Friday, July 29, 2011

The nature, essence and necessity of the Church

"So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Cor. 5:17). This is so, Fr. Carrón noted in "Whoever Is In Christ Is A New Creation", the CL Fraternity Spiritual Exercises, "because Christ is something that is happening to me." He urges us "to identify with the disciples after Easter" with conquered them, with "[w]hat prevailed in their hearts, in their eyes, in their self awareness": Christ's "living presence". His presence "was so evident for them that they could not rip it away. It was a Presence that overcame any doubt, any shadow: it imposed itself. Christ was something that was happening to them. He was not a doctrine, a list of things to do, a sentiment."

He continued, "if we compare what the disciples experienced that week of Easter with what we have lived, we would all acknowledge the distance, the abysmal distance that separates us from the experience they had. This also holds for participation in the Liturgy: for them it was the moment of recognizing Him (their eyes were opened and they recognized Him), and for us it is often reduced to rite."

Johann Adam Möhler, in his book, Die Einheit in der Kirche, as quoted in Balthasar's The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church wrote this: "Therefore whoever now lives in the Church, and truly lives in her, will live also in the first period of the Church and will understand it. And whoever does not live in the present will neither live nor understand the earliest for both are one and the same." He observed that anyone "born of the Church brings nothing alien into her, because the Church has begotten him and has built into him her being and her essence. She has from the first established herself within him, and it is that which he now manifests."

Stated succinctly one cannot be "in Christ" as "a new creation" without being in the Church, which is His Body, without becoming part of her. As Möhler notes, one must truly live in the Church. Indeed, as Balthasar also noted about Möhler, in her essence, "the Church is a community of love." Her distinct communio is not a human achievement, but the result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who, as noted yesterday, is fully a divine Person (i.e., hypostasis) and not merely a modus, to which He is very often reduced. Hence, "Only those who love and labor within this bond of charity understand the Church," that is, live within her. This is so because, according to Balthasar, "the self-revelation of Jesus could not be forced on the disciples from without but had to be accepted and affirmed from within. Looking at it this way, the ideal of the Church (namely, that she is pure communio of love) corresponds to her reality in the Holy Spirit."

In other words, turning again to Möhler, the Church "is only as ideal as it is real, and it can become real only because it is ideal."

I think this aids us in understanding two parables we have heard recently in the Sunday Liturgy: the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:3-9), along with the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matt. 13:24-30).

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