Action Alert!

The MOST Theological Collection: The Holy Spirit and the Church

"Chapter 1: The Church As Mystery"


Browse by Title
New Search
Table of Contents for this Work

Preliminary notes: 1) We will use the same marginal numbers as those in the Constitution itself. 2) The treatment is Scriptural, and so it is not systematic. So we will find repetitions of the same idea often enough, especially in the first sections.

3) The word "Mystery". In Greek it was related to mystes, one initiated into the mystery religions, who knew secret things, must keep them secret. From Plato on, the word was used for an obscure secret doctrine. In magic it meant a magic rite or formula; in Gnosticism it meant a secret revelation.

But Hebrew had no word for all the meanings of the Greek. The Hebrew word most similar is sod, "secret". Aramaic and late Hebrew used raz (e.g., in Daniel 2:18ff. There raz seems to be a Persian loanword). So in the OT it is merely something secret. In the Synoptics, the Apostles are given to know the mysteries hidden from others in parables: Mk 4:11 and parallels. For St. Paul, a mystery is a divine secret which becomes known through revelation. The chief subject is God's plan as seen in the death and resurrection of Christ. God makes known through Paul that this plan includes for the gentiles, membership in the People of God. This was a mystery hidden from the ages, that the gentiles are called to be part of the People of God (Eph 3:5-6). Marriage is also a mystery in that it symbolizes the union of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32). There is also a mystery of iniquity, the plan of satan, already at work: 2 Thes 2:7.

§1. The Council desires to bring the light of Christ to all nations. The words "Light of the nations" are the opening words of this document. They come from Is 60. 1-3: "Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has arisen upon you... and the gentiles shall come to your light." Also, Simeon said of Jesus that He was " a light for revelation to the gentiles." Cf. John 1. 9.

LG here says that it will present the nature and universal mission of the Church "in the tradition laid down by earlier Councils." - note here that there will be many cases of level 2, of repetition of earlier teaching, which is infallible.

It says that the Church "is as it were a sacrament - a sign and instrument, that is, of close union with God and of unity among all men." The word sacrament is here used very broadly. In first centuries it was so used, and covered anything religious and mysterious. Theologians gradually reached an agreement, by 12th century, to use the word only for external signs established by Christ to give grace.

§2. We note in advance, that sections 2, 3, 4 each are centered, one after the other, on the Three Divine Persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

God created the world by a most free and hidden plan of His wisdom and goodness. This reflects the teaching of Vatican I that God created for His own glory. We must be careful not to misunderstand this: Bishop Gasser, president of the Committee on Faith at Vatican I, explained: "... the purpose of the created thing, and not [the purpose] of the Creator, is meant when it is said in the canon, 'that the world was created to the glory of God.... [de fine creati et non creantis sermo est]'" So God did not create in order to gain glory - He cannot gain anything. Rather, He willed that His glory should come through giving good to His creatures. Hence the Report of the committee on Faith said: "The second paragraph of this chapter is written... also against those who calumniate the Catholic Church on account of her teaching in which she says that the world was created to the glory of God, as if, namely, [the Church] represented God as eager for His own utility... as if, namely the Church denied that the finis operantis [the purpose of the One acting, i. e, of God] was His own goodness, namely, that He might impart His goodness to creatures." (Both citations taken from NAOQ §27 = Wm. Most, New Answers to Old Questions).

After the fall of our first parents, the Father laid His plans at once for our salvation and so, "always provided them with the means of salvation, in view of [intuitu] Christ the Redeemer." So just as He gave to Bl. Mother the Immaculate Conception, in anticipation of the merits of Christ, so too He provided graces for salvation to all, in anticipation of Christ. (More on this later).

He predestined some to become "conformed to the image of His Son, so He would be the first born among many brothers." LG here cites Rom 8. 30. In context, Paul speaks of predestination to full membership in the Church, not of predestination to heaven, except partially and indirectly - inasmuch as the Church is willed by God as the great means of salvation. (We speak of full membership, because there can be a lesser, but substantial membership, as we shall see in commenting on §16) 1 Tim 2. 4: "God wills all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." The second clause indicates He wills that final salvation come through the Church. Hence the teaching "No salvation outside the Church." However, the Fathers of the first centuries have a very broad concept of membership in the Church - we will explore it later in section l6 of LG. Cf. also the appendix of W. Most, Our Father's Plan (hereinafter = OFP). In line with this LG will say in §5 - as we will see - that the Church was already present in figure even before Christ, was prepared for in the ancient People of the Old Covenant, was established in this last age, and will be gloriously consummated at the end. And in #2 it cited Pope Gregory the Great, saying that at the end, all the just from Adam and Abel on will be gathered together in the universal Church with the Father. The thought is like that of St. Augustine, in his Retractations 1. 13. 3: "The very thing which is now called the Christian religion existed among the ancients, nor was it lacking from the beginning of the human race, until Christ Himself came in the flesh, when the true religion, which already existed, began to be called Christian."

On what basis does God predestine people to be full members of His People of God or Church? In Romans 9, St. Paul makes clear it is not given on the basis of merits. We seem to gather from several other texts that it is given to those who are more in need: 1 Cor 1: 26-31; Ezek 3:5-7; 5:6; Lk 10:30-37; Lk 17:11-19; Mt 11:21. And the whole book of Jonah seems to show the Chosen People were more resistant to God's grace than were the Assyrians. Hence the Mekilta de Rabbi Ishmael (4th century AD Midrash on Exodus) puts words in the mouth of Jonah: "Since the gentiles more readily repent, I might be causing the condemnation of Israel [by going to Nineveh]." On predestination to heaven, which is on a radically different basis, cf. OFP chapter 12.

§3. Here LG speaks of the Church as "the kingdom of Christ already present in mystery. This is the closest the Council comes to identifying the kingdom and the Church. (More on this in comments on LG §5).

The restriction seem to indicate that the fullness of the kingdom of Christ will come only in the world to come. We will explore later the question of the meaning of the term "kingdom of God". There the text says Christ established a visible structure of the Church on earth, and adds that He handed over this one Church to Peter to be fed, and says: "this Church, in this world, as a constituted and ordered society, subsists in the Catholic Church." To anticipate, we will show that the phrase has a broad spectrum of meaning, but that it very often, as even leftish scholars admit, means the Church in this world and/or in the next. The "subsists in" indicates that the Church is a "mystery," something hidden, i.e., there is more to it than meets the eye.

Here LG says that "by His obedience He brought about redemption." This is in line with Romans 5:19: "Just as by the disobedience of the one man, the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of the one man, the many will be made just." For His death received its value from the fact that it was done in obedience - without that, it would have been a tragedy, not a redemption. Paul VI (Osservatore Romano, Oct 14, 1966, p. 12) expressed it beautifully: "[obedience] is first of all a penetration and acceptance of the mystery of Christ, who saved us by means of obedience. It is a continuation and imitation of this fundamental act of His, His acceptance of the will of the Father. It is an understanding of the principle which dominates the entire plan of Incarnation and Redemption. Thus obedience becomes assimilation into Christ, who is the Divine Obedient One."

There is discussion today on how the redemption produces its effect. Many despair of finding the answer. They start with 1 Cor 6:20 where Paul speaks of the "price" of redemption (cf. ibid 7:23). The metaphor pictures our race in captivity of satan. They point out we would not want to say the price, the blood of Christ, was paid to satan who was the captor. Nor was it paid to the Father, who was not the captor. But there is an answer. Paul VI, in his Constitution Indulgentiarum doctrina, of Jan 9, 1967 wrote: "Every sin brings with it a disturbance of the universal order, which God arranged in His inexpressible wisdom and infinite love.... So it is necessary for the full remission and reparation of sins... not only that friendship with God be restored by a sincere conversion of heart, and that the offense against His wisdom and goodness be expiated, but that all the goods, both individual and social, and those that belong to the universal order, lessened or destroyed by sin, be fully reestablished, either through voluntary reparation... or through the [involuntary] suffering of penalties."

Rabbi Simeon ben Eleazar, around 170 A.D., who says he is quoting Rabbi Meir from early in that century, gives a very helpful comparison to illustrate the thought of Paul VI (Tosefta, Kiddushin 1. 14): "He [anyone] has committed a transgression. Woe to him. He has tipped the scale to the side of debt for himself and for the world." The sinner takes from one pan of the scales what he has no right to have. The Holiness of God loves that objective order of goodness, and wants it rebalanced. If the sinner stole property, he can begin to rebalance by giving it back; if he stole a pleasure, he can begin to rebalance by giving up some other pleasure he might have lawfully had. But his work only begins to rebalance, for the imbalance from even one mortal sin is infinite. So if the Father wanted it - He of course, did not have to do so - the only way it could be done was to send a Divine Person, who could generate an infinite value, who could put back by His suffering and deprivations more than all sinners of all ages have taken, are taking, will take from the scales.

The redemption is also a new covenant. In the new as in the old (cf. Ex 19:5) the critical condition is obedience. Christ by His obedience, as we saw above, provided this critical condition.

Every Pope from Leo XIII to John Paul II, including also Vatican II, has taught that the generosity of the Father, to make the title for forgiveness and grace even richer, willed to join the obedience of the Mother of Jesus, as Vatican II said in LG 61: "In suffering with Him as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior, in an altogether singular way, by obedience , faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls." LG 56 also stressed her obedience within the work of redemption. We note that if something is repeatedly taught on the ordinary Magisterium level, it is infallible. This is true of the teaching on her cooperation, for there are in all 17 texts.

Why bring in her obedience when that of Jesus is infinite? Our Father could have forgiven without any reparation, He could have forgiven by accepting any religious act of any person He might appoint, e.g., offering a mere animal sacrifice. He could have provided infinite reparation by the Incarnation in a palace with the Redemption done by a short prayers: "Father, forgive them." But His policy is clearly: as long as there is anything that will make it fuller, let it be added.

St. Thomas, in Summa I. 19. 5. c, said that in His love of good order, God loves to have one thing in place to serve as a title, as a reason for granting a second thing, even though that title does not move Him. So it pleased Him to enrich the titles by adding her role even in the objective redemption (the work of once-for-all earning a title to all forgiveness and grace). Following the same principle, He wills to add the work of the Saints in the subjective redemption (the work of giving out the fruits of the objective redemption). Still further, He wills that our obedience be joined to that of His Son in the Mass -- hence He ordered: "Do this in memory of me". St. Paul expresses this with his syn Christo theme: we are saved and made holy if and to the extent that we are not only members of Christ, but are also like Him. That likeness of course must include likeness in this work of rebalancing the objective order. So Luther was very wrong in saying in effect:Jesus did an infinite work; there is no need or room for anything from us.

LG 3 adds: "As often as the sacrifice of the cross... is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out." This relates to the obedience by which He brought about Redemption. It is presented again as a title for the giving out of graces (cf. again Summa I. 19. 5. c) In the Cenacle, the external sign was His seeming separation of body and blood, used to express His interior attitude of obedience, willingness to die in obedience. On the cross, the external sign of His obedience was physical death, but the interior, obedience, was the same, continued from that Thursday night. On our altars, we have the same external sign as that of the Cenacle, again to express His obedience -- willingness to do whatever the Father wills, even death, if He willed it - which of course the Father does not will. But just as His obedience in death once formed the title for the infinite treasury of grace and forgiveness for us, so in the Mass, His obedience, presented again, is the title for the giving out of that which was won once-for-all on Calvary. Our obedience is to be joined to His, so as to make up the obedience of the Whole Christ, Head and Members.

The Eucharistic bread, says LG 3, signifies the unity of believers - yes, we then are to be the body of Christ our Head, whose obedience is presented again. We need, of course, to unite out obedience to His - just as Our Lady once did on Calvary, so that the obedience of Head and members melts, as it were, into the one great price of the giving out of the fruits won once-for-all.

To unite it we might spend some moments before a Mass, looking to see what we have done since the last time in doing the will of the Father. If we have done well, we have something to join with His offering. If some things were not done well, we add regrets. We could look ahead too, to the time soon to come, to see: Is there something there in which I know His will, but am not fond of doing it? If so: Do I intend to do it? If not, this is no place for me. By examining in advance, we have something to join with His obedience, precisely at the moment when through the human priest, He again expresses His obedience, by the seeming separation of body and blood in the double consecration.

LG 3 says this also brings about our union: By joining our obedience to His, we should grow in obedience, which unites us to Him, and to each other inasmuch as it makes us all more fully parts of His Mystical Body. St. Augustine writes (City of God 10. 20): "He willed that the daily sacrament of this should be the sacrifice of the Church, which, since it is the body of Him its Head, learns through Him to offer itself."

§4. After the work of the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is sent

a) To sanctify the Church, make her holy. Holy means two things- set aside for God (qadosh)-- growing in moral perfection. Especially through the Gifts the Spirit does this- cf. the three levels of guides: namely, a person may follow; 1) the whim of the moment which Aristotle, (Ethics 1. 5) calls "a life fit for cattle"). 2)Reason - which as a matter of fact will be aided by actual graces. Yet the process of decision making is basically discursive, moving from one step to another. 3)The gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here the conclusion is given ready made, without any discursive steps, though the Gifts. This process can lead the soul to things not contrary to reason, but higher than reason would be apt to see by itself.

b) He brings souls to life - this is the same as sanctifying, for grace is the life of the soul, and sanctifying grace brings about holiness. Sanctifying graces gives the radical ability to join in the life within the Holy Trinity in the next life.

c) He dwells in the Church and in the faithful as in a temple. Note the senses of dwelling or presence - a Spirit in general is present wherever He produces effects. Inasmuch as He produces effects in the Church, He is present in the Church, and in individuals. He can be said to come several times, even though He is already there - for as we said, a Spirit is present wherever He produces effects He can come several times by producing added effects. - Mortal sin ejects the Spirit from His temple. This presence is different from the Real Presence in the Eucharist. It is different from the presence of Christ where two or three are gathered together -- a moral presence, not physical, inasmuch as He produces effects there. The Real Presence is in a class by itself above all other presences of Christ.

d) He prays in the Church - the liturgy is the action of Christ and of the Spirit. He also prays within each soul in the state of grace -- two senses (1)charismatic prayer (2)He intercedes for us -- cf. ST I. 19. 5. c, and OFP cap. 4 ff.

e) He guides the Church into all truth. There are not new revelations - cf. DV §4 - but there is a gradual clarification and deepening. Hence new definitions can and do come over the centuries. Cf. also the introduction on the 4 levels of teaching - guided by the Holy Spirit.

f) He unifies the Church. A body would be dead and go into many pieces without its soul or spirit -- the Spirit makes it alive and therefore one. So too the Spirit makes the Church, the body of Christ, one.

g) He gives charismatic and sanctifying gifts. Sanctifying gifts are aimed at making one holy, i.e., set aside for God, and the, growing in moral perfection. There are two types of sanctifying graces: 1) Habitual (also called sanctifying) and actual (a grace He gives me at this moment to lead me and to enable me to do a particular good thing here and now. Charismatic gifts are for some benefit to the community. There are again two kinds:1)miraculous, such as tongues, healing the sick etc. and nonmiraculous- the grace of being a good parent, a good teacher, a good apostles etc. All receive some of this latter group. Chief among charismatic gifts are the Pope and Magisterium, given as a benefit to the Church, to lead it by the light of the Holy Spirit into all truth, and to guide it in that truth. (Note: As to the modern charismatic movement, if all dangers - which are not rare - are avoided, it can be a valid form of spirituality, as long as one understands that the Spirit gives varied graces: it must not be pushed on all To say that all noncharismatics are "dead" is at least close to spiritual pride, the worst of vices).

h) He renews and keeps the Church youthful. For it is the Spirit that gives life - the life that comes from the Spirit is inexhaustible - and hence eternal youth and freshness.

In all these things, we must keep in mind that all the operations of the three Persons are common to all (DS 800, 3814) - and so we are appropriating when we assign these effects to the Spirit - they are also the work of the Father and the Son.

5. Here LG speaks of the mystery of the Church, and then goes on to speak of Jesus making a beginning of His Church by preaching the coming of the kingdom. This seems to imply that the Church and the kingdom are at least in part the same thing. We recall the words of LG §3,"The Church, that is, the kingdom of Christ already present in mystery...." We wish the Council had been clearer on the relation of kingdom and Church. However, in a moment we will try to help clarify. For certain, the word kingdom cannot mean simply reign -- God always reigns. Yet He can be said to reign specially in hearts that obey Him. There were such hearts in the OT period, and more in the NT period.

LG speaks of the fact that the kingdom was promised over the ages in the Scriptures. Now Jewish literature does not in general have the expression, kingdom of heaven. Yet Jesus used it obviously with the attitude that people would understand. That was right, they would, in spite of the lack of the formal expression. For there had been many prophecies of the King Messiah, as we see from the Targums. (The official Targums, especially Onkelos on the Pentateuch and Jonathan on the prophets, are more sparing in the use of the word king - yet they consider the Messiah as descended from David. The probable reason for the sparingness is that they may go back to Maccabean times when such a title would not have been in favor. But the unofficial targums, such as Pseudo-Jonathan, commonly do use the words King Messiah. Thus Ps. J. on Gen 3. 15 speaks of the days of the King Messiah. So does the same Targum on Gen 49. 10. The Targums on the Hagiographa, not being official, commonly do use the words King Messiah).

However, with or without the word king, and even without the word kingdom, to a Jew, the Messiah was the descendant of David, and in that sense, a king. Further a Messiah without a Messianic kingdom, a community, would be unthinkable to a Jew in the OT times. Therefore the LG is quite right in asserting that the kingdom was promised in the OT. But the kingdom of the Messiah was only promised, not realized ( As we remarked, if kingdom means subjection to the will, to the kingship of God, that was done in the case of many individuals in OT times - and it not done by all in NT times).

Hence, we gather that one sense of the words kingdom of God is the kingdom of the Messiah, which actually is His Church. However, most ancient words and phrases have more than one meaning. As we shall see more fully presently, the words often do mean the Church, in this world, or in the next, or both. However there are other senses too, which we will examine before the sense of Church.

Jesus Himself said at the outset (Mk 1. 15): "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand."

LG adds that the kingdom showed itself in the words, works, and especially in the very person of Christ the Messiah. It began to appear with His miracles, for as He said (Lk 11. 20): "If I by the finger of God cast out devils, then the kingdom of God has come upon you (ephthasen). It was present in His very person, for the king Messiah of course would have a kingdom. Or, using a different way of speaking, He is the Head of the Mystical Body, and that Body is His Church, His kingdom.

After His resurrection, Romans 1. 4 speaks of Him as being "designated Son-of-God-in-power". (The old translation predestined is incorrect. The Greek has horisthentos, without a prefix pro-). He always had full power, even in His humanity. Yet He had agreed, following the will of the Father, to empty Himself (Phil 2. 7), i.e., not to use that power except to heal the sick, and to support His claims. But now, being risen, all power in heaven and on earth is given Him even in His humanity: Mt 28. 18. Similarly Peter in Acts 2. 36 said:"God has made Him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified." He already was all of this, but had emptied Himself.

Yet the fullness of the kingdom is to be in the world to come - ha olam ha ba, as the Jews called it. In this sense LG says the Church now is the seed and beginning of the kingdom, and longs for the completed kingdom, regnum consummatum.

The Church can be called a mystery, since it is only partly visible. It does have visible structure, and no one who knowingly rejects that can be saved. It has members visibly adhering. But it also has members who belong to it even without knowing that, and without external explicit adherence. Thus Paul in Rom 2. 15 speaks of gentiles who do not know the revealed law, but yet they "show the work of the law written on their hearts." This law is written by the Spirit of God, or of Christ. Now from Rom 8. 9 we learn that if someone does not have and follow this Spirit, that one does not "belong to Christ." So if one has and follows the Spirit, he does belong. But in Paul's language, to belong to Christ = to be a member of Christ, which =to be a member of His mystical Body, the Church. Hence there is much mystery, to be known fully and clearly only at the end.

In this vein, St. Justin Martyr, c. 145 A.D. in Apology 1. 46, said that in the past some who were thought to be atheists, such as Socrates and Heraclitus, were really Christians, for they followed the Divine Logos, the Divine Word. They followed it without knowing that fact by accepting what His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, wrote on their hearts, as indicated in Romans 2:15. So Socrates in following that Spirit of Christ was accepting and following the Spirit of Christ, and belonged to Christ, was a member of Christ, was a member of the Church substantially, without visible adherence of course. This fits with what LG 16 will soon say, and with LG 49: "For all who belong to Christ, having His Spirit, coalesce into one Church and cohere with each other in Him (cf. Eph 4:16)".

As a result in LG 8. the Council will say that the Church "subsists" in the Catholic Church - more on this in section 8.

So one reason we can call the Church a mystery is that there is more to it than what meets the eye.

In saying there can be members without visible adherence, we are not contradicting official texts, but adding to them.

a) Pius IX, in Quanto conficiamur moerore of August 10, 1863 said "God... in His supreme goodness and clemency, by no means allows anyone to be punished with eternal punishments who does not have the guilt of voluntary fault." But some who do not visibly adhere meet this description. Pius IX in the very next sentence repeats the necessity of the Church for salvation.

b) On August 9, 1949, the Holy Office, by order of Pius XII, condemned the interpretation given by L. Feeney of "no salvation outside the Church" and said, citing the same Pope's Mystical Body Encyclical: "It is not always required that one be actually incorporated, but this at least is required that one adhere to it in wish and desire" which can be "a desire of which he is not aware" contained in the good dispositions mentioned.

c) Vatican II in LG §16 will explicitly say the same as we shall see.

d) John Paul II, in Redemptoris missio, 10 affirms the same thing: "The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church.... For such people [those who do not know of the Church] salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church...." We are proposing to fill-in on that "mysterious relationship", and agree that those we have described are not 'formally" part of the Church, since they do not explicitly and externally adhere.

Let us add a few words on the Scriptural expression, kingdom of heaven. As we said, as actually used in the Gospels, the sense is variable - this is true of ancient words and expressions in general.

Some texts are unclear, e.g., Rom 14. 17: "The kingdom of God is not food and drink." In context, it probably means that what one eats or drinks does not determine membership or standing. Similarly, 1 Cor 4. 20:"The kingdom of God lies not in talk, but in power." It probably means that their acceptance of the Church did not depend on mere words, but on the showing of the power of God in miracles.

Other texts refer to final salvation: 1 Cor 6. 9-10: "The unrighteous... will not inherit the kingdom of God" i.e., reach final salvation. Eph. 5. 6:"No fornicator... has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." Mt 5. 10:"Blessed are they who suffer persecution for the sake of justice, the kingdom of God is theirs." The Church has always understood this of martyrs.

Many texts refer to the Church in this world: Mt 21. 43: "The kingdom... will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will yield a rich harvest." I. e. , God's call to the Jews will not be canceled, but their infidelity actually puts most of them outside the People of God until they repent - meanwhile, gentiles enter. Cf. Romans 11, the comparison of the tame and wild olive trees: tame tree is the original people of God, from which many branches broke off, i.e., left the people of God by rejecting Christ. Gentiles were grafted in, from the wild olive tree, in the open places. . Cf. also the parables of the net, of the wise and foolish virgins, and of the weeds in the wheat. They speak of both good and evil people in the present Church. They will be separated at the end. The parable of the mustard seed speaks of the growth of the Church in this world.

Some prominent commentators do see that in many texts the kingdom means the Church even in this world: e.g., Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968) II, p. 64 (John L. McKenzie); ibid II, pp. 783-84 (David M. Stanley); W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann, in Anchor Bible Matthew p. lxxxvi. Cf. pp. lxxxix and c. Cf. also R. E. Brown, The Churches the Apostles Left Behind, (Paulist, 1984, pp. 1-52): "... one must not overlook the fact that in some of the later sections of the NT, basileia [kingdom] has been reified and localized.... the kingdom and the church have begun to be partially identified." He appeals to the parable of the weeds in the wheat (Mt 13:36-43) and Colossians 1:13-14 and Eph 2:6. In Responses to 101 Questions on the Bible (Paulist, 1990, p. 12) he says that in the original NAB version "Some bad choices were made, e.g., to render 'the kingdom of God' by 'the reign of God.'"

In LG 8 we find that "the Church on earth and the Church endowed with heavenly goods are not two things, but one complex reality." However, in LG 5 the Church now "longs for the consummated kingdom", the Church in heaven." So the Church on earth is part of the kingdom.

§6. Most of this section consists in giving various images of Christ and the Church. Chiefly these:

1) It is the sheepfold, and the Messiah is the shepherd;

2) it is the field planted by God (cf. 1 Cor 3:6-8);

3) it is the building built by God- Christ is the cornerstone, even though He was rejected by the builders. cf. Mt 21. 42, referring to Ps 118. 22. At times the building is called a temple, in which the presence of God dwells. That presence dwells in individual members of Christ as well, inasmuch as God there produces the effect [a spirit does not need space: it is present wherever it produces an effect] of making the soul basically capable of the direct vision of God in the next life.

4) The Church is also our Mother -- this will be developed further in Chapter 8 of LG.

5) It is also the Jerusalem that is above, as in Gal 4. 26;

6) The Church is the immaculate spouse of the Lamb.

At the end of this section, there is mention of the fact that the Church here is in exile, is a pilgrim. Cf. the opening of 1 Clement: "The Church of God in exile in Rome, to the Church of God in exile in Corinth...." LG returns to this imagery several times. Those who do not believe what LG says of the teaching mission of the Church, try to take the pilgrim image to mean the Church is still groping for the truth and does not know what is right. It is true, there is a gradual clarification of revelation over the centuries, with the result that we had a definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, and of the Assumption l950, in our times. And there is still room for doctrinal development - but not in such a way as to contradict previous teaching - we recall the teaching of Paul VI, in Mysterium fidei in our introduction, and, of course, all the claims of LG itself, which we saw in our introduction.

§7. This section concentrates on the image of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. The major source of this doctrine is found in St. Paul, as developed in the Mystical Body Encyclical of Pius XII. The word mystical however is not found n St. Paul. It is used to describe a type of union for which there is no exact parallel. We could think of a natural body with its parts - but the relation of Christ to His members is of course not of that kind. We could think of a body which is a corporation for business. But that union is inferior to the mystical body union. Since there is no exact parallel, the word mystical was developed to describe it.

There are two groups of Epistles of St. Paul which give us the basic data.

First the Major Epistles. The chief text is 1 Cor 12. 12-2l: "For just as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body though many are one body; so also is Christ. For by the one Spirit we all were baptized into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free. And we all have drunk of the one Spirit. - But the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says: Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body - not for that reason does it fail to be part of the body.... But as it is, God has placed the members, each and every one of them in the body, as He willed. If all were one member, where would be the body? But actually, there are many members, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand: I have no need of you. Or again, the head cannot say to the feet: I do not have need of you. But the members of the body that seem weaker are much more necessary.... so that there may be no dissension in the body, but that the members may have the same concern for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. But you are the body of Christ, and members each in its own part. And God has placed in the Church: First, apostles, second, prophets, third, teachers... be eager for the better gifts."

The context is the treatment of charismatic gifts. Paul compares the diversity of them to the diversity of parts in the body, and says some are nobler than others. First are apostles. At the end of the list come tongues - Paul thinks Corinthians are childish about tongues.

We note that Paul does not say that they are all one in Christ, but all are the body of Christ.

In this first group of texts belong also Rom 12: 4-8, which is parallel to the above text, and 1 Cor 6:15: "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? So, so should I take the members of Christ, and make them members of a harlot?"

The interrelation of members, so that if one suffers all suffer, has a rabbinic background. Cf. Simeon ben Eleazar, c. 170 A.D. [citing Rabbi Meir, from earlier in the same century]: "He [anyone] has committed a transgression: woe on him, he has tipped the scale to the side of debt for himself and for the world; He has carried out a commandment. Blessings on him. He has tipped the scale to the side of merit for himself and for the world." (Tosefta, Kiddushin 1. 14). Cf. also OFP chapter 4.

The second group of texts comes from Colossians and Ephesians. In 1 Cor & Romans, Paul does not explicitly speak of Christ as the Head, though of course that is implied if Christians are members of His Body. But he becomes quite explicit in Col & Eph. There are several aspects brought out:

a) Absolute primacy: Eph 5. 23:"For the man is the head of the woman, as also Christ is the head of the Church."

Col. 1. 18: "And He Himself is the head of the body, the Church." Col 2. 18-19: "And let no one rob you of your prize, in lowering yourselves, and in worshipping angels - and not holding on to the head [Christ] from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together though its joints and ligaments, grows with divine growth."

b) Christ is the Fullness, the pleroma: (That word is familiar to the Gnostics. It is likely - not certain - Paul is working against them in these Epistles, and so uses their terms to fight them). Col 2:9: "For in Him lives permanently all the fulness (pleroma) of the divinity in a bodily way, and you have been made full in Him, who is the head of every principality and power." (And so, no need to worship them, as the Gnostics said). Col 1. 19:"For it pleased [The Father] that all fullness should dwell permanently in Him."

c) The Church receives from Him, becomes His fullness. Eph 1. 22-23: "And He subjected all things under His feet, and He made Him Head over all things, for the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him who is filled in all things." (Or: Who fills all things). - [Paul prays that the Ephesians may] "know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God." (Eph 3. 19).

d) All this is aimed at the complete development of the pleroma. Eph 4. 13: [God has given charisms, including especially that of apostles, to the Church] "until we all come together into the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to be a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." (Can refer to full development of the Church to the full Christ in fullest sense, and/or the development of each individual in it in conformity with Christ. )

e) Thus Christ becomes the center of all: Eph 1. 10: "He made known to us the mystery of His will, for His plan in the fullness of the times, so as to recapitulate all things in Christ" (anakephalaiosthai - could mean to restore all things in Christ, to reunite all under one sole Head, or to reunite all things in Christ as in their center).

§8. This section dwells on two major aspects of the Church - it is a spiritual reality, i.e., the Mystical Body of Christ, and it is also a visible society. Yet these two are one complex reality. Further, the Church visible on earth and the Church in Heaven are not two things, but one reality. Therefore, since the council calls the Church in Heaven the kingdom (LG 3), the Church on earth is also part of the kingdom. There is only one (unica) Church of Christ, governed by the successor of Peter . However, since there are many elements of sanctification and truth outside the visible confines, the text can say that the Church "subsists in" the Catholic Church.

Part of the explanation is provided by an analogy - these two elements form one just as the divinity and humanity form one in Christ. The divinity of course, in Him is greater, not confined to, or limited by His humanity. Rather, we would say His humanity subsists in it. Similarly the Church, considered as Mystical Body, is greater than the visible structure which we see.

The relatio on this passage as found in the Acta explains the situation: "Now the intention is to show that the Church, whose deep and hidden nature is described and which is perpetually united with Christ and His work, is concretely found here on earth in the Catholic Church. This visible Church reveals a mystery - not without shadows until it is brought to full light, just as the Lord Himself through His 'emptying' came to glory.... The mystery of the Church is present in and manifested in a concrete society." (Quoted from James T. O'Connor, "The Church of Christ and the Catholic Church" in Homiletic & Pastoral, Jan. 1984, p. l4).

This concept shows also in several statements of the Council on membership in the Church. In the decree on ecumenism §22: "By the Sacrament of Baptism, whenever it is conferred rightly according to the institution of the Lord, and is received with the due disposition of soul, a person is really incorporated in the crucified and glorified Christ..." This seems to say that by Baptism a person becomes a member of the Mystical Body - which is the Church, even if Baptism is received outside the visible confines. Similarly in LG 9: "Those who believe in Christ and are reborn not from corruptible seed but from incorruptible seed by the word of the Living God, not of flesh but of water and the Holy Spirit, are constituted finally a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy people, an acquired people... who once were not a people, but now are the people of God." These two statements do seem at least to apply to all those who are baptized even in Protestantism, so that they have an imperfect membership. That imperfection is brought out in LG 14: "They are fully incorporated into the society of the Church, who, having the Spirit of Christ, accept all its organization and all the means of salvation instituted in it, and are joined in the same visible union with Christ, who rules it through the Supreme Pontiff and the Bishops, that is [they are joined] by the bonds of profession of faith, of the acceptance of ecclesiastical rule and communion." This seems to mean there can be an imperfect, less than full membership for those who are baptized, but do not accept the visible Church and its rule.

Less clarity results if we read also LG 15: "The Church knows that she is joined with those who are baptized, and adorned with the name of Christian, but do not profess the whole faith, or do not keep the unity of communion with the Successor of Peter." A similar attitude seems to show in the Decree on Ecumenism §3: "Those who believe in Christ and have properly received Baptism, are established in "a certain communion with the Catholic Church" even though it is not perfect."

To sum up: The language of these four passages seems hesitant. The first two passages seem to affirm that by Baptism one becomes a member of Christ, and so a member of the Church, even though the membership or communion will be imperfect if they do not accept the visible Catholic Church. The second two seem to say they only are joined with the Church, rather than being actual members. LG 49 seems to fit with the stronger conclusion: "For all those who belong to Christ, having His Spirit, coalesce into one Church."

We saw above in comments on LG § 5 that we can by theological reasoning show that even nonbaptized persons who, like Socrates (Cf. St. Justin Martyr, Apology 1. 46) follow the Divine Logos are Christians, and so are members of the Church. This fits with the teaching that the Church "subsists in" the Catholic Church. This does not mean that Protestant bodies are as it were component parts of the Catholic Church; no, even though their individual members may be members of the Church individually.

Important misunderstandings come from Alan Schreck.

He, in Catholic and Christian, (Servant, 1984) wrote:

p. 2: "I hope it will be apparent to all that this book was not written to present Catholicism as the only legitimate form of Christianity and certainly not to critize [sic] other Christians, nor to 'prove them wrong' in their beliefs."

On pp. 110-13 of his Basics of the Faith: A Catholic Catechism (Servant Books, 1987) he says: "Catholics believe that one place the church of Christ truly exists (or subsists) is in the Catholic church.... The positive teaching stated here is a genuine expression of the Church of Christ. Never does the Second Vatican Council or any papal teaching say that the Church of Jesus Christ and the grace of salvation is limited to the Catholic Church.... These teachings are intended to break down the simple and incorrect dichotomy of one church being the 'true church' and all others being 'false' churches."

COMMENT: 1) It is true that the grace of salvation can be found elsewhere. Lumen gentium §16 says: "For they who without their own fault do not know of the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but yet seek God with sincere heart, and try, under the influence of grace, to carry out His will in practice, known to them through the dictate of conscience, can attain eternal salvation." John Paul II in his Encyclical on the Missions in §10 says the same [underline added]: "For such people [those who do not formally enter the Church, as in LG 16] salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church." We underline the word "formally" to indicate that there may be something less than formal membership, which yet suffices for salvation. A similar thought is found in LG §14 which says "they are fully incorporated who accept all its organization.... ." We will show presently that there can be a lesser, or substantial membership, which suffices for salvation.

Schreck has in mind a line in LG §8: "This Church, in this world as a constituted and ordered society, subsists in the Catholic Church... even though outside its confines many elements of sanctification and truth are found which, as gifts proper to the Church of Christ, impel to Catholic unity."

2) Schreck missed the words in LG §8 which speak of "this one and only [unica] Church of Christ, which we profess in the Creed...." Similarly the Decree on Religious Liberty in §1 says that" it [this decree] leaves untouched the traditional Catholic doctrine about the duty of men and societies to the true religion and the one and only [unica] Church of Christ."

So there really is only one true Church. But really, we suspect Schreck thinks that protestant churches are as it were component parts of the Church of Christ. And he thinks that follows from the words about "subsisting in" and the statement that elements of sanctification can be found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church. This is probably why, in the quote given above from his p. 2 he says that the Catholic Church is not the only legitimate form of Christianity.

But it does not really follow that there are other legitimate forms of Christianity. Pope Gregory XVI (DS 2730. Cf. Pius IX, DS 2915 and Leo XIII, DS 3250) condemned "an evil opinion that souls can attain eternal salvation by just any profession of faith, if their morals follow the right norm." So although people who do not formally join can be saved, as LG §16 says, and Redemptoris missio §10 also says, they are not saved by such a faith. It is in spite of it.

3) Yet we can account for the words about subsisting in and about finding elements of salvation outside. For this we need the help of the Fathers of the Church.

We begin with St. Justin the Martyr who c. 145 A.D. in Apology 1. 46, said that in the past some who were thought to be atheists, such as Socrates and Heraclitus, were really Christians, for they followed the Divine Logos, the Divine Word. Further, in Apology 2. 10 Justin adds that the Logos is in everyone. Now of course the Logos, being Spirit, does not take up space. We say a spirit if present wherever it prduces an effect. What effect? We find that in St. Paul, in Romans 2:14-16 where he says that "the Gentiles who do not have the law, do by nature the works of the law. They show the work of the law written on their hearts." and according to their response, conscience will defend or accuse them at the judgment.

So it is the Logos, the Spirit of Christ, who writes the law on their hearts, that, it makes known to them interiorly what they need to do. Some then could follow it without knowing that fact. So Socrates: (1) read and believed what the Spirit wrote in his heart; (2) he had confidence in it; (3) he obeyed it. We see this obedience in the fact that Socrates went so far as to say, as Plato quotes him many times, that the one who seeks the truth must have as little as possible to do with the things of the body.

Let us notice the three things, just enumerated: St. Paul in Romans 3:29 asked: "Is He the God of the Jews only? No, He is also the God of the gentiles." It means that if God made salvation depend on knowing and following the law of Moses, He would act as if He cared for no one but Jews. But God does care for all. Paul insists God makes salvation possible by faith for them (cf. Romans chapter 4). Faith in Paul includes the three things we have enumerated which Socrates did.

So in following that Spirit of Christ Socrates was accepting and following the Spirit of Christ, But then, from Romans 8:9 we gather that if one has and follows the Spirit of Christ, he "belongs to Christ". That is, He is a member of Christ, which in Paul's terms means a member of the Mystical Body , which is the Church.

So Socrates then was a member of the Church, but not formally, only substantially. He could not know the Church. So he was saved, not by his false religious beliefs but in spite of them. He was saved by faith, and similarly protestants and others who do not formally join the Church today can be saved not as members of e.g., the Baptist church, which Schreck seems to think is an integral part of the one Church of Christ -- no, they are saved as individuals, who make use of the means of sanctification they are able to find even outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church.

Many other Fathers speak much like St. Justin. A large presentation of them can be found in Wm. Most, Our Father's Plan, in a 28 page appendix.

Lumen gentium also likes to speak of the Church as a mystery. This is correct, for it is a mystery, since it is only partly visible. It does have visible structure, and no one who knowingly rejects that can be saved. It has members visibly adhering. But it also has members who belong to it even without knowing that, and without external explicit adherence. Hence there is much mystery, to be known fully and clearly only at the end.

So all other forms of Christianity are heretical and/or schismatic. They are not legitimate. And we should criticize them and prove them wrong in their heresies, contrary to what Schreck said on page 2.

For fuller data on this question, see OFP, appendix. There extensive evidence is given from the early Fathers, who make two kinds of statements: one kind seems very stringent, the other very broad, and shows a broad concept of membership in the Church. We can reconcile these two kinds of statements by recalling Romans 2. 15:"They [gentiles who do not know revelation] show the work of the law written on their hearts." This echoes Jeremiah 31. 33, the prophecy of the New Covenant. It means that the Spirit of God, or of Christ, writes the law, i.e., makes known to the hearts of pagans, what morality requires. If they accept that, they are, without realizing it, accepting the Spirit of Christ. But then, from Romans 8:9 we gather that one who has and follows the Spirit of Christ, belongs to Christ. That = in Paul's language, member of Christ which = member of the Church, so even these can have a membership sufficient for salvation. This seems implied also in LG 16: "Those who without their own fault do not know of the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but yet seek God with sincere heart, and try under the influence of grace, to carry out His will in practice, known to them through the dictate of conscience, can attain eternal salvation."

The Council adds that since her Founder was poor, the Church use the same means He did, and should recognize Him especially in the poor.

Also, the Church is simultaneously holy, and in need of purification. She is holy in that she has all the means of holiness and her structure is that willed by her Founder. She is in need of purification in her members, as Church history shows so sadly.