THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH
6. In the Old Testament the revelation of the kingdom is often made under the forms of symbols. In similar fashion the inner nature of the Church is now made known to us in various images. Taken either from the life of the shepherd or from cultivation of the land, from the art of building or from family life and marriage, these images have their preparation in the books of the prophets.
The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ (Jn. 10:1-10). It is also a flock, of which God foretold that he would himself be the shepherd (cf. Is. 40:11; Ex. 34:11 f.), and whose sheep, although watched over by human shepherds, are nevertheless at all times led and brought to pasture by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and prince of shepherds (cf. Jn. 10:11; 1 Pet. 5:4), who gave his life for his sheep (cf. Jn. 10:11-16).
The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God (1 Cor. 3:9). On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again (Rom. 11:13-26). That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator (Mt. 21:33-43; cf. Is. 5:1 f.). Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ without whom we can do nothing (Jn. 15:1-5).
Often, too, the Church is called the building of God (1 Cor. 3:9). The Lord compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the corner stone (Mt. 21:42; cf. Acts 4:11; I Pet. 2:7; Ps. 117:22). On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11) and from it the Church receives solidity and unity. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God in which his family dwells- the household of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:19, 22); the dwelling-place of God among men (Apoc. 21:3); and, especially, the holy temple. This temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is praised by the Fathers and, not without reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. [Cfr. Origenes, In Matth. 16, 21: PG 13, 1443 C; Tertullianus, Adv. Marc. 3, 7: PL 2, 357 C; CSEL 47, 3 p. 386. Pro documentis liturgicis, cfr. Sacramentarium Gregorianum: PL 78, 160 B. Vel C. Mohlberg, Liber Sacramentorum Romanae ecclesiae, Rome 1960, p. 111, XC:. Deus, qui ex omni coaptacione sanctorum aeternum tibi condis habitaculum..... Hymnus Urbs Ierusalem beata in Breviario monastico, et Coelestis urbs Ierusalem in Breviario Romano.] As living stones we here on earth are built into it (I Pet. 2:5). It is this holy city that is seen by John as it comes down out of heaven from God when the world is made anew, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband (Apoc. 21:1 f.).
The Church, further, which is called "that Jerusalem which is above" and "our mother" (Gal. 4:26; cf. Apoc. 12:17), is described as the spotless spouse of the spotless lamb (Apoc. 19:7; 21:2 and 9; 22:17). It is she whom Christ "loved and for whom he delivered himself up that he might sanctify her" (Eph. 5:263. It is she whom he unites to himself by an unbreakable alliance, and whom he constantly "nourishes and cherishes" (Eph 5:29). It is she whom, once purified he willed to be joined to himself, subject in love and fidelity (cf. Eph. 5:24), and whom, finally, he filled with heavenly gifts for all eternity, in order that we may know the love of God and of Christ for us, a love which surpasses all understanding (cf. Eph. 3:19). While on earth she journeys in a foreign land away from the Lord (cf. 2 Cor. 5:6), the Church sees herself as an exile. She seeks and is concerned about those things which are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, where the life of the Church is hidden with Christ in God until she appears in glory with her Spouse (cf. Col. 3:1 1).
THE PEOPLE OF GOD
10. Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men (cf. Heb. 5: 1-5), made the new people "a kingdom of priests to God, his Father" (Apoc. 1:6; cf. 5:9-10). The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that through all the works of Christian men they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the perfection of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvellous light (cf. 1 Pet. 2:4-10). Therefore all the disciples of Christ, persevering in prayer and praising God (cf. Acts 2:42- 47), should present themselves as a sacrifice, living, holy and pleasing to God (cf. Rom. 12:1). They should everywhere on earth bear witness to Christ and give an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope of an eternal life which is theirs. (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15).
Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are none the less ordered one to another; each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ. [Cfr. Pius XII, Alloc. Magnificate Dominum, 2 nov. 1954: AAS 46 (1954) P. 669. Litt. Encycl. Mediator Dei, 20 nov. 1947: AAS 39 (1947) P. 55S.] The ministerial priest, by the sacred power that he has, forms and rules the priestly people; in the person of Christ he effects the eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people. The faithful indeed, by virtue of their royal priesthood, participate in the offering of the Eucharist. [Cfr. Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Miserentissimus Redemptor, 8 maii 1928: AAS 20 (1928) P. 171 S. Pius XII, AIIOC. yous nous avez, 22 sept. 1956: AAS 48 (1956) P. 714.] They exercise that priesthood, too, by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, abnegation and active charity.
11. It is through the sacraments and the exercise of the virtues that the sacred nature and organic structure of the priestly community is brought into operation. Incorporated in the Church through baptism, the faithful are destined by the baptismal character for the worship of the Christian religion; reborn as sons of God they must confess before men the faith which they have received from God through the Church. [Cfr. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. III, q. 63, a. 2.] They are more perfectly bound to the Church by the sacrament of Confirmation, and the Holy Spirit endows them with special strength so that they are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and by deed, as true witnesses of Christ. [Cfr. S. Cyrillus Hieros., Catech. 17, de Spiritu Sancto, II, 35-37: PG 33, 1009-1012. Nic. Cabasilas, De vita in Christo, lib. III, de utilitate chrismatis: PG 150, 569-580. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. III, q. 65, a. 3 et q. 72, a. 1 et 5.] Taking part in the eucharistic sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It. [Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mediator Dei 20 nov. 1947: AAS 39 (1947), paesertim p. 552 s.] Thus both by reason of the offering and through Holy Communion all take part in this liturgical service, not indeed, all in the same way but each in that way which is proper to himself. Strengthened in Holy Communion by the Body of Christ, they then manifest in a concrete way that unity of the people of God which is suitably signified and wondrously brought about by this most august sacrament.
Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offence committed against Him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins, and which by charity, example, and prayer seeks their conversion. By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of her priests the whole Church commends the sick to the suffering and glorified Lord, asking that He may lighten their suffering and save them; she exhorts them, moreover, to contribute to the welfare of the whole people of God by associating themselves freely with the passion and death of Christ. (Cf. Rom; 8,17 Col. 1, 24; 2 Tim. 2, 11-12; 1 Pet. 4, 13.) Those of the faithful who are consecrated by Holy Orders are appointed to feed the Church in Christ's name with the word and the grace of God. Finally, Christian spouses, in virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony, whereby they signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and His Church, (Cf. Eph. 5, 32.) help each other to attain to holiness in their married life and in the rearing and education of their children. By reason of their state and rank in life they have their own special gift among the people of God. (Cf. 1 Cor. 7, 7.) [I Cor. 7, 7: . Unusquisque proprium donum (idion charisma) habet ex Deo: alius quidem sic alius vero sic.. Cfr. S. Augustinus, De Dono Persev. 14, 37: PL 45, 1015 s.: Non tantum continenti Dei donum est, sed coniugatorum etiam castitas.] From the wedlock of Christians there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism are made children of God, thus perpetuating the people of God through the centuries. The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.
Fortified by so many and such powerful means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his own way, to that perfect holiness whereby the Father Himself is perfect.
THE CALL TO HOLINESS
42. "God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God and God in Him".(1 Jn. 4:16) But, God pours out his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us; (cf. Rom. 5:5) thus the first and most necessary gift is love, by which we love God above all things and our neighbor because of God. Indeed, in order that love, as good seed may grow and bring forth fruit in the soul, each one of the faithful must willingly hear the Word of God and accept His Will, and must complete what God has begun by their own actions with the help of God's grace. These actions consist in the use of the sacraments and in a special way the Eucharist, frequent participation in the sacred action of the Liturgy, application of oneself to prayer, self-abnegation, lively fraternal service and the constant exercise of all the virtues. For charity, as the bond of perfection and the fullness of the law,(cf. Col. 3:14; Rom. 13:10) rules over all the means of attaining holiness and gives life to these same means. [Cfr. S. Augustinus, Enchir. 121, 32: PL 40, 288. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. II-II, q. 184, a. 1. Pius XII, Adhort. Apost. Menti nostrae, 23 sept. 1950: AAS 42 (1950) p. 660.] It is charity which guides us to our final end. It is the love of God and the love of one's neighbor which points out the true disciple of Christ.
Since Jesus, the Son of God, manifested His charity by laying down His life for us, so too no one has greater love than he who lays down his life for Christ and His brothers. (cf. 1 Jn. 3:16, Jn. 15:13) From the earliest times, then, some Christians have been called upon-and some will always be called upon-to give the supreme testimony of this love to all men, but especially to persecutors. The Church, then, considers martyrdom as an exceptional gift and as the fullest proof of love. By martyrdom a disciple is transformed into an image of his Master by freely accepting death for the salvation of the world -as well as his conformity to Christ in the shedding of his blood. Though few are presented such an opportunity, nevertheless all must be prepared to confess Christ before men. They must be prepared to make this profession of faith even in the midst of persecutions, which will never be lacking to the Church, in following the way of the cross.
Likewise, the holiness of the Church is fostered in a special way by the observance of the counsels proposed in the Gospel by Our Lord to His disciples. [De consiliis in genere, cfr. Origenes, Comm. Rom. X, 14: PG 14, 1275 B. S. Augustinus, De S. Virginitate, 15, 15: PL 40, 403. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. I-II, q. 100, a. 2 C (in fine); II-II, q. 44, a. 4, ad 3.] An eminent position among these is held by virginity or the celibate state. (1 Cor. 7, 32-34.) This is a precious gift of divine grace given by the Father to certain souls, (Mt. l9, 11; 1 Cor.7,7.) whereby they may devote themselves to God alone the more easily, due to an undivided heart. De praestantia sacrae virginitatis, cfr. Tertullianus, Exhort. Cast. 10: PL 2, 925 C. S. Cyprianus, Hab. Virg. 3 et 22: PL 4, 443 B et 461 A. A. S. Athanasius (?), De Virg.: PG 28, 252 ss. S. Io. Chrysostomus, De Virg.: PG 48, 533 u.] This perfect continency, out of desire for the kingdom of heaven, has always been held in particular honor in the Church. The reason for this was and is that perfect continency for the love of God is an incentive to charity, and is certainly a particular source of spiritual fecundity in the world.
The Church continually keeps before it the warning of the Apostle which moved the faithful to charity, exhorting them to experience personally what Christ Jesus had known within Himself. This was the same Christ Jesus, who "emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave... becoming obedient to death",(Phil. 2:7-8) and because of us "being rich, he became poor". (2 Cor. 8:9) Because the disciples must always offer an imitation of and a testimony to the charity and humility of Christ, Mother Church rejoices at finding within her bosom men and women who very closely follow their Saviour who debased Himself to our comprehension. There are some who, in their freedom as sons of God, renounce their own wills and take upon themselves the state of poverty. Still further, some become subject of their own accord to another man, in the matter of perfection for love of God. This is beyond the measure of the commandments, but is done in order to become more fully like the obedient Christ. [De spirituali paupertate et oboedientia testimonia praecipua S. Scripturae et Patrum afferuntur in Reratione pp. 152-153.]
Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive. Let all then have care that they guide aright their own deepest sentiments of soul. Let neither the use of the things of this world nor attachment to riches, which is against the spirit of evangelical poverty, hinder them in their quest for perfect love Let them heed the admonition of the Apostle to those who use this world; let them not come to terms with this world; for this world, as we see it, is passing away. (cf. 1 Cor. 7:31, Greek text). [De praxi effectiva consiliorum quae non omnibus imponitur, cfr. S. Io. Chrysostomus, In Matth. Hom. 7, 7: PG 57, 81 s. S. Ambrosius, De Viduis, 4, 23: PL 16, 241 s.]