in fact have been merged into c.1.  It was kept apart both to stop c.1 from becoming too long and then because of a certain difference of approach: c.1 deals more with the divine, c.2 with the human side of the Church’s nature.  The Church on earth is a gathering of men by God: he forms and gives this gathering its special characteristics.  So, in studying the Church’s nature, there are two aspects to be considered – that of the gift, and that of those who receive it.  Roughly speaking, c.1 deals with the first aspect: the Church’s mystery as a gift of God; c.2 deals with the second aspect: the human community, the people of God.  But the two sides are so completely inter-involved that not only is there of course no division between them, but even a distinction should not be pressed.

The very existence of these two well-developed chapters on the Church’s general nature, placed before any treatment of the hierarchy, is the first and possibly even the most important contribution of the constitution to our understanding of the Church.  Never again will others be able to say that we seem only to speak about the governmental side of the Church; in the past that was often almost true.  From now on it cannot be.  In these two chapters on the nature of the Church there is no detailed mention of the hierarchy at all.  The body of the Church is described, and only when that has been done does the constitution go on to speak in detail of the ministry within the Church.

Note that each of these two chapters is fairly clearly divided into half, as in the summary above; if the four units are seen as such a study of the main lines of thought will be greatly assisted.

Chapter – 1:

 

The essence of the Church is very finely expressed in a.1.  The Church is the sacrament of  UNION WITH GOD and of unity among men.  That is where we start from – not a juridically conceived ‘perfect society’ but ‘union with God’, of which the Church as we know her is the sacrament, that is to say the visible sign and embodiment.

Union with God means union with the three persons of God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  The Church is indeed DE TRINITATE.  In order to gather men into this unity of God, the Father sent the Son in whose life and especially in whose death and paschal sacrifice the Church is inaugurated.  It is in the eucharistic sacrifice and sacrament that what Christ did then is continually expressed and made effective for us: in this way the unity of men, the body of Christ, is brought about.  But it is the Holy Spirit who continually vivifies, sanctifies, and rejuvenates the Church of God: Christ provides the ‘shape’ of the Church, the Spirit the breath of life.

This opening section is concluded with the fine sentence: ‘Thus the universal Church is revealed as “a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (a.4).  These four opening articles really provide an exquisite summa of essential ecclesiology and deserve deep meditation.

a.5 provides an extension of a.3: the historical work of Christ especially in terms of the kingdom.  The meaning of the kingdom is not easy to express precisely.  The kingdom of God is the fullness of humanity’s service of God.    Preaching the kingdom, Jesus inaugurates the Church, and the Church is continually bringing the kingdom nearer to realization, but the two cannot simply be identified – at least until the end of time.

 In a.6 we find the presentation of a wide variety of scriptural images for the Church.  Drawn from the life of the countryside and the common trades they can be specially valuable for catechetical work in non-industrialized societies.  The images given in a.6 could very well form the basis for a course of sermons.  Note that the ‘body of Christ’ in a.7 is not given simply as another image.  This title cannot be put on the same level as the images previously referred to, as it has a deeper and more precise theological meaning.

In a.8 for the first time we meet the word ‘society’.  The Church is indeed a visible society.  We live in a visible world.  Christ was a visible man and the divine communion he came to bring, which has been described up till now, must take a visible and social form.  It involves the gathering of men in a human society  which requires leadership, etc. like other human societies.  Therefore the divine fellowship, the body of Christ existing in the visible world, must take the form of a visible society, the earthly (hierarchical) Church.  The identity of the two was stressed in Pius XII’s encyclicals MYSTICI CORPORIS and HUMANI GENERIS; it is repeated here, but in a modified form.  The single Church of Christ cannot be simply and absolutely identified with the one visible Roman communion, for the Council recognizes important ‘ecclesial elements’ separated from the latter.  The visible Church as sacrament (manifest and effective sign) of union with God is one and exclusive, but what it signifies extends beyond its visible frontiers.  Hence, whereas draft B stated unequivocally ‘This Church is the Roman Catholic Church’, the final text declares ‘This Church SUBSISTS in the R.C. Church’.  The implications of this tiny verbal modification may be very great.

Chapter – 2:

 

a.9 is a fundamental one.  The PEOPLE OF GOD is the Councils characteristic name for the Church.  Note that the description of the people starts with the fact of the covenant.  The Church is God’s new people.  Why? Because Christ instituted a new eternal covenant in his blood of cross and Eucharist.  We cannot understand this term ‘people of God’ without the covenant idea: the historical agreement whereby a group of men are made into God’s chosen people.

God’s people is ‘a kingdom of priests’.  Until recently we have greatly neglected the truth of the priesthood of all the faithful, so stressed by Lutherans.  Here it is called the ‘common priesthood’ as distinguished from the ‘ministerial priesthood’ of holy orders.  Note that both are sacramental in origin and expression and, of course, that all ministers share in the common or universal priesthood.  This is a real participation in Christ’s Priesthood, and it is actuated in the whole of the Church’s worship centred upon offering the Eucharist, to which every Christian is called.

The final paragraph of a.11 speaks of the universal vocation of Christians to perfect sanctity; it anticipates the theme of c.5.

Besides the priestly and prophetic gifts which are common to all the christian people, there are many other special one to this person or that which are given by the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church.  These are called ‘charisms’’; some may be remarkable others very simple.  They are to be welcomed by the hierarchical ministry, but their genuineness and proper use may require testing.

Articles 13-17 must again be seen as a unit.  The key to all five is the initial sentence: ‘All men are called to belong to the new People of God’.  The whole section works out the implications of this statement.  The picture of God’s people is one of an ever richer diversity in unity as the universality of its vocation is little by little realized through historical growth.  Catholics in a state of grace and the communion of Rome are fully incorporated into the unity of the one people, but non-Catholic Christians too are joined to it in many ways – by baptism and the Scriptures and faith and the Holy Spirit: a.15 must, of course, be studied with the Decree on Ecumensim.  Non-Christians as well (Jews, Muslims, everyone) are positively related to the one people in one way or another, for all God’s sons have been called to membership of the new people.  Nevertheless here and now they still lack much; to give it to them and so achieve the desired fullness missionary work is absolutely necessary.  This is not a valuable extra in Church life.  On the contrary: “Proclaiming saving truth to the ends of the earth’ expresses the very purpose and being of the Church and without it the Church would not indeed be here self.  Only thus can we bring to achievement the Catholicity and unity of God’s people: all humanity fully within the one Church, and the one Church fully diversified with the variety of mankind.

Notice that we have said ‘Roman Catholics in a state of grace are FULLY incorporated into the one people’.  Draft B of a.14 had declared that ONLY Catholics are REALLY incorporated into the Church (‘Reapse et simpliciter…illi tantum’); this was a repetition of the words of the encyclical MYSTICI CORPORIS (‘Reapse illi soli’).  But the Fathers preferred to replace the above words with ILLI PLENE.  Full membership, to the mind of the Council, furthermore implies not only fulfilling the external conditions of belonging to the Roman communion, but also includes possession of the Spirit of Christ: ‘Dead” members cannot be ‘full’ members.  If Catholics are incorporated into the ‘full communion’ of the visible Church, non-Catholic Christians are truly but not fully members of the visible communion.  This does not PER SE limit their sharing in the fellowship of faith and love which is signified, but at the sign level at least their communion with the great Church is not complete.  This is an important advance on earlier official teaching.

This beautiful treatise on the Church ends as it began, with the three persons of God, from whom (in a.1) our eucharistic communion and mission comes and to whom (a.17) it returns.  The universal mission must bring about a universal Eucharist-in the prophetic words of Malachi, ‘In every place there is a sacrifice’-that in this way ‘the fullness of the whole world may pass into the People of God, the Body of the Lord and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, that in Christ, the head of all things, all honour and glory may be rendered to the creator, the Father of the universe’.

Chapter  3 HIRARCHICAL MINISTRY:

 

1. Introduction.                                                             a.18.    purpose of the chapter

                                   I. Its origin                                a.19.    the apostolic college.

                                                                                    a.20.    bishops are the apostles’

                                                                                                successors by divine institution.

                                                                                    a.21.    entry through consecration-the

                                                                                                fullness of Holy orders.

2. The Episcopate         II. Its nature                              a.22.    the Episcopal college and the

                                                                                                Position of its head.

                                                                                    a.23.    mutual relations of bishops;

                                                                                                world missionary responsibilities

                                    III. Its work                              a.24.    the ministry in general.

                                                                                    a.25.    teaching, and ecclesial infallibility

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            a.26.    sanctifying.

                                                                                    a.27.    pastoral rule.

                                                                                    a.28.    the priesthood.

3. Lesser Orders                                                          a.29.    the diaconate.

Chapter 3 is the longest in the constitution.  Certain points in it were discussed very extensively and finally formulated with great precision, but it would be a mistake to limit the significance of this chapter to those points.  The chapter as a whole is very rich in its teaching.  Its general characteristics are as follows: It is clear in the New Testament that Christ entrusted the direction of His Church to the twelve as a body, a collective unit, and they acted as such in the early days described in the Acts. To them was given full authority: Peter was one of the twelve , their leader. He could not act except as an apostle because that is what he was; but he was not merely their president.  What was given to the Twelve collectively, was explicitly given to him individually.  The one fullness of authority bestowed by Christ was given both to the college and to its head – they not being their collective whole without him, while he in principle acted always as leader of the Twelve.

Peter’s primacy was passed to the popes; the apostles’ ministry to the bishops.  Catholics have never doubted that.  What has not been so clear is that bishops have not merely succeeded individually to a limited charge, but also collectively to the universal one-to a real shared responsibility for the whole Church. It should have been clear, of course, because it was implied by the whole long history of ecumenical councils.  What this chapter now teaches us is just how the character of the Church’s ministry has remained, as it was in apostolic times, collective-cum-individual.  Papal authority is no less than Vatican  I defined it, but it looks rather different when seen as the divinely planned headship of a continuing college.

It will take time to shape the Church’s concrete institutions effectively according to this new vision of collegiality.  We can say in fact that the administration of the Church in the last two or three centuries has been rather un-collegial: instead it has been over-centralized and curial.  Pope Paul’s establishment of the Synod of Bishops in 1965 and its first meeting in October, 1967, is a step in the direction of a regular, practiced collegiality, though of course Pope John’s calling of the Council itself was the first great modern recognition that the Church really needs collegial leadership.

The old ecclesiology frequently described the Church as MONARCHICAL.  Neither the word ‘monarchy’ nor its adjective appear anywhere in the constitution.  We may judge that they are not really very suitable words for our subject, for two reasons: firstly, the concept of a monarchy is too different from that of a college, whose head has indeed a quite unique authority, but of which he is still a member.  Secondly, ‘Monarchy’ is a too secular term, brought in from comparison with civil government; its use was rather characteristic of the general secularization of ecclesiology after the fourteenth century.  Some people today are saying ‘Monarchy is out; democracy is in’.  That is not the sense of the constitution.  These terms fit the government of civil states, but neither really suits the Church, though doubtless they can both in some way be used of her.  “Hierarchical’ is a more helpful word, just because it is not used so characteristically of civil society, and because its general sense is not in itself precise.  To describe what sort of pattern the Church’s hierarchical ministry takes, we may now use the word ‘collegial’.  But its precise meaning is to be ascertained from revelation, not from secular parallels: it signifies that unique balance, first existing between the twelve apostles and their leader, now perpetuated in the permanent pattern of the Church’s ministry.

a.18. Note again the immediate stress on pastoral ministry and service in the opening paragraph.  The job of the hierarchy is ‘to serve its brothers’.  This theme is taken up again later, especially in the last para of a.20, in a.24, and in a.27 where its repetition balances and softens the juridical statement that bishops have proper, ordinary and immediate ecclesiastical authority.

The purpose of the Council here is to follow up Vatican I, proclaimed the ministry of the pope, Peter’s successor and the visible principle of unity in the Church, by speaking of that of the bishops, the successors of the apostles.  Most of a.18 (except the first paragraph) is in fact taken word for word from Vatican I.

At the end of a.20 comes the first of the particular truths which the Fathers wished to state definitely in this chapter and around which their earlier discussions had centred: ‘Bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church’.

In a.21 comes the second precise point of teaching: ‘The fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred by Episcopal consecration’.  This fullness includes not only the ministry of sanctifying (i.e. the power to administer certain sacraments) but also that of teaching and ruling.  The ‘high priesthood’ of bishops, as received in their consecration, implies this whole circle of work, being a true presentation amid the faithful of the high priesthood of Jesus Christ himself.  It cannot be seen, then, as simply a gift of ‘orders’ to which jurisdiction may be added, even though its actual exercise does require subsequent (normally territorial) delimitation to be settled by the Episcopal college or (as generally at present) its head.

Note that almost nothing is said about whether bishops have specifically sacramental functions (e.g. ordination) absolutely proper to them, that is to say which other priests cannot perform: only episcopal consecration itself is mentioned: it is for bishops to consecrate other bishops.  Even here, however, an earlier text which read that ‘only bishops can admit…. was modified to say simply ‘it is for bishops to admit’.  The sacramental fullness of the episcopate is not to be seen, then, in terms of some isolated sacramental powers but as the sacramental imparting of a total office and function in the Church.

a.22  gives us the heart of the doctrine of Episcopal collegiality and merits especially careful reading.  (The authoritative comment entitled the NOTA PRAEVIA and attached to the constitution at its end bears especially upon the interpretation of this article).  As Peter and the apostles formed one apostolic college, in a similar way the pope and the bishops form one Episcopal college.  Membership of this college depends on consecration AND hierarchical communion with its head and members (a consecrated bishop could exclude himself or be excluded from the college on account of failure to co-operate in the work of the hierarchical ministry).  Both the college and its head permanently possess the fullness of Church authority, but the college is not meaningful without its head and cannot act without at least his approval or concurrence.

a.23 deals with the continuous ‘collegial’ aspect of a bishop’s work-his extra-diocesan responsibilities of one kind and another, including that of helping missionary work; a bishop is by his nature not only a minister for the communion, he is also a minister for the mission.

a.25 is another long and important one.  It presents a summary of doctrine on the Church’s magisterium.  The first section deals with the ordinary non-infallible teaching authority of bishops and pope; the second part with infallible authority seen both in the universal episcopate and in the pope.

What should be particularly noted are the following two points:

The stress is on ECCLESIAL infallibility, on what the Council calls’ the Church’s charism of infallibility’ present both in the pope and in general council.  Whereas draft A, having spoken of papal infallibility, went on to say that the definitions of a general council enjoyed the same infallibility as those of the pope, the final text stresses that ‘the infallibility promised to the Church’ is present in the body of bishops as in the pope.  This is in fact in strict line with the way of speaking of Vatican I.

The text twice stresses the relationship between the infallible teaching authority of the Church and the deposit of revelation.  The former extends as far as the latter and is ruled by it.  It is very important to be clear about this because there have been tendencies to interpret the Church’s infallible authority as extending far beyond revelation, and this was indeed proposed also in draft A.

a.26-27 speak of other sides of the bishop’s work.  Note that every bishop is called a ‘vicar of Christ’; also that the meaning of a bishop’s office is expressed in terms of a local church centred upon the Eucharist.

The last two articles (28 and 29) speak of the ministry of priests and deacons, who also form part of the Church’s divinely instituted hierarchy and share in almost every side of the bishops’ ministry.  Let us note that the general pattern of collegiality is seen as applying to the particular church (the diocese) as well as to the universal Church.  The priests of the diocese form, with their bishop, a sort of sacerdotal college, a single PRESBYTERIUM, which does not limit the bishop’s authority but indicates the way his ministry should be mediated to his whole flock across the co-operation of his co-workers.  The old idea of a ‘monarchical episcopate’ is as misleading as that of the monarchical papacy.

Article 29 quietly indicates what brings about a further revolution in the ministry in coming years.  For long the DIACONATE has been no more than a stage in seminary life.  This article points out its real purpose in the service of the people of God, and of how many functions – at present in practice reserved to priests – deacons can carry out.  With the present growing shortage of priests, it would be most valuable in many countries to have a permanent diaconate restored, but as it would surely be difficult to find many unmarried men for this work the Council envisages the ordination of married men as deacons in the future.

As with priests, bishops, the pope himself, their ordination and status will be for the service of God’s people, the building up of the body of Christ.  (For further treatment of collegiality see the decree on Bishops).

 

Chapter 4 THE LAITY:

 

a.30. Introduction.

a.31. What we mean by laity.

a.32. Their ecclesial character in general.

a.33. Their apostolate in general.

a.34. The laity share in the priesthood of Christ.

a.35. They share in his prophetic office.

a.36. They share in his kingly power.

a.37. Co-operation with the clergy.

a.38. Conclusion.

Note that this chapter on the laity is linked very closely both with c.2 (they were originally joined together) and with the decree on the lay apostolate where, of course, its practical implications are developed.

In a.31 the meaning of the word ‘laity’ is considered under two aspects:

NEGATIVELY – all the faithful who are not in the hierarchy or religious orders.

POSITIVELY – the laity are those of the people of God who have a properly secular character, their normal activities being the activities of the world.  Whereas the characteristic activity of the clergy derives materially from the nature of the Church, the characteristic activity of the laity derives materially from the nature of the world, of ordinary human society .  Both must equally seek the kingdom of God.

a.32. The laity are full members of the body of Christ, of the people of God.  Variety of functions in the body causes no inequality in essentials; what unites clergy and laity is of far greater importance than what distinguished them.  What unites them is Christian brotherhood in grace and a common call to perfection; what distinguishes them is diversity in service and function.  Note how here as in a.30, the theology of the laity grows naturally out of the doctrine of the Church as the body of Christ: the unity of many diverse members.

The basic sense of the lay apostolate is established in a.33.  The laity have an apostolate because they are laity.  They share in the mission of the Church just because they are living members of the people of God; appointed to this mission by the very fact of their consecration in baptism and confirmation.  In the past the lay apostolate was sometimes defined as ‘the co-operation of the laity in apostolate of the hierarchy’.  This was not a good definition.  The hierarchy have an apostolate proper to them and so have the laity.  The lay apostolate comes primarily, not from a special offer to do part of the hierarchy’s job for it, but from the obligation of every baptized Christian to share actively in the mission of Christ.  Evidently many laymen are called over and above this to join in the apostolate of the hierarchy, and this work may be very important.  But basically the lay apostolate is precisely that apostolate which is proper to laity as laity, i.e. as Christians not sharing in the hierarchical ministry.

a.34 is really a repeat of a.10 – 11, and a.35 in part of a.12.  They were inserted when the old chapter on ‘the People of God and the laity’ was split into two and the former sections dealing with the priestly and prophetical aspects of Christian living were carried to c.2.

However a.35 adds some special stresses on the most characteristic lay aspects of implementing Christ’s prophetic role.  In many circumstances evangelization, witnessing to Christ, can be done only by them; moreover, at the very heart of human life-the family – it is for married people to be witnesses of  Christian faith and give love to one another and to their children.

Laymen have a special function in the carrying through of the royal work of Christ (a.36).  This work entails the re-ordering of the earth and of human society so that across the attainment by the terrestrial city of human culture, distributive justice, personal freedom, the light of Christ will be manifested and creation enabled to give greater glory to God.  But all this work belongs principally to the laity – the ensuring that the kingdom of Christ is advanced not only by the progress of the Church but also by the progress of the world.

a.37 earnestly advocates a truly active co-operation between clergy and laity, even though its style remains rather clericalist.  While all Christians have a duty of respect and obedience in Church matters towards their pastors, they have also a duty of free action and personal responsibility.  What is required is a two–way traffic.  Suggestions, initiatives, criticisms, if given in the right way, are needed from the laity who, when competent, must be ready to speak out and act with confidence and courage.  The health of the Church depends upon mutual trust and sharing of responsibilities between hierarchy and laity.

The whole chapter stresses the outward-looking side of the Church.  In Pope Paul’s words ‘the Church is for the world’.  Now this world-serving character of the Church is born especially by the laity.  It is in a way for the clergy to serve the laity, the laity to serve the whole human society.  This theme of course is developed in the constitution on the Modern World and in the decree on the Lay Apostolate.  The present chapter is the link between the constitution on the Church and those other more obviously ‘outward-looking’ documents.  The layman, it concludes, must be the sacrament of the living God before the world.  What the soul is in the body, let Christians be in the world.

‘The apostolate which deals with the temporal order itself and seeks to imbue it with a Christian spirit is normally the special responsibility of the layman, so that in this task he has a larger role than the cleric, whose first responsibility is that of preaching the word of God and dispensing the divine mysteries.  In the relation of the faithful to the Church hierarchy the principle of subsidiarity should be followed…..This means that those things which parish priests can do by themselves should not be taken over by the bishop’s curia, and just as those things which – leaving the hierarchical structure of the Church intact-can be done by bishops or bishops’ conferences should be left to them, so also those things which the layman can accomplish on his own initiative and responsibility should not be taken over by the clergy, always with the proviso that the hierarchical structure of the Church is preserved’. (From a council speech of Bishop Hoffner of Munster).

Chapters 5 and 6 HOLINESS:

5. The universal call to holiness              a.39.    the Church is holy with the holiness of

                                                                        Christ, her spouse and head.

a.40.    all her members are called to share in this

                                                           a.41.    every condition of life has its own way to

                                                                        sanctity.

                                                           a.42.    but the heart of holiness for everyone is love.

6. The particular call through the

religious life                                           a.43.    definition of the religious state: a stable way of

                                                                        life embodying the evangelical counsels.

                                                            a.44.    personal and ecclesial reasons for its existence

                                                           a.45.    relation to ecclesiastical authority.

                                                           a.46.    relation to human society.

                                                           a.47.    conclusion.

 

History of the text:

The 1962 text of the constitution followed the order: bishops, priests, religious, laity; and the chapter on religious was entitled ‘the states of perfection’.  As we saw, in the course of the council this order was changed.  The hierarchy – laity division is basically part of the essential structure of the Church, and should therefore be treated first.  Religious, on the other hand, as the constitution states, are really divided between hierarchy and laity: some belong to one group, some to the other.  Their special state can be better understood when the positive characteristics of both hierarchy and laity have been explained.  Hence the 1963 text adopted the order: hierarchy, laity, religious.  However, the last chapter was given a quite new title, “The Vocation to Holiness in the Church’, and its first section spoke briefly of that vocation as universal’.  The passage ‘Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect’ was quoted, and as referring to all men.  Its second section then spoke of the particular vocation to religious life, still described as the ‘state of perfection’.

This was not the end of the story.  As a result of the discussions of the second session, further drastic alterations were undertaken.  Among them we may note: (a) The section on the universal vocation to holiness was greatly enlarged, ceasing to be little more than an  ‘opener’ to a treatment of religious.  It had become the most striking part of the chapter.  (b) All reference to the ‘state of perfection’ (or ‘state of acquiring perfection’) was dropped from the text of the section on religious, as (previously) it had been dropped from the title – though traditional, it is a misleading term, for all men are called to perfection, not just religious; equally in this life no one attains it.  The term had a juridical rather than a theological meaning.  (c) This second section now stresses the ecclesial and eschatological significance of the religious life.

Questions still remained, however, on the dividing and placing of this matter.  Should it continue to form a single chapter, or be divided clearly into two? Again, many urged that now a fine section on the universal vocation to sanctity had been written, it was in fact in the wrong place.  It should not follow the chapters on the hierarchy and the laity and precede that on religious; it should precede all these chapters and be linked with that on the people of God.  The order would then have been:

The People of God.

Its vocation to sanctity.

The hierarchy.

The laity.

Religious.

In principle this might well have been the best and most logical plan.  However, it would have involved a very big rewriting of many sections of the constitution at a late date, and would also have cut in half the treatment of matters which were really linked together in the two sections of this chapter.  It was agreed therefore to retain the existing order, while inserting in c.2, a.11 a brief paragraph pointing forward to c.5 Secondly, it was decided (by a general vote of the fathers in the third session, 30 September, 1964) to constitute these two sections as two separate chapters.  This division shows the importance of the religious life for the Church as a whole, and that surely corresponds to the facts of the case.  Many fathers had feared that, with the new stress on the universal vocation to holiness, there was a danger of minimizing the significance of the religious vocation.  They felt that a separate chapter would counteract this danger.  The chapter as finally written shows this significance as a truly theological ore; the religious state, as canonically established in the church, constitutes a sign-a visible human embodiment-of the deep things of spiritual life and of the other-worldliness of the Church of God.

Chapter 5:

The Church is essentially holy, as we affirm in the Creed.  This holiness is of God, not of men.  She is holy because Christ, her lord and her head, has made her holy.  Being a member of her necessarily means being called to share in this holiness; one cannot be a Church member and not be so called.  Though given by God, the holiness of the Church will then be manifested in the lives of her members.  Called to grace in baptism and faith, all Christians must develop in their lives the holiness they have received from God.  This chapter really offers a very fine SUMMARY OF CHRISTIAN MORAL THEOLOGY-of a morality wholly informed by love.  God is love; being given his life means being invited to love and to grow up into a fullness of charity-love of God, love of one’s fellow men.  For bishops and priests this takes a predominantly pastoral form; for married people a faithful commitment to the family, for workers, for the disabled, for every group and every individual person the holiness of love takes on its special form.  It is a pity that the sentence in a.41 referring to the widowed and the unmarried from this point of view is so very weak.  In fact the treatment of the variety of people described in a.41 on `the forms and tasks of life` is very over-weighted on the clerical side. This is a point where the Council`s intended width of view did not quite come across in the form of words used.  But anyway the whole of the preceding chapter was really concerned with the holiness of the laity and the principle is here: diversity of human life and character combined with unity in the transforming love that comes from God to be the very life and purpose of the Church. One and all we are called to `the pursuit of perfect love`.

Christ gave his disciples  both counsels and commands.  There is no clear distinction between them, but Christian writers and ecclesiastical tradition concentrated on three of the former as the foundation  for a special life of detachment from the world and christened them `the evangelical counsels`-virginity, poverty, obedience.  In fact there are many counsels in the New Testament, though obedience is not clearly among them.  The vows are means approved by the Church as of special value upon the road to holiness; but the counsels are elements in Christ`s teaching which concern the whole Christian community, and are therefore spoken of in c.5 and not only in c.6

 

 

 

Chapter 6:

 

Nevertheless the exteriorization of the counsels in a clearly visible form has an importance of its own for the Church.  And that is what has happened.  Historically they have been embodied in various `stable ways of life`, proper to different religious orders and societies, whose membership can be most helpful for attaining the full supernatural end of man; sound teaching, a fraternal communion, the continual harmonizing of freedom with obedience, fidelity to vowed resolutions-all these things can help man greatly on `the road of love`.

A chapter on the religious life in a constitution DE ECCLESIA must, however, necessarily consider it not so much from the personal viewpoint as from that of the strict ecclesial significance of this particular form of living.  The immediate purpose of the profession of the evangelical counsels is two-fold: to cut away hindrances to the service of God  and to be consecrated positively and wholly to that service.  Now, for the baptized, the service of God has always to be given in and across the life of the Church.  Christian spirituality is personal, but personal IN THE CHURCH.  The ecclesial sense of religious profession can be summed up in three points:  Firstly, it is an explicitation and affirmation, by a most deliberate human action, of the baptismal consecration of this Christian and of every Christian; by it the fruit of the original consecration can become more abundant.  Secondly, it is a visible sign of the Church`s nature-both of her bridal union with Christ and of her `other-worldliness`.  The Church transcends the needs and aspirations of the earthly city.  True religious manifest this transcendance in their lives.  Thirdly, it is made effectively fruitful for the whole Church by the kind of life and work proper to each institute: prayer, teaching, nursing……No religious society may be `useless` as regards the life of the whole body, but this does not mean that each  society must undertake external apostolic activities.  Contemplatives are at least as ecclesially fruitful as active orders.

In the past there has been an age-old rivalry between `seculars` and `regulars` between the local diocese and its authority and the `exempt` international religious society. Councils have traditionally been an occasion for bishops to try and bring EXEMPTION to an end, by imposing Episcopal authority upon the local members of a religious order.  This Council witnessed something of the kind but like previous attempts it was largely rejected.  The need for exemption is restated in a.45.  As a matter of fact, if members of religious orders have often seemed uninterested in the pastoral needs  of the local church, members of the secular clergy have often seemed uninterested in the wider missionary and intellectual needs of the universal Church. The solution of such rivalries and misunderstandings is not to be found in a chance of legislation, but rather in a greater awareness upon both sides of the fullness of the body of Christ and the variety of its needs.   Religious societies must indeed be willing to share in the life and work of the local church under the authority of its bishop, but the general good of the whole Church requires too wider organizations which could not function without some measure of canonical exemption of congregations from local authorities.

There is a paradox in religious life which parallels and indeed reflects a paradox in the Church`s own nature-the linking of retreat from the world and from some ordinary human patterns of living with the SERVICE OF THE WORLD and of human society.  In the nature of the Church one may say that laity and religious manifest opposite aspects: the function of the lay state is the service of God within the pattern of the most normal human life and the consecration thereby of the human city to God; the function of the religious state is the renunciation of much normal human life and the erection of a sign that the Church believes in another world and that `the people of God has here no lasting city` (compare a.44 with a.36).  Nevertheless any individual Christian, in either state, has to live the fullness of the Christian vocation, not just that side of it which is symbolized by his state: thus the layman needs to practise supernatural hope, the religious must reach spiritual maturity across a truly human development.  Each state has its own temptations to be avoided, related to an unbalanced grasping of its own particular ideal.  Hence (in a.46) the Council stresses that the religious life, when accepted and lived in the right way, is opposed neither to human maturity, nor to spiritual freedom, nor to the service of human society.  On the contrary.  It is because the Church is essentially other-worldly that she can so disinterestedly and fruitfully serve this one.  The religious life must be the visible sign of both these things.  The more fully religious live the meaning of their vows, the more effective will be their ministry among their fellow men.  In it the Church wishes to portray, in a specially manifest way, Christ and his ministry.

Chapter  7 LOOKING TOWARDS HEAVEN:

 

A chapter on this theme was explicitly asked for by Pope John, but it only materialized late in the council’s deliberation.  In fact there was no discussion on c.7 in general congregation until the third session.  The text had only been prepared in theological commissions in the course of that year, 1964, and it was little changed in the third session, except for some substantial additions in a.48.  The fact that it did not elicit much controversy does not lessen its importance in helping to provide a really full picture of what the Church is.

Its aim is not to describe the Church in heaven or in purgatory, so much as to show how the pilgrim Church on earth is journeying towards heaven and remains united with those who have gone before us to pass from earth to purgatory or the contemplation of God.  We are ‘seeking the city which is to come’, the condition of the Church as we know it is essentially temporary; we are on our way to something perfect and eternal.  This chapter is concerned with the whole vista of the ‘beyond’ and our relationship to it – a beyond whose fall pattern is future and collective: a ‘renewal of all things’ with the manifest perfecting of the universe and the whole human race under the kingship of Christ.

Concern with all this is what we mean by ESCHATOLOGY-a key word in modern theology and scripture interpretations: the doctrine of the last things.

Eschatology deals then with the ‘last things’: death, judgement, hell and heaven.  However, if we compare the eschatology which we find in the scriptures (located chiefly in Matt. 24 and 25, 1 and 2 Thess., and Rev.) with the usual treatises of theological manuals on this subject we cannot help noticing that the former is much more collective in its concern, the latter individualist.  The manuals lay more stress upon the individual’s judgement and eternal reward in heaven or punishment in hell; the scriptures the ‘last times’ of the world, the collective judgement, the full establishment of the kingdom of Christ, the new heaven and the new earth.  In fact the initial draft constitutions, sent to the bishops, before the Council began, included one on the deposit of faith which had a chapter devoted to the ‘last things’.  This was very much akin to the approach of the manuals, an individualistic approach; it included a lengthy section on the punishments of hell.  This draft constitution never, in fact, got discussed at all, but the last things reappeared two years later in our c.7, but now with an altered approach.

It is vitally important in eschatology to balance the collective with the individual, and the future with the present.  It is this that c.7 tries hard to do.  A teaching on the ‘last things’ cannot be silent upon the fate of the individual: the judgement that follows death, the states that can follow judgement-and a.48 speaks explicitly of all this.  Nevertheless the fate of the individual, to be understood aright, must be seen within the context of the fate of the body to which he belongs.  What this chapter shows so finely is that a treatise ‘on the last things’ must be an ecclesial treatise, that the body of Christ itself has a future and a final condition.  The beatitude of the individual only makes full sense within the context of the wedding feast of the Lamb and his bride, the new Jerusalem.  Moreover, the new Jerusalem is not only the Church perfected, but also the world.  Eschatology is a doctrine about the cosmos: all things must be renewed.

Every aspect of the pilgrim Church must be seen in the light of the heavenly Church, not as two parallel organizations, but as sign and reality, or as that which is in process of becoming and that which it will finally be.  However, if this is a relationship between present and future, it is also true that it involves a relationship within the present, because the heavenly Church does already exist.  Many missions of members of the body of Christ have passed out of the state of wayfaring into that of glory and the Church on earth shares their active communion.  This is the difficulty in eschatology: it is dealing both with the final state of completeness when the pilgrim Church will no longer exist and the whole of creation is reformed in Christ, and with the already arrived heavenly state of the holy dead and of their relations with the still existing pilgrim Church.  Hence eschatology refers both to the future and to something already realized in the present, and concerns both the collective fate of Church and world at the end of time and the individual fate of the human person whose span of earthly pilgrimage is short and quickly over.

All this is difficult, but eschatology is notoriously difficult.  Nevertheless the Council refused to leave it aside, and we cannot either.  The above considerations should help in understanding the themes which have been brought together in this brief but beautiful chapter so full of scriptural passages and liturgical references.  Let us note too that the eschatological aspect of the Church is not confined to this chapter;  it is woven into the whole constitution- for example, in the last sentences of a.2, 8 and 42 (see also L.a.8, MW. A.39, etc.).  Furthermore a.44 suggests the eschatological significance of the consecrated religious life and a.68 that of the Virgin Mary:  she is the sign offered in hope to the pilgrim Church of how the final perfection will be.

While a.48 is more concerned with the future, a.49 and 50 treat chiefly of the earthly Church’s present communion with the Church beyond the grave.  If the visible Church is a human society with ministry and sacraments, all this is a sign of the wider communion of all who are of Christ and share his Spirit.  This ultimate communion is one of charity and worship:  we love and we glorify God.

The union of the pilgrim Church on earth with the Church in heaven has then the following characteristics.

It is a UNION OF MUTUAL LOVE.  The saints are our friends and co-heirs in Jesus Christ, and their example shows us the way to grow in perfect union with Christ.

It is a UNION OF MUTUAL PRAYER.  We on earth pray for and to the dead.  We pray to the saints that they may pray for us; we know very well that they have no power outside Christ to hear or help us, but we know too that we and they form one body in Christ, that it is a body of mutual concern, and that this is what our head desires.

It is a UNION IN LITURGY.  Just as the whole constitution teaches that the life of the pilgrim Church is centred upon the Eucharist, so this chapter emphasizes that the union of the earthly and heavenly Churches is above all a liturgical one, and that it is in the celebration of the Eucharist that we are most united with the saints when we are most fully offering worship to God (cf.L.a.8).  For this reason the treatment of the subject is closed in a.50 with the words of the Roman canon.

The point of a.51 is pastoral.  Having stated the doctrine of the communion of saints (for which see also L.a.104), the Council recognizes that in fact there have been abuses whereby the cult of the saints has become almost disengaged from its essential Christological and ecclesiological context.  In reaction some have tended to deny all point to prayer and communion with them.  The Council wishes such wrong attitudes to be corrected:  a truly Catholic sense of union with all the blessed should rather excite in us a still greater determination to praise and glorify God both now and for ever in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Chapter 8 VIRGIN AND MOTHER:

History of the Text:

Chapter eight is entitled ‘The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church’.  As other parts of the constitution this text stands at the end of a lengthy evolution, but one of its own.  In 1962 the Fathers were given a draft text for a dogmatic constitution on ‘The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of Men’.  This text (A) was never debated but was reissued in April, 1963, with a new title-‘The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church’.  In the second session, when the second text of DE ECCLESIA was being extensively discussed, it was proposed that no separate document should be produced on Mary, but instead that a chapter devoted to her should be included in that constitution.  It was argued that this would better show Mary’s organic place within the pattern of redemption.  Others argued strongly to retain a separate Marian constitution as more in line with the various Marian developments of the last century.  The bishops voted on the question on 29 October, 1963.  By 1,114 votes to 1,074 it was decided to speak of her within the DE ECCLESIA.

A new text was therefore needed, which would fit in with the rest of the constitution.  A theological sub-commission, representing both tendencies, set to work and in March, 1964, after four previous versions, brought forth a fifth (B) which they judged satisfactory.  Very little of A remained in it.  B was then considerably revised in June by the Doctrinal Commission to produce C.  Then B and C were together dispatched to the bishops and C was discussed at the beginning of the third session.  Some further changes were made, to give us D, the final text, which was approved almost unanimously.

Differing Tendencies:

Clearly, the very considerable difficulties encountered in producing this text arose from the existence of two contrasting attitudes in the Church with regard to Mariology.  One point of view is more plainly Mariological, in an evident way.  It has rejoiced in the increasing number of Marian definitions, declarations, feasts and congresses of the last hundred years, and it hoped for a further notable ‘advance’ in Marian teaching from the Council.. For years this body of opinion has been concentrating on the title ‘Mediatrix of all graces’ and it expected the Council to produce a constitution firmly enshrining this idea.

The other point of view is more closely linked with the biblical, liturgical and ecumenical movements.  It has urged the return on all sides of the Church’s life to a more scriptural and liturgical way of viewing things, and it has wanted to apply this also to Marian teaching and devotion.  It has argued that while everything in Modern Marian developments and expression may be capable of theological justification, yet the impression given is still very different from that of scripture and the liturgy, and that a good deal of popular Marian devotion has been clearly unbalanced.  The need today is not so much to advance as to deepen and purify Marian devotion.  Moreover this point of view has stressed ecumenical considerations.  Protestants are very suspicious of Mariology.  Every Marian ‘advance’ seems to them to dig a new ditch between us and them.  The opportune thing for the life of the Church today is not then to press Marian doctrine to all its logical conclusions, but so to express it in such a scriptural and traditional way as to commend it to all non-Catholic Christians.

Both these points of view have full right to exist when the Church, and of course many people would hold a bit to both.  Nevertheless clearly two opposing tendencies have been present and it was the Council’s duty to produce a statement which, so far as possible, would prove satisfactory to all important bodies of opinion.  That it managed to obtain an almost unanimous final vote, after a practically fifty-fifty division one year before, is a measure of the balance of  this chapter and also, surely, of docility to the guiding of the Holy Spirit.

Clearly the basic decision to include a Marian text within the Church constitution had to be adhered to and this naturally determined the general treatment to some extent.  It was decided to make of it the final chapter.  This seemed the natural place.  The other chapters have a certain internal cohesion, leading up, in c.7, to the vision of the heavenly Church.  c.8 relates to this in two ways.  Firstly, it is clearly related to c.7.  Much of what is said there about the saints in general applies in a special way to Mary.  Paragraphs in c.7 on their position in the Church, intercession and cult prepare the way for comparable ones in c.8.  Secondly, this last chapter somehow sums up the whole constitution.  May as the type of the Church bears within her all its varied characteristics.  Having treated of them in the life of all Christians in the preceding chapters, the constitution concludes by showing them in her who most perfectly fulfilled the Church’s whole vocation in faith, charity and obedience.

It is explicitly stated in a.54 that the Church did not intend to say EVERYTHING about Mary or to rule out all approaches or ideas not appearing in the constitution.  It does appeal for balance and the awareness of ecumenical needs, but its aim is not to condemn those who would like to express their love for the Virgin Mary in rather different terms.  The freedom  which the Council has called for in so many other fields surely applies here too.

Chief characteristics:

This chapter offers a broad, rounded teaching about OUR LADY.  There is certainly no minimizing tendency.  It speaks of all the chief aspects of Marian doctrine and draws them together in a simple but beautiful synthesis.  Never before has a council of the Church offered such an extensive or profound statement upon the position of Mary in the plans of God.

The tone is nevertheless very MODERATE  and restrained, though no less devoted for that.  There is nothing here to jar on the ears of non-Catholics unless, of course, they are rather uncritically anti-Marian.  It is interesting to see that there is no single reference in text or notes to St Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Alphonsus Liguori or St. Louis-Marie De Montfort, the three great Marian writers of the post-patristic period, some of whose expressions nevertheless seem to some a bit extreme or overemotional.

Instead the text is extremely SCRIPTURAL and PATRISTIC.  References to the early Fathers, both Greek and Latin, abound and so do quotations from the New Testament, beginning with a brief but basic Pauline text.  Every effort has been made to show that Marian devotion is not-as critics have maintained-ainti-scriptural.

It is clearly shown how Marian doctrine and devotion fit into a completely CHRISTO-CENTRIC scheme of things.  In no way can Mary detract from Christ`s work or from the closeness of the union of Christians with him.  On the contrary she manifests just how perfectly a simple human being can be united with her saviour.

It is ECCLESIAL.  This indeed is its most striking positive characteristic as of course befits a chapter within DE ECCLESIA.  A rediscovery of patristic doctrine on the deep relationship of Mary and the Church has been a key aspect of modern scientific Mariology.  In the fullest way we here see Mary standing in all her glorious humility both in and for the Church.

Finally, as has been indicated, there is a deep ECUMENICAL PREOCCUPATION  running through the text and stressed explicitly in a.67.  Everything is to be done to help other Christians see the truth about Mary. That should be the great Marian `advance` of our time: not a new doctrine but the rediscovery by all believers of her place in the redemption.  Eastern Christians already venerate her most devoutly (a.69), as do very many Anglicans` and growing number of other Protestants.  We should pray that the teaching of this chapter  will help to increase their number still more in years  to come .  In the past,  as a matter of fact, Marian devotion has been a cause of division.  Instead we must make it today a cause of unity.

POINT OF DOCTRINE:

Motherhood:

The central doctrine concerning Our Lady is shown to be the divine maternity.  All else follows from this that she was `the Mother of God` (a.53) and that she freely accepted to be so: she gave her assent to the World of God, committing herself whole-heartedly to his will in faith obedience (a.56).  The constitution stresses her faith: she did not understand everything but unhesitatingly she `advanced in her pilgrimage of faith` (a.58).  Just as in philosophy we find that AGERE SEQUITUR ESSE, so in theology it is universally true that the more we receive God’s grace, the more we share in the giving of it.  Mary` s singular adherence to God` s will made of her a singular sharer in her Son` s work of giving divine life to all men.  The fullness of her personal acceptance permitted a fullness of active co-operation and made of her truly the mother of men, especially the faithful (a.54, 60-62)

A word here must be said about the title `MOTHER OF THE CHURCH`.  It does not appear in the constitution.  It was part of draft A, especially with its revised title, but had no place in B or C. However, in one of the final changes of the third session an addition was made to the end of a.53  which in some way hints at this title without quite using it.  At the clost of the third session, 21 November, 1964, Pope Paul proclaimed the Virgin Mary ‘Mother of the Church, that is to say of all the people of God, of the faithful as well as of the pastors’.  It is clear that a majority of the fathers preferred not to use this title in the constitution, doubtless because in itself it is rather untraditional.  On the other hand the pope was perfectly free to make use of it himself if he saw fit; it is clearly only the phrase, not the idea, which is untraditional.  That Mary is the MATER FIDELIUM  is most traditional, and ‘the faithful’ is only another way of saying ‘ the People of God’.  Now that we are stressing the human side of the Church and that ‘the People of God’ is a highly fitting name for the Church, it is clearly the same thing to say ‘Mother of the faithful’ and ‘Mother of the Church’.  Pope Paul stressed this way of looking at it by repeating twice ‘the Church, that is to say the people of God’.  Mary remains a member of the Church, just as  the mother of a family remains a member of the family.  That the mother of Jesus is the mother of all his brethren is simply the full meaning of John 19: 26-7.

Type of the Church:

Mary is the type of the Church.  For many Catholics this may well be the most striking affirmation of this chapter.  It is stated explicitly in three separate articles (a.53, 63, 65).  It must be understood within a whole developing context.  First of all, in her full acceptance of the word of God, Mary represents humanity itself.  She is ‘the daughter of Adam’, the new Eve, as many of the earliest Fathers of the Church asserted (a.56). Representing all humanity in its passive need for God and potential active acceptance of his gift, she specially represented the chosen people of God, the children of Abraham, who had been prepared for the coming of the saviour.  She is not only ‘daughter of Adam’ but ‘daughter of Sion’ (a..55), faithfully accepting the promise made to her fathers.

The Church is the new Sion the new Israel.   Mary is a member of both the old people and the new, and she represents both.  Her undeviating faith and charity, her virginal surrender to God of her whole self, her fruitful motherhood, her presence at the foot of the cross: all this typifies the Church, virgin and mother.  Mary’s life on earth perfectly represents the life of the pilgrim Church, and her life in heaven perfectly represents the final fullness of the celestial Church after the resurrection of the dead.  God chose to manifest the character of humanity’s acceptance of his Son not only through the multiple community of the redeemed but also through the example of  a single historical personality, who typifies the perfection of the whole in the more easily understood career of one individual.  And for this he chose his mother.

In this way the constitution treats of Mary’s position less in terms of static privileges than as a dynamic sharing in the history of salvation.

Mediatrix:

 

a.62 touching on Mary as mediatrix ( or mediator) was undoubtedly a focal point of argument.  Some fathers were much in favour of proclaiming Mary mediatrix of graces, others were equally opposed to it.  The history of the texts is significant.  A included a strong section on the subject including the title ‘Mediatrix of all graces’.  Text  B omitted the word entirely.  C put it in a very restrained sentence.  Finally, in the third session, it was retained but joined with the title of ‘advocate, helper, benefactress’ which takes away from a technical sense.  Furthermore, a new paragraph (‘No creature could ever….’) was added at this last stage to prevent any possible misunderstanding in the use of the title.

This extra paragraph is in fact an important one for it expresses very clearly the principle of the active co-operation of the redeemed in every aspect of the redeemer’s work. We all share in his priesthood (mediation and priesthood are, moreover, very closely connected concepts), we share in his kingship, we share in his redemption – not only in receiving, but in giving. Mary is not unique in this role. It is part of the Christian vocation, But she is unique in the fullness of her response to it.

Conclusion:

The concluding section of the chapter refers first to the liturgy and pastoral requirements of Marian devotion. a.66 and 67 can be compared with a.51, the point being the same: not emotion or vain credulity but solid faith and a special care to avoid scandalizing separated  Christians. Finally the Council proclaims Mary as a sign of hope and comfort for the pilgrim Church. As the Church is the sign of salvation lifted up among the nations, so is she a sign within the Church: a sure sign of how faith is fulfilled in beatitude, of the perfection to come, of the final transformation of humanity in the light of Christ to the glory of  God.

‘In the Blessed Virgin the Church learns to love the concrete and the limited: a basic antidote to pride’ (Cardinal Silva papal legate to the 1965 Mariological Congress).

‘You should concentrate on a deeper understanding and love of the mysteries of Mary rather than on theological extensions which are questionable and lead to division rather than union     ……You must restrain unbalanced and not very enlightened sentimentalities….You should encourage a serious and living devotion which moves within the great coherent framework of the liturgy’ (Pope Paul to the Mariological Congress of San Domingo, 1965).

VATICAN II AND ECCLESIOLOGY

 VATICAN II AND ECCLESIOLOGY

 Dr George Karakunnel

             To understand the theology of the Church in Vatican II one needs to see both the background from which it has come and the various stages of its own development.

Historical Background

            In early centuries the Church was vividly experienced and believed in, but her nature was not analysed.  Even in the great age of scholasticism there was no treatise “De Ecclesia”: none will be found in St.Thomas’ “Summa Theologica”.  Such a treatise first appeared at the end of the Middle ages, but chiefly as a creation of Canon Law. Then came the reformation and the need to oppose the Protestant concept of the Invisible Church and to prove that the Roman Church was the only true one.  To do this the idea of the Church as a “perfect society” was much developed, and a fully visible society – “as visible as the Kingdom of France” said St.Robert Bellarmine, the leading counter-reformation controversialist.  Moreover, in discussing the nature of this society little was considered beyond its governmental aspect, and that was seen again in secular terms: those of monarchical government.  Thus a sort of typical ecclesiology for the period from the 16th to 19th century grew up.

            To sum it up:

–         It was apologetic in approach.

–         It defined the church as a “perfect society” understood in terms similar to those of a secular state.

–         It was mostly concerned with the visible aspect of the Church.

–         It spoke chiefly of the governmental side of the society.

–         It explained that government in terms of monarchy.

The best way to show this ecclesiology from which the Second Vatican Council has now finally delivered us is to give an example. So, here is a brief summary of the “De Ecclesia Christi” of Cardinal Billot, 4th edition, 1921. Billot was probably the most distinguished and influential Catholic theologian of the first quarter of this century. His treaties has 870 pages, divided into three parts. Namely;

–         The first part (267 pages) is straightforward apologetics. It proves that the Roman Catholic Church is true and all sects separated from her false.

–         The second part is the most important; its 450 pages are devoted to the Church’s internal constitution. The first chapter is on the members of the Church (all the baptized except those cut off by heresy or schism.)

All the other nine chapters are on ecclesiastical authority: first in general, then the powers of order, of teaching, of jurisdiction. There follow 200 pages on the monarchical character of the Church and on the Roman Pontiff. Finally there are 13 pages divided between bishops and councils.

The third part considers the relationship of the Church with civil society, the two ‘powers’. Its first chapter deals with the error of Liberalism, the second proves that the State is (indirectly) subordinate to the Church, the third and the last speaks of the Church’s immunity.

Why go into all this? Because it shows us so clearly what is new in the “New Ecclesiology”. The old ecclesiology – the teaching of most manuals up till a few years ago – had a terribly juridical and rather secular view of what the Church is.  One finds in Billot’s work no account of the people of God or even of the body of Christ; no reference to the sacraments other than the initiation of baptism; not concern with the laity or even with the priests except as ‘subjects’ for authority; no treatment of the Church’s mission, etc. The old ecclesiology appeared as principally concerned with power in the Church and then chiefly with that of the Pope. Bishops and councils between them got a bare 13 pages. The central thesis of the whole thing was undoubtedly ‘the Church’s monarchy as instituted in St. Peter’ even though Billot – unlike many theologians of his time did temper this by recognizing the existence of a true ‘college of bishops’. The old ecclesiology was not wrong in its chief affirmations;  we cannot reject the visible hierarchical and papal aspects of the Church – but it was very one-sided.

Twentieth Century Developments

            In the forty years following 1921 ecclesiology has been in a constant state of change as the influences of Scripture, the Fathers and Liturgy have been growing, in place of those of canon Law, apologetics and comparisons with civil government. In particular we may note the following developments:

–         The theology of the “Mystical Body” coming back especially in the years after 1925.

–         The Lay Apostolate Movement, greatly encouraged by Pope Pius XI and Pius XII

–         The theology of the People of God, coming in chiefly after 1940.

–         A closer linking up of the Church with sacramental theology.

–         The beginning of ecumenical contacts with non-Catholics.

The manuals of theology written or revised in those years often tried to bring in some of these new ideas (especially, of course, that of the mystical body after the encyclical of 1943), but on the whole they stuck to the old framework and you get some odd results as when the mystical body is mentioned indeed but in a ‘corollarium’!

VATICAN II

The first text of the “De Ecclesia” to appear at the Council, that produced after much discussion by the Preparatory Commission and debated during the last week of the first session, did much of this.

Many new ideas appeared here and there but the general impression was still strongly of the old point of view in its order, its stresses and its terminology. The bishops strongly criticized it as too heavily institutional and juridical. Although not specifically rejected by the Fathers it was clear that this draft was not acceptable, and it was almost entirely rewritten by the Doctrinal Commission between the first and second sessions.

This new draft  (B) was an enormous improvement. It was very carefully discussed in the second session and a great many further amendments and additions many of them of the first importance, were proposed. It was also decided to add two further chapters, one eschatological, the other Marian. This resulted in a further extremely careful writing or rewriting of the various parts; these were prepared in a number of sub-commissions which included many of the most distinguished international theologians. The new draft (now eight chapters) was sent out to the Fathers in July, 1964. Further small but significant amendments had still to be made to it during the third session and in that form it was finally voted on and approved.

Let us compare the order of the three chief drafts by chapter divisions.

PRINCIPAL DRAFTS OF DE ECCLESIA

          A                                                  B                                                      C

Presented in Session I                Presented in Session II               Presented in Session III

  1. Nature of the militant Church
  2. Members of the militant Church
  3. Episcopate and Priesthood
  4. Residential Bishops
  5. The states of perfection
  6. Lay people
  7. Teaching authority
  8. Authority and obedience in the Church
  9. Relations of Church and State
  10. Necessity of Universal Evangelization
  11. Ecumenism
  1. The mystery of the Church
  2. The hierarchy
  3. The people of God and the laity
  4. The vocation of all to holiness; religious
  1. The mystery of the Church
  2. The People of God
  3. The hierarchy
  4. The Laity
  5. Call of the whole Church to holiness
  6. Religious
  7. Eschatological nature of the pilgrim Church and her union with the heavenly Church

8.  The role of Mary in the  mystery of Christ and the Church

IT MAY BE NOTED THAT:

–         The original text clearly what we may call ‘Billot’s general order and approach’ while inserting some new sections in what seems a rather arbitrary way.

–         However, text A did already include many ideas of the ‘New Ecclesiology’, e.g. the terms ‘people of God’ and ‘body of Christ’ appear at once in c. l. ; lay people were given a separate chapter which speaks of the universal priesthood.

–         Yet the ‘old approach’ was still too clear: four different chapters were devoted to the organs of clerical authority, while the tone of the actual text was in many places very juridical.

–         The later texts have put everything that was to be said about the ‘hierarchical ministry’ into a single chapter (a long one).

–         The final text develops the idea of ‘God’s people’ before speaking of the hierarchy.

–         The Church’s spiritual and invisible purpose, ‘holiness’, appears clearly in the later texts.

–         ‘The Laity’ were treated after religious in the first text before them in the second and third.

–         The traditional chapter on the two ‘potestates’ (powers) ‘Church and State’- is simply left out in the later texts; other matters such as the Church’s missionary character, which appears in the first text as a sort of ‘corollarium’ are integrated into the general treatment; on the other hand quite new themes (especially concerning invisible aspects of the Church) make their appearance.

–         The term ‘militant’ falls out; the term ‘pilgrim’ comes in.

–         Already this brief analysis of Chapter headings shows us quite a lot about the way thinking on the Church developed during the Council. But to understand that development properly what we must examine is the text itself of the final constitution, for, the whole ‘new theology’ of Christian life in the church is really to be found within its chapters.

*****


DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH

A Brief  Commentary

Chapters 1 and 2

                       I.     Ecclesia                        a.1.      Introduction: the Council intends to set

                  de Trinitate                               forth the nature of the Church

                  a. 1-4.                          a.2.      the Father’s work.

                                                      a.3.      the Son’s.

                                                      a.4.      the Holy Spirit’s.

1.The mystery

   of God’s gift

                                                                        a.5.      Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom.

                                                      a.6.      Images of the Church:

                                                                  sheepfold, flock, olive tree, vineyard;

                                                                  building, temple of God, holy city;

                                                                  bride of Christ.

      II.         Aspects of the mystery

                  a.5-8                            a.7.      the body of Christ.

                                                      a.8.      a visible, hierarchial society; but one of

                                                                  service not of power.

III.       Nature of the people

                  a. 9-12                         a.9.      constituted by the new covenant with

Christ as head.

                                                      a.10-11.priestly character.

                                                                        a.12.    prophetic character, including charisms.

2.The People

   of God.

                        IV.       Relationship                  a.13.    universality of the people.

                                    with the human race.     a.14.    fullness of incorporation.

                                    a.13-17.                       a.15.    separated Christians.

                                                                        a.16.    non-Christians.

                                                                        a.17.    the mission of universal

                                                                                    evangelization.

The Title:

The conciliar documents, like papal encyclicals, are to be known by the first words of their latin text, and so special care was presumably taken to make these significant.  The words LUMEN GENTIUM which open the constitution on the Church appeared with the 1963 text.  That of 1962 began AETERNUS UNIGENITI PATER, rather reminiscent of Vatican I’s PASTOR AETERNUS.  The words LUMEN GENTIUM look outwards and stress the universal mission of both Christ and the Church.  They are an implicit quotation from Isa. 42:6, but ‘gentes’ here of course no longer means the gentiles in opposition to Israel but simply all the peoples of the world.  We may be especially glad that this phrase entitles the Council’s greatest document not only because of its missionary significance but also because it was a phrase very dear to Pope John, and was used as the key words of his radio message to the world on 11 September, 1962, just before the Council opened.  It is Christ who is the light of the nations, but his light shines through the Church.

Common theme of these two chapters:

 

The first two chapters of the constitution stand together, providing a rich basic  theology of the Church.  In draft B of the document the order followed was: c.1, Mystery of the Church; c.2, the Hierarchy; c.3, the People of God and the Laity.  But it was pointed out in the second session that the term ‘People of God’ includes the whole Church, the hierarchy as well.  Laity and hierarchy are divisions within God’s people, and therefore a study of the People of God must come before one of the hierarchy.  PEOPLE OF GOD, in fact, is an important name for the Church, while the hierarchy is a ministry within the Church (or rather, those performing that ministry).  We have to see the Church as a whole before we speak of a ministry within her.  Hence a chapter on the People of God was placed before that on the hierarchy.

The matter of c.2 might in fact have been merged into c.1.  It was kept apart both to stop c.1 from becoming too long and then because of a certain difference of approach: c.1 deals more with the divine, c.2 with the human side of the Church’s nature.  The Church on earth is a gathering of men by God: he forms and gives this gathering its special characteristics.  So, in studying the Church’s nature, there are two aspects to be considered – that of the gift, and that of those who receive it.  Roughly speaking, c.1 deals with the first aspect: the Church’s mystery as a gift of God; c.2 deals with the second aspect: the human community, the people of God.  But the two sides are so completely inter-involved that not only is there of course no division between them, but even a distinction should not be pressed.

The very existence of these two well-developed chapters on the Church’s general nature, placed before any treatment of the hierarchy, is the first and possibly even the most important contribution of the constitution to our understanding of the Church.  Never again will others be able to say that we seem only to speak about the governmental side of the Church; in the past that was often almost true.  From now on it cannot be.  In these two chapters on the nature of the Church there is no detailed mention of the hierarchy at all.  The body of the Church is described, and only when that has been done does the constitution go on to speak in detail of the ministry within the Church.

Note that each of these two chapters is fairly clearly divided into half, as in the summary above; if the four units are seen as such a study of the main lines of thought will be greatly assisted.

Chapter – 1:

 

The essence of the Church is very finely expressed in a.1.  The Church is the sacrament of  UNION WITH GOD and of unity among men.  That is where we start from – not a juridically conceived ‘perfect society’ but ‘union with God’, of which the Church as we know her is the sacrament, that is to say the visible sign and embodiment.

Union with God means union with the three persons of God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  The Church is indeed DE TRINITATE.  In order to gather men into this unity of God, the Father sent the Son in whose life and especially in whose death and paschal sacrifice the Church is inaugurated.  It is in the eucharistic sacrifice and sacrament that what Christ did then is continually expressed and made effective for us: in this way the unity of men, the body of Christ, is brought about.  But it is the Holy Spirit who continually vivifies, sanctifies, and rejuvenates the Church of God: Christ provides the ‘shape’ of the Church, the Spirit the breath of life.

This opening section is concluded with the fine sentence: ‘Thus the universal Church is revealed as “a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (a.4).  These four opening articles really provide an exquisite summa of essential ecclesiology and deserve deep meditation.

a.5 provides an extension of a.3: the historical work of Christ especially in terms of the kingdom.  The meaning of the kingdom is not easy to express precisely.  The kingdom of God is the fullness of humanity’s service of God.    Preaching the kingdom, Jesus inaugurates the Church, and the Church is continually bringing the kingdom nearer to realization, but the two cannot simply be identified – at least until the end of time.

 In a.6 we find the presentation of a wide variety of scriptural images for the Church.  Drawn from the life of the countryside and the common trades they can be specially valuable for catechetical work in non-industrialized societies.  The images given in a.6 could very well form the basis for a course of sermons.  Note that the ‘body of Christ’ in a.7 is not given simply as another image.  This title cannot be put on the same level as the images previously referred to, as it has a deeper and more precise theological meaning.

In a.8 for the first time we meet the word ‘society’.  The Church is indeed a visible society.  We live in a visible world.  Christ was a visible man and the divine communion he came to bring, which has been described up till now, must take a visible and social form.  It involves the gathering of men in a human society  which requires leadership, etc. like other human societies.  Therefore the divine fellowship, the body of Christ existing in the visible world, must take the form of a visible society, the earthly (hierarchical) Church.  The identity of the two was stressed in Pius XII’s encyclicals MYSTICI CORPORIS and HUMANI GENERIS; it is repeated here, but in a modified form.  The single Church of Christ cannot be simply and absolutely identified with the one visible Roman communion, for the Council recognizes important ‘ecclesial elements’ separated from the latter.  The visible Church as sacrament (manifest and effective sign) of union with God is one and exclusive, but what it signifies extends beyond its visible frontiers.  Hence, whereas draft B stated unequivocally ‘This Church is the Roman Catholic Church’, the final text declares ‘This Church SUBSISTS in the R.C. Church’.  The implications of this tiny verbal modification may be very great.

Chapter – 2:

 

a.9 is a fundamental one.  The PEOPLE OF GOD is the Councils characteristic name for the Church.  Note that the description of the people starts with the fact of the covenant.  The Church is God’s new people.  Why? Because Christ instituted a new eternal covenant in his blood of cross and Eucharist.  We cannot understand this term ‘people of God’ without the covenant idea: the historical agreement whereby a group of men are made into God’s chosen people.

God’s people is ‘a kingdom of priests’.  Until recently we have greatly neglected the truth of the priesthood of all the faithful, so stressed by Lutherans.  Here it is called the ‘common priesthood’ as distinguished from the ‘ministerial priesthood’ of holy orders.  Note that both are sacramental in origin and expression and, of course, that all ministers share in the common or universal priesthood.  This is a real participation in Christ’s Priesthood, and it is actuated in the whole of the Church’s worship centred upon offering the Eucharist, to which every Christian is called.

The final paragraph of a.11 speaks of the universal vocation of Christians to perfect sanctity; it anticipates the theme of c.5.

Besides the priestly and prophetic gifts which are common to all the christian people, there are many other special one to this person or that which are given by the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church.  These are called ‘charisms’’; some may be remarkable others very simple.  They are to be welcomed by the hierarchical ministry, but their genuineness and proper use may require testing.

Articles 13-17 must again be seen as a unit.  The key to all five is the initial sentence: ‘All men are called to belong to the new People of God’.  The whole section works out the implications of this statement.  The picture of God’s people is one of an ever richer diversity in unity as the universality of its vocation is little by little realized through historical growth.  Catholics in a state of grace and the communion of Rome are fully incorporated into the unity of the one people, but non-Catholic Christians too are joined to it in many ways – by baptism and the Scriptures and faith and the Holy Spirit: a.15 must, of course, be studied with the Decree on Ecumensim.  Non-Christians as well (Jews, Muslims, everyone) are positively related to the one people in one way or another, for all God’s sons have been called to membership of the new people.  Nevertheless here and now they still lack much; to give it to them and so achieve the desired fullness missionary work is absolutely necessary.  This is not a valuable extra in Church life.  On the contrary: “Proclaiming saving truth to the ends of the earth’ expresses the very purpose and being of the Church and without it the Church would not indeed be here self.  Only thus can we bring to achievement the Catholicity and unity of God’s people: all humanity fully within the one Church, and the one Church fully diversified with the variety of mankind.

Notice that we have said ‘Roman Catholics in a state of grace are FULLY incorporated into the one people’.  Draft B of a.14 had declared that ONLY Catholics are REALLY incorporated into the Church (‘Reapse et simpliciter…illi tantum’); this was a repetition of the words of the encyclical MYSTICI CORPORIS (‘Reapse illi soli’).  But the Fathers preferred to replace the above words with ILLI PLENE.  Full membership, to the mind of the Council, furthermore implies not only fulfilling the external conditions of belonging to the Roman communion, but also includes possession of the Spirit of Christ: ‘Dead” members cannot be ‘full’ members.  If Catholics are incorporated into the ‘full communion’ of the visible Church, non-Catholic Christians are truly but not fully members of the visible communion.  This does not PER SE limit their sharing in the fellowship of faith and love which is signified, but at the sign level at least their communion with the great Church is not complete.  This is an important advance on earlier official teaching.

This beautiful treatise on the Church ends as it began, with the three persons of God, from whom (in a.1) our eucharistic communion and mission comes and to whom (a.17) it returns.  The universal mission must bring about a universal Eucharist-in the prophetic words of Malachi, ‘In every place there is a sacrifice’-that in this way ‘the fullness of the whole world may pass into the People of God, the Body of the Lord and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, that in Christ, the head of all things, all honour and glory may be rendered to the creator, the Father of the universe’.

Chapter  3 HIRARCHICAL MINISTRY:

 

1. Introduction.                                                             a.18.    purpose of the chapter

                                   I. Its origin                                a.19.    the apostolic college.

                                                                                    a.20.    bishops are the apostles’

                                                                                                successors by divine institution.

                                                                                    a.21.    entry through consecration-the

                                                                                                fullness of Holy orders.

2. The Episcopate         II. Its nature                              a.22.    the Episcopal college and the

                                                                                                Position of its head.

                                                                                    a.23.    mutual relations of bishops;

                                                                                                world missionary responsibilities

                                    III. Its work                              a.24.    the ministry in general.

                                                                                    a.25.    teaching, and ecclesial infallibility

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            a.26.    sanctifying.

                                                                                    a.27.    pastoral rule.

                                                                                    a.28.    the priesthood.

3. Lesser Orders                                                          a.29.    the diaconate.

Chapter 3 is the longest in the constitution.  Certain points in it were discussed very extensively and finally formulated with great precision, but it would be a mistake to limit the significance of this chapter to those points.  The chapter as a whole is very rich in its teaching.  Its general characteristics are as follows: It is clear in the New Testament that Christ entrusted the direction of His Church to the twelve as a body, a collective unit, and they acted as such in the early days described in the Acts. To them was given full authority: Peter was one of the twelve , their leader. He could not act except as an apostle because that is what he was; but he was not merely their president.  What was given to the Twelve collectively, was explicitly given to him individually.  The one fullness of authority bestowed by Christ was given both to the college and to its head – they not being their collective whole without him, while he in principle acted always as leader of the Twelve.

Peter’s primacy was passed to the popes; the apostles’ ministry to the bishops.  Catholics have never doubted that.  What has not been so clear is that bishops have not merely succeeded individually to a limited charge, but also collectively to the universal one-to a real shared responsibility for the whole Church. It should have been clear, of course, because it was implied by the whole long history of ecumenical councils.  What this chapter now teaches us is just how the character of the Church’s ministry has remained, as it was in apostolic times, collective-cum-individual.  Papal authority is no less than Vatican  I defined it, but it looks rather different when seen as the divinely planned headship of a continuing college.

It will take time to shape the Church’s concrete institutions effectively according to this new vision of collegiality.  We can say in fact that the administration of the Church in the last two or three centuries has been rather un-collegial: instead it has been over-centralized and curial.  Pope Paul’s establishment of the Synod of Bishops in 1965 and its first meeting in October, 1967, is a step in the direction of a regular, practiced collegiality, though of course Pope John’s calling of the Council itself was the first great modern recognition that the Church really needs collegial leadership.

The old ecclesiology frequently described the Church as MONARCHICAL.  Neither the word ‘monarchy’ nor its adjective appear anywhere in the constitution.  We may judge that they are not really very suitable words for our subject, for two reasons: firstly, the concept of a monarchy is too different from that of a college, whose head has indeed a quite unique authority, but of which he is still a member.  Secondly, ‘Monarchy’ is a too secular term, brought in from comparison with civil government; its use was rather characteristic of the general secularization of ecclesiology after the fourteenth century.  Some people today are saying ‘Monarchy is out; democracy is in’.  That is not the sense of the constitution.  These terms fit the government of civil states, but neither really suits the Church, though doubtless they can both in some way be used of her.  “Hierarchical’ is a more helpful word, just because it is not used so characteristically of civil society, and because its general sense is not in itself precise.  To describe what sort of pattern the Church’s hierarchical ministry takes, we may now use the word ‘collegial’.  But its precise meaning is to be ascertained from revelation, not from secular parallels: it signifies that unique balance, first existing between the twelve apostles and their leader, now perpetuated in the permanent pattern of the Church’s ministry.

a.18. Note again the immediate stress on pastoral ministry and service in the opening paragraph.  The job of the hierarchy is ‘to serve its brothers’.  This theme is taken up again later, especially in the last para of a.20, in a.24, and in a.27 where its repetition balances and softens the juridical statement that bishops have proper, ordinary and immediate ecclesiastical authority.

The purpose of the Council here is to follow up Vatican I, proclaimed the ministry of the pope, Peter’s successor and the visible principle of unity in the Church, by speaking of that of the bishops, the successors of the apostles.  Most of a.18 (except the first paragraph) is in fact taken word for word from Vatican I.

At the end of a.20 comes the first of the particular truths which the Fathers wished to state definitely in this chapter and around which their earlier discussions had centred: ‘Bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church’.

In a.21 comes the second precise point of teaching: ‘The fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred by Episcopal consecration’.  This fullness includes not only the ministry of sanctifying (i.e. the power to administer certain sacraments) but also that of teaching and ruling.  The ‘high priesthood’ of bishops, as received in their consecration, implies this whole circle of work, being a true presentation amid the faithful of the high priesthood of Jesus Christ himself.  It cannot be seen, then, as simply a gift of ‘orders’ to which jurisdiction may be added, even though its actual exercise does require subsequent (normally territorial) delimitation to be settled by the Episcopal college or (as generally at present) its head.

Note that almost nothing is said about whether bishops have specifically sacramental functions (e.g. ordination) absolutely proper to them, that is to say which other priests cannot perform: only episcopal consecration itself is mentioned: it is for bishops to consecrate other bishops.  Even here, however, an earlier text which read that ‘only bishops can admit…. was modified to say simply ‘it is for bishops to admit’.  The sacramental fullness of the episcopate is not to be seen, then, in terms of some isolated sacramental powers but as the sacramental imparting of a total office and function in the Church.

a.22  gives us the heart of the doctrine of Episcopal collegiality and merits especially careful reading.  (The authoritative comment entitled the NOTA PRAEVIA and attached to the constitution at its end bears especially upon the interpretation of this article).  As Peter and the apostles formed one apostolic college, in a similar way the pope and the bishops form one Episcopal college.  Membership of this college depends on consecration AND hierarchical communion with its head and members (a consecrated bishop could exclude himself or be excluded from the college on account of failure to co-operate in the work of the hierarchical ministry).  Both the college and its head permanently possess the fullness of Church authority, but the college is not meaningful without its head and cannot act without at least his approval or concurrence.

a.23 deals with the continuous ‘collegial’ aspect of a bishop’s work-his extra-diocesan responsibilities of one kind and another, including that of helping missionary work; a bishop is by his nature not only a minister for the communion, he is also a minister for the mission.

a.25 is another long and important one.  It presents a summary of doctrine on the Church’s magisterium.  The first section deals with the ordinary non-infallible teaching authority of bishops and pope; the second part with infallible authority seen both in the universal episcopate and in the pope.

What should be particularly noted are the following two points:

The stress is on ECCLESIAL infallibility, on what the Council calls’ the Church’s charism of infallibility’ present both in the pope and in general council.  Whereas draft A, having spoken of papal infallibility, went on to say that the definitions of a general council enjoyed the same infallibility as those of the pope, the final text stresses that ‘the infallibility promised to the Church’ is present in the body of bishops as in the pope.  This is in fact in strict line with the way of speaking of Vatican I.

The text twice stresses the relationship between the infallible teaching authority of the Church and the deposit of revelation.  The former extends as far as the latter and is ruled by it.  It is very important to be clear about this because there have been tendencies to interpret the Church’s infallible authority as extending far beyond revelation, and this was indeed proposed also in draft A.

a.26-27 speak of other sides of the bishop’s work.  Note that every bishop is called a ‘vicar of Christ’; also that the meaning of a bishop’s office is expressed in terms of a local church centred upon the Eucharist.

The last two articles (28 and 29) speak of the ministry of priests and deacons, who also form part of the Church’s divinely instituted hierarchy and share in almost every side of the bishops’ ministry.  Let us note that the general pattern of collegiality is seen as applying to the particular church (the diocese) as well as to the universal Church.  The priests of the diocese form, with their bishop, a sort of sacerdotal college, a single PRESBYTERIUM, which does not limit the bishop’s authority but indicates the way his ministry should be mediated to his whole flock across the co-operation of his co-workers.  The old idea of a ‘monarchical episcopate’ is as misleading as that of the monarchical papacy.

Article 29 quietly indicates what brings about a further revolution in the ministry in coming years.  For long the DIACONATE has been no more than a stage in seminary life.  This article points out its real purpose in the service of the people of God, and of how many functions – at present in practice reserved to priests – deacons can carry out.  With the present growing shortage of priests, it would be most valuable in many countries to have a permanent diaconate restored, but as it would surely be difficult to find many unmarried men for this work the Council envisages the ordination of married men as deacons in the future.

As with priests, bishops, the pope himself, their ordination and status will be for the service of God’s people, the building up of the body of Christ.  (For further treatment of collegiality see the decree on Bishops).

 

Chapter 4 THE LAITY:

 

a.30. Introduction.

a.31. What we mean by laity.

a.32. Their ecclesial character in general.

a.33. Their apostolate in general.

a.34. The laity share in the priesthood of Christ.

a.35. They share in his prophetic office.

a.36. They share in his kingly power.

a.37. Co-operation with the clergy.

a.38. Conclusion.

Note that this chapter on the laity is linked very closely both with c.2 (they were originally joined together) and with the decree on the lay apostolate where, of course, its practical implications are developed.

In a.31 the meaning of the word ‘laity’ is considered under two aspects:

NEGATIVELY – all the faithful who are not in the hierarchy or religious orders.

POSITIVELY – the laity are those of the people of God who have a properly secular character, their normal activities being the activities of the world.  Whereas the characteristic activity of the clergy derives materially from the nature of the Church, the characteristic activity of the laity derives materially from the nature of the world, of ordinary human society .  Both must equally seek the kingdom of God.

a.32. The laity are full members of the body of Christ, of the people of God.  Variety of functions in the body causes no inequality in essentials; what unites clergy and laity is of far greater importance than what distinguished them.  What unites them is Christian brotherhood in grace and a common call to perfection; what distinguishes them is diversity in service and function.  Note how here as in a.30, the theology of the laity grows naturally out of the doctrine of the Church as the body of Christ: the unity of many diverse members.

The basic sense of the lay apostolate is established in a.33.  The laity have an apostolate because they are laity.  They share in the mission of the Church just because they are living members of the people of God; appointed to this mission by the very fact of their consecration in baptism and confirmation.  In the past the lay apostolate was sometimes defined as ‘the co-operation of the laity in apostolate of the hierarchy’.  This was not a good definition.  The hierarchy have an apostolate proper to them and so have the laity.  The lay apostolate comes primarily, not from a special offer to do part of the hierarchy’s job for it, but from the obligation of every baptized Christian to share actively in the mission of Christ.  Evidently many laymen are called over and above this to join in the apostolate of the hierarchy, and this work may be very important.  But basically the lay apostolate is precisely that apostolate which is proper to laity as laity, i.e. as Christians not sharing in the hierarchical ministry.

a.34 is really a repeat of a.10 – 11, and a.35 in part of a.12.  They were inserted when the old chapter on ‘the People of God and the laity’ was split into two and the former sections dealing with the priestly and prophetical aspects of Christian living were carried to c.2.

However a.35 adds some special stresses on the most characteristic lay aspects of implementing Christ’s prophetic role.  In many circumstances evangelization, witnessing to Christ, can be done only by them; moreover, at the very heart of human life-the family – it is for married people to be witnesses of  Christian faith and give love to one another and to their children.

Laymen have a special function in the carrying through of the royal work of Christ (a.36).  This work entails the re-ordering of the earth and of human society so that across the attainment by the terrestrial city of human culture, distributive justice, personal freedom, the light of Christ will be manifested and creation enabled to give greater glory to God.  But all this work belongs principally to the laity – the ensuring that the kingdom of Christ is advanced not only by the progress of the Church but also by the progress of the world.

a.37 earnestly advocates a truly active co-operation between clergy and laity, even though its style remains rather clericalist.  While all Christians have a duty of respect and obedience in Church matters towards their pastors, they have also a duty of free action and personal responsibility.  What is required is a two–way traffic.  Suggestions, initiatives, criticisms, if given in the right way, are needed from the laity who, when competent, must be ready to speak out and act with confidence and courage.  The health of the Church depends upon mutual trust and sharing of responsibilities between hierarchy and laity.

The whole chapter stresses the outward-looking side of the Church.  In Pope Paul’s words ‘the Church is for the world’.  Now this world-serving character of the Church is born especially by the laity.  It is in a way for the clergy to serve the laity, the laity to serve the whole human society.  This theme of course is developed in the constitution on the Modern World and in the decree on the Lay Apostolate.  The present chapter is the link between the constitution on the Church and those other more obviously ‘outward-looking’ documents.  The layman, it concludes, must be the sacrament of the living God before the world.  What the soul is in the body, let Christians be in the world.

‘The apostolate which deals with the temporal order itself and seeks to imbue it with a Christian spirit is normally the special responsibility of the layman, so that in this task he has a larger role than the cleric, whose first responsibility is that of preaching the word of God and dispensing the divine mysteries.  In the relation of the faithful to the Church hierarchy the principle of subsidiarity should be followed…..This means that those things which parish priests can do by themselves should not be taken over by the bishop’s curia, and just as those things which – leaving the hierarchical structure of the Church intact-can be done by bishops or bishops’ conferences should be left to them, so also those things which the layman can accomplish on his own initiative and responsibility should not be taken over by the clergy, always with the proviso that the hierarchical structure of the Church is preserved’. (From a council speech of Bishop Hoffner of Munster).

Chapters 5 and 6 HOLINESS:

5. The universal call to holiness              a.39.    the Church is holy with the holiness of

                                                                        Christ, her spouse and head.

a.40.    all her members are called to share in this

                                                           a.41.    every condition of life has its own way to

                                                                        sanctity.

                                                           a.42.    but the heart of holiness for everyone is love.

6. The particular call through the

religious life                                           a.43.    definition of the religious state: a stable way of

                                                                        life embodying the evangelical counsels.

                                                            a.44.    personal and ecclesial reasons for its existence

                                                           a.45.    relation to ecclesiastical authority.

                                                           a.46.    relation to human society.

                                                           a.47.    conclusion.

 

History of the text:

The 1962 text of the constitution followed the order: bishops, priests, religious, laity; and the chapter on religious was entitled ‘the states of perfection’.  As we saw, in the course of the council this order was changed.  The hierarchy – laity division is basically part of the essential structure of the Church, and should therefore be treated first.  Religious, on the other hand, as the constitution states, are really divided between hierarchy and laity: some belong to one group, some to the other.  Their special state can be better understood when the positive characteristics of both hierarchy and laity have been explained.  Hence the 1963 text adopted the order: hierarchy, laity, religious.  However, the last chapter was given a quite new title, “The Vocation to Holiness in the Church’, and its first section spoke briefly of that vocation as universal’.  The passage ‘Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect’ was quoted, and as referring to all men.  Its second section then spoke of the particular vocation to religious life, still described as the ‘state of perfection’.

This was not the end of the story.  As a result of the discussions of the second session, further drastic alterations were undertaken.  Among them we may note: (a) The section on the universal vocation to holiness was greatly enlarged, ceasing to be little more than an  ‘opener’ to a treatment of religious.  It had become the most striking part of the chapter.  (b) All reference to the ‘state of perfection’ (or ‘state of acquiring perfection’) was dropped from the text of the section on religious, as (previously) it had been dropped from the title – though traditional, it is a misleading term, for all men are called to perfection, not just religious; equally in this life no one attains it.  The term had a juridical rather than a theological meaning.  (c) This second section now stresses the ecclesial and eschatological significance of the religious life.

Questions still remained, however, on the dividing and placing of this matter.  Should it continue to form a single chapter, or be divided clearly into two? Again, many urged that now a fine section on the universal vocation to sanctity had been written, it was in fact in the wrong place.  It should not follow the chapters on the hierarchy and the laity and precede that on religious; it should precede all these chapters and be linked with that on the people of God.  The order would then have been:

The People of God.

Its vocation to sanctity.

The hierarchy.

The laity.

Religious.

In principle this might well have been the best and most logical plan.  However, it would have involved a very big rewriting of many sections of the constitution at a late date, and would also have cut in half the treatment of matters which were really linked together in the two sections of this chapter.  It was agreed therefore to retain the existing order, while inserting in c.2, a.11 a brief paragraph pointing forward to c.5 Secondly, it was decided (by a general vote of the fathers in the third session, 30 September, 1964) to constitute these two sections as two separate chapters.  This division shows the importance of the religious life for the Church as a whole, and that surely corresponds to the facts of the case.  Many fathers had feared that, with the new stress on the universal vocation to holiness, there was a danger of minimizing the significance of the religious vocation.  They felt that a separate chapter would counteract this danger.  The chapter as finally written shows this significance as a truly theological ore; the religious state, as canonically established in the church, constitutes a sign-a visible human embodiment-of the deep things of spiritual life and of the other-worldliness of the Church of God.

Chapter 5:

The Church is essentially holy, as we affirm in the Creed.  This holiness is of God, not of men.  She is holy because Christ, her lord and her head, has made her holy.  Being a member of her necessarily means being called to share in this holiness; one cannot be a Church member and not be so called.  Though given by God, the holiness of the Church will then be manifested in the lives of her members.  Called to grace in baptism and faith, all Christians must develop in their lives the holiness they have received from God.  This chapter really offers a very fine SUMMARY OF CHRISTIAN MORAL THEOLOGY-of a morality wholly informed by love.  God is love; being given his life means being invited to love and to grow up into a fullness of charity-love of God, love of one’s fellow men.  For bishops and priests this takes a predominantly pastoral form; for married people a faithful commitment to the family, for workers, for the disabled, for every group and every individual person the holiness of love takes on its special form.  It is a pity that the sentence in a.41 referring to the widowed and the unmarried from this point of view is so very weak.  In fact the treatment of the variety of people described in a.41 on `the forms and tasks of life` is very over-weighted on the clerical side. This is a point where the Council`s intended width of view did not quite come across in the form of words used.  But anyway the whole of the preceding chapter was really concerned with the holiness of the laity and the principle is here: diversity of human life and character combined with unity in the transforming love that comes from God to be the very life and purpose of the Church. One and all we are called to `the pursuit of perfect love`.

Christ gave his disciples  both counsels and commands.  There is no clear distinction between them, but Christian writers and ecclesiastical tradition concentrated on three of the former as the foundation  for a special life of detachment from the world and christened them `the evangelical counsels`-virginity, poverty, obedience.  In fact there are many counsels in the New Testament, though obedience is not clearly among them.  The vows are means approved by the Church as of special value upon the road to holiness; but the counsels are elements in Christ`s teaching which concern the whole Christian community, and are therefore spoken of in c.5 and not only in c.6

 

 

 

Chapter 6:

 

Nevertheless the exteriorization of the counsels in a clearly visible form has an importance of its own for the Church.  And that is what has happened.  Historically they have been embodied in various `stable ways of life`, proper to different religious orders and societies, whose membership can be most helpful for attaining the full supernatural end of man; sound teaching, a fraternal communion, the continual harmonizing of freedom with obedience, fidelity to vowed resolutions-all these things can help man greatly on `the road of love`.

A chapter on the religious life in a constitution DE ECCLESIA must, however, necessarily consider it not so much from the personal viewpoint as from that of the strict ecclesial significance of this particular form of living.  The immediate purpose of the profession of the evangelical counsels is two-fold: to cut away hindrances to the service of God  and to be consecrated positively and wholly to that service.  Now, for the baptized, the service of God has always to be given in and across the life of the Church.  Christian spirituality is personal, but personal IN THE CHURCH.  The ecclesial sense of religious profession can be summed up in three points:  Firstly, it is an explicitation and affirmation, by a most deliberate human action, of the baptismal consecration of this Christian and of every Christian; by it the fruit of the original consecration can become more abundant.  Secondly, it is a visible sign of the Church`s nature-both of her bridal union with Christ and of her `other-worldliness`.  The Church transcends the needs and aspirations of the earthly city.  True religious manifest this transcendance in their lives.  Thirdly, it is made effectively fruitful for the whole Church by the kind of life and work proper to each institute: prayer, teaching, nursing……No religious society may be `useless` as regards the life of the whole body, but this does not mean that each  society must undertake external apostolic activities.  Contemplatives are at least as ecclesially fruitful as active orders.

In the past there has been an age-old rivalry between `seculars` and `regulars` between the local diocese and its authority and the `exempt` international religious society. Councils have traditionally been an occasion for bishops to try and bring EXEMPTION to an end, by imposing Episcopal authority upon the local members of a religious order.  This Council witnessed something of the kind but like previous attempts it was largely rejected.  The need for exemption is restated in a.45.  As a matter of fact, if members of religious orders have often seemed uninterested in the pastoral needs  of the local church, members of the secular clergy have often seemed uninterested in the wider missionary and intellectual needs of the universal Church. The solution of such rivalries and misunderstandings is not to be found in a chance of legislation, but rather in a greater awareness upon both sides of the fullness of the body of Christ and the variety of its needs.   Religious societies must indeed be willing to share in the life and work of the local church under the authority of its bishop, but the general good of the whole Church requires too wider organizations which could not function without some measure of canonical exemption of congregations from local authorities.

There is a paradox in religious life which parallels and indeed reflects a paradox in the Church`s own nature-the linking of retreat from the world and from some ordinary human patterns of living with the SERVICE OF THE WORLD and of human society.  In the nature of the Church one may say that laity and religious manifest opposite aspects: the function of the lay state is the service of God within the pattern of the most normal human life and the consecration thereby of the human city to God; the function of the religious state is the renunciation of much normal human life and the erection of a sign that the Church believes in another world and that `the people of God has here no lasting city` (compare a.44 with a.36).  Nevertheless any individual Christian, in either state, has to live the fullness of the Christian vocation, not just that side of it which is symbolized by his state: thus the layman needs to practise supernatural hope, the religious must reach spiritual maturity across a truly human development.  Each state has its own temptations to be avoided, related to an unbalanced grasping of its own particular ideal.  Hence (in a.46) the Council stresses that the religious life, when accepted and lived in the right way, is opposed neither to human maturity, nor to spiritual freedom, nor to the service of human society.  On the contrary.  It is because the Church is essentially other-worldly that she can so disinterestedly and fruitfully serve this one.  The religious life must be the visible sign of both these things.  The more fully religious live the meaning of their vows, the more effective will be their ministry among their fellow men.  In it the Church wishes to portray, in a specially manifest way, Christ and his ministry.

Chapter  7 LOOKING TOWARDS HEAVEN:

 

A chapter on this theme was explicitly asked for by Pope John, but it only materialized late in the council’s deliberation.  In fact there was no discussion on c.7 in general congregation until the third session.  The text had only been prepared in theological commissions in the course of that year, 1964, and it was little changed in the third session, except for some substantial additions in a.48.  The fact that it did not elicit much controversy does not lessen its importance in helping to provide a really full picture of what the Church is.

Its aim is not to describe the Church in heaven or in purgatory, so much as to show how the pilgrim Church on earth is journeying towards heaven and remains united with those who have gone before us to pass from earth to purgatory or the contemplation of God.  We are ‘seeking the city which is to come’, the condition of the Church as we know it is essentially temporary; we are on our way to something perfect and eternal.  This chapter is concerned with the whole vista of the ‘beyond’ and our relationship to it – a beyond whose fall pattern is future and collective: a ‘renewal of all things’ with the manifest perfecting of the universe and the whole human race under the kingship of Christ.

Concern with all this is what we mean by ESCHATOLOGY-a key word in modern theology and scripture interpretations: the doctrine of the last things.

Eschatology deals then with the ‘last things’: death, judgement, hell and heaven.  However, if we compare the eschatology which we find in the scriptures (located chiefly in Matt. 24 and 25, 1 and 2 Thess., and Rev.) with the usual treatises of theological manuals on this subject we cannot help noticing that the former is much more collective in its concern, the latter individualist.  The manuals lay more stress upon the individual’s judgement and eternal reward in heaven or punishment in hell; the scriptures the ‘last times’ of the world, the collective judgement, the full establishment of the kingdom of Christ, the new heaven and the new earth.  In fact the initial draft constitutions, sent to the bishops, before the Council began, included one on the deposit of faith which had a chapter devoted to the ‘last things’.  This was very much akin to the approach of the manuals, an individualistic approach; it included a lengthy section on the punishments of hell.  This draft constitution never, in fact, got discussed at all, but the last things reappeared two years later in our c.7, but now with an altered approach.

It is vitally important in eschatology to balance the collective with the individual, and the future with the present.  It is this that c.7 tries hard to do.  A teaching on the ‘last things’ cannot be silent upon the fate of the individual: the judgement that follows death, the states that can follow judgement-and a.48 speaks explicitly of all this.  Nevertheless the fate of the individual, to be understood aright, must be seen within the context of the fate of the body to which he belongs.  What this chapter shows so finely is that a treatise ‘on the last things’ must be an ecclesial treatise, that the body of Christ itself has a future and a final condition.  The beatitude of the individual only makes full sense within the context of the wedding feast of the Lamb and his bride, the new Jerusalem.  Moreover, the new Jerusalem is not only the Church perfected, but also the world.  Eschatology is a doctrine about the cosmos: all things must be renewed.

Every aspect of the pilgrim Church must be seen in the light of the heavenly Church, not as two parallel organizations, but as sign and reality, or as that which is in process of becoming and that which it will finally be.  However, if this is a relationship between present and future, it is also true that it involves a relationship within the present, because the heavenly Church does already exist.  Many missions of members of the body of Christ have passed out of the state of wayfaring into that of glory and the Church on earth shares their active communion.  This is the difficulty in eschatology: it is dealing both with the final state of completeness when the pilgrim Church will no longer exist and the whole of creation is reformed in Christ, and with the already arrived heavenly state of the holy dead and of their relations with the still existing pilgrim Church.  Hence eschatology refers both to the future and to something already realized in the present, and concerns both the collective fate of Church and world at the end of time and the individual fate of the human person whose span of earthly pilgrimage is short and quickly over.

All this is difficult, but eschatology is notoriously difficult.  Nevertheless the Council refused to leave it aside, and we cannot either.  The above considerations should help in understanding the themes which have been brought together in this brief but beautiful chapter so full of scriptural passages and liturgical references.  Let us note too that the eschatological aspect of the Church is not confined to this chapter;  it is woven into the whole constitution- for example, in the last sentences of a.2, 8 and 42 (see also L.a.8, MW. A.39, etc.).  Furthermore a.44 suggests the eschatological significance of the consecrated religious life and a.68 that of the Virgin Mary:  she is the sign offered in hope to the pilgrim Church of how the final perfection will be.

While a.48 is more concerned with the future, a.49 and 50 treat chiefly of the earthly Church’s present communion with the Church beyond the grave.  If the visible Church is a human society with ministry and sacraments, all this is a sign of the wider communion of all who are of Christ and share his Spirit.  This ultimate communion is one of charity and worship:  we love and we glorify God.

The union of the pilgrim Church on earth with the Church in heaven has then the following characteristics.

It is a UNION OF MUTUAL LOVE.  The saints are our friends and co-heirs in Jesus Christ, and their example shows us the way to grow in perfect union with Christ.

It is a UNION OF MUTUAL PRAYER.  We on earth pray for and to the dead.  We pray to the saints that they may pray for us; we know very well that they have no power outside Christ to hear or help us, but we know too that we and they form one body in Christ, that it is a body of mutual concern, and that this is what our head desires.

It is a UNION IN LITURGY.  Just as the whole constitution teaches that the life of the pilgrim Church is centred upon the Eucharist, so this chapter emphasizes that the union of the earthly and heavenly Churches is above all a liturgical one, and that it is in the celebration of the Eucharist that we are most united with the saints when we are most fully offering worship to God (cf.L.a.8).  For this reason the treatment of the subject is closed in a.50 with the words of the Roman canon.

The point of a.51 is pastoral.  Having stated the doctrine of the communion of saints (for which see also L.a.104), the Council recognizes that in fact there have been abuses whereby the cult of the saints has become almost disengaged from its essential Christological and ecclesiological context.  In reaction some have tended to deny all point to prayer and communion with them.  The Council wishes such wrong attitudes to be corrected:  a truly Catholic sense of union with all the blessed should rather excite in us a still greater determination to praise and glorify God both now and for ever in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Chapter 8 VIRGIN AND MOTHER:

History of the Text:

Chapter eight is entitled ‘The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church’.  As other parts of the constitution this text stands at the end of a lengthy evolution, but one of its own.  In 1962 the Fathers were given a draft text for a dogmatic constitution on ‘The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of Men’.  This text (A) was never debated but was reissued in April, 1963, with a new title-‘The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church’.  In the second session, when the second text of DE ECCLESIA was being extensively discussed, it was proposed that no separate document should be produced on Mary, but instead that a chapter devoted to her should be included in that constitution.  It was argued that this would better show Mary’s organic place within the pattern of redemption.  Others argued strongly to retain a separate Marian constitution as more in line with the various Marian developments of the last century.  The bishops voted on the question on 29 October, 1963.  By 1,114 votes to 1,074 it was decided to speak of her within the DE ECCLESIA.

A new text was therefore needed, which would fit in with the rest of the constitution.  A theological sub-commission, representing both tendencies, set to work and in March, 1964, after four previous versions, brought forth a fifth (B) which they judged satisfactory.  Very little of A remained in it.  B was then considerably revised in June by the Doctrinal Commission to produce C.  Then B and C were together dispatched to the bishops and C was discussed at the beginning of the third session.  Some further changes were made, to give us D, the final text, which was approved almost unanimously.

Differing Tendencies:

Clearly, the very considerable difficulties encountered in producing this text arose from the existence of two contrasting attitudes in the Church with regard to Mariology.  One point of view is more plainly Mariological, in an evident way.  It has rejoiced in the increasing number of Marian definitions, declarations, feasts and congresses of the last hundred years, and it hoped for a further notable ‘advance’ in Marian teaching from the Council.. For years this body of opinion has been concentrating on the title ‘Mediatrix of all graces’ and it expected the Council to produce a constitution firmly enshrining this idea.

The other point of view is more closely linked with the biblical, liturgical and ecumenical movements.  It has urged the return on all sides of the Church’s life to a more scriptural and liturgical way of viewing things, and it has wanted to apply this also to Marian teaching and devotion.  It has argued that while everything in Modern Marian developments and expression may be capable of theological justification, yet the impression given is still very different from that of scripture and the liturgy, and that a good deal of popular Marian devotion has been clearly unbalanced.  The need today is not so much to advance as to deepen and purify Marian devotion.  Moreover this point of view has stressed ecumenical considerations.  Protestants are very suspicious of Mariology.  Every Marian ‘advance’ seems to them to dig a new ditch between us and them.  The opportune thing for the life of the Church today is not then to press Marian doctrine to all its logical conclusions, but so to express it in such a scriptural and traditional way as to commend it to all non-Catholic Christians.

Both these points of view have full right to exist when the Church, and of course many people would hold a bit to both.  Nevertheless clearly two opposing tendencies have been present and it was the Council’s duty to produce a statement which, so far as possible, would prove satisfactory to all important bodies of opinion.  That it managed to obtain an almost unanimous final vote, after a practically fifty-fifty division one year before, is a measure of the balance of  this chapter and also, surely, of docility to the guiding of the Holy Spirit.

Clearly the basic decision to include a Marian text within the Church constitution had to be adhered to and this naturally determined the general treatment to some extent.  It was decided to make of it the final chapter.  This seemed the natural place.  The other chapters have a certain internal cohesion, leading up, in c.7, to the vision of the heavenly Church.  c.8 relates to this in two ways.  Firstly, it is clearly related to c.7.  Much of what is said there about the saints in general applies in a special way to Mary.  Paragraphs in c.7 on their position in the Church, intercession and cult prepare the way for comparable ones in c.8.  Secondly, this last chapter somehow sums up the whole constitution.  May as the type of the Church bears within her all its varied characteristics.  Having treated of them in the life of all Christians in the preceding chapters, the constitution concludes by showing them in her who most perfectly fulfilled the Church’s whole vocation in faith, charity and obedience.

It is explicitly stated in a.54 that the Church did not intend to say EVERYTHING about Mary or to rule out all approaches or ideas not appearing in the constitution.  It does appeal for balance and the awareness of ecumenical needs, but its aim is not to condemn those who would like to express their love for the Virgin Mary in rather different terms.  The freedom  which the Council has called for in so many other fields surely applies here too.

Chief characteristics:

This chapter offers a broad, rounded teaching about OUR LADY.  There is certainly no minimizing tendency.  It speaks of all the chief aspects of Marian doctrine and draws them together in a simple but beautiful synthesis.  Never before has a council of the Church offered such an extensive or profound statement upon the position of Mary in the plans of God.

The tone is nevertheless very MODERATE  and restrained, though no less devoted for that.  There is nothing here to jar on the ears of non-Catholics unless, of course, they are rather uncritically anti-Marian.  It is interesting to see that there is no single reference in text or notes to St Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Alphonsus Liguori or St. Louis-Marie De Montfort, the three great Marian writers of the post-patristic period, some of whose expressions nevertheless seem to some a bit extreme or overemotional.

Instead the text is extremely SCRIPTURAL and PATRISTIC.  References to the early Fathers, both Greek and Latin, abound and so do quotations from the New Testament, beginning with a brief but basic Pauline text.  Every effort has been made to show that Marian devotion is not-as critics have maintained-ainti-scriptural.

It is clearly shown how Marian doctrine and devotion fit into a completely CHRISTO-CENTRIC scheme of things.  In no way can Mary detract from Christ`s work or from the closeness of the union of Christians with him.  On the contrary she manifests just how perfectly a simple human being can be united with her saviour.

It is ECCLESIAL.  This indeed is its most striking positive characteristic as of course befits a chapter within DE ECCLESIA.  A rediscovery of patristic doctrine on the deep relationship of Mary and the Church has been a key aspect of modern scientific Mariology.  In the fullest way we here see Mary standing in all her glorious humility both in and for the Church.

Finally, as has been indicated, there is a deep ECUMENICAL PREOCCUPATION  running through the text and stressed explicitly in a.67.  Everything is to be done to help other Christians see the truth about Mary. That should be the great Marian `advance` of our time: not a new doctrine but the rediscovery by all believers of her place in the redemption.  Eastern Christians already venerate her most devoutly (a.69), as do very many Anglicans` and growing number of other Protestants.  We should pray that the teaching of this chapter  will help to increase their number still more in years  to come .  In the past,  as a matter of fact, Marian devotion has been a cause of division.  Instead we must make it today a cause of unity.

POINT OF DOCTRINE:

Motherhood:

The central doctrine concerning Our Lady is shown to be the divine maternity.  All else follows from this that she was `the Mother of God` (a.53) and that she freely accepted to be so: she gave her assent to the World of God, committing herself whole-heartedly to his will in faith obedience (a.56).  The constitution stresses her faith: she did not understand everything but unhesitatingly she `advanced in her pilgrimage of faith` (a.58).  Just as in philosophy we find that AGERE SEQUITUR ESSE, so in theology it is universally true that the more we receive God’s grace, the more we share in the giving of it.  Mary` s singular adherence to God` s will made of her a singular sharer in her Son` s work of giving divine life to all men.  The fullness of her personal acceptance permitted a fullness of active co-operation and made of her truly the mother of men, especially the faithful (a.54, 60-62)

A word here must be said about the title `MOTHER OF THE CHURCH`.  It does not appear in the constitution.  It was part of draft A, especially with its revised title, but had no place in B or C. However, in one of the final changes of the third session an addition was made to the end of a.53  which in some way hints at this title without quite using it.  At the clost of the third session, 21 November, 1964, Pope Paul proclaimed the Virgin Mary ‘Mother of the Church, that is to say of all the people of God, of the faithful as well as of the pastors’.  It is clear that a majority of the fathers preferred not to use this title in the constitution, doubtless because in itself it is rather untraditional.  On the other hand the pope was perfectly free to make use of it himself if he saw fit; it is clearly only the phrase, not the idea, which is untraditional.  That Mary is the MATER FIDELIUM  is most traditional, and ‘the faithful’ is only another way of saying ‘ the People of God’.  Now that we are stressing the human side of the Church and that ‘the People of God’ is a highly fitting name for the Church, it is clearly the same thing to say ‘Mother of the faithful’ and ‘Mother of the Church’.  Pope Paul stressed this way of looking at it by repeating twice ‘the Church, that is to say the people of God’.  Mary remains a member of the Church, just as  the mother of a family remains a member of the family.  That the mother of Jesus is the mother of all his brethren is simply the full meaning of John 19: 26-7.

Type of the Church:

Mary is the type of the Church.  For many Catholics this may well be the most striking affirmation of this chapter.  It is stated explicitly in three separate articles (a.53, 63, 65).  It must be understood within a whole developing context.  First of all, in her full acceptance of the word of God, Mary represents humanity itself.  She is ‘the daughter of Adam’, the new Eve, as many of the earliest Fathers of the Church asserted (a.56). Representing all humanity in its passive need for God and potential active acceptance of his gift, she specially represented the chosen people of God, the children of Abraham, who had been prepared for the coming of the saviour.  She is not only ‘daughter of Adam’ but ‘daughter of Sion’ (a..55), faithfully accepting the promise made to her fathers.

The Church is the new Sion the new Israel.   Mary is a member of both the old people and the new, and she represents both.  Her undeviating faith and charity, her virginal surrender to God of her whole self, her fruitful motherhood, her presence at the foot of the cross: all this typifies the Church, virgin and mother.  Mary’s life on earth perfectly represents the life of the pilgrim Church, and her life in heaven perfectly represents the final fullness of the celestial Church after the resurrection of the dead.  God chose to manifest the character of humanity’s acceptance of his Son not only through the multiple community of the redeemed but also through the example of  a single historical personality, who typifies the perfection of the whole in the more easily understood career of one individual.  And for this he chose his mother.

In this way the constitution treats of Mary’s position less in terms of static privileges than as a dynamic sharing in the history of salvation.

Mediatrix:

 

a.62 touching on Mary as mediatrix ( or mediator) was undoubtedly a focal point of argument.  Some fathers were much in favour of proclaiming Mary mediatrix of graces, others were equally opposed to it.  The history of the texts is significant.  A included a strong section on the subject including the title ‘Mediatrix of all graces’.  Text  B omitted the word entirely.  C put it in a very restrained sentence.  Finally, in the third session, it was retained but joined with the title of ‘advocate, helper, benefactress’ which takes away from a technical sense.  Furthermore, a new paragraph (‘No creature could ever….’) was added at this last stage to prevent any possible misunderstanding in the use of the title.

This extra paragraph is in fact an important one for it expresses very clearly the principle of the active co-operation of the redeemed in every aspect of the redeemer’s work. We all share in his priesthood (mediation and priesthood are, moreover, very closely connected concepts), we share in his kingship, we share in his redemption – not only in receiving, but in giving. Mary is not unique in this role. It is part of the Christian vocation, But she is unique in the fullness of her response to it.

Conclusion:

The concluding section of the chapter refers first to the liturgy and pastoral requirements of Marian devotion. a.66 and 67 can be compared with a.51, the point being the same: not emotion or vain credulity but solid faith and a special care to avoid scandalizing separated  Christians. Finally the Council proclaims Mary as a sign of hope and comfort for the pilgrim Church. As the Church is the sign of salvation lifted up among the nations, so is she a sign within the Church: a sure sign of how faith is fulfilled in beatitude, of the perfection to come, of the final transformation of humanity in the light of Christ to the glory of  God.

‘In the Blessed Virgin the Church learns to love the concrete and the limited: a basic antidote to pride’ (Cardinal Silva papal legate to the 1965 Mariological Congress).

‘You should concentrate on a deeper understanding and love of the mysteries of Mary rather than on theological extensions which are questionable and lead to division rather than union     ……You must restrain unbalanced and not very enlightened sentimentalities….You should encourage a serious and living devotion which moves within the great coherent framework of the liturgy’ (Pope Paul to the Mariological Congress of San Domingo, 1965).

Is the Church necessary for salvation?

Is the Church necessary for salvation?

Dr George Karakunnel

                “This holy Council first of all turns its attention to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself on scripture and tradition, it teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk. 16:16; Jn.3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door.  Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it.”  (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, no.14)

                “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with as sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation. Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life.” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, no.15)

The answer is “Yes” but that’s the easy part. Explaining why it’s “Yes” is more difficult. Because the Church is the Body of Christ, it embodies the presence of Christ and carries on his redemptive work for all of humanity. In that sense, the Church is indeed necessary for salvation, that is, in the same way that Jesus Christ himself is necessary for salvation. But does that mean that only those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can be saved?

            Jesus himself gave us the beginning of an answer to both questions when he said. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven. But only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt 7:21). Confessing the Lordship of Jesus, therefore, isn’t in itself sufficient for salvation. But even if it’s not sufficient, is it absolutely necessary? Later in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus narrates the parable of the sheep and the goats in which he implies that many who enter the kingdom of heaven will not even have been aware of the Lord. Rather, they will only encounter the Lord anonymously, as it were, in the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, and all others in need.

            Catholic belief and teaching about salvation, therefore, is that no one is saved apart from the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on behalf of all humanity, but that it is possible to be the beneficiary of that redemptive work even if one does not confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, which means even if one is not a member of the Church, Catholic or non-Catholic.

            That wasn’t always the understanding of the Church’s role in salvation, however. In the first three centuries the saying. “No salvation outside the Church”, was used exclusively as a warning against Christians who had separated themselves from the Church by heresy or schism. Historians have found no instance where that same warning was issued against the pagan majority in the Roman Empire. It was only after Christianity became the official religion of the Empire in the fourth century that the saying began to be applied to Jews and pagans as well. The naive assumption was that, by this time, the Gospel had been preached to the whole world. Those who still had not accepted it were culpable and, therefore, heading for damnation. This was the view associated especially with Fulgentius, bishop of Ruspe, in the sixth century, and it remained standard Catholic teaching for almost a thousand years. The Council of Florence in 1442 used Fulgentius’ formula in its own teaching. With the discovery of America, however, only fifty years after Florence, it became clear that the world was much larger than had been thought. There were still many thousands – perhaps millions – of people who had never heard of Jesus Christ. Only gradually thereafter did the hard-line teaching of Fulgentius and others yield to a broader, more ecumenical view of salvation outside the Church.

 

            At first, a distinction was made between members of the Church in re (that is, actual, baptized members) and members of the Church in voto (that is, people of good will who remain outside the Church through no fault of their own). All those who are saved because of some relationship with the Church, whether in re or in voto. The Second Vatican Council went a step beyond that position. It recognized in its Decree on Ecumenism that non-Catholic churches are a “means of salvation’, although “they derive their efficacy from the fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church “ (n.3). The council also recognized in its Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions that the “Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions” (n.2). Salvation, brought by the different religions as the Church understands, is related to the one economy of salvation under Jesus Christ.  This is the present day inclusivist approach which replaced a rather exclusivist approach of the past.

            Does the Church, then, play any necessary role at all in the salvation of the world? Yes, says the Council, it is the “universal sacrament of salvation” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n.48; Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World).  Not only are all people related to the Church by the grace which the Holy Spirit offers them, but the Church itself is a sign and instrument of their salvation. And that is the newer, more ecumenical, more universal meaning of the traditional saying, “No salvation outside the Church”.

Charism of MCBS

CHARISM & NATURE

In this Congregation our ideal is to consecrate the entire life to the realisation of God’s Kingdom (Matt 6, 10), placing the Eucharist at the core of our being.

 Drawing inspiration from the age-old spiritual wisdom of Eastern Christian Monasticism and from the quest of the sages (rishis) of India for the Absolute, the MCBS tries to reach out, in and through the Eucharist, to the God-experience of our father St. Thomas, the Apostle, in his faith-surrender “My Lord and My God” (John20,28).

 Our Charism, sown by the Spirit as a seed in our founders, grew up to the spiritual patrimony of our Congregation. They have entrusted to our keeping for our spiritual heritage, a religious life marked by love and single minded devotion (bhakti) to the Eucharistic Lord and missionary vitality.

 This charism is to live and proclaim the Eucharistic Mystery we celebrate, to gather the children of God around the altar to “praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice and to eat the Lord’s supper” and to uphold the real presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

 Liturgical Apostolate, Eucharistic Retreat, Parish Apostolate, Proclamation of Good News, Mission towards unity, Inculturation, and Dialogue with other religions and social Apostolate form the core areas of MCBS activity.

 Our mission works are mainly among the poor, illiterate, and the marginalized in various parts of India’s vast mission fields entrusted to us for the pastoral care by the local bishops.

St Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathoor

Vadavathoor Seminary
Vadavathoor Seminary

The St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary was formally established by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches through its letter dated April 26, l962 and it was formally inaugurated and began functioning on July 3, l962. It is primarily intended for the education and formation of the seminarians of the Syro-Malabar dioceses. It is also open to the students of Syro-Malankara and Latin dioceses and of religious congregations. The Seminary is subject to the authority and control of the Syro-Malabar Bishops’ Synod, which exercises its authority through a Synodal Commission of Bishops.

Mission

The seminary aims at training priests primarily of the Syro-Malabar Church in the patrimony of Mar Thoma, the Apostle and Founder of the Church keeping up with the spirit of the time.  It fosters the human, spiritual, academic and pastoral formation of its seminarians.

Seminary Chapel, Vadavathoor

Spiritual Life

Celebration of the Divine Praises, the Holy Qurbana and the recitation of the Rosary forms part of the daily time table.  Special attention is given to the daily meditation of the Word of God and the the lectio divina in common. Students draw adequate spiritual benefit from regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and from the earnest participation in recollections and retreats, observance of fast and abstinence. Spiritual instructions and conferences, particularly individual conferences and guidance are help in their spiritual journey during the formative years. Seminary has four resident spiritual directors. Seminarians are encouraged to find time for personal prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament at the Adoration Chapel.  The monthly recollections and the Annual retreats provide for their spiritual growth.

Paurastya Vidyapitham

Paurastya Vidyapitham is the local name given to the Pontifical Oriental Institute of Religious Studies which is an autonomous faculty of Theology  erected at St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathoor, Kottayam. This  Seminary has been established by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches through the letter No. 260 / 59, dated April 26, 1962. It is primarily intended for the education and formation of the seminarians of  all the Syro – Malabar Eparchies and also of the Syro- Malankara Eparchies. It is also open to all the Eparchies of the other Churches and in particular of the Latin Church of Kerala for sending their seminarians. The Seminary is subject to the authority and control of the Syro – Malabar Bishop’s Synod, which exercises its authority through a specially elected Synodal Commission.

By a decree of the Congregation for the Catholic Education Prot. No. 674/72/13, the Theological Department of the Seminary was affiliated to the Faculty of Oriental Ecclesiastical Sciences at the Pontifical Oriental Institute Rome on the 21st of February 1973. After an experimental period of 4 years, the affiliation was renewed and extended by the letter of the Congregation for the Catholic Education, dated April 10, 1977. Then realizing the important role of this seminary in the life of the Oriental Churches of India and taking into account its steady growth in the past years the Congregation for Catholic Education erected its academic section into an independent Theological Faculty with right to confer the degrees of B. Th. (Bachelor of Theology), M. Th. (Master of Theology) and D. Th. (Doctor of Theology) through the decree “Perinisigne Fidei Christianae Testimonium” on July 3, 1982 on the Feast of St. Thomas, the Apostle of India.

On August 15, 1985 the Department of Philosophy at this Faculty was given the power to confer the degree of B. Ph. (B.A. in Philosophy). The Institute was authorized officially to commence the Doctoral Course by the letter of the Congregation for the Catholic Education dated November 28, 1986.

General Orientation of the Institute

The programme of formation at this Institute aims at the development of fully integrated priestly personality, and therefore takes into account the human, spiritual, intellectual, pastoral and missionary dimensions of priestly formation. With this end in view the programme of studies co-ordinates the fields of Humanities, Philosophy, Theology, Bible and Eastern Christian Studies in such a way as to present the Mystery of Christ harmoniously to the students.

The specific aims of the Institute are the following:

  •  To cultivate and promote through scientific research the patrimony of Christian wisdom of both East and West with special emphasis on Biblical, Patristic, Oriental, Syrian and Indian traditions.
  •  To enunciate systematically the truths contained in the Biblical, Patristic, Liturgical and Spiritual traditions of Eastern Ecclesiastical heritage and to present them to the people of the present day in a manner adapted to the local cultural context.
  •  To impart a Theological and Pastoral formation to the candidates for priesthood.
  • To train its students to a level of high qualification in the Sacred Sciences and allied subjects according to Catholic doctrine, to prepare them properly to face their tasks in the various fields of apostolate and to promote the continuing permanent education of the Ministers of the Church as well as other sections of the people of God.
  •  To Promote the study and investigation of the writings of the Oriental Fathers and writers and of the Theological, Spiritual, Liturgical and Disciplinary heritage of the Oriental Churches of India.
  •  To promote ecumenical studies and investigate traditions of the various Christian Churches with special reference to the actual situation of India.

Click here for the Official Site of the Seminary